First song to sell on iTunes...

I haven’t been active here for awhile and apologize for that - I shall be on much more.
I am not used to this more “orchestral” type style, so I put in some piano and synths that I know how to deal with. Everything was made with Artist 7 VSTs, filters and synths.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMp76zHn27k

It brings a lot of the twilight bad pokerface but I feel it needs more development in terms of structure. At 2:54 the strings sounds a little weird. It’s a very spacial dreamy feeling tight through the piece and if you can work on it more and bring other little themes into it and transpose to another key to make it sounds more interesting.

At 2:20 you bring in the nice violin piece and that is where I woulds have like that whole song transposing a half key higher. It will lift it up and give it new life. Another thing I can recommend (and Jonathan is the expert here) is that you need more expression in your strings, more rise and fall in volume and more tempo variations. This piece has a lot of potential and needs to be developed more. You’re on thew right track here. Just work it more. Michael. It’s a great piece.

I actually thought about transposing it - but I have heard that it is considered “cheesy” so I kinda shied away :confused: And those strings at 2:54… I spent 10 minutes messing with the volumes and velocities to try and make it pass but just ended up leaving it. I suppose I could have hunted a different stringed sound.
I blame the general string expression on HALion. I have much less control then I would like, and I am pretty sure just using automation clips to change the volume won’t do much…

Brilliant Ethan…transposing is only cheesy if you do it at the end of a song just to make it longer…a nice bit of transposing in a clever place is the trick…for instance each verse of the “Phantom of the opera” song is in a different key… Kevin

I’m hearing some distortion during the louder parts – check your levels there. Personally, I don’t mind the rather cheesy orchestral sounds. This evokes something like the soundtrack to an authentic ( as in, not Hollywood) Asian Martial Arts film set in medieval times. I like it. Could use considerably more bass, too – it’s lost in there

Great setting and mood man. Really like the choice of sounds and how you blended them together, specially those synthy effects. Awesome vibe in general.

Yes, brilliant fusion of genres here. My one pick with it is that it never really crescendos enough IMO. Not all songs necessarily need to evolve into an upbeat rhythm, but this one could’ve been very epic with some more drums.

Nevertheless, nice unity and great hook that’ll stick with ya. I like what you’re doing, keep it flowing!

Hard for me to critique a style of music I know nothing about. So I’ll just say “It sounds good to me”.

Thanks everyone for the positive feedback - can’t survive without it :smiley: And about that darn clipping… the last 5 or so exports were just trying to get rid of it at the end, I had to lower volumes all over the place (Didn’t want to turn the stereo mix down anymore than it already was). And consequently it left me very little wiggle room to get more “umph” per-se at that last chorus.

The first thing I’ll say is you do have some nice ideas and musical instincts. The second is I just don’t think it’s up to an iTunes selling standard for various reasons and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with trying to sell your music either of course. I wouldn’t rely on Youtube comments etc as true musical feedback either or you may get used to thinking there are less things that need improving than there actually are. I think the structure of the song could be condensed into a more flowing verse/chorus style.

The double bass that enters at 0:09 for example, it is just staying on the exact same expression. I know it’s a lot of extra work, but it just sounds horrible to me as it currently is. If you think about how a string player actually plays then it’s impossible to maintain the exact same pressure of the bow on the string. It varies with different libraries, but with mine for example I am always drawing in slight waves of expression for sustained notes varying of a value of around 10-15 (out of the 1-127 value.) The biggest problem with all of the orchestral instruments that you’re using is the lack of dynamic expression. After 0:38 the bass is a bit low compared to everything else and it’s hard to tell if there is a variation in expression or if it’s just too quiet to be able to tell or not.

Do the HALion strings respond to CC11? You should never be using CC7 for organic instruments, because they can’t turn volume up or down in reality. If they don’t respond to CC11 or CC1 (in my string program CC1 controls amount of vibrato and CC11 is pressure of the bow on the string) then there isn’t much you can do, but even a slight change in volume for sustained notes would be better than nothing at all. It does take a while though to be able to shape

Solo strings are possibly the hardest virtual instrument to make not only sound pleasing to listen to, but realistic too. I’ve refrained from using solo strings myself because they sound significantly worse than other solo instruments or complete sections.

Because they are organic instruments they need to breathe. For example at 0:42-0:47 there is absolutely no variation in expression in the melody line. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OktpoOztRvQ This guy sums it up well and even if your library doesn’t respond to the CC in the same way, there are still valuable tips. At one point he shows what CC11 or 1 for a french horn should look like and explains why. Even with older and/or cheaper libraries doing these things for every note and every instrument (in the orchestra) will make it sound much better than not. Remember what I said about the pressure of the bow on the string will vary slightly around the intended pressure, so altering the velocity value not affect the sustained part of the notes.

