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Performing my latest Work Titled:

The Princess' Lair

For Piano and Strings

Regards,

Saul

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This is very well done Saul, I like the way you have developed your main theme and I think your sound is very good.  I do wish you would have ventured a bit further from it with some additional material, this would help you avoid the ambient "easy listening" zone that I personally don't care for.  Good work though.

Thank You for your kind words Ingo.

Well, as far as 'easy going' and 'ambient' is concerned, I personally love this genre, relaxing fantasy music makes you relax, meditate, think, and just be. I truly believe that this was one the purposes of music back in those days of antiquity. Music has a place for both engaging and reflection, the two can complement each other when they are together or sometimes apart, there is no contradiction either way.  I just played this tune and let let the simplicity of the melody and the construction kind of fold together in a natural manner without too much complexity and innovation, I can appreciate this. If however you think that there is a chance of this kind of simplicity to be derailed into the realm of 'easy listening', then I guess I personally wouldn't mind it as I have indicated. But if you can tolerate it the way it is now, then that's fine with me.

Thanks again for your comments.

Regards

I really liked this. Simple, yet it drew me in. I still have the main theme swimming around in my head. The strings are a nice compliment to this. Great melody. 

I know you were thinking to keep it simple. I can't help but imagine some other parts in it. Ok the way is if this is a movie or meditative track. Could be developed further,or not. 

The strings are a positive thing for sure. They sound ok, but using a deeper library they would sound even better. I listened at 25% volume on my computer. If I had gone higher the sound of the piano would have been too loud for me. You have plenty of room to spare in volume. 50% would have been way too loud for me. Maybe others can comment on how this comes across on their systems. Seems a bit hot for a piano track to me. You would probably rather have it too loud than something people need to turn way up to hear. OTOH there is a happy medium and most  music of this type uses a light glove approach in mastering. It can be difficult to get just right. I've made plenty of mistakes mastering material that was either too loud or too soft. 

Thank You Timothy,

I'm not sure what you mean exactly about the sound. I'm using a Mac and the music that comes out the speakers is clear, no screeches, and the volume is also great, from my side. Do you want to make the music louder or diminish the sound a little? please clarify...

As to add more instruments, please let me know what you would have done with the music, and what software and instruments you would have used to achieve it, what techniques? 

If you want, I can send you the file and you can do this and explain the process, that would be very nice.

Regards

Timothy Smith said:

I really liked this. Simple, yet it drew me in. I still have the main theme swimming around in my head. The strings are a nice compliment to this. Great melody. 

I know you were thinking to keep it simple. I can't help but imagine some other parts in it. Ok the way is if this is a movie or meditative track. Could be developed further,or not. 

The strings are a positive thing for sure. They sound ok, but using a deeper library they would sound even better. I listened at 25% volume on my computer. If I had gone higher the sound of the piano would have been too loud for me. You have plenty of room to spare in volume. 50% would have been way too loud for me. Maybe others can comment on how this comes across on their systems. Seems a bit hot for a piano track to me. You would probably rather have it too loud than something people need to turn way up to hear. OTOH there is a happy medium and most  music of this type uses a light glove approach in mastering. It can be difficult to get just right. I've made plenty of mistakes mastering material that was either too loud or too soft. 

Hi Saul,

First off I want to emphasize that all of the concerns I mentioned are minimal. Since this is a critique thread I was on the look out for music monsters :) 

For the most part your work here is really well done. What I mean't about the sound can become involved. Maybe you know it. Maybe you don't. Are you aware of the LUFS , K standard of mixing? Maybe you've heard of the loudness wars? These standards are used to maintain proper listening levels. The levels generally are a bit different for different genre of music.Classical, acoustic and piano music aren't generally mixed at the same level as pop and rock music. As such most classical music is mixed with less compression, limiting and generally lower volume for a more natural dynamic sound. The reason I brought it up is because if I had my volume halfway up instead of at 25% it would have hurt my ears. Lots of others are doing similar things and so I tend to never begin any track unless my volume is down.

The clarity of the sound itself is fine. It's the volume I'm referring to. 

I'll try to answer you about the strings sound. I'm not sure what sounds you used for the strings. Maybe they were in the piano? Maybe you used a string library or even a rompler sound? I wouldn't say they are cheesy like some I've heard elsewhere. They aren't extremely realistic either. That's probably because they aren't real. They are about average for a string sample. They are believable to the average person who doesn't play strings. Some of the problem lies in the fact that they are a unison sample and not a singular instrument like say, a cello playing alone. Unison string samples tend to stick out more on sparse pieces and not so much on more dense compositions. If this were played on a stage it would be you on the piano and a string section way in the background. You sound intimate on the piano, the strings are more distant and not as intimate in the sound field. This is why I mentioned the strings as a minor concern when heard by a trained ear.

How would it be improved? You could opt to use a better unison string sample. Some cinematic composers build unison sections one instrument at a time. The benefit being it sounds more like a real string section with individual players.

