Hey! Just dropping by to write you a quick review! First off, from the music I've heard from you thus far, I've got to say that this is my favourite. Granted, I haven't heard much of your music (yet) but while all that I've heard is certainly likable in its own individual sense, this one I feel is a bit above the rest.
Right off the bat, I like the creativity in your chords. You play a pretty constant arpeggio with the guitar but change the bass note each time, essentially changing the whole chord from a sus4 to a maj9 to various other chords which my musical ear isn't experienced enough to recognise :p. It makes for some highly interesting harmonies and progressions the more the track develops.
Speaking of which, you mentioned in the PM that the start of this track is pretty simple. I actually love that characteristic of this track. It's very pleasant to the ear to listen to a track come together, starting from simple roots and becoming more complex with the addition of other instruments playing together in their contrapuntal glory.
Another thing I have to point out is that the atmosphere and mood of this track is well-made. It's majestic and reflective, and you adopted an approach that doesn't sound cheesy or sound like it's been done before. The atmosphere gets stronger and more encapsulating as the song progresses, until 1:23 where the addition of the pad deepens the atmosphere tenfold, making any listener who listened up to that point feel satisfied and engrossed in the story this piece is trying to tell.
Now, all of that good stuff aside, I can't really write a review without mentioning some things that I felt took away from the listening experience. I know you mentioned that I shouldn't point out any issues related to the production value of the track since you don't quite have the gear to fix these problems, but I'm still going to write them here because 99% of the problems in this track don't require you to spend a dime on any fancy tools!
For starters, the piano, I felt, was a bit dry. This didn't become a problem when the pad at 1:23 came in since that made up for the dryness of the piano, but before that I feel like the piano could have done with a bit more reverb, since it sticks out like a sore thumb in the mix. The bass frequencies of the guitar are pretty heavy and while this isn't a bad thing, they start clashing in the mix and toning down on them using an equaliser will make the overall song sound lighter, which I feel is needed for a song like this.
Lastly, and this is more personal preference, I feel like the song could have been developed more. This is the case with a lot of your tracks - they're all quite short and most of the time they even loop, making the listening experience a bit less fulfilling than it would've been if you fleshed the music out more with a less linear structure. For instance, this track essentially sounds like it was intended to be background music with a linear increase in instrumentation before looping back to the beginning. If that's indeed what you intended, then I can see where you're coming from, but as it stands I would have loved if the track had a less linear structure and more dynamic sections.
Anyway, that's all I've got to say for this track. It's an extremely pleasant track and the main area it lacks in is production value (which isn't even that bad in the first place). You've got a very unique sense of composition which gives all your pieces a memorable charm. Keep it up.
WOW! Ill respond as i read a bit but let me say im impressed with how elaborate your review is.
On contrapunt, its my speciatly ;) So nice of you to call it glorious.
About the piano, theres actually two versions of wich i overlap a third in another panning.
The second (third part) piano has a rounder, slightly muffled cut sound while the first (second part) has a lighter cleaner sound. I dont know how to 'seperately' mix 'individual' instruments as i compose everything in a single pianoroll and have done so for years. :P
I always use global reverb tbh, same reason as above but i do tweak it to my ear manually.
Didnt notice what you said on the guitar, i guess i didnt really pay much attention to it but next time i listen to it (not today, im kinda sick atm so not able to focus to much) ill be sure to. Perhaps the bass notes are louder considering i composed it with my actual guitar on my lap planting notes as i played and i have a habit to play bass notes louder irl and alternate strenght on the appregio, it sometimes creates nice inner voices when i also alternate basslines.
Tbh i dont know how a equalizer works exacty, i never worked with it though they are in my operating program..
I have to admit im terrible at letting music end, i never am satisfied when i do on how i do it.
But that i loop almost all my tracks is for two important reason. 1: so it can be used in games. 2: because i love to listen to my own music on repeat, and often do so for hours after i finish a track just to find out if i want to change anything before putting it out here.
I hope to see more reviews of yours, especially on some 8bit works because im really interested in what you would think of them as they are full on composition and zero sound quality (though when you get used to it you might start to like it, heck ive been walking/biking around with only my 8bit music on my mp3 player for long periods of time irl. ;)
Thanks loads anyway and hope my response is enjoyed as much as i enjoyed your review.
Hey there! Told you I'd get round to reviewing this :p. You know, I'm glad that you asked me to review it because this is actually a fun track to dissect, plus it's a considerably enjoyable and memorable listen as well! You've got some really solid work here. I need to also add that for being your first real/serious attempt at composing something with a DAW, this is ridiculously impressive. I couldn't make this quality of music after a year and half of constant music production. You must have had some prior experience composing or know a lot of music theory. I won't believe you if you tell me otherwise!
Anyway, all that aside, let me say that right off the bat I think your composition is strikingly solid. You think it's not that original and I reluctantly agree - I would not call it creative and unlike anything I've heard before, but you've crafted a wonderful theme and atmosphere with nothing but tasteful instrument choices, and a strong sense of melodic and harmonic structure. That is certainly something to commend. Highlights would definitely be the excellent mood-setting intro, the introduction of warmth from those strings at 0:37 and the lovely ominous chord change at 1:34.
I don't think this song needs any percussion. Sucking at percussion or not, I can't see how anyone could pull off some suitable percussion here, except maybe some percussion leaning more onto the atmospheric to accentuate certain dynamics (cymbal rolls, timpani rolls, that kind of stuff). However, one thing I need to point out is that at times your song arbitrarily slows down. 0:52 and 1:24 are examples of this.
Changing the tempo of tracks can really add layers of expression but in those two instances (unlike 1:43 where it fits wonderfully), all it really does is disrupt the flow. I used to have a habit of adding tempo changes when they weren't necessary (and had a lot of people point out that they didn't fit) so maybe I'm biased, but hey, maybe you'll agree! This kind of criticism is generally very subjective.
Anyhow, moving on to the production, this is quite pleasant-sounding. There's no clipping, good volume levels, good balancing, etc. I would've liked some more drastic dynamic levels (right now your song retains a pretty minimal volume deviation, preferring to stay at a more constant volume level), but that's just me. Oh, and props for the reverb. There's a lot of it, which would usually make the track sound unrealistic and washed out, but it works so well here, giving this track an otherworldly vibe, and working wonders to that great atmosphere you've got going.
