This is an NGADM Round 1 Review.
You know, in some ways this reminds me of your audition. It's very heavy and has a slow, lumbering pace and rhythm which helps you really digest the sonic enormity of the track you've presented. That's definitely a highly positive aspect of the track. The upfront and aggressive synths, huge drums, and bucketloads of reverb and delay (1:28's an example) give the atmosphere a very clear sense of largeness, which ups the memorability factor of this track tenfold. Complementing all that is a pretty solid structure, good transitions and a suitable intro/ending. So yeah, all in all, decent work with all of that stuff I mentioned.
Now, to be honest I'm finding some trouble looking for redeeming factors in this track. Midimachine said it all; this track has an extremely stressed mix. The amount of compression/limiting you threw in there made the track sound too bouncy and loud, and I was desperately wishing for some momentary relief from the crazy loudness halfway through the track. Some of the sounds you used are fairly agreeable, but most of them are simply unpleasant. You used a similar style of synths for your audition Megalith, but while over there the aggression from your synths worked with the whole idea of the track, here they blare so loudly that they end up sounding crass and harsh to the ears. Additionally, I agree with midimachine that none of your melodic content is particularly good (which is a shame because I enjoyed your melody in Megalith).
A bit of a disappointment I'm afraid! Still, thanks for taking part.
Yup, I fucked up with the mastering on this one. I am letting it be a lesson ,really.
This is another one of those contest submissions that has great amounts of potential but due to a plethora of issues, that potential isn't fully realised. Why do I think it has potential to be something greater? Well, some of the ideas over here are excellent. For instance, the staccato string passages in the intro are awesome and instantly set the intense mood with ease. Some of the melodies are pretty well-written to boot! One of my favourite aspects of this submission would have to be the contrasts. Abrupt or not, the contrast you created with the transition at 1:28 was simply brilliant. It plays familiar melodic content but with the gentle touch of a piano, which provides a pretty riveting listening experience when played right after the exciting section before it. You build up once more, provide a similar contrast at 2:29, and the piece explodes at 2:46 with another effective contrast. I feel like you could've put more effort into building up tension from 2:29 - 2:46 so the introduction of the climax right after it won't sound so arbitrary, but otherwise that was a really fun idea.
Good ideas have to be paired with good execution, and sadly this is not the case over here. The mix is simply terrible. Everything sounds very unprocessed - there's a significant lack of reverb, and frequencies are clashing together like no tomorrow, especially in the mid range! This gives your track a very rushed and unprofessional kind of sound which does not do justice to the creative ideas and concepts presented throughout the piece. The lack of reverb sticks out like a sore thumb at bits where the piano plays on its own, and conversely the need for EQing shows during the climaxes where everything sounds cluttered and undefined. So yeah, this track needs its mix redone in my opinion. On lesser notes, the humanisation isn't quite there. This is apparent during the quicker passages played by the staccato strings (0:00) and the piano (1:45). Those sound very mechanical and could do with some velocity editing and subtle shifts in timing to make them sound more natural. Finally, the ending is a bit of a bummer. Fading it out wasn't very satisfying!
I might have been too generous with my score, but I'm actually very fond of the ideas in this track. It's the execution that's not quite there. Hope this review helped!
First I have to say what a pleasure it is to have You writing a review for me. Second, I do agree with You completely about the bad mixing, EQ and whatnot about the whole thing. I do have to work very hard to learn how to properly execute my ideas, and I guess this will come in time. I must thank You a lot for doing this detailed review for me, as I hope it will help me realize my next piece.
Thank You very much! :)
p.s. no tweaking or EQ-ing was done on this one. Everything is un-edited, so your critique was spot on.
ChronoNomad! Just like I said to johnfn, I missed reviewing your music, since not only is each piece of yours a memorable and highly enjoyable listen with rock-solid composition, but your review responses are always really insightful and a pleasure to read! Anyway, I'm here to talk about the music and that is precisely what I will do. This has to have some of my favourite melody, harmony, and voicing/instrumentation work from you. Your sense of composition is simply astounding. Particular things I enjoyed would be how effortlessly you share the responsibility of carrying the melody around various instruments in a call-and-response fashion, the breathtaking melody at 0:50 and its flowing continuation at 1:01 and then again at 1:12, and the transition up to 0:50. The glissando on the piano in that particular transition was a truly brilliant touch. You can tell the song is reaching a high point there with the excitement offered from the cymbal rolls, and then you let all that tension go with a beautifully-placed glissando into your wonderful melody.
