Wonderful performance and masterful use of sonata form, Ben! The proportions lend themselves very nicely to repeating the development/recap section. Love the little details like accented 2nd beats at the close of the exposition, as well as slightly varied recapitulation. Textbook example of sontata form and all it can do.
2nd movement sounds very "Tibbetts", with a graceful use of ornamentation and organic modal mixture. Great contrast from the first movement. Only thought here is that the very "classical" dominant V7 chord to cadence into the 3rd movement feels a bit out of place to my ears. Have you considered perhaps using a dominant a 9th or 11th to give a bit more color to the sound? I feel like that might work better contextually. Something to think about, anyway.
3rd movement -- love that modal mixture at the start, fresh harmonic sequences. Very tight, coherent design. Ending felt a bit abrupt; have you thought of adding a bit more time before the last chord? I could hear 2 or 3 beats here; or perhaps a fermata on the rest so the performer can decide.
Again, great music and performance. This is one of the greatest study pieces in sonata form I've come across. Is sheet music available? Would love to use this with my students.
Thank you very much, David! I think your suggestions are spot on; I'll make those changes and send you a PDF.
Great work, this is a textbook example of a good demo reel. Keep it up!
Thanks man. Your demo reels inspired me to make it this way!
Wow, thanks for the cover SJ! I've seen a couple of covers of the track, but this is definitely the most creative.You do a great job taking liberties with the harmonies while keeping the original material intact. I love that cut to piano at 2:10!
Any chance the game is available to play online?
Thank you! I actually preferred to make an original song than do a cover for the game, but the programmer wanted me to do a cover, so I took as many creative liberties as I could, to still make it as much my own thing as possible. I like your original song very much and it was very interesting to work with. I tried to avoid listening to other covers, because I didn’t want to be influenced, but I later looked up the other covers on Newgrounds and found out they were quite good. There’s the the jazz version by Camoshark and the dramatic cinematic version by PeterSatera. They sound quite different than the original, and Camoshark and PeterSatera both put a lot of themselves in it. Still I think nothing beats the original. Good job on that one.
This is really cool! I love how you mixed this -- there's a lot going on in the mids, but you did a great job cutting out room for each instrument to sparkle. The loop works very seamlessly, too!
I would have loved to hear something a little different at the break at 1:27. A little solo by the lead synth would be a great place to set up the reintroduction of the melody at 1:40, and add a little shape to the overall track. I like to give loops some shape (i.e a climax), and heightening the tension and anticipation going into 1:40 would be a great way to do it!
I've been meaning to get Omnisphere for a while, as I've heard a lot of praise for it over the past few years. It's great to hear such a strong real-world application of it :)
Great to get a review from you man, thanks for dropping by!
"This is really cool! I love how you mixed this -- there's a lot going on in the mids, but you did a great job cutting out room for each instrument to sparkle."
That's actually very relieving to hear. To be honest I secretly hate mids. Of course the mids are where the meat of a song is, so hating them isn't very healthy, but it's just so easy for the mids to get cluttered! It's why for my orchestral tracks it has become literally a habit for me to subconsciously lower the mids of a lot of the instruments I use, although I find that East/West's instruments are inherently mid-heavy anyway so good thing I do that.
"The loop works very seamlessly, too!"
You're not the first to say that; looks like I got something right! Thanks :P.
"I would have loved to hear something a little different at the break at 1:27. A little solo by the lead synth would be a great place to set up the reintroduction of the melody at 1:40, and add a little shape to the overall track. I like to give loops some shape (i.e a climax), and heightening the tension and anticipation going into 1:40 would be a great way to do it!"
I actually had an idea really similar to that! That part at the end has a saw synth and a square synth playing at the same time, so I thought I'd have one of those playing the main melodic line, and the other playing solos on top of it. I'm not very good at harmony though, haha, I'd probably fail at that.
Great idea though, certainly something to keep in mind.
"I've been meaning to get Omnisphere for a while, as I've heard a lot of praise for it over the past few years. It's great to hear such a strong real-world application of it :)"
Thanks a million for the review! Means a lot.