I'll have to agree that your instruments aren't very good. Some sound pretty terrible, like the flute at the beginning (which I literally thought was a raw sine wave at first haha) but there's not much you can do about that, and what you lacked in instrument quality you certainly made up for in melodic quality. If you start getting serious about composition, then getting a good instrument sample library would be a wise investment. Hit me up via PM if you want me to suggest some sample libraries!
Lastly, this track isn't repetitive but the pizzicato/staccato string accompaniment in the background did get a bit monotonous. It sounds excellent, don't get me wrong, and the harmonies are nice. Plus, for 2 minutes and a quarter, you do have an excuse not to vary your accompaniment, but still, if you were to flesh this out, then remember that those pizzicatos get pretty monotonous, especially rhythmically, so some variety in that department (by use of different instruments and accompaniment) would've helped.
Anyhow, I actually really like this. It's a well-composed track with a lot of good qualities. Bravo! Keep up the excellent work.
You really are an honest dude aren't ya :'D
I hope your exams went well btw.
Firstly, I'm surprised to see that I agree with pretty much everything you said, and that I had noticed many of those things myself, after editing and looking back at the project. This means you are a really good listener! You noticed and mentioned pretty much everything that is possible o.O
And omfg thanks for such a long and exellent review! This is seriously very helpful :)
Down to the details then...
"I need to also add that for being your first real/serious attempt at composing something with a DAW, this is ridiculously impressive. I couldn't make this quality of music after a year and half of constant music production. You must have had some prior experience composing or know a lot of music theory. I won't believe you if you tell me otherwise!"
=> Then again, you were a lot younger than me when you first started; we should be pretty much the same age right now :p
I know the basics of music theory, but no more. However, I have been playing the piano for pretty much exactly five years now, and I've been composing for three and a half, especially much last year. As you know, you don't really 'need' to implement music theory into composing. If you just try stuff until it sounds good, you can get good results, as well as learn. I wish I knew more music theory though, since it is definitely a helpful tool, if you keep it from being distracting.
"Anyway, all that aside, let me say that right off the bat I think your composition is strikingly solid. You think it's not that original and I reluctantly agree - I would not call it creative and unlike anything I've heard before, but you've crafted a wonderful theme and atmosphere with nothing but tasteful instrument choices, and a strong sense of melodic and harmonic structure. That is certainly something to commend. Highlights would definitely be the excellent mood-setting intro, the introduction of warmth from those strings at 0:37 and the lovely ominous chord change at 1:34."
=>Yeah. The basics for this composition are pretty simple, so it was pretty easy to keep it solid. You should see what other random creations of horrible unsolidity I've created... Never when I'm serious though. Even the very first real composition I ever made was pretty solid. Let's move on.
The athmosphere is indeed at focus in this song. Since I haven't used any DAW's before Cubase, I naturally wanted to focus on the added effect of more instruments than just the piano.
About the higlights. Gaah that Recorder in the beginning, but we'll get to that.
The strings... It took me a good while to figure out how to get that sample even that soft and warm, and I still think it could be much better. I don't really like any of the string samples of Halion Sonic SE that much, but I tried to work around it. From a composing perspective, I think they were necessary though.
That chord change was actually pretty spontaneous, but I instantly liked it, as it also gave a perfect opportunity to return to the original key.
"I don't think this song needs any percussion. Sucking at percussion or not, I can't see how anyone could pull off some suitable percussion here, except maybe some percussion leaning more onto the atmospheric to accentuate certain dynamics (cymbal rolls, timpani rolls, that kind of stuff). However, one thing I need to point out is that at times your song arbitrarily slows down. 0:52 and 1:24 are examples of this."
=> You are probably right. The only thing I really miss is just those atmospheric things you mentioned, since I think they could have added to the composition at some parts. I certainly would not like an entire drum beat track, unless someone could actually pull that off and add to the song as well, without killing the mood.
Yup, those were exactly the two "weird tempo" places I was hinting at in the description. My initial idea was that a well done short slowdown would have somehow emphasized the transition at those parts, but the execution was very sloppy. And looking back at it you are right in that they are superfluous in a bad way.
I'm glad you liked 1:43 though! I actually thought that might have been a bit overdone, but now that you say it, it actually is much more fitting than the other slow-downs.
When it comes to music, I think that very much is subjective, so you are right. But I definitely agree with you in this case, so there is no need to worry about you being biased.
"Anyhow, moving on to the production, this is quite pleasant-sounding. There's no clipping, good volume levels, good balancing, etc. I would've liked some more drastic dynamic levels (right now your song retains a pretty minimal volume deviation, preferring to stay at a more constant volume level), but that's just me. Oh, and props for the reverb. There's a lot of it, which would usually make the track sound unrealistic and washed out, but it works so well here, giving this track an otherworldly vibe, and working wonders to that great atmosphere you've got going."
=> This increases my confidence a lot! I don't see myself as that good when it comes to production, but I guess that it is only expected since I'm new to these things. I actually have no knowledge at all about mixing and such, so I simply pressed many buttons and rolled some wheels until my ears stopped bleeding from how this initially sounded. As a first real try, I'm still kinda happy with the result.
There was clipping at first, but I did some stuff and then it was no more :p
This has a very constant volume level indeed. I think the problem is that my master volume was so low at the start, so I had the instruments at full power. This became a problem when I had already begun with the basic volume changes in some tracks, since there is a max level you can't overreach. And I didn't feel like redoing the entire volume automation :/
(Originally I did want to bring some parts out more, but meh)
You're observant o.O I think I liked the way how the reverb made the whole thing a bit more dreamy. I pretty much just checked out some of the basic reverb "rooms" that Cubase offered, chose some and made small adjustments, pretty much randomly. I think that a lot of the making in my compositions is processed unconsciously, which means I don't effing know what the heck I'm doing XD
"I'll have to agree that your instruments aren't very good. Some sound pretty terrible, like the flute at the beginning (which I literally thought was a raw sine wave at first haha) but there's not much you can do about that, and what you lacked in instrument quality you certainly made up for in melodic quality. If you start getting serious about composition, then getting a good instrument sample library would be a wise investment. Hit me up via PM if you want me to suggest some sample libraries!"
=> Uhh... That Recorder in the beginning... uhh... Wan't to know the story? I simply asked a friend spontaneoulsy: "Hey, I think I'm about to begin making a song. Should I use a Piccolo or a Recorder for the intro?"
