Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

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TreizeCouleurs
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Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by TreizeCouleurs »

Hey guys, check this out !

It's taken quite a long long long time to put together (many sleepless nights :P ) and I'm still convinced I can take it further, but I'm going to post it here anyway for some critique.

It's a battle theme mainly inspired by the Northerners (especially mummies and orcs) so it's a tad eastern inspired, very tribal, and full on. It's basically that short snippet I posted a few days back, just taken to the next level.

It's mixed really hot, and I know there are some issues with clipping in places, I'm working on that atm, it's proving a little troublesome finding exactly whats doing it, but I'll get to the bottom of it.

So let us know what you think. Should it be longer?

Streaming and downloading from here ...

Northernersv3.mp3 - 4.74MB
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StandYourGround
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by StandYourGround »

(not a music expert, just an amateur musician and forum lurker)

Wow... Very unique and fun to listen to. Really has an evil, orcish feel, and almost a spooky feel of dark magic with that metallic ghostly sound in it. I think it would be great in Wesnoth, but it's only my small opinion. Quality wise, I would have to say each section of the music invoked a different soundtrack theme from my mind. The first few seconds reminded one of the mystery themes from Riven (sequel to Myst), then after that to the middle made me think of the White Witch's army in Narnia, then the final part reminded me of the Klingon prison camp in Star Trek VI. :lol2:

I would SO convert this to .ogg and replace the current Northerners with it in my personal copies of Wesnoth.

Huh wait... I just did. :D

Edit: Just a comment about the bass chanting that I thought I'd mention, but not start a new post over... I agree that the voice is actually pretty achievable. I've heard bass singers sing that low, and as one who is *almost* a bass singer (I hope my voice keeps deepening), I can easily hit the first two notes with only slight discomfort, and force out the lowest one with just a little throat pain, but not for long. :lol2:
Last edited by StandYourGround on December 3rd, 2009, 6:29 am, edited 2 times in total.
I will now resume lurking silently.
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Sapient
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by Sapient »

disclaimer: I have no musical experience so this is my opinion as an untrained listener not as a developer ;)

My favorite part was the guttural chanting. That was perfect for the theme, sounded great, and it really added a nice touch.
Can't say I'm thrilled about the metallic ghostly sound... that part seems too eerie, maybe more fitting for the undead.
Also I found the clicking sound where the drumsticks hit together was too loud. You would need to be right next to the drummer to hear his sticks clicking that loud... compare it to the sound of the drums which are more distant. Maybe go for a slightly different sound, like goblin spears clattering together.
One final point, do you think some odd horns would sound good in there? Look at the goblin rouser portraits by bera for an idea.
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by West »

I like it! Some very cool and atmospheric sound effetcs, and that duduk is lovely. Overall I think it's very promising and I can't hear any major problems with it. Some remarks though:

- There is something weird about the horn melody at 0:43. It almost sounds like pumping, i.e. like there's a hard compressor kicking in after the attack and completely squashing the notes. Or have you doubled the horn line with a staccato sample? In any case it sounds a little unnatural. Edit: Listening in headphones, it actually seems like you have doubled the legato horns with staccato horns. Why? That doesn't really make any sense :)

- The low choir notes at 2:05 sounds very fake. Below a certain point it becomes so obvious that a voice sample is pitched down that it can never be totally convincing -- it will inevitably sound synthy. The attack of the sample is also too slow to really work as a stab-type effect. Not entirely sure what you can do about this, except replace the choir with something more staccato and guttural-sounding.

- The mix is a bit all over the place. The percussion, the orchestral sections, the solo instruments and the various sound effects all seem to exist in different spaces. I'm not saying you should add a ton of hall reverb on everything, but maybe you could balance the different layers a little better. The strings in particular would benefit from being less in the background, I think.

- The piece suffers from the same problem as the one Tyler posted a while back. I.e. the detache strings sound too flat in terms of dynamics to really fit the rhythmic nature of the piece. Making the strings louder will likely help, but it's not just a question of sheer level -- I think some more work on the accentuation of the string parts is needed.

