Music Composers Unite!
Here’s another piece I wrote on piano. Yes, it needs a vocal, but you’ll have to settle for the flute-y thing.
There’s a lot going on in places and I’m not good at measuring dB levels, clashing frequencies, and all that sort of mind numbing stuff. I just like focusing on musical elements like melodies, harmonies, dynamics and stuff. I hope you at least get the flavor of the piece.
It’s in F# minor, one of favorite melancholic keys.
I would appreciate feedback on everything from overall composition, arrangement, instrumentation, dynamics, and... *gulp*, the technical stuff like “boost the mid-range at around 20dB” (I actually just made that up and haven’t got a clue what it even means). I NEED AN ENGINEER DAMN IT! hehehe. But really, I do.
I hear the Beatles in this again...it seems almost every track you make has that kind of a feel. Not sure if this is because you are somehow patterning off of that structure intentionally or if it's all just coming from you as a natural thing. Either way, you are an ace at it.
I didn't listen to this on my tuned system since I am at work right now. Sounds good on my basic ear buds! Did you get these sounds from Musescore? If you did, pretty amazing the realism of it. Garagband? This track would be plenty good enough as a demo track. Mp3 compression probably doesn't help. Overall though, I'm quite impressed to know what you used to make this.
Thanks for your kind words.
BTW, I just replaced the mp3 here with a better version.
I had to Google "Musescore" to see what it was. Looks like a music notation program. I can't read music so I have no need for it.
Well... besides the overall Beatle-y melodics (I'm sure the "Strawberry Fields Forever" sounding mellotron flutes add to the Beatle-y sound) what can I say?... I'm a HUGE Beatles freak!
A bit of boring facts that might help you understand a little about me:
I just make up tunes that please my ears with no consideration, at all, as to whether other people will enjoy the stuff, except of course I do indeed value other composers' opinions.
All these years of listening to and carefully studying The Beatles work have hardwired their melodics into my neuro synapses. The question of whether I try and emulate the Beatles or if it's just my own sense of melody is way above my pay grade because I truly don't know. Like I said; I just make up tunes that please my ears.
Actually, some of the electric guitar licks on this tune remind me of Jimmy Page ala "Stairway to Heaven". I love Led
Zepplin, just never had the room in my brain for them, due to The Beatles and Chicago taking up all the space.
Finally, I don't much care for popular music in it's current form and I know that my stuff is "old school", but I
quite enjoy wondering how much more 60's and early 70's music there still is out there in "space" having nowhere to
Now to the computer, DAW, samples and effects.
-- Computer --
Asus G73SW laptop with Windows 7 and 8 gigs of ram.
-- DAW --
Sonar 8.5. Every note was entered into the piano roll. No midi keyboard was used.
-- Virtual instrument list --
(Oddly enough I didn't use my "Fab Four" library from East West.)
I used "Pianoteq" for the piano. Normally my go-to piano is "Piano in Blue" but there were certain notes with
velocities that were too abrupt in adjoining volumes. I love the warmth of that sampled piano but I changed to
Pianoteq because not being a sampled piano but rather being purely a wave modeled piano (gotta love those audio
scientists, right!?) that means every single increment of the 127 velocities per note actually increase and decrease
with no abrupt adjoining velocity changes. That means you can easily control the volumes of each note with no worries
of a sudden note booming loudly from out of nowhere.
Scarbee Rickenbacker Bass (for Kontakt)
My standard "flute-y" thing for melodies:
FM8 ("classic flute" patch)
Strings and timpani:
An older East West orchestral library (for Kontakt)
Nylon string Guitar:
Chris Hein Guitars (for Kontakt)
That's basically it for instruments.
-- Effects --
Electric guitar effects:
-- Other effects --
A few various Waves effects I have. Also Sonitus reverb.
You wanted to know, so there you go. :)
Thanks again for your good feedback!
Well, it's a lovely song. Its mood brought reminiscences of parts of the Zombies' Odyssey and Oracle, I don't know about the Beatles. I'm a big fan of their music up until Magical Mystery tour after which they seemed to revert.
So...another Pianoteq player? You're dead right about Pianoteq, takes up so little space and leaves sampled pianos way behind. A damned good sound.
This song flows very well.
All I can comment on is the melody line(s) volume. They need upping. The flute sounds very bass-flute or alto-flute, a most lovely sound but it's hidden. Places it seemed to disappear were at 1'05", 1'51" could hardly hear the entry; at 1'15" there's a brief high note that suggested it should be louder.
And at 3'38 the guitar comes in with what sounds like some snazzy soloing but again is hardly audible. (No need to talk to me about Zeppelin 1 and 2! I love it.)
I tried the song with AKG then Beyerdynamic headphones. No big difference.
It's probably more about upping the relevant faders a bit. The accompaniment seems fine, balances ok with the bass.
I wonder what flower my life is....ain't a lotus, that's for sure.
= = = = =
I could send you a pack of assorted decibels but they may get lost in the post :D
Decibels are quite easy to appreciate. Working them out can be a sweat because they use logarithms but there are tables to show what's what. Most people put their logs on the fire but the engineers use them because the ratios can get huge and unmanageable.