My friend doesn't even know what any of those are, so he said Recorder fully at random (I hadn't even checked the samples yet). I then heard how the Recorder sounded and facepalmed, but I rolled with it. I tried to fix it a bit. Obviously didn't work :p
I have been downloading a lot of freeware these past two weeks, and many of them are at least better than what HSSE has to offer. However, some are just demos (like Alchemy Player), and are limited. I am planning on buying better stuff when I know what I'm doing and what I want a bit more.
I just figured that I don't want to pay for something I don't really need/want, so I will train up my DAW skills using free stuff at first. I will definitely contact you once I know more about music production in general! Since I like (love) your stuff, I should also have use of what you'd recommend.
"Lastly, this track isn't repetitive but the pizzicato/staccato string accompaniment in the background did get a bit monotonous. It sounds excellent, don't get me wrong, and the harmonies are nice. Plus, for 2 minutes and a quarter, you do have an excuse not to vary your accompaniment, but still, if you were to flesh this out, then remember that those pizzicatos get pretty monotonous, especially rhythmically, so some variety in that department (by use of different instruments and accompaniment) would've helped."
=> Of course, you are right. But since this is only a four hour project or so (most of the time spent trying to figure out the mixing D:), I didn't really put that much thought into the actual composition or arrangement. I wanted to keep it simple so I could easily get a foundation for using DAWs.
"Especially rhythmically", I'm glad you mentioned that, since it was something I had completely overlooked. I usually try to vary rythm as well, but this pizzicato track got so integrated in my mind that I wouldn't notice anything that could be done to it myself, without someone pointing it out.
I'm extremely glad that you got some enjoyment out of listening to this piece of mine, as well as from dissecting it :3
And once again, thank you so, so much for taking time to write such a detailed and honest review for a newgrounds newcomer, I won't forget this!
I will definitely try to keep up the good work, especially since you motivated me further. It's a shame that it is now time for me to read for a series of important exams D:
Oh well, oh well...
Thanks mate ;)
Hey man. Just dropping in with a mini review to tell you how much I enjoy this track, as evident by the fact that I favourited it. This is certainly one of the best Secret Santa tracks from what I've heard and I think mine just pales in comparison! Really awesome.
Right, what I like the most would be, yup you guessed it, the melodies. You have this really definable melodic style that instantly screams "johnfn" when I hear it crop up in one of your tracks. It's lyrical, upfront, almost cantabile, and often played by silky smooth synth leads that sound so pleasing and gentle to the ears but perfect for those glorious climactic moments like 2:08. Your main melody is incredibly memorable and likable right from the start. All of my yes.
Again, I need to add that for some reason your melodic style really reminds me of Reasoner. It's much more present in your piano-oriented tracks but I still notice it here. In particular, I'm referring to his older tracks (which you might've not heard since in the review response you gave me to 'wide world' the first thing you said was that his drums are good, when his old piano tracks shined for their beautiful melodic content and almost never had particularly impressive drums haha). Check out these three tracks from him, maybe you'll see what I mean!
Anyway, I also love the sonic style you've got going here. It's a nice mix between nostalgic video game music (especially with those chiptune-esque wobbly thingamabobs like at 0:30), spacey alien music and an overall uplifting and fairly Christmassy vibe. You've got precisely the right instruments and mixing choices to bring out these different musical flavours.
Speaking of the mixing, excellent work. Everything's clear, and nothing stands out unpleasantly. Props on the reverb you used on the lead synth - I didn't like it much in certain parts of your NGADM final track 'the fight', but here it sits beautifully in the track and makes that spacey, almost-but-not-quite trippy feeling shine.
Most of the technicalities are nailed. Love the structure, adore the approach to that wonderful 2:08 high point of the track, and the intro and outro are understated yet captivating. If I had to point out any criticisms, it's that your main melody, as good as it is, was getting old by around 2:45. Thing is, it works perfectly as an end to the track. Might I suggest adding another similar lead synth in that outro playing harmonies or counter-melodies under the main melody?
Small nitpick; no biggie. Again you provide a wonderful listening experience that's a present to anyone's ears, not just headphoamz's! Keep it up :3.
YESS. I'm going to hog up all of your reviews. *cackles*
It cracks me up that your "mini-review" is about as long as everyone else's review combined.
I didn't even put it in the description this time because I feel like it biases people or something. Also because I would sound really self-aggrandizing. But yeah that main melody, I don't know where it came from but I love it. In the 2:08 section it feels like a giant hug. Or like MightyManotaur said, unrequited love.
So since I liked it so much I was pretty sure I could count on you to like it too. haha
> silky smooth synth leads
I dunno why, these kind of leads just speak to me.
> Reasoner Reasoner Reasoner Reasoner
> Reasoner x9000
LOL. Yeah I think I was focusing on drums because the piece I just finished was getting a lot of flak for drums coming out of nowhere haha.
But yeah wow. This guy DOES sound a lot like me. I've been playing the piano a lot recently improvisationally and his use of motif, the ABAC patterns and the general movement of chords (which is really beautiful) and so forth really reminds me of my playing. Though it is certainly a lot more refined than my doodles.
"Dear World" just repeats that one motif throughout the latter half of the song and it's still amazing asdfg how is this possible.
"The Last Flight" is something else though. Wow it's so open! Feels like exploring a new world.
> spacey alien music
This is the best genre, no contest.
> sound design choices
If you like this sort of stuff though, check out http://ddrkirbyisq.bandcamp.com/album/love-everlasting (start with Love Everlasting, the song). I feel like he really laid down the groundwork. I guess it really got under my skin more than I thought, since the sound design ideas from that album are starting to show up in more and more of my tracks.
> wobbly thingamabobs like at 0:30
Haha funny story, I was just trying to do a normal arp with a square wave, but I didn't realize how zoomed in I was on the piano roll. Then I played it and I was like "ahh, so that's how that sound is made."
> but here it sits beautifully in the track and makes that spacey, almost-but-not-quite trippy feeling shine
Yeah I think that the problem in the fight was that the first section was very close and non-reverby, so the heavy reverb stuck out. In this song, the whole thing is awash in reverb, so it fits fine on the lead.
> Might I suggest adding another similar lead synth in that outro playing harmonies or counter-melodies under the main melody?