The next thing you could do is use only a solo instrument instead of the strings like a cello. This way the whole piece is more intimate. 

I might add a few more interweaving parts into the mix mainly because it's over 6 minutes long and most people unfortunately have very short attention spans. Nothing to dramatic. Just some spice to the mix to add interest.

If you have all midi I could try and show you some options. I use a PC so I can only import midi or a wav file for best quality. My programs won't see Mac designated files. Maybe my explanation has helped.

There are plenty of tracks online that are far far worse than yours is. In fact your track is quite good, but I hear things and you asked for critique :)

Thank you for the comments and suggestions Timothy, I sent you a PM waiting for your response.

Regards

If I might go into a little more detail.

We are used/conditioned to expect strings to have a certain amount of air and reverb because of where they are traditionally played, in large reverberent spaces. and how they are mixed in recordings. A dry string sound calls attention to itself for this reason. Your strings sound both dry and unatural thanks to what sounds like the very delayed attack setting and long release or sustain setting which holds the note over the beginning of the next one thus creating a texture which is impossible for strings to play. Quite aside from this the definition is removed from any passage faster than whole notes because the note does not even have time to play with such a slow attack setting. Timothy is absolutely right that a solo instrument would sit better in the mix and suit the mood. A woodwind such as flute might also work.
(Edit, Christophe's viola piece "Yearning", while not being a fully natural imitation is still a very good reference. You can hear he has used different articulations and even sul ponti where the bow plays near the bridge along with changes in vibrato depth. This attention to detail would elevate your piece to some extent.)

Some improvement might be made if you set the attack and release shorter and added reverb which would create a natural version of this effect.

There is a moment at 3.36 which encapsulates cheap string samples where the note sustains but you hear a "push" in dynamic that sounds very unatural. I assume this is where you rearticulated the note. Details like this can make a lot of difference too.

I didn't listen to the whole piece but I skipped around and it seems like the strings are playing almost constantly. Artistically I would suggest some restraint to make those moments more affecting and give the piece room to breath.

Finally although there is more to be said, you are treating the strings as many composers do without experience in them, as simply an instrument to be manipulated without considering the real world traditions. Violins are almost always seated to the left and panned accordingly in recordings. Your violins are panned centre-right and often compete for space with the piano so the mixing feels lopsided. You are using a general ensemble strings sound with no regard for where the different ranged instruments would be in reality. Briefly this boils down to low strings right, high strings left.

Saul Dzorelashvili said:

Thank You Timothy,

I'm not sure what you mean exactly about the sound. I'm using a Mac and the music that comes out the speakers is clear, no screeches, and the volume is also great, from my side. Do you want to make the music louder or diminish the sound a little? please clarify...

As to add more instruments, please let me know what you would have done with the music, and what software and instruments you would have used to achieve it, what techniques? 

If you want, I can send you the file and you can do this and explain the process, that would be very nice.

Regards

Charles, I played my Yahama Piano CLP-695-GP Grand and the piano and the strings sounds are from there.

I also utilized the recording feature in the piano and recorded this performance. Then I have edited the sound quality with some audio softwares. That's about it. The strings that you heard in this music is me performing it while choosing at the piano the feature of Piano and Strings. Nothing else was added manually. I understand that this might not be in par with the highest quality sound fonts, but I don't believe that its bad for what it is, especially for an internet audience such as youtube and Soundcloud.

Thank you for your detailed and informative analysis regardless. 



Charles Holt said:

If I might go into a little more detail.

We are used/conditioned to expect strings to have a certain amount of air and reverb because of where they are traditionally played, in large reverberent spaces. and how they are mixed in recordings. A dry string sound calls attention to itself for this reason. Your strings sound both dry and unatural thanks to what sounds like the very delayed attack setting and long release or sustain setting which holds the note over the beginning of the next one thus creating a texture which is impossible for strings to play. Quite aside from this the definition is removed from any passage faster than whole notes because the note does not even have time to play with such a slow attack setting. Timothy is absolutely right that a solo instrument would sit better in the mix and suit the mood. A woodwind such as flute might also work.
(Edit, Christophe's viola piece "Yearning", while not being a fully natural imitation is still a very good reference. You can hear he has used different articulations and even sul ponti where the bow plays near the bridge along with changes in vibrato depth. This attention to detail would elevate your piece to some extent.)

Some improvement might be made if you set the attack and release shorter and added reverb which would create a natural version of this effect.

There is a moment at 3.36 which encapsulates cheap string samples where the note sustains but you hear a "push" in dynamic that sounds very unatural. I assume this is where you rearticulated the note. Details like this can make a lot of difference too.

I didn't listen to the whole piece but I skipped around and it seems like the strings are playing almost constantly. Artistically I would suggest some restraint to make those moments more affecting and give the piece room to breath.