Basically two sorts - they both just measure ratios. With physical sound the db level is compared to 0db as the absolute threshold of hearing for someone with sharp ears - like hearing a pin drop.
With audio it's about comparing, say, an output level to a reference input level. 0db means the output is exactly the same as the input. It doesn't mean there's no sound. Doesn't matter how loud either. What you get out is the same as what you put in.
It gets misleading because power (watts/ milliwatts etc.), is treated differently from a voltage level - the amplitude of your waveform. +3db means twice the power. +6db means twice the voltage. Correspondingly, -3db means the output is half the power; -6db half the amplitude.
(A voltage increase of 3db is roughly 1.4 times the input.)
Having said that, db increases and decreases aren't the real issue with mixing/faders on which just 1db (usually voltage) can make a difference to the mix. Your ears are the only true guide.
It's also a bit more complex with electronic signals. I used to know some of this stuff (filters mainly) and now only use it when comparing noise floors and the like in electronic components. Oh boy.... I gave all my bels back to the local church. It can keep 'em.
It'll all get better after Brexit. Even Mr Orange says that.
I didn't realize that you are so technically minded. I must say I'm impressed!
Only one question:
I really, really appreciate all that stuff you took great pains to explain to me Dane, but I just don't get it. It's like someone explaining calculus to a monkey. Don't waste your time trying to explain audio engineering concepts to me, I'm hopeless, just throw me a banana.
You'd think I could eventually absorb the basic concepts of dB levels, after all, I fancy myself a bit of a math and science nut even though I pretty much suck at both.
I even found a thingy once:
Lots of weirdness in that babbling and rather embarrassing article... but I'm all better now. Good thing the math is solid. As for all the words... more salad than solid.
I do indeed know that the melody gets lost in places where it goes lower on the scale but it's good to have it confirmed. It's a struggle I'm having with the plug-ins I used. If I turn up the volume on the mellotron flutes it gets hissy and if I turn up the volume on the FM8 classic flute patch it gets raspy. Guess I should maybe consider changing to a different virtual instrument for the melody.
Oh, and hurray for Pianoteq! It's cool that you love it too. And you are so right. Some of those sampled piano libraries like "Ivory Pianos" I think, take up gigs on the hard drive while this little Pianoteq beast barley even leaves a footprint. And it sounds great!
As it happens, I'm still working out the arrangement on this piece. I think I might experiment with some other instrument for the melody.
Thanks for the great comments! I only wish I weren't so thick. :)
Thanks for sharing your setup with me. Now I recall you did mention you used Sonar 8.5. Your laptop is a nice older gaming laptop. That's a nice portable setup for midi work. the 8gb of ram would concern me if I were loading larger track counts. I imagine you might be freezing your tracks to save cpu.
I have heard a bunch of great things about Pianoteq. I played with the demo and liked it a lot. I didn't buy it for myself because I had an investment in a bunch of samples pianos already. If Pianoteq ever comes out with a decent sale I might snag it though because it is so realistic. Great choice for working on an older lappy.
DAWS are all going from 32 bit to 64 bit. As it stands the new free version of Cakewalk will probably still read your old Cakewalk files in you ever switch up. In the new version 32 bit is only supported using Bitbridge and they are discouraging 32 bit plugins because some of the older plugins will crash Cakewalk. DX plugins are no longer supported. I think Sonitus reverb is DX. That one might not carry over. If you save as a Cakewalk bundle file, you could give it a try to make sure your work is future proof. Windows 7 is no longer officially supported by Microsoft and so Cakewalk is no longer supporting older Win7 7 32 bit versions like 8.5. There was a site I could link to for a free update to Win10. Not sure if it is still up. I had one computer that would not validate in the Microsoft servers for the free update. I bought a cheap license on ebay and updated it that way. Way less than paying the full amount for a new OS.
You really don't need to know a bunch of math to get your mixing and master levels right. Using one free plugin called SPAN you can determine if the file is the right levels in both db. the K system and LUFS. This isn't a plugin, you simply drop your file on it and it analyzes the file for inconsistencies EXPOSE. I would not personally pay their asking price. If you subscribe to their emails they have periodic sales.
Anyways, I've probably flooded you with a bunch of info that you either aren't interested in or can't presently use. Maybe useless FYI, maybe not. It all depends. If it were me and I wanted to preserve my work I might be looking at some of these things as ways to make sure I was still in the game in the future :) Thanks again for sharing your setup.
Oh dear...I'm no technician at all. I've put analogue synthesizer modules together but have a heck of a trouble with this daw stuff, midi and sample playing. I still don't know what a midi port is. It's around somewhere I'm told.... I was ok with analogue and couldn't understand why the Japanese stuck a chromatic keyboard on it. I mean...chromatic, with the aural universe at one's fingertips?!? Then it went digital.