This is a really nice idea. See I almost wish you would complain more, because you always come up with good ideas. I definitely have trouble judging when melodies are getting old, but I'm getting closer to figuring it out I think.
Finally, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to review this. I know you're busy and I appreciate it.
This is an NGADM Round 6 review.
I think it's pretty amazing how the NGADM's final round turned out to be. Both you and your opponent made tracks each worthy to be called one of your best submissions to this contest, both the tracks are coincidentally the same genre - chiptune - and both have really solid and funky rhythmic grooves. And yet, despite these uncanny similarities, your track and steampianist's are quite different from each other. Having said that, I had such a great time listening to both of them and damn it's so difficult to pick the winner. Wall of text is a GO.
Allow me to begin by saying that I was elated to see that you went back to your electronic roots, but in a totally different way so as not to be accused of playing it safe. I have a slight soft spot for chiptune (or at the least, chiptune-inspired, since this technically isn't entirely authentic 8-bit music of course), because it's much harder to hide behind the safety net of good production skills and consequently, chiptune tracks are usually forced to have good, creative composition to actually be any good. Like you, I think a melody is one of the most important (or perhaps attractive is a better word) aspects of a track, so it's only natural for me to have said soft spot for such a melody-heavy genre.
You have a really sweet groove going on. You introduce it right at the beginning, and instantly the nostalgia of arcade games hits like a brick. The pitch slide you added on the fourth measure is highly creative, and blends in seamlessly in the iterations of it later on, which are plentiful but not extravagant, and your staccato synth hits timed to every other beat with the snare was also a brilliant touch. As if that wasn't enough, you've got some truly excellent transitions here, the really special ones undoubtedly being that inconceivably funky 0:47 transition and the way 2:11's drum beat is introduced after such a heart-pumping buildup. Drum fills in general drive the song forward excellently. Random note; I've got to point out a similarity in one of your drum fills. The rhythm of 2:35 in this track reminds me of 1:32 in "inside the machine". It must be a conspiracy.
Did I mention that your track's ability to keep the listener interested is EXCEPTIONAL? No? Well, your track's ability to keep the listener interested is EXCEPTIONAL. Really. Precisely before one thing begins to overstay its welcome, you bring something entirely new out of your everlasting sleeve, whether this is a new melody, a new rhythmic groove, a new synth, or even glitching for god's sake. It all works remarkably well, and creates a song with a lot of replay value and memorable sections.
The melodic content here is superb. Throughout the competition I've never had any problems with your melodies, and after hearing this track I still have no objection. Maybe your composition isn't as expressive/complex as steampianist's, but who cares - it always does the job fantastically. For starters, the melody that comes in at 1:43 is such an earworm! That's an especially good thing, too, since being the primary motif of the track it's crucial to the arrangement. I love the similarities the melody at 1:02 has with that motif, even though it's melodically different and much shorter. It's as if you used that shorter melody as a teaser or warm-up for what's to come. Your chord progression is extremely simple, but you make up for that with some very enjoyable melodies.
Right, now for production value, mixing, mastering, etc. In the NGADM, you sometimes hit the nail right on the head in this department, and other times missed the nail and hit your finger. I'm glad to inform you that this time, your finger is safe. The mix is tight, well-balanced and clean. Apart from a few issues I'll mention later, I have nothing but praise for your mix. The sounds and glitching you've done were worth the effort. The synth swells you have at 3:04, 3:17, 3:24 and 3:31 are beyond awesome, and the glitching was great. Shame about dblue putting that white noise in, but it's a good thing your track is chiptune, since the white noise fit in so seamlessly that I didn't even notice it.
Some tiny nitpicks. Your intro is quite bland. I feel like the song didn't actually find its footing until 0:47. Before that, other than establishing that really sweet groove, you didn't have much going on which was memorable. You might've gone a bit overboard with the reverb/release on some of your lead synths. I don't think it was distracting at all in the busy sections but in the quieter sections, especially at 0:14, it gives the song a large sense of space which I felt didn't quite fit with the much drier accompaniment you had in the background. 2:38's lead melody was a tad bit drowned out. Lastly, ending is alright but could've been a bit more hard-hitting to really deliver that satisfying ending. I'd suggest making 4:06's hit more significant, and then fading out more quickly.
That's my two cents (or, given the length of this review, two hundred cents) on this track. It's my favourite from you and I couldn't have asked for much more. EXCELLENT WORK!
Your reviews are actually starting to transcend just being incisive about the music I write and have started dissecting my psychological core. Like, I never even knew what drew me to chiptune (but not edm) until you pointed it out - it's all the melodies! Chiptune is practically the easiest genre to transmit a lot of melodies at the listener.
I think that if NGADM has taught me one thing (and it hasn't, it's taught me way more than one thing, but if it *had*) that it's there is a really fine art to writing a good transition. When the one at :47 fell into place I had a big grin on my face. 2:11 was more by the book. Big riser, drop out everything, then put a massive hit right at the drop and eq out literally all the bass for a measure or so, so that it really punches you in the face. Even though it's nothing particularly new, I was still pretty satisfied with how it worked.
> The rhythm of 2:35 in this track reminds me of 1:32 in "inside the machine". It must be a conspiracy.
Haha. You have a better memory than me. I do really like that fill though, because it's like you have two different rhythms going on at once.
> Did I mention that your track's ability to keep the listener interested is EXCEPTIONAL
The truth is that it's such a simple trick it might be disappointing. I just do something new every 8 bars, be it add a new melody line, remove something, switch up the chord progression. As long as you switch every 8 bars, the song will always sound fresh. I mean, I have a couple of other tricks (automating something over the 8 bar section, do crazy drum fills, occasionally add countermelodies at the 4th bar, blabla) but the 8 bar thing is crucial.
> I love the similarities the melody at 1:02 has with that motif, even though it's melodically different and much shorter. It's as if you used that shorter melody as a teaser or warm-up for what's to come.
This just solidifies my belief that you can read my mind (or that you're the most fastidious listener in the history of the world). In fact what happened here was I wrote the melody at 1:02, enjoyed it, and then copied it over to the climax section, forgetting in the process that the climax section actually uses different chords. I listened to how it sounded and enjoyed the first bar but not the rest, so I deleted the rest and rewrote it to fit the other chords.