Other than that, great work. If you tweak this tune a bit, I'm all for using it as a northerners replacement!
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by TreizeCouleurs »

Can I just say, thanks for the replies everyone! I'm now going to try and address what everyone said :P

StandYourGround: Thank you so much for the kind words, it means alot to be honest. And hopefully you won't have to do that for the next Wesnoth release :P I'm glad that you got different impressions from each section of the piece, because in that case I feel that I've succeeded. Let's just say I'm not the biggest fan of blatantly repetitive music :P

Sapient: You're completely right in saying the lion drum rimshots would not sound that present and close to the listener in reality, and without a doubt drown under the french horn. In my mind however that's equivalent to how you can always hear the kickdrum and vocalist crystal clear (especially when they're low in their range and/or whispering) in recorded pop/rock tracks (and why most people hate live recordings because they never have that same "presence" and "cleanliness" that the studio recorded version has). Working with samples in this way is in that way equivalent to engineering a pop tune. However, I understand that you can take something like that potentially too far, especially in a quasi-orchestral setting, but its only been you to bring up anything like that :P (You've got great analytical listening by the way !) Do you feel that it's a huge realism killer, or were you mainly nitpicking? Because if more people feel that it's effectively a realism killer, the technique ceases to serve its purpose, and it's gotta go. So I'll guess I'll wait to see what other people say. I never even thought someone would even pick up on something like that, so you've effectively surprised me! :P

West:
West wrote: - There is something weird about the horn melody at 0:43. It almost sounds like pumping, i.e. like there's a hard compressor kicking in after the attack and completely squashing the notes.

- The mix is a bit all over the place. The percussion, the orchestral sections, the solo instruments and the various sound effects all seem to exist in different spaces. I'm not saying you should add a ton of hall reverb on everything, but maybe you could balance the different layers a little better. The strings in particular would benefit from being less in the background, I think.

- The piece suffers from the same problem as the one Tyler posted a while back. I.e. the detache strings sound too flat in terms of dynamics to really fit the rhythmic nature of the piece. Making the strings louder will likely help, but it's not just a question of sheer level -- I think some more work on the accentuation of the string parts is needed.
Again someone with great ears! :D I think this all really stems from the same problem: You were completely right about the hard compression. In an effort to quickly get an unclipped version up here to get some compositional/style feedback, wait for it, I was running not only one one, but two very hard compressor/limiters (essentially one on the master chain, and one on the reverb that feeds to the master) :P I know, I know, very bad, but it was much better than the equivalent. This is my first track that I've written with a new workflow(samples loaded semi-external to sequencer), and by being unnecessarily thrifty I routed a lot of percussion instruments to the same channel for some reason. *hits own head* Hence the quick and easy solution was to just compress the hell out of everything :D Will be fixed soon. I *essentially* agree 100% with what you've said here.
West wrote: The low choir notes at 2:05 sounds very fake. Below a certain point it becomes so obvious that a voice sample is pitched down that it can never be totally convincing -- it will inevitably sound synthy. The attack of the sample is also too slow to really work as a stab-type effect. Not entirely sure what you can do about this, except replace the choir with something more staccato and guttural-sounding.
This is where I'd have to disagree with you. I know what you say goes, but everyone who I've shown this piece to, musicians and non musicians alike, have all said that this part was very effective. To be honest, I don't even think it sounds fake/synthy. It's within the range of a Bass, and the samples I'm using at the moment are chromatically sampled, so I don't know how you feel it's been pitched down. The attack too, of the sample, is masked by the percussion hit, so again I can't see how your getting that vibe. To me, it honestly sounds just as a large bunch of basses does in real life. So in effect I'd like to really argue leaving it in.

There is a fair bit of noise on that low C "oooooooooohhhh" :P which may be leading you to think its been pitch shifted, which I've yet to low pass out yet. Similar on the Duduk, it has a bit of noise too which I've yet to wipe out. I think once I've submitted a properly mixed (and not just pumped) version, things like this and all of the above will be easier to judge.

Thanks for your time to listen and comment everyone. I'll be fixing this up in the next few days hopefully!
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by West »

TreizeCouleurs wrote:Do you feel that it's a huge realism killer, or were you mainly nitpicking? Because if more people feel that it's effectively a realism killer, the technique ceases to serve its purpose, and it's gotta go. So I'll guess I'll wait to see what other people say. I never even thought someone would even pick up on something like that, so you've effectively surprised me! :P
I see absolutely no problem with this. It's quite common in modern orchestral soundtracks to keep small percussion up front and fairly dry -- for the simple reason that placing a shaker or a small hand drum way off in the distance with the traditional orchestral percussion doesn't sound any good. You'll lose all attack and clarity if you do, and as such instruments often play repeating patterns you will also get a constant wash of reverb tails that might interfere with the nuances of other instruments and just basically create a wall of noise. This is probably best illustrated with a small example:

Unrealistic version -- percussion in the front and detached from the orchestral instruments, with just some room ambience added.