I've said it countless times before and I'll say it again. You are in dire need of better samples. I mean, if I had the money to spare, I would buy something like East/West VSTs for precisely three NGADM competitors - you, Troisnyx and Nimble. The sample quality just isn't there I'm afraid. It would be, in my opinion, unjust to lower your score simply for you not having better quality samples, but I do think you could have done more with your samples. Pardon the comparison, but if you'll listen to Nimble's track, while it has far more mixing issues than yours does (I'd say your mix is actually quite fine!), it simply uses poor samples better than yours does. Yours comes off as sounding pretty MIDI-like (especially in the less complex sections like the intro), and while Nimble's isn't perfect, it contains very convincing and natural trills, articulations and grace notes, which did wonders to humanisation. It's a leap I wish your track took. Apart from that, this is sadly too short! The ending was approached pretty well (although I would've liked more of a ritardando at the end and a longer final note), but it ended up sounding premature since just as the track was really hitting the spot, you finished it!
This has to be my longest Round 1 review! Had a lot to say. Anyway, it's been a pleasure having you on the 2014 NGADM and thanks for the spectacular listen.
I'm honestly more than a bit surprised that this particular piece has been so widely accepted and done as well as it has. Even though I frequently enjoy traversing over, around, and through genre barriers on a regular basis, this still feels like a pretty big departure from what I'm generally known for doing. The other issue, which you actually addressed as being a bit problematic, is the overall length of the track. Due to extremely severe constraints upon my time, I just didn't have the chance to flesh this out as much as I would have liked. Nevertheless, considering what I had to work with, I'm actually pretty happy with the way this came out in most aspects. All the parts that I'm completely in love with are the touches that impressed you the most, and that is both reassuring and just plain validates my decision to enter the NGADM in the first place.
I had a strong feeling that Troisnyx's beautiful musical offering would own the round, and - rather unsurprisingly - I was right! Frankly, I'm as happy for her as I would be for myself, and I don't even feel as though I lost even though I didn't win. I've got a lot of truly amazing things going on in my life right now, so there's nothing to complain about! My cup runneth over. ^__^
On another interesting note, it's actually kind of fortuitous that I didn't make it past this round since my main computer, the one with FL Studio and all my assets, decided to have a complete system failure over the past few days. The machine I'm on right now is old and slow, so attempting to install the tools and successfully make music would undoubtedly be an insufferable trial that would almost certainly end in disaster. I don't have much to say about the quality of my samples at this time since it's basically all been said before; it is what it is...for now. My funds (such as they are) currently go toward high priority areas of an even more long-term and life-altering variety. I am content. Also excited and more than a bit freaked out. But hey, that's what upcoming nuptials do to a bloke! ;D
So, in conclusion, you already know how much I appreciate the heck out of your reviews, but it always bears repeating: thank you for so much glorious feedback! You excel at offering up insight and criticism in a positive light. I really didn't want to have to turn down the offer from yourself and Echo to be a judge, and maybe I'll be able to make up for it during next year's competition. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to give the appropriate amount of time and effort to the job, and considering how much exhaustive time and effort goes into planning a wedding ceremony, reception, and honeymoon...I stand by my decision 100%!
Thank you for another unforgettable NGADM. Did I mention that I'm composing the music for when my bride walks down the aisle? So much to do. So little time. Life is an adventure! I love it. It has most assuredly been my pleasure, and I am overjoyed that you are able to enjoy a little piece of my heart and soul set to music. Excelsior!
Let me start off by saying that DAMN that's a nice intro. The atmosphere, the smooth synths with the subtle bitcrushing, that awesome motif... it's all nailed, man. I loved hearing the intro and it set high expectations for the track. In the production department, I can gladly confirm that those expectations were sufficiently met. While I would've liked to hear some more interesting sound design for sure, what you've got here is mixed very tastefully. The staccato strings are bright, snappy and clear, the drums (snare in particular) are earcandy, and the pads offer a spectacular, warm sound to the piece, to the point where I would've personally given them even more love in the track if I were the one making this. So yeah, while I expected a little more in terms of out-of-the-norm sound design, if you get what I mean, you've got a super clean mix with lovely sounds.