> and other times missed the nail and hit your finger
I would like to claim that these times were when I was rushed ;-P If I only learned one thing from NGADM, it was how to mix well and quickly. Seriously, my first submission took like a day to mix but post-NGADM I could mix that down in like an hour.
> white noise
Yeah you actually can't hear it except very briefly at 0:26, probably since my mix is pretty dense in the other spots where it might show up.
> didn't actually find its footing until 0:47
I'm actually kind of surprised, I liked the solo section right before :47 a little more than the section starting at :47. But these days I pretty much trust your opinion more than my own (lol) and I can see where you're coming from.
> ending should have gone out a little quicker
I don't know why this cracks me up but I've been screwing up endings since the beginning of NGADM so it seems I would go out with a bad ending too.
> two hundred cents
> in summary
I owe a great deal to you (and by extension, the NGADM). The rise in my scores from 8.3 (first song) to 9.5 (last song) is due in no small part to the rapid cycle of the NGADM, and the excellent reviews that you guys gave us. So I owe you all more than I can express for helping me to become a better musician.
You know what? You've absolutely spoiled us for the whole NGADM. Every round you've delivered a sterling track that stands out from the other submissions and remains in one's head for weeks that follow. Not only that, but right after I made a slight hint that I'd like a new style from you in my last review, you delivered. Coincidentally, your opponent delivered in much the same way, which made for a very interesting final! Let me just say that while this is in a pretty different direction from your previous work, it still sounds fantastic, and I can still hear your trademark sound in it, which is awesome.
So, where to start. Your composition is just beyond brilliant. I'm not joking. That melody that came in right from the beginning is EXCELLENT. Like johnfn, you have a great groove, and like you've always showcased in your tracks, the interplay of different rhythms was a blast to listen to, especially in the sections where everything came together gloriously like at 1:39. Plus, your melodies have a way of communicating very well. The expression always shines through. In terms of chords, while I question your perhaps excessive use of the dominant chord (and the minimal changes in chord progression), all the harmony worked well. Similarly to johnfn, you've got some great accompaniment that backs up your foreground melodies wonderfully.
One point I'd like to mention which gives you an edge over johnfn is that this is a really original take on chiptune. When I heard johnfn's, I thought arcades, video games, that kind of stuff which one would expect when hearing chiptune, due to the genre replicating the 8-bit era of video gaming. However, when I hear this, I don't think of any of that. You've managed to create an intriguing vibe that has its own distinct character. This track therefore really stands out, and provides a very fresh and original listening experience. It also helps that you've got 6/8 and 5/8 time signatures in your track, rather than the straight 4/4.
The structure and transitions are spot on. I'm not sure why people are finding it hard to understand the structure of this track actually! I'm finding no problem with it. I think it's a really solid structure that leaves a lot of space for both repetition of motifs and new content. 1:39's melody played in a different key was just a really sweet idea that you approached very well. Every melody leads well to the next (as they always do in your music). Transition highlights definitely include 0:28, 0:42, 1:39, 1:53, 2:51 and 4:07. To be honest, every single time you introduce that main melody again I get goosebumps.
I've also got to say that while sound-wise, you don't quite match your opponent, you've still got some nifty sounds over here. All the 8-bit stuff sounds as good as one can expect them to be, and the way you blend all that seamlessly with great-sounding jazz-style drums worked so well. Then there's that sound at 2:51. I'm not sure what exactly that is, but it provided top-notch momentary relief from all the chiptune sounds. Now that I've mentioned the drums, I may as well mention that this track has some wonderful percussion work. There's a lot of variety in the drums. They're never stale and they sound right at home with the chiptune sounds, especially when you sync up drum hits with those sounds to create some splendidly punchy chordal passages.
When it comes down to production, I found your track to be marginally more tiring to listen to than johnfn's, but I'm not going to reduce score for that since I think that's personal bias. Your mix, like his, is clean and balanced flawlessly. You mix the drums in exceptionally well - they're loud enough to give the track that punch without getting intrusive whatsoever. Commendable levelling work right there. In fact I think you beat johnfn in levelling - his track occasionally had the main melody drowned out by the background fluff, but that's certainly not an issue here.
At last, we come to the issues. I've already mentioned one - I think you overuse the dominant chord in the chord progressions. I have a habit of doing this too. I still feel like your melodies get a little directionless, which is a little gripe I've had multiple times with your submissions thus far, but like in the previous round, this issue wasn't prevalent at all, and I only really felt like the song wasn't really going anywhere for the section at around 1:07. Your intro is great and all but I'll have to agree that the ending feels somewhat tacked on. Your opponent didn't have a great ending either, which is ironic since this is supposed to be the end of the contest! Still, nothing I'd decrease a lot of points for.
I had a hard time analysing this one and coming up with points to mention in my review. It's so easy to just get lost in the fantasy world you expertly craft in each track of yours. Because this track sounds more original, has more expressive melodic content and no levelling issues, I'm rating you 0.1 higher than johnfn. Very close matchup for me, and I'd been torn about it for a while, but I needed to give a score eventually! Stellar job.
thanks for the review step
i had always considered your critiques to be valuable. i hope in the future i would still get some reviews from you though it doesnt have to be this long :B also hopefully you dont have to analyze it and just simply listen hehe ( i hear you man analyzing and finding nitpicks are hard)
This is an NGADM Round 5 review.
I'm at a loss for words here. I have the same problem here as I had with headphoamz's Round 4 track. There is almost nothing one can dislike about this track. Just freaking awesome. I knew you were excellent from the start and I expected something of this quality and style from you, but this time it's so refined and jam-packed with details and dynamic changes that it feels like you've reached the ultimate standard of quality I can expect from you (even if that may not even be the case!). This has all of the good qualities of your previous tracks combined, none of the bad ones, and we're not even in the final round yet.
I'll get the ball rolling by making some high-level, general comments. The atmosphere overall is excellent. Despite the manic and frantic pace which seemingly never stops for a breath, there's a really articulate and well-defined Halloween atmosphere here. When I think 'atmospheric' I think something ambient, slow or gradual, because it's much harder to create an atmosphere with a freak show of chaotic and fast-paced composition/instrumentation, but you pulled off exactly that like it's nothing special.
