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I'm new to the forum and wanted to share a piece I just finished about a week ago called Soaring High Over Standing Rock. I am interested in constructive feedback regarding mixing and mastering as well as my composition itself. Thanks everyone!

This piece is inspired by and dedicated to the Standing Rock Tribe who are fighting against the DAPL. Starting with swift strings giving the sensation of floating, the french horn playing the part of the eagle soaring over head. The choir carries the spirit of the wild leaving you breathless as you come down to an upsetting scene of the corporations taking over the waterways.

https://app.box.com/s/rcq824b8bwsb5bqmccz4wlstuab4ds8b

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Very cinematic. I think it sounds like library music, mixed for TV- the mix lacks a lot of rumbling low end, especially in the drums (Darwin percussion?)It seems very mids focused.

From a critical stand point (as that's what this is all about) I would say the mix sounds limited- it isn't very dynamic. The music moves and implies big sweeps of dynamics, but the mix isn't capturing that. Again, could be a GOOD thing if you're looking to have this placed in film or TV. But to me, the low end isn't rumbling enough, the highs certainly are not opened up. It gives the impression of a mix intended for underscore. Again. . .not bad if that's what you're going for, makes the editor's lives easier. 

I think the mix would translate well to TV speakers.

What I mean by library music, is library music that would be picked up pretty quickly. It actually reminds me of a lot of music from a TV program on Smithsonian, "Aerial America." I could see this playing in the background as the camera sweeps over a shot of buffalo running through South Dakota or something of the like. 

If you want to add more power in my opinion, the mix could benefit from some clever volume automation. Especially in the French Horn. It needs to cut through the mix and SOAR with that lead line. It feels a little washed out. 

Composition wise- no complaints. It moves, it builds, it slows down. May I suggest some more creative ideas with the strings rather than lush chords? It works well for this piece, but it does sound like VST strings being played on a keyboard. 


I couldn't agree more. I think my main issue is the lack of monitor headphones/speakers.

David Lilly said:

Very cinematic. I think it sounds like library music, mixed for TV- the mix lacks a lot of rumbling low end, especially in the drums (Darwin percussion?)It seems very mids focused.

From a critical stand point (as that's what this is all about) I would say the mix sounds limited- it isn't very dynamic. The music moves and implies big sweeps of dynamics, but the mix isn't capturing that. Again, could be a GOOD thing if you're looking to have this placed in film or TV. But to me, the low end isn't rumbling enough, the highs certainly are not opened up. It gives the impression of a mix intended for underscore. Again. . .not bad if that's what you're going for, makes the editor's lives easier. 

I think the mix would translate well to TV speakers.

What I mean by library music, is library music that would be picked up pretty quickly. It actually reminds me of a lot of music from a TV program on Smithsonian, "Aerial America." I could see this playing in the background as the camera sweeps over a shot of buffalo running through South Dakota or something of the like. 

If you want to add more power in my opinion, the mix could benefit from some clever volume automation. Especially in the French Horn. It needs to cut through the mix and SOAR with that lead line. It feels a little washed out. 

Composition wise- no complaints. It moves, it builds, it slows down. May I suggest some more creative ideas with the strings rather than lush chords? It works well for this piece, but it does sound like VST strings being played on a keyboard. 

I like the theme and feel, but in many ways it becomes repetitive. The rise/fall dynamic carried by the strings is pretty relentless. I assume that this is not orchestrated traditionally, as David intimated - splitting your chords into the component roots and harmonies and composing individual parts would both provide more flexibility and force your sound into something a little more realistic. Did you write for bass, cello, viola and violins? Or pick a general orchestral sample and just hit those chords?

Focusing on your strings - you have the bowed chords but also the staccato rhythm. Are these now double string sections that would require divisi in real life? You've basically got your four-course epic meal - strings, brass, percussion and choir. There's a lot more you could do. Is there a specific tuba part? Are the horns written for 4 or 6 or 8 unique instruments? Are there trombones? Are there woodwinds, lost in the mix? Take advantage of the huge range, top to bottom, of the individual families. Write line by line instead of having a giant chord. Don't throw everything in at once. Considering every instrument individually instead of as part of a chord factory will open your work right up.

I agree with the above post in some aspects. You may think "Well, it is all VST library, it doesn't necessarily have to translate to live orchestral."  

I myself am guilty of writing pieces in this fashion in the past as well. However, as I studied orchestration (I used the old school Adler book) I did realize this is dangerous. If you land a gig for this piece where let's say a director or production company wants to buy this piece, but, they want it recorded live- UH OH. You've got a lot of work to do in the strings to get this ready and orchestrated. Or you hire an orchestrator who will also have a difficult time diving the parts out for the string section (And eat away at your profits)

If you have a very clear direction from the get go, and you make it clear to your client based on their needs it will be an electronic score, there's no worries. 

Me too, my pre-orchestration days were full of eight-note trombone chords and pads marked "brass" and maybe a flute here and there crying in the cold. Obviously for speed you can simplify and combine depending on the job, but (I think we agree) doing it the long - and let's face it, correct - way will by default increase the realism. And with midi, realism is hard-won. If you want staccato string ostinatos, doubling with xylophone or glock or high woodwind adds so much. I didn't know this before buckling down to orchestration, I think it's lost knowledge with some of the current crop of music library composers.

I could maybe sound more condescending if I tried. Not sure :/

David Lilly said:

I agree with the above post in some aspects. You may think "Well, it is all VST library, it doesn't necessarily have to translate to live orchestral."  

I myself am guilty of writing pieces in this fashion in the past as well. However, as I studied orchestration (I used the old school Adler book) I did realize this is dangerous. If you land a gig for this piece where let's say a director or production company wants to buy this piece, but, they want it recorded live- UH OH. You've got a lot of work to do in the strings to get this ready and orchestrated. Or you hire an orchestrator who will also have a difficult time diving the parts out for the string section (And eat away at your profits)

If you have a very clear direction from the get go, and you make it clear to your client based on their needs it will be an electronic score, there's no worries. 

In my defense, my computer only has 3gigs of ram, and it's difficult for me to use too many instruments before everything just stalls out. I have, in the past, composed using GPO WAYYY back in the day and doing a full orchestration thru Sibelius. Nowadays, given how quickly clients demand a finished product from one person on a tight budget, and especially how little my computer can handle, I feel it's a necessity to group VST patches, just to get the job done. I know how to fully orchestrate, it's just not ideal at this time with my specs.

Fair enough.

Benjamn Ray Maisonet said:

In my defense, my computer only has 3gigs of ram, and it's difficult for me to use too many instruments before everything just stalls out. I have, in the past, composed using GPO WAYYY back in the day and doing a full orchestration thru Sibelius. Nowadays, given how quickly clients demand a finished product from one person on a tight budget, and especially how little my computer can handle, I feel it's a necessity to group VST patches, just to get the job done. I know how to fully orchestrate, it's just not ideal at this time with my specs.

This piece has been remastered. 

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