When it comes to composition, however, the aforementioned expectations weren't quite reached I'm afraid. Don't get me wrong, SOME of your composition is great, really! The motif you introduce at the beginning which is played at various other points during the track was a spectacular idea and has decently interesting chord changes. That being said, most of the other melodic content is lacking and simply sounds uninspired to me (starting from 0:57). Not to mention, the instrumentation you use during the sections is very bland to listen to. I mean if you had an actual violin playing with more articulation than just staccato I might enjoy parts like 0:57 but as they are now I just long for them to finish. Some transitions, such as 0:57, are abrupt, and a lot of the buildups aren't very satisfying and end up sounding anticlimactic. Lastly, the track did overstay its welcome in my opinion. I wasn't as invested towards the end as I was during the first two thirds or so, even if you introduce a pretty nice high synth at the end. Great way to end the track though!
Despite everything negative I mentioned, it's a strong submission no doubt! Good job; hope to see you once again next year if we do another.
That's a brillaint review, thanks for everything! I agree with everything you said here too and this track will go into the "to be finished" pile (which, let's be honest, it'll probably never come out of). But the fact that what I thought was good was and vice versa means I can work on those other parts.
Of course I'll be back! GL for the rest of the contest!
If there's one thing that this track is, it's memorable. No other submission in this round has a vocal intro and outro like this, and none of them are a classical/dubstep hybrid like this is. Speaking of which, you did a good job in both sides of this track. The classical section has some surprisingly interesting melodic content (and an ending very typical of a classical-era piece), and the dubstep sections have an adequately aggressive bass and thumpy drums (the kick in particular is very well-mixed). You managed to mix the two genres together fairly seamlessly without making it sound forced, so good job with that! Something I'm particularly fond of is how you timed the hi-hat rhythm with the piano to incorporate the beat so smoothly. So I mean, the track IS promising and has quite a few redeeming factors...
...and then there's the fact that it's less than two minutes long. Hell, with the vocals taken away, this would barely reach a minute and a half. While I don't have anything against 2-minute tracks in particular, if you're going to make your track just two minutes long and give it only two distinctive (and intrinsically repetitive) sections, then you're going to have to expect your submission to fall short in terms of content. Other issues include the ultimately unsatisfying transition to the dubstep section, and the extremely artificial-sounding piano. I mean sure, I'm not expecting you to go all East/West on us, but I think it would've been worth EQing the piano to make it sound not so obnoxiously bright, and humanised it a little. Also, I concur with midimachine that the voice clipping is a real bummer. Clipping just screams unprofessional to me, and while your voice-acting was pretty good, you need to remove that clipping!
Even though it has promise, it's a little underdeveloped and scattered with issues here and there. Thanks for taking part!
Thank you very much for the review and for taking the time to listen and give feed back! And as you and midimachine pointed out the faults, I completely agree with everything and know exactly what I need to work on for my tracks. Expect to see me in NGADM next year! Again, thank you so much and hope to see you again in next year's competition! :D
You're probably like the VGM representative of the NGADM haha. Like your audition, this has a distinct VGM-like charm even if the instruments you used aren't strictly chiptune sounds. The composition in this is actually pretty great! Again, as is the case in your audition, this has an upfront, foreground melody that's undeniably catchy and can easily get hooked into the listener's head. Cool aspects of your composition would be your little detached synth hits in the background that can be heard most clearly at 0:49, 1:04's use of a blue note, and your rock solid structure. Seriously, the structure here is great. You transition back to the section used at the intro absolutely seamlessly, and even end your track using the same synth pattern you utilised at the very beginning to start the track. Great stuff, right there!
The muddle-up for me, which explains most of my score deductions, definitely has to be the production value. For starters, the drums are ridiculously subdued, and for no reason at all, in my opinion. The kick is lacking in mids and lows, and the snare is almost not even there. On top of that, many of the synths sound considerably thin, and when you couple that with the disappointing lack of bass that this track has, and the thin drums, you've got a mix that neglects large portions of the frequency spectrum. Apart from the problems with the mix, there are a few other smaller issues; the transitions with cutoff filter automation like 1:11 and 2:25 are a little overwhelmingly ear-piercing I feel. There's also a slight repetition issue and I wish you played the synth pattern at the end a little longer and faded it out more gradually, but that's mostly a stylistic complaint.
