I'm an amateur composer from France with a lifetime's devotion to electronic musical instruments since my very first analogue synthesizer way back in the mid 80's (the wonderful "duophonic" Yamaha CS40M). I was brought up on a mixture of Jean-Michel Jarre (to whom a modest tribute may appear obvious to some on the track "Brave New World" in the link below), English New-Wave and various classical influences ranging from Tchaicovsky to Gabriel Fauré. Since then the industry has changed (slightly !!) and so have my musical tastes and expectations. Leading to which I recently dumped some of my older gear that was gathering dust and after a lot of research and hesitation finally purchased the following products :
- EWQL Complete composer's collection (Symphonic Orchestra, Goliath, RA, Silk, Ministry of Rock, Gypsy, Symphonic Choirs and Voices of Passion)
- Native Instruments Komplete 8
- Spectrasonic Trilian (all bass sounds)
Though I'm thrilled with the three of them and they have been keeping me very happily busy composing these last few weeks, I'm not so sure how they blend together sonically speaking. I'm not much of a recording engineer, but nevertheless I 'm under the impression that the reason for some of my rendered mp3s sounding "flat" and lacking in dynamics may have something to do with the samples themselves and not just with my mastering capabilities (that being said I'm only using Ableton Live's native plugins to achieve this so I'm conscious of their limits ...). I'm also highly concerned about how people perceive and react to these sounds : Do you consider some of them to be over-used (EWQL's "Voices of Passion" used on "Fretless Lullaby" for example is probably a dead give-away ...), dull and boring, or is the overall impression a pleasant one ?
So here's the link ...
I'd be very interested to have your comments and ideas on these particular issues. Also I'd love to have your feedback on the compositions themselves obviously, in which case please bear in mind that they have all been done in the last three weeks, so consider that work is still in progress !
Happy summer holidays to all.
I listened to "Brave New World" and "Fretless Lullaby". The lullaby was very nice and melodic. I thought BNW could have been more properly concluded, honestly.
Be sure to post your music scores if you have them. I'm sure your fellow members would be interested in seeing them. :)
Musically I enjoyed both works. The only thing I found a bit odd was the piano scrap sounds in the Lullaby. I usually think of those more with the horror genre. I also thought the actual snare sample in the Lullaby didn't quite fit the genre.
What I think you need to work on is mixing. I've been in a Digital Audio program at school for a year now where I not only study composition but audio engineering as well and it makes an amazing difference. The hardest part was learning to listen as an engineer and not a musician.
A few things that stuck out to me were.
1. Everything is panned pretty much center. For example in Brave New World try panning the different percussion instruments all across your sound field. For this type of music you can get away with some extreme panning. Keep the kick drum center but try putting the snare a bit to one side and the other percussion WAY off to different sides. This will open up the sound quite a lot.
2. The reverbs are very different on the different instruments. I know this is somewhat built in cause of the sample libraries you are using, but I would add additional reverb to some of the instruments. In particular the BG vocals on the Lullaby. In that style of music you can totally drench some of it in huge reverbs. I would also consider adding a bit of reverb in your mastering stage to help put everything in one "space".
3. And speaking of mastering, this was probably the one biggest shocker I had in school this past year. I was blown away by how much difference proper mastering could make. Since you're using high quality sound libraries I would HIGHLY recommend you consider getting Izotope's Ozone complete (you don't need the advanced version). Even just playing with some of the presets will give you some idea how much you can improve the final product. You'll also find that usually it's a good idea not to master your own works. It's a huge help to have a new set of ears at this point.
4. I would also recommend you dive into mixing. There is a GREAT book called Mixing Audio: Concepts, Practices and Tools by Roey Izhaki that is probably the best out there for learning the true art of mixing. It helps you learn what to listen for and how to achieve the sounds you want. The use of EQ and compression can mold this type of composition as much as the actual note choices.
Over all I really enjoyed your work and think if you work on your mixing chops you can quickly make what already sounds good, sound totally fantastic.
While I'm still far from a mastering expert, I did a quick and dirty demo of Brave New World just to show you how much difference it can make. Obviously I can't play with the individual instrument panning, but I did widen the stereo image, add an overall reverb, used a multi-band compressor, used a harmonic exciter (specially the highs) and did some maximizing with dither (dither is SOOOOOOOO important). Since I don't have your permission to post this I'll see if I can figure out how to send it to you directly (still new here), unless I have your permission to post it as an example of mastering.
I'm glad you liked the music. I find the libraries I bought very inspiring so I've been quite productive lately. However I really have to get to grips with the mixing/mastering stages ... I'll follow your advice and pick up that book.
I've heard a lot about Ozone so I'll definately look into that too. And your so right about getting somebody else to do the mixing. Not many options locally unfortunately ..If you were up for it I'd' love to send you the Brave New World (or others) before mixing to hear what you could make of that. I use Ableton Live 8 but I suppose it can be exported in other formats (maybe ??).
Thanks again for your time. Really appreciate it.
Now remember this is a very quick demo to show what mastering can do. I'm not saying it's the best it could be or even better than yours, but I think it shows more detail in the work.
First time I'm posting like this so I hope I'm doing it right.
And in this type of self-produced music usually you would do the mixing (though it helps to get comments from new ears) and only the final mastering is done by someone else. I'd love to work with you on stuff as I really need to work my mastering chops. I'm just learning Live 8 but do most my work in Cubase. We can figure out a method if you'd really be interested in working on some stuff together.
Well have a great vacation and hit me up when you get back home. It's so easy to do long distance collaboration now and I think it could be fun.
Wow Jim, I'm guessing you haven't done a lot of audio engineering. Where to begin. Well if a string quartet sets up in my living room there is going to be reverb obviously, since my living room isn't and anechoic chamber. As for compression and limiting those are mainly used to compensate for the limitations of recording and playback technology itself. If you don't set a limiter across your output you can easily peak your signal and get digital distortion.
Also this is not a string quartet, but a work in the electronica genre. There isn't a single electronica work out there that doesn't use a TON of signal processing. Though even any strictly classical recording of an orchestra or string quartet is going to go through at least light compression, limiting and dithering in the mastering phase. It's a simple requirement to make a quality signal for digital audio production.
Obviously if you don't think my quick experiment with mastering (without access to the stems) made his work sound worse, you're welcome to your opinion. But to imply that music, electronica in particular, should not use digital processing is just rather odd. That's just my opinion of course.
I find it has an interesting mix of Russian and Chinese genres due to the melodic lines and instruments used. I personally like the way the bass pushes the main theme along.
Something definately went wrong during Live 8's "export audio" process because Bave New World certainly isn't supposed to end like that !
No scores to date unfortunately. I compose and play by ear essentially so writing a score is something I rarely get around to doing (not to say "get away with" ...) unless required for other musicians working on a project.