In terms of orchestration there’s only one very big issue, and that is that you have your high strings sitting on top of the double basses to the right. Ears do like lower and higher notes to be separated. You can, of course, have the violas (google or youtube how an orchestra string section are seated) playing high notes, but with what you’ve written, it’d sound better to have the 1st violins playing the highest notes or doubling the main melody at 3:00 an octave higher. Listening to any variety of orchestra music would give you a better sense of orchestrating/panning.

Which solo stringed instrument is it that enters at 0:17?

Finally, there isn’t much of a change in texture/dynamics as the piece progresses. Even if you don’t wish to or feel a key change etc are necessary things (and they aren’t always) you do need some more variation/progression for a 4 minute piece of music. At the moment it’s more like___________ . If you play it at around 0:50 and then skip to 3:00 you’ll hear that although there are a few more things, such as the drums, the dynamics have really just stayed the same and 3:00 is really the repeat of the theme that should be played with a thick and powerful texture. Such as doubling the solo stringed melody with 1st violins playing it an octave higher, french horns doubling it in unison or playing the chords.

I know it’s a lot to work on and it’s a gradual process, but all of these things are things that you should be thinking about and in time you’ll learn them and that is just what it takes, time invested and practice. Always be a stern and harsh self-critic and try to remember that compliments are always nice, but bear little relevance on learning and improving the craft. Keep up the good work and well done.

First off - thanks for that. Most of what I know about this kinda stuff is just from listening to other’s pieces and experimentation, it is… refreshing to get humbling but helpful feedback. I shall try to reply as best I can…

I am pretty sure they do not. I haven’t even heard of that terminology before now :confused: I am using the HALion Sonic Artist string sounds - and within the VST I only have basic controls as I would any other synth, piano or drum.
Watching that video now - I don’t think I have ever tried the mod wheel with any of the strings and it is something I will test next time I open up Cubase. But having worked with those same samples for awhile I am pretty sure the best I can do is volume automation.

Again - same issue. I can work with volume but what would have been nice is being able to determine where the bow strokes went and which notes were played in each - part of what you are talking about I believe but I just don’t have the capability right now :frowning:

Here is how most of the strings were arranged - I had the low bass strings (maybe a double bass…) as my “bass” of the mix - a general string pad to fill it out and then the melody “solo violin” (the sound I used @ your question a bit later) Now that I think about it - panning the lead violin would make sense, a bit to the left if I remember correctly. I am hesitant to pan the other two because they are so prominent in the mix - but I guess it would make sense realistically.

I… yep. That is something I got wrong and can change in the future :slight_smile:
Thanks again for the input - most likely this will stick with me for awhile. And I just finished watching that video - its not too terribly complicated and even if it is just volume some of those techniques should drastically improve the “real” factor of future compositions… don’t expect Hollywood anytime soon though :unamused:

And again - thanks for not letting me get comfortable with my skill level!

No problem! Just two quick Sunday thoughts: when you have tracks you double-click them to enter the piano roll/editor screen. You then need to add whatever CC you wish to use at the bottom of the screen. For example, none of my other instrument tracks require CC20, but the choir requires that lane to be available so that I can enter reset points for the words to be sung by entering a value of 127 whenever I wish to reset the words. I’m going to try out the HALsion Sonic Artist strings myself when I get back later later, since I only own C6.5 Artist myself and I’ll see what they respond to.

Second thought, the lowest note on a violin is a G2 (the G below middle C) that is on the open string so vibrato cannot be applied to that note. Your lowest note on the violin is a C#2 so no violin in the world could realistically play what you’ve written. You should be using a viola as a violas lowest note is a C2 (the C below middle C) or you’d have to rewrite the part bearing in mind the lowest note a violin is capable of playing. :stuck_out_tongue:

I used to have a sheet of paper when I first started trying to compose music and it had all the lowest/highest ranges of each instrument, I can’t remember where I got it but it’s a good thing to have.

There’s a lot of stuff to learn so just keep on having fun writing and learning a bit at a time.

Edit: All of the strings are responding to CC11 (expression) so that is what you should be using in conjunction with velocity to shape the performance the best you can. They respond to the mod wheel (CC1) also, but it’s better to leave that at a value of 0. The best way to get a feel for how best to edit the expression for your melody/notes (unless you happen to play that particular instrument) is to just listen that kind of music on a regular basis and really pay attention to every little detail. I even close my eyes sometimes when I’m really intent on focusing for aural analysis.

Set a volume at the beginning and try not to alter that, it doesn’t make any difference with the HALion Sonic stuff since they aren’t cross-fading different dynamic layers, but if you do upgrade sometime in the future then you’ll already be in the habit of doing things that way.

I think the tune is very nice and there are parts that I feel are very tender. Good music.