All in all, despite some issues, this is a fun track. Decent work.
Step, u da real MVP T_T
Production is what I feel like where I'm lacking the most so your feedback there is much needed <3
I think I'm going in the right direction, but I don't know what I'm doing half of the time mixing so yea.
Thank you, you deserve a medal.
Oh man, this is some really fun stuff. You're one of the stronger electronic producers in this competition and I'm really glad you put your skills to the test with such a unique yet well-produced experiment. The swing tempo works extremely well, creating a memorable groove and giving this track a lot of character. The composition on top of that swing groove is also very obscure, but at the same time, oddly enticing! I think in terms of composition my main issue is that this gets pretty repetitive. You have a very interesting motif that appears at 0:39 for the first time, but that's all you ever play in the more interesting parts. In the less interesting parts where less is going on, you don't have much to keep the listener interested either (aside from maybe the [also repetitive] piano part at 1:57).
You don't leave much to desire in the production, I'll give you that! Everything is super clear and sounds fantastic, especially at high volumes. The sounds you've used are also top-notch. You use mostly heavy, thick, pad-like synths over light, airy synths, giving the track a somewhat menacing and dark kind of vibe. These contrast greatly with the light, high piano notes, a contrast which I adored. Having said that, perhaps making the piano a little more upfront in the mix would elevate it to a little more than just a vague background element. Your drum sounds are, of course, perfect. Punchy and snappy, precisely how I like them! I actually think you should try creating more complex hat rhythms at times, but otherwise you did a good job.
Very solid stuff. I had a few issues with some volume levels, and I think it did get somewhat repetitive/dull, but otherwise this is an extremely successful experiment!
Thanks Step for your indepth review! I always love to read any of your reviews, even on other tracks.
You're absolutely right about the repetitiveness. It was hard to make something new in this song that didn't change its theme.
I'm glad people liked the dark vibe. I love to hear and make this type of music.
And yeah, I'm a perfectionist when it comes to music production.
Anyways, I am really happy to hear you liked it!
I am almost speechless. This is hands down my favourite electronic submission this round, and there was a lot of great electronic stuff this round. For starters, as is ALWAYS the case with your music, the production is godly. I absolutely love the clarity of everything, and the earcandy-filled sound palette you use. The drums are crisp and the textures you create with those synths are to die for. I've always been a HUGE fan of your production value and you continue setting the bar every damn time. I also loved the contrast between the VGM-infused first half and DnB-infused second half. It was a pleasure hearing the melody played first by that chiptune-esque lead synth with all that pitch automation you do on it and classic VGM-like arpeggios in the background, and then hearing it in all its glory later on in its more modernised counterpart.
Your melody is a ridiculous earworm by the way. You repeat the main motif quite a lot but have an appreciable amount of variety in the counter-melodies and continuations of your main melody so that didn't bother me much. It just did more to cement the melody in my head, and while I hate you for that since it won't be getting out any time soon, I can't deny it's ridiculously catchy! My only two complaints are the intro and the vocals. I like how you had a subtle foreshadowing of the vocals at the very beginning, but I felt like 7 seconds in, when you introduce the melody, you don't give it a suitable entrance. It just comes in out of nowhere, and while it wasn't too abrupt, I felt like it cheapened the melody a little over there. Additionally, the vocals were a nice idea, since it would've been cool to hear the melody played by what sounds like a large group of singers, but it came off sounding very offputting and artificial (as if you just recorded one note of yourself singing and then pitch-bent it for the rest of the notes).
I think you get the highest score of the round from me. I am a huge fan of this and I hope you continue to impress.
I don't even know what to type here. I'm astonished!
I had so many doubts about this track. But it seems keep working on it has paid off!
Ah, me hands be shakin. Best part of the NGADM right here, reading amazingly detailed reviews.. and not even knowing what to respond haha.
Really, your reviews are just too good Step.
You're right about the vocals, they kinda sound off in the track. I recorded myself like 40 times, doing eeee, oooo, uuu lol. It was fun! But I'm far from getting good at it YET :p.