The composition is some of the best I've heard from you. I think Skyfortress - City of Diz and Mechanical Anima had some truly excellent sheer melodic value (not that the tracks after them didn't alhough those shined more in other areas), but here you've got melodies that at least equal those you had in the two tracks I mentioned quality-wise, and yet you've still got the clarity and beautiful blend of instruments that you brought to the table in your Round 2, 3 and 4 tracks. There's very little of that directionless vibe I got from some of the melodies in your Round 3 and 4 tracks (Round 4 especially). Fantastic.
The actual flow of the melody has always been one of the strongest points of your tracks. I can always expect a smooth transition from one melody to another, largely due to the fact that you very often start a new melody of yours on the upbeat, making one melody lead to the next naturally and smoothly. The structure is also sublime. You have the tried-and-true method of introducing new section after new section in the track (which wouldn't work nearly as well if you didn't have such a great flow between sections), and then introducing the A section again at the very end. And there are so many different sections! Your structure is something like ABCDEFA. Or ABCDEFGHIJA. Or just the whole alphabet before we reach A again, now that I think about it.
Now for the more specific comments. Your intro is a bit harsh and sudden, but I don't find that to be as much of an issue as it was in your Round 3 track. Your ending is simply stellar. You can't go wrong with such a smooth approach to an ending, and the perfect cadence - the most satisfying and conclusive of cadences - was just the cherry on top. You have other brilliant touches in this track that make it stand out from other tracks such as that really well-placed pause at 0:08. I also love your waltz section and your transition to it. You and ZipZipper have made me quite partial towards waltzes, I've got to say!
I also need to add that the reintroduction of the beginning section at 3:07 is freaking godly. I'm not just saying that because I'm a fan of songs that bring back certain established motifs at the end of the track before finishing it (I in fact do that a lot in my own tracks), but the way you executed it is just fantastic. You introduced the dominant chord pause you had at 0:08 right after the waltz section, and then, just like in your intro, you brought in that fast-paced section once more in a transition that felt unexpected but still felt so right. You then led wonderfully to that ending with an identical transition to the one you had 0:40, except at 0:40 you seamlessly keep the track flowing, and at 3:36, you seamlessly end the track.
I think you've played it very safe with this track. I can appreciate you sticking to what you know, because as a result you've made something that sounds very refined and professional-sounding, but I can't help but say I was still a bit disappointed to hear that this is very similar to the other stuff you've been making for the past three rounds, especially rounds 2 and 3 (including in instrumentation - I'm hearing a lot of recycled samples/sounds that you've used in previous tracks several times), even if that disappointment only lasted for a fraction of a second before I got lost in a world of dancing skeletons and zombies terrorising the neighbourhood! I won't reduce marks for that though. Just one little nitpick - I feel as though this was lacking a soft section which acts as a break from all the chaos (similar to the ending of your Round 4 track). Without such a section, the track gets quite tiring and lacking in replay value.
My favourite track from you thus far. Mind-blowingly good.
thanks for this.... intimidating review......... i was gonna go review other competitors work.. but for some reason after reading yours and skye i felt embarrassed....
Another hugely atmospheric piece from you! I've noticed that with each and every new track you deliver, the atmosphere becomes more and more prevalent. This is certainly not a bad thing. Your Round 4 track's atmosphere was incredibly good, and one of the reasons why I gave that track such a high score. Once again, the atmosphere of this track will definitely boost my score. The combination of the pad, your voice, and the harp/ocarina/bells/etc worked like clockwork, and created a vibe that, as ChronoNomad pointed out, can only be described as ethereal, which is, of course, apt and all, considering your username. You know... ETHEREALwinds...? Ethereal? Winds? Ehhh.
Oh my god your voice. I detected a few slightly off-key parts, but nobody's voice is perfect and in a world where a lot of people hide behind the security of a tuning software, it's a commendable feat to perform such jaw-dropping vocal passages such as the one from 2:47 to 3:04, without using any of those programs. Not that it's bad to use those programs - I use them all the time when I work with vocalists (whether they like it/need it or not haha) - but it's a testament to someone's skill when such precise and masterful singing is delivered from an unadulterated, natural voice. Loved the note you hit at 1:59 by the way.
One of my favourite things about this track would be how you set up the pacing of the track towards the end. You've got a serene, slow and reflective pace that is very seamlessly morphed into a section with more movement at 2:42. There's a certain way with which you manage to depict such a change in motion with the transition at 2:42 that I adore, and when you beautifully toned down the pace for the ending, I died. There are always little touches like this in your works that make them stand out, which is something I've always respected your music for.
I can't quite fault your melodies and harmonies. While this lacked in terms of complexity a little (in my opinion), it made up for it in pure likeability. You blend your instruments together magnificently at the beginning, to create an intricate but still cohesive passage of melodic beauty, and then you move on to the more ambient sections, where your voice is given a serious section of the spotlight, but this time the levelling is just right, so I can hear your voice and the lyrics clearly, while still appreciating the deep atmospheric elements in the background. So yeah, that's more like it! One quality I like about your ambient sections is that their simplicity makes the focus entirely on the atmosphere, and it makes each note you sing all the more touching.
One thing I need to mention is how I wish the intro was a bit more subtle in its introduction of the harp. I feel like you didn't quite ease in the atmosphere that well over here, unlike in your Round 4 track which was the total opposite. Other than that, your intro is a very nice way of kick starting your track. You already know what I think about your ending. I actually think that your ending here is one of my favourite endings from you and the best ending in this round. The structure is solid, and so are the transitions. The one transition I didn't like was how you introduced your voice. It felt like too much of a radical change from what you had going before it. I can hear that you put thought into how to introduce the vocals without making the intro sound irrelevant, but it doesn't work right now. It's nothing that breaks the atmosphere but I was hoping for a more seamless and natural transition to introduce your voice.
I have some stuff to say in terms of production/sounds/mixing. On the plus side, as I've already mentioned, your levelling is nailed this time round. Having said that, I find two problems here. First off, I can't help but think that the ocarina is a bit too dry. It might be just me, but it seems to stick out like a sore thumb among the other instruments that seem to have more of an echo. I'm not sure about that. What I am sure about is that your pads have a certain resonant, shrill sound to them that gets kind of annoying. This is mostly significant at the very end, but effective throughout the whole track.