Finally although there is more to be said, you are treating the strings as many composers do without experience in them, as simply an instrument to be manipulated without considering the real world traditions. Violins are almost always seated to the left and panned accordingly in recordings. Your violins are panned centre-right and often compete for space with the piano so the mixing feels lopsided. You are using a general ensemble strings sound with no regard for where the different ranged instruments would be in reality. Briefly this boils down to low strings right, high strings left.

Saul Dzorelashvili said:

Thank You Timothy,

I'm not sure what you mean exactly about the sound. I'm using a Mac and the music that comes out the speakers is clear, no screeches, and the volume is also great, from my side. Do you want to make the music louder or diminish the sound a little? please clarify...

As to add more instruments, please let me know what you would have done with the music, and what software and instruments you would have used to achieve it, what techniques? 

If you want, I can send you the file and you can do this and explain the process, that would be very nice.

Regards

I'm starting to think you don't actually want critique and this is puzzling given where you posted it! You have written with pride on the quality of your digital piano and become quite tetchy when others myself included don't think it's as good as all that. Yet you are also content to defendwhat by most standards is a low quality string sound  with "I understand that this might not be in par with the highest quality sound fonts, but I don't believe that its bad for what it is, especially for an internet audience such as youtube and Soundcloud." Then why did you buy an expensive digital piano and tout its quality when you don't believe your audience is discerning enough to notice an unconvincing string sound that sounds like it came from a keyboard 1/10th the price?

You could fix the most telling issue with ease by simply shortening the attack and release, perhaps adding a little reverb. and it would do nothing but improve the music. You haven't failed if you accept a shortcoming in your production and fix it, quite the opposite. I can understand a sensitive reaction to musical critique so I tend not to but your production needs work as does the production of almost every hobby composer myself included. I have offered easy solutions so you either think your music needs no improvement or you don't care enough to execute them.

Saul Dzorelashvili said:

Charles, I played my Yahama Piano CLP-695-GP Grand and the piano and the strings sounds are from there.

I also utilized the recording feature in the piano and recorded this performance. Then I have edited the sound quality with some audio softwares. That's about it. The strings that you heard in this music is me performing it while choosing at the piano the feature of Piano and Strings. Nothing else was added manually. I understand that this might not be in par with the highest quality sound fonts, but I don't believe that its bad for what it is, especially for an internet audience such as youtube and Soundcloud.

Thank you for your detailed and informative analysis regardless. 

I think that there is no reason to get upset about anything, either way. Whether its high quality strings or low quality, its not a reason to be upset about it. Its just music, enjoy it and move on. 



Charles Holt said:

I'm starting to think you don't actually want critique and this is puzzling given where you posted it! You have written with pride on the quality of your digital piano and become quite tetchy when others myself included don't think it's as good as all that. Yet you are also content to defendwhat by most standards is a low quality string sound  with "I understand that this might not be in par with the highest quality sound fonts, but I don't believe that its bad for what it is, especially for an internet audience such as youtube and Soundcloud." Then why did you buy an expensive digital piano and tout its quality when you don't believe your audience is discerning enough to notice an unconvincing string sound that sounds like it came from a keyboard 1/10th the price?

You could fix the most telling issue with ease by simply shortening the attack and release, perhaps adding a little reverb. and it would do nothing but improve the music. You haven't failed if you accept a shortcoming in your production and fix it, quite the opposite. I can understand a sensitive reaction to musical critique so I tend not to but your production needs work as does the production of almost every hobby composer myself included. I have offered easy solutions so you either think your music needs no improvement or you don't care enough to execute them.

Saul Dzorelashvili said:

Charles, I played my Yahama Piano CLP-695-GP Grand and the piano and the strings sounds are from there.

I also utilized the recording feature in the piano and recorded this performance. Then I have edited the sound quality with some audio softwares. That's about it. The strings that you heard in this music is me performing it while choosing at the piano the feature of Piano and Strings. Nothing else was added manually. I understand that this might not be in par with the highest quality sound fonts, but I don't believe that its bad for what it is, especially for an internet audience such as youtube and Soundcloud.

Thank you for your detailed and informative analysis regardless. 

 I was a bit limited in my mixing because the track had the strings and the piano on the same track. I added numerous parts to Saul's work. I added a cello and a string section by spitfire that hopefully gave it some more space.Also bass and english horn in places. I tried to compliment the flute with the piano. Additionally there are small piano parts I added to Saul's. Believe it or not the reverb is very minimal on most instruments. I mixed L/R panning. Still the original strings slightly conflict with it. I didn't put a huge amount of time into this as I don't have much :)

I have uploaded a locked track. The only ones who can see it are those who have the following link.

https://soundcloud.com/starise/the-princess-lair/s-OFTKJ

Timothy, I really appreciate the effort but the piece sounds inharmonious. I believe a much greater work is needed to achieve some kind of unity within the piece, the sounds and the interaction between the instruments. But as you have indicated you don't have plenty of time to spend on it, and that's understandable.

Would love to hear what software you have used, I do like the beginning with the vocals, that was really nice. 

Thank you for your effort,

Regards

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