And yeah I'm pretty sure it's impossible not to like Omnisphere. I love it to bits (even more than East/West, and that's saying a lot). It's an incredible plugin, I highly recommend it!
This came out great Ben! Love the intro and the entrance of the piccolo -- what a great take on the original!
Thank you David!
Ben, this is a wicked cool piece of music! I love the long, dramatic build to 0:42. Awesome work, especially for one of your first ventures into the electronica wold!
This is really well written, and the performance is filled with emotion. This is a true showcase of how moving music can be!
Awesome job Josiah. I didn't know her, but I'm certain Alexandra would be honored.
Orchestral MAC Review
You did a great job with writing the piece from start to finish - there was enough variation and complexity to hold my interest through till the end, yet nothing felt random or out of place. You have a great sense for writing harmonies and lines appropriate to the style you're writing in. Great work!
The dark, sinister opening was a great way to set up 0:42. Your brass lines felt really cluttered and hard to decipher at this point. My ears tell me it's an articulation issue that could probably be solved by choosing a more consistent sound. As it is now, the brass lines are difficult to focus in on because nothing is brought out. I think you'd find it more effective if you help the listener out by pointing their ear in the right direction. As the piece goes on this issue is remedied somewhat, but I feel as though overall your melodies and counter-melodies could have a bit more volume and punctuation. Considering the business in the percussion and woodwinds, I don't think you'd sacrifice any of the frantic, desperate sound you've (very effectively) created.
It's not always necessary to have a defining melody. But when you write one in, make sure it's brought out to the forefront or else you'll lack definition and clarity in your track.
I felt as though your orchestration was good, but you left some opportunities on the table. Proper cymbal use has been a theme in my reviews, and this review is no exception. You'd hear a phenomenal contrast at 3:20, for instance, if you include crash cymbals on the beginning of your 8-bar phrases. You could include a suspended cymbal swell into 3:35, and perhaps even use a gong to climax the section. You have a great control of drums, but don't forget about your auxiliary percussion!
Your use of woodwinds was very appropriate. I loved your flute accents! In the future, consider bringing woodwinds out to the front to provide a welcome contrast to your music. I know current trends in pop orchestral scoring tend to treat woodwinds as mere afterthoughts of the orchestra... but they're extremely potent! The can provide bounce, airiness, sharpness, and warmth to your arrangement. I personally don't believe any of the other instrument families have the same span of color and texture that woodwinds have. Don't be afraid to use them more!
Mixing was solid - I particularly enjoyed your reverb and stereo choices on the drums. You gave each instrument room to breath, along with a defined-yet-thick sound. Nice work! The Low brass overall sounded too tinny and undefined to me. I think bringing up low-mids a bit in the trombones and horns will help give them more body. Eqing brass is a lot of trial-and-error. I think your (otherwise very solid) mix could be improved with a thicker sound from your low brass.
There were a lot of great things about this piece - the contrast between sections, harmonic complexity, and range of articulations were all very well refreshing to hear. There were parts that sounded orchestrally cluttered. Remember that you can bring back supporting lines in favor of the main melody. This helps the music maintain its focus and clarity - which is crucial for a percussive piece like this!
For the most part, I really loved what you did with your compositional choices. You remained consistent in the style and ethereal atmosphere you set from the start, which can prove difficult when writing such a spacious piece!
Your melody was fitting, but I felt it was underdeveloped. In a piece that is 3:16 in length, you can do a lot of development - both thematically and harmonically. I understand and support your choice to remain harmonically grounded for the duration of the piece, given the atmosphere you're trying to create. But with such a simple (yet catchy) chromatic melody, there are many things you could do to develop your melody. Parallel chromatic lines work well in just about any interval (I'd try 3rds or 6ths for this one), and they'd thicken your melodic texture without cluttering the music. I like your hints at a counter-melody at 1:21 in the strings, but I feel very strongly that you could have done more of that throughout the piece!