Realistic version -- percussion using the same hall reverb as the violins, placed far in the back with a lot of high end rolled off (as the farther a sound travels, the more high frequencies are lost)

A rough illustration, but the problem ought to be clearly evident. The first version, though technically not "realistic", sounds way better IMO. Admittedly one could use a different hall reverb that works better with the small percussion, and place it (the percussion) at a less extreme z-axis position. Nonetheless, keeping the percussion close and quite dry makes for a cleaner mix and it's common enough not to raise any eyebrows. And before any realism buffs says "hey, I've heard real orchestras use small percussion and it sounded great!", let me point out that a) real orchestras in real halls can get away with things we can't using samples and software reverbs, b) we're not out to create 100% realistic-sounding music here, it's a game soundtrack not a classical music simulation, and c) as long as it sounds good, screw realism.

Ahem, sorry for the detour. Just an interesting point I wanted to elaborate on.
TreizeCouleurs wrote:Again someone with great ears! :D I think this all really stems from the same problem: You were completely right about the hard compression. In an effort to quickly get an unclipped version up here to get some compositional/style feedback, wait for it, I was running not only one one, but two very hard compressor/limiters (essentially one on the master chain, and one on the reverb that feeds to the master) :P I know, I know, very bad, but it was much better than the equivalent. This is my first track that I've written with a new workflow(samples loaded semi-external to sequencer), and by being unnecessarily thrifty I routed a lot of percussion instruments to the same channel for some reason. *hits own head* Hence the quick and easy solution was to just compress the hell out of everything :D Will be fixed soon. I *essentially* agree 100% with what you've said here.
Ah, I see. The whole piece didn't strike me as compressed to crap though, it was just that one horn line. But as long as you're aware of it and intend to fix it, no problem. I don't object against the use of compressors on general principle, it's just that when you can hear the compression happening, there's too much of it.
TreizeCouleurs wrote:This is where I'd have to disagree with you. I know what you say goes, but everyone who I've shown this piece to, musicians and non musicians alike, have all said that this part was very effective. To be honest, I don't even think it sounds fake/synthy. It's within the range of a Bass, and the samples I'm using at the moment are chromatically sampled, so I don't know how you feel it's been pitched down. The attack too, of the sample, is masked by the percussion hit, so again I can't see how your getting that vibe. To me, it honestly sounds just as a large bunch of basses does in real life. So in effect I'd like to really argue leaving it in.
I listened to it again and you may very well be right. The range is not actually as unrealistic as I thought, I tried singing it and I can actually hit the first note. Not the second one, but then again I'm not a bass. What I thought sounded synthy was the grainy, raspy quality of the samples... but down in that register you really do get a lot of rasp. I stand corrected.

However, I still think the attack is an issue. For a staccato thing like that, it doesn't make any sense to just sing vowels, and maybe that's what gives me the impression that the choir lags behing the percussion. If possible, could you add a consonant at the beginning? Like "tah" or "sah" instead of just "ah" and "oh". This is major nitpicking though. If you like it the way it is and you really don't want to change it -- no problem. I'm suggesting possible but not crucial improvements.

Just out of curiosity, that screechy, metallic sound effect -- what is that? Some cymbal effect? I've heard it many times in different soundtracks (and the intro to Aerosmith's Janie's got a Gun, which is actually the first thing I think of everytime I hear it :D).
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by PPH »

Great work, but for some details that others have mentioned. I wanted to do something similar, orchish, with a choir (something similar to the main theme of the film "Beowulf"), but it's hard to find samples for that kind of thing.
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by zookeeper »

Sounds great, a worthy replacement for northerners.ogg for sure.

There was a few things I was going to comment on regarding the chanting, but before typing it out I just went and listened to some of the real stuff on Youtube first and...well, apparently in reality it tends to sound even more like a synth than in this piece, so nevermind that. I think it fits pretty well actually.
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by TreizeCouleurs »

Thanks for the listen zookeeper and PPH :D
Question for you guys and everyone else ... Do you feel it's long enough as it is? I don't want it to drag on, but I don't know if you guys feel there should be more to it. I've heard this thing about a billion times now and it's the hardest thing to judge; Accurately gauging structure is probably *the* hardest thing to do as a composer, atleast for me. I'm leaning towards keeping it how it is now though, with the main horn theme being relatively understated.