Lastly, I find that the fact that you focused so much on atmosphere made the track sound a bit flat in other areas. In Mystic's Shore, you have both an excellent atmosphere and a lot of forward movement and dynamic sections, whereas this seems to be held back somewhat to keep everything sounding ambient and soothing. This makes the track a bit less interesting and memorable, I feel. I found myself enjoying the section from 2:42 to the end the most (and to a lesser extent the intro), since that had the gorgeous atmosphere you've created AND a sense of movement which wasn't quite present in the other more vocal-driven sections.
This felt like a tough nut to crack and I'm still quite torn on it. I have to say that this hasn't quite topped the sky-high bar you've finally set for yourself, but this is no doubt still a brilliant track!
Wow, this is a hefty review. I did decide to play it down for the semi-finals and create something with more simplicity. Sometimes, less is more, so I wanted to focus my attention to detail on the smaller details! I'm still glad you liked it though! Thank you for the review :D
Mixing needs work? Yeah. Abrupt transitions? Some here and there. Premature ending? Yup. But damn it all, I absolutely adore this approach a lot more than I thought I would. This is in the same light as an NGADM 2012 track by BlazingDragon, Alpine - http://goo.gl/pZaqCh, but at the same time, despite stylistic similarities, it really is entirely different. BlazingDragon's felt more serious and sophisticated, whereas this had a more laid-back mood with positive, warm vibes (plus it is kind of twice as long). Both are solid approaches though, that both showcase the expressive and diverse nature of this genre. Anyhow, enough chit-chat - time to delve into the meat of the track.
You know I first saw your submission on my mobile while at university and obviously didn't dare to listen to it through tinny, mono sound from my mobile speakers. I still read the author's comments, and was elated to see that you said "I love the melodies" because I think you have a really great sense of melody (or at least one that mirrors my tastes haha), so I knew instantly that when I'd hear it 10 hours later at home, I'd really enjoy the composition (plus, it's a really good sign that a musician enjoys the melodies he composes). And I sure as hell did enjoy it. Wonderful, memorable and upbeat melodies with a very appreciable amount of variety.
One thing I feel like noting is that you didn't take the route that's often tempting in this kind of music, and just keep a whole line of directionless, probably improvised melodies going on from beginning to end, but you actually gave this a really strong flow and well-built structure, formed heavily on melodies that lead naturally onto the next and melodic phrases answering each other. Some of your melodies remind me of melodies by Reasoner here on Newgrounds. Don't know if you've heard his stuff before but I'd highly recommend it. I just love how intricate your melodies are over here. This is exactly what I was hoping for after hearing your track in the previous round. The harmonies and interplay of different instruments is just magnificent. Your control over all of these different elements is masterful and showcases your compositional skill wonderfully. Just yes.
In terms of actual sound, I presume you used the same piano sample you used in the previous round, didn't you? Whether you did or not (can't tell because I'm audio noob), the piano here sounds great. I think it could've done with a touch more reverb, but the melodies are already pretty muddy as they are (more on that later) so that might not be the best of ideas unless you make the reverb tail quite thin (I find high-end reverb does a great job of wettening an instrument while not interfering with the mix much). Still, overall you've created a really unique and flavourful soundscape, that shines very much at parts like 1:19, where your piano, bass, and synth ambience combine to create this astoundingly warm and gorgeous texture. Also, the drums are really nice, if a bit interfering at times. Also, watch out, they get quite repetitive. The secret behind making a flowing drum line, I find, is to add a tonne of subtle hits, variations and fills here and there, which isn't quite what you did, opting to repeat the same drum pattern over and over again.
Mixing... well, you're aware of most of this I'm sure. I still think your piano could have a bit more reverb (it sounds kinda bare and dry at 3:19 especially) and I also think your bass could have a deeper low end (although it's still clean as hell, because it's made by johnfn). More significant is the fact that the mix can get undefined at times, especially the piano. I'm not too bothered about this in certain parts because you've made a much clearer effort to humanise the piano and give it irregular timings and all that, which in turn made for some notes that were a bit buried in the mix - no biggie in the expressive, slow section. However, during the climactic sections I felt like the piano's melody could have been tighter and more defined.
The synth you use at the beginning was a sweet idea that landed you points for creativity and sounded nice for the most part, but at parts like 2:12 its raw nature, I felt, clashed with the deeper sound of the piano. Also, the hats from 2:58 onwards are too upfront in the mix, just like the tambourine in your Round 3 track. Leading from my point about the undefined piano melody, in the climactic sections the mix does unfortunately get a little bit cluttered, undoubtedly due to your admirable ambition of having a zillion beautiful melodies going on at once, on top of such heavy and quick drums. However, the clutter is much less prominent than I expected, especially given the little time you had to mix this.
In terms of intro, outro and transitions... at first I thought the way you just dove right into the track without much progression was a bit too hasty, but nah screw that. I love the intro - it just sets the mood effortlessly, and then when you introduce the synth subtly later on it came together very well (but that's just my opinion). The outro was definitely premature. I felt like 4:14 came in a bit too early and didn't quite have a suitable, well-thought-out approach. That said, I love how the track dies down for the ending, even if I wish that it was a bit more gradual. Oh and... as much as I'd like to enjoy the transition to the fast section, because you clearly put effort into making it smooth, I can't help but think that it still felt like it came out of nowhere.
When it comes to the semi-finals and finals, I become really indecisive about my scores. However, I think I'm going to settle with ranking you as 2nd place in my scores. This track has a hefty amount of flaws, and etherealwinds' track is damn good, but there's such depth in the composition and thoughtfulness throughout that I'm going to have to give you a marginally higher score. You're becoming one of my favourite artists on Newgrounds. Keep it up!
Ah this piece is nice. I don't listen to a lot of sophisticated jazz. I need to get on that. I actually have drawn a good bit of inspiration from BlazingDragon on earlier pieces (though not so much this one).
YES. The one thing it seems I can count on during the NGADM is that we have the EXACT SAME TASTE. So if I like something then you definitely will too.
Aw crap, his drums are so much better than mine D:
He is really good though. Gonna pick apart some of his pieces later.
> gave this a really strong flow and well-built structure
Now this is what made me really happy. In fact, the piece *was* built off a lot of disjointed improvisations. What I spent a huge amount of time on was the arrangement - gluing all those separate ideas together with snappy transitions to make it appear like the entire piece was a big journey to the climax rather than random ideas stuck together.