I had a look at that article and recoiled with dread. When it got to the square root of phi, I dashed for the fridge looking for apple pi. You must excel at maths if you assimilated all that. I felt my brain (such as it is) getting more addled than ever. It didn't stop old ponderings coming up in mind about who gave those Egyptian masons the tools to cut their granite for temples and turn (presumably they were turned) those granite vases with the deep undercuts... Curious, that. Nothing the archaeologists have found could have done it.
But as for the song - is it possible to lower the accompaniment tracks just a tiny bit and up the melody a similar tiny bit, then up the master volume? Just a thought. It might not work. Noise is always a signal problem. Shame if you have to swap out the flute.
Also interesting about the mellotron. It was effectively the first sampling machine. Those things must have cost a fortune in their day. I think the Moody Blues had one for Days of Future Passed. Also the Beatles. They could afford it!.
Thanks for the heads up on “Span” and “Expose”. I might try the free Span version sometime. Looks like it has lots of knobs that will fry my brain but I might give it a try anyway.
I haven’t been in the market for samples or DAW’s for over a decade. Everything works on my Windows 7 computer so I just cruise along with my ancient setup while the world of audio recording moves on at light speed.
I’ve done a lot of music production on the Asus laptop I’ve listed and have never had to freeze tracks. Wait, thinking about it now, maybe once or twice because it was taking way too long to respond to mouse clicks while placing notes. But that only rarely happens and I think it’s due to having a ridiculous number of notes in the piano roll.
It really amazes me just how many instruments I can load with just 8 gigs of ram. For the music I do, I usually don’t even come close to maxing out the ram. Would be nice though to have more ram and really go crazy loading up orchestral instruments.
As Dane pointed out, the melody’s volume in this piece gets lost mostly in the lower register so I’ll be looking into finding solutions.
You two guys are a wealth of information for me and I really am appreciative that you both take the time to give such thoughtful feedback, even if I struggle to understand. I think a little information trickles into my non-technical brain even if I don’t fully grasp all the nuances. So thanks again and happy composing!
You are welcome Rick!
Dane, this is the one I use.I'm not wealthy to have all of these plugins. I just buy on bargains. The Mello was something like 20.00 US when I picked it up. I don't use it much anymore.
Don't get me started on how the pyramids were built....it goes deep into conspiracy theory for me :)
Brilliant idea old chap! Lowering all the volumes except the melody is just the sort of common sense solution that I never even considered. I will try this. I’m thinking now that I could send the entire mix, all but the melody, into its own bus thereby letting me increase the melody volume without having to change velocities on individual notes thus alleviating the problem of those nasty artifacts such as hiss and raspiness. You’re smaaaart!
Of course, a vocal would sort all these problems out..... :)
You have a nice set-up there. I recently abandoned my Win 7 as part of a renewal because some of the keys were getting dodgy. (Like, putting in passwords was a tense moment.) Agreed that 8G would be enough for most things. I'm putting something together with 24 tracks at the mo and it's still using only 7Gb.
"Old chap?!" Are you studying to be a UK civil servant living in Chelsea? LOL, How very fitting for Brexit day.
"Old bean" is another one. "I say, old bean....we're leaving the jolly old EU tonight, eh, what?!"
A new mellotron from Streetly Electronics will set you back £4,900 ($6,000 ?) So best stay with the sampled one unless you win the lottery.
Thanks to you both for putting up with my sense of humour. It gets me in trouble at times but it lets life go on in this neck of the woods at least !
All good wishes.
You British people “sort out” things. Across the pond we “fix” things. You guys spell “humour” while we spell “humor”. Yet notwithstanding these two insurmountable issues between our respective lands, the orange dictator has, for now, opted not to destroy your country. He’s much, much too busy destroying ours. Between your Brexit and our broken senate, our two countries have managed to make quite a mess of the place. While the Earth is having a nervous breakdown we must continue writing music because, well... just because.
All these hugely existential problems we earthlings are experiencing and yet the biggest one of all for me, currently, is how to up the volume of a melody. Oh... the pain of it all. BTW, I tried your idea and found that I’m getting “bleeding” over from some tracks into others. Probably because I don’t know how to properly setup an initial project in Sonar. But in the process I’ve discovered that I’ve got some headroom for increasing the flute-y volume that I didn’t realize I had! So, looks like I’ll be working on this piece some more. I’ve already found an entire section with barely any snare drum. Sheesh, composer, arranger, recording engineer, producer... do I have to do everything!
Hope you guys sort out all that Brexit business. We, in the meantime, will continue trying to get the orange maniac into a straight jacket... no luck so far.
Don't want to sidetrack the thread...well ok, why not? :)
Dane, plugins are the way to go man!
Rick...I love your insight on the British people here. I don't know them well enough to comment since I've only met one in real life and a few online. Interesting bunch they are though.....they eat something called speckled dick...no thank you, I believe I'll pass on that one. I'm kidding but I think most of them are pretty cool.
I know very little about Brexit. It seems to me from "this side of the pond" that their money still goes further than ours. I00$$ $$ US is something like 76 GBP over there. Of course, that all depends on how much a GBP buys over there I guess *shrugs shoulders*.