And as for being able to sing that choir part, I'm pretty much a baritone and singing the E two octaves below middle C is usually a massive struggle for me :P . The first time I heard a real bass sing the B below that C my mind was blown. Not only could he sing the note clean, he could voice everything properly on that note. It, as you mentioned, was so unreal it sounded synthy :P

Anyway, a couple of hours of beer and mixing have produced this:

Northernersv4.mp3 - 4.73MB

I think I've addressed most of your issues West. The French horn is fixed (it turned out that the crappy compression was aggravating the tendency for the patch I was using to initially begin as a sforzando accent if the MIDI velocity was over 104. I remember initially liking this, but after changing the velocities manually, I think you were right, and it does sound much more fluid+better now :D

The string marcatto+spicatto+stacatto patches are now higher in the mix, and have a greater dynamic range. I think it works great in some areas, especially as it plays off against the irregularity of the percussion, giving greater tension. Although in some areas I'm not so sure. I'm undecided whether this equates to an improvement, a change, or a step back; I've heard this so many times, I don't think I'm in the right position to judge; so I'll leave that up to you.

I've removed the unnecessary hiss from the samples that had them, compressed this more properly, mixed it hot, removed all clipping (yay! that was a pain to find), and tried to balance the instruments a little better. Your idea, West, was great regarding the choir, and to be honest I totally agree with you in theory. Starting off sharp staccato attacks without a hard consonant is a little counter-intuitive. If this was to be performed I would definitely do such a thing. However, long story short, wrestling with the wordbuilder wasn't getting anywhere, and to my ears made the vocals *definitely* sound fake. I think using more complex syllables works excellently when passages are fluid, but for staccato sections, unfortunately just delayed the "meat" of the sound and made it sound like a bunch of drunk klingon prisoners singing about a quaver behind :P So I've just decided to leave the pure vowels.

Oh oh oh and the metallic instrument, it's one of those instruments that *everyone* knows the sound of, but not the name. It's actually called a waterphone funnily enough. You fill it up with water and bow these prongs that come out of it, it's really cool actually.

Oh and some random errata: Whoever wrote Breaking the Chains is awesome! That 7/8 groove gets me jiving without fail everytime I hear it! Kudos to him/her :P
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by Sapient »

The current length seems fine. You could make it longer and that would be beneficial to scenarios where it is looped. I think it is great either way though and a fitting replacement.
Jetrel wrote: ...the idea of -shortening- looped music like this is just absurd, because what do you gain by shortening it? Besides a meg of drive space, which is irrelevant these days. By having it longer, you can include more music, and by having similar permutations of the same motifs inside a song, the listener can lose themselves inside the loop, making it seem far longer. We have the capability to switch songs in the code upon the end of an in-game event, so there is no use in trying to size the song accordingly.

For all that their melodies/etc were great, the short, tight loops in most SNES games were hurt by the fact that they were short; they were short enough that they fell below the threshold for this effect, and it was obvious right away that the music was a loop. (The threshold is about at the 3 to 7 minute mark, depending heavily on the content of the music.)
(that was a quote from a discussion about track length here).
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by West »

TreizeCouleurs, sorry for not responding sooner. I think this piece is coming together great -- I'd be willing to greenlight this for mainline, if it weren't for one single problem:

Too much compression! There's some very audible pumping happening at every bass drum hit, and the reverb tails on the staccato strings are unrealistically loud as a result of all levels being being flattened out. While some light compression is fine (though most often not necessary) when finalizing a piece, you really want to avoid that 'loudness war' pop music type of compression on orchestral stuff. Compression is a great tool but it should be used with caution. I recommend just using a master limiter to bring the volume up and smooth out any loud peaks. If you absolutely positively need to use a compressor, then keep it subtle. Low ratio (no higher than 2:1), low threshold (just a few dB) and a slow attack to help preserve the crucial dynamics.

Aside from that, great work!

Edit:
TreizeCouleurs wrote:Oh and some random errata: Whoever wrote Breaking the Chains is awesome! That 7/8 groove gets me jiving without fail everytime I hear it! Kudos to him/her :P
That was me, thanks :)
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by PPH »

This is great. It reminds me of John Powell's soundtrack for the Bourne trilogy (which I find great). That soundtrack was a mix of electronic with orchestral; the orchestral part has a similar style, and the percussion is similar too, in a way.
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by Huumy »

I think this is great music I'm so gonna add it to my playlist.

And I think it fits for orcs (atleast for Tolkien orcs they are kinda same as wesnoth orcs, right?)... listening this it was easy to imagine the huge stream of orcs marching to the battlefield ready for the slaughter.
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by West »

Any progress on this tune, TreizeCouleurs?
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Re: Full Length Epic Northerners Battle Theme

Post by Zigg »

A-W-E-S-O-M-E-!

:-)
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