By the way, the melody being an earworm is the greatest compliment I've ever received on a song. Can't thank you enough for that! And your favourite electronic submission !?!? This is just too much, heart attack incoming.
I think I've mentioned this to you before, but the one thing that always pops up in my head when I think of your music is how you theme each one so effectively. It's like, you decide "right, I'm going to make a track to depict X theme", and then make a track that depicts that theme so well that anyone who hears it would instantly agree. This sounds EXACTLY like a tropical island, what with the classic island mallet, bright, warm instrumentation such as the acoustic guitar, beach sound effects, ethnic percussion, and a happy, laid-back mood to put icing on the cake. It works like clockwork, and I must commend you on having such a clear ability to make music fit a certain theme, as it's a skill that any game composer in their right mind would die to have!
You have some great production here. I love the snappiness of the percussion, the deep bass, the overall clarity, and the levelling. Some of the sounds you use are significantly blander than others (looking at you 1:03 brass and 2:55 strings), but that hardly takes away from the piece. The composition I'm in two minds about. On the one hand you have some REALLY addicting stuff such as 1:17's motif and pretty much all of your transitions (seriously, the transitions in this are just the BOMB), but on the other hand a lot of your primary motifs, such as the one that first appears at the start of the track, sound a little forced to me and not very memorable. Also, I feel like your track slightly overstays its welcome. I mean, it's pretty varied, but gets pretty monotonous after around 3 and a half minutes.
Anyway, this is one of my favourites from you. Wonderful work.
Hey thanks for the in depth review! :D I really appreciate it.
I'm really glad you picked up on the theme I was going for :D. I mean I tried to make it as obvious as possible with the title and instrumentation and all. I actually usually decide a theme half way through my tracks once the ball gets rolling, but this time I though I'd use steel drums as a starting point to make something in the theme of summer/sunny things.
Haha yeah a lot of complaints I've had in the past have been because of my instrument quality. Since I use reason, things like East West symphonic orchestra and such are out of the question. I have to stick with good ol' sound fonts which aren't necessarily bad, it's just sometimes I make their authenticity a little too obvious.
About the song "over staying it's welcome"... yeah I have to agree, I thought the same too. I figured it was just because I grew tired of it after hearing it over and over. I thought it was just me rather than the song. >_<
I may not have made it to round 2 but I managed to try a theme I've always wanted to do so I'll call it a win. :D
I'm glad you made it into the competition in the end, even if you only managed to make a track for the first round. You bring something very valuable to the table, and that's a great sense of composition. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing your arpeggios and harmonies in the intro, and the melodies played by that smooth square lead are solid and flow very naturally. You have a solid progression and every transition is smooth (loving the one at 3:18), largely due to the fact that you often prepare the introduction of a new instrument/element suitably by ramping it up a few beats before it actually comes in. That's the mark of a thoughtful compositional flow. The structure is solid, and the intro and outro are both suitable ways to transition out of and into silence respectively.
My issue is not in the composition of this track, which is for the most part good, but in its sound. While you have a suitably clear mix and balanced levelling, the track just sounds extremely bland. It has very little depth outside a somewhat resonant/shrill pad, piano, drums and a square lead. At the risk of sounding like an uneducated music listener, the track lacks... punch. All of the elements are pretty subdued and sound pretty dull, and without any complex composition to make up for that we're left with a pretty underwhelming submission, I'm afraid. On an unrelated note, 1:22's synth is pretty harsh, and not in a tasteful way! I would suggest a different sound.
Recap: solid melodies/harmonies, lots of potential, bland instrumentation. Good job overall, and thanks for taking part!
Thanks a lot, Step! I can't imagine how time-consuming all this work must be.
=> melodies/transition/structure =>
Thanks a lot! Those are definitely things I've been working on and am trying to improve. I'm glad they worked! My melodies have normally been really basic and catchy in the past, and I've been trying to make them deeper with more emotion. My transitions and structure in the past have been crap, so planning out stuff ahead of time taught me a lot about music writing that I hadn't known before.
=> composition vs instrumentation =>
That's a problem I've been sort of noticing in my music lately. :( My ending mix tends to be really quiet, and while they sound nice on a high volume, they tend to seriously underwhelm at a lower one. Thanks for pointing it out.
I've probably said this way too much in my response, but thanks so much for the review! I really appreciate it.
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