Yes! I fooled the NGADM judges! HEHUEHUHUE! I'm super happy because before NGADM I couldn't do transitions like this to save my life.
Yep same VST as last time. I like it too much.
> drums are repetitive
YES. I completely agree. I ran out of time. ;.; Mostly because I was doing all that arrangement stuff. I can normally do the fills and stuff pretty fast, but I'm unfamiliar with jazz fills so that would have taken longer to figure out.
> bare piano at 3:19
This is a really good point. Relistening shows that this is an obvious error. Will keep that in mind in the future.
> deeper bass
I think this is just because the deep frequencies of the piano are colliding with it. But yeah, a definite error!
> buried notes during the climax
Yeah I agree. I'm pretty sure this is because I have a synth melody and a piano melody that practically completely overlap. Essentially at the end I had a choice between making the climax feel full but muddying the mix, or making it feel empty but having a clean mix, and I opted for the first one. I should have just gotten rid of that synth (or put it somewhere else) though.
> synth clash at 2:12
I actually can't hear this at all, probably because I've been listening to the synth/piano combo for hours straight. I'll come back to it in a week with more fresh ears and see if I can pick out the problem.
> 4:14 comes too soon brah
On a relisten I agree. I think I was actually slightly worried the climax was too short even as I was composing. And the die down after the climax could definitely have taken a little bit longer. I need to learn from people like Kor-Rune who properly structure that sort of thing.
> beats come form out of nowhere
Yeah this is hard to realize while I'm composing, because I'm too busy being like "zomg this sounds awesome" to see if it's properly justified by the rest of the song. I think you're definitely on point about this, so I need to go see how other people introduce crazy drums into a song.
> lots of nice things
THANK YOU STEP. I don't know what I'm going to do after NGADM when I'm no longer guaranteed to have amazing and detailed reviews that point out literally every aspect of my song and make so many helpful suggestions. The whole thing has been an amazing learning experience, thanks in no small part to your hard work. I can't even properly express how appreciative I am.
Hey! I'm here from the Review for Review thread.
This is actually a nice piece with some excellent ideas and execute that leaves room for improvement. Let me start by saying that I love the pacing of this track. It starts with a fairly low-key intro, introducing motifs that will later be repeated in the track, and then you introduce some busier, more rhythmic elements at 0:42 which kick-start the song really well.
I have to also add that your main melody is awesome. I don't find this to be sad at all. The melodies in this track have a way of sounding more hopeful than unhappy really, haha. You have a well-composed, memorable motif, plus some solid accompaniment and a nice flow to top it all off.
My primary issue is that this track is pretty bland. You literally only have strings (including a harp) and drums for a whole 4 minutes. The drums themselves are pretty dull and lacking any character/vibrancy whatsoever. The sustained strings sound a bit dull too, which is a big problem since they're used for practically the whole track. Also, I would've liked more changes in chord progression.
Solid track! Loving that melody - work on making this track more intricate and less bland. It has a lot of potential!
Hello and first off, thanks for the review! Really appreciate it!
The main idea behind this track was to get something really simple that flowed well. I didn't want to load it with tons of instruments and everything, wanted it to sound pretty light on a whole.
I can however understand you feel it's bland, it repeats itself a bit, true, and isn't as exciting as it could be either. I could have gone the other path and made something more complex, but I left that out for another time. I'm not sure if you noticed either, but the chords also change a bit midway.
I'm glad you liked my song!
About the instruments, I actually have more but they're very subtle. I start off with sustained strings for chords (which I think I should have tweaked a bit now, but heh, not gonna change it now :P), a high violin for the lead, drums for rhythm, a harp as well as some fast violins (playing chords quickly) on the highs and on the lower ends a double bass with a lighter french horn to make it sound fuller.
Again, the purpose was to keep it simple and very easy on the listener. I didn't want to overwhelm or bring any specific emotions through this track but rather wanted to explore a very minimalist path. This is also why a lot of the instruments don't particularly stand out, but really do contribute to the track on a whole.
In any case I was looking for opinions for a while, glad someone finally came by and reviewed!
Just heard the track you posted by the way, will make sure to review it!
Hey! Your request got skipped in the Review for Review thread so I thought I'd come save the day. You're probably tired of my reviews by now but YOU THOUGHT YOU'D GET RID OF ME THAT EASILY HUH?
This is obviously excellent stuff. I've never played Majora's Mask, which I'm disappointed about because everyone tells me it's an amazing game. The only Zelda game I've ever played was Twilight Princess which I loved, and I think I'll be getting Wind Waker: HD (upon the recommendation of like 5 people), which I'm also excited about.
But I digress. I went and heard the original and your take on it is just so impressively different. Hearing it with high-quality orchestration is already a big difference, but putting that aside, the original sounds like classic, ominous Zelda music, and this sounds a lot more beautiful and vivid.
Not dissing the original, but I always love hearing totally new and unique renditions of original video game themes, because it brings them in a new light and allows me to re-imagine what the place would've looked like if it reflected this music. For example, in the original I see a cursed, murky swamp, but in this I see a mystical, beautiful forest.
In terms of actual composition, I really can't fault you. My god, the chord change at 0:39 is freaking PERFECT. I also love how the 0:54 clarinet 'answers' the melody before it. The flow in general is just masterfully smooth and with excellent dynamics, transitions, and introductions of new instruments.
Speaking of the instruments, great sound and production as usual. I love how vibrant the strings sound, and the woodwinds sound excellent and blend in perfectly. You fill up your mix suitably, and it never sounds empty, even in the quieter sections.
Issues? It's too short, but that's an obvious one. Not that had you had much material to work on since the original isn't very long either. Its length is hardly an issue in any case, because I didn't think for a second that it was undeveloped or lacking in content. Ending could've been subtler and not as abrupt (but I love the chord you end on). Lastly, a more audible buildup/rise in intensity on 1:15's note would've made the pause that followed right after it have a better effect.
Those are just the nittiest of picks though. Excellent, excellent reorchestration, or should I say, reimagining, of an already-impressive theme. Keep it up.
Oh wow Step! Thanks for reviewing even when you didn't have to do so. I'm really happy you enjoyed it, Majora's Mask is my favorite Zelda game ever and I wanted to pay an orchestral tribute, as I loved its soundtrack. Definitely get Wind Waker HD, I personally can't wait until it comes out! ^_^
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