At 2:15, my interest dwindled as I heard nothing new brought to the table. Here is a perfect time to try out some changes in instrumentation, or to get creative with a variation of your melody. Make sure every section adds something to the overall piece. If a section is simply a copy and paste of something already written, make sure you're making the choice to recycle because it will help the progression and development of the piece.
I felt like you didn't take enough leaps with your orchestration. A piece with as few notes as this should have some surprises within the instrumentation. Perhaps consider using some string or woodwind effects. I'm not sure which orchestra VST you're using, but most of the big ones have a patch or two of instrument screeches, whirls, breaths, and more. I hear a hint of orchestral experimentation in here, but you could easily use a lot more. After all, an atmospheric piece thrives with atmospheric orchestration!
Have you considered moving the chromatic flute melody to different instruments throughout the piece? A glockenspiel with soft rubber mallets would fit the atmosphere really well, as would a celeste, harp, and marimba. And those are just choices I thought of off the top of my head! I'm sure you could add a lot of diversity to that line purely through orchestration. You'd give the ear a breath of fresh air (so to speak!), and hold your listener's attention for longer as they anticipate which instrument will have the melody next.
Your track was very well mixed to my ears. Your pizzicato bass notes were particularly moving. The clarity and punctuation, yet sheer weight of each note set the underwater atmosphere beautifully. And, the piece sounds great on my monitors, Mixing headphones, as well as cheap $10 headphones. That's a sign of a great mix - well done!
I applaud your minimalistic efforts! Atmospheric music is some of the most difficult music to write, and you capture the feeling of being underwater very well. When you write fewer notes in a piece, the significance of each one increases. Pay extra attention to every part, and ask yourself "Is this a crucial piece of the texture I'm creating?" If not, you can free up space for other parts without degrading the atmosphere you're trying to conjure.
I agree that much more could be done with the melody, but I couldn't think of much that sounded good without being too elaborate or too awkward. Maybe parallel lines could work (not necessarily chromatic, it's all in Ab major so I imagine I could do some sweet harmonized stuff). And also that last part was pretty shameless I realize now, it's mostly a copy paste effort, with a new string part and some effects and a louder sub bass to enhance it however. Still, I really should have done more with that. I got sick of the song really fast, and knew the only thing I could do to get it off my mind was just submit the damn thing :) IF I sometime in the future feel like doing something more out of this I will certainly take your points into consideration because these are some great and very specific pieces of advice which I love.
And actually most of the sounds are based on oddball sounds from Omnisphere which is mostly an electronic instrument but includes some nice 'different' string and flute sounds. (I do have a decent more fleshed out library of orchestral sounds too actually, just didn't bother to load it up and try and fit it in because it has a pretty different sound from those in omnisphere)
oh yeah and thank you very much for your very thorough and awesome review if I didn't say so.
I loved your introduction. The strings were very voiced and sounded very professional. You have a great grasp for harmonization!
You kept my undivided attention up until 1:18. You regained it at 2:08, and then lost it again at about the 3:00 mark. I admit I'm slightly exaggerating, but to make a point. With 4:23 seconds worth of music, you have more than enough time to take your listener somewhere far away, force him to grow and mature, bring him back, and show him the world from an enlightened perspective. Unfortunately, I felt like the world I came back to was no different than the one I (briefly) left at 2:08.
You've laid the ground work for a fantastic work of art, but something is missing. I didn't hear any memorable melody established at the beginning. Sure, you were going for an airy, yet darker mellow sound (and you very effectively captured it), but that doesn't mean you need to abandon melody. As the music progressed, I didn't feel like I went anywhere because I didn't have much help setting my bearings at the start. I think you have wonderful samples, but because they're so good you're leaning on them a little too much. How would this piece stand up with General MIDI sounds? Great orchestral music usually won't need awesome samples to make it great. Using the natural texture of the ensemble is wonderful, but that's only one piece of a very large puzzle. If you give yourself more material to work with, you can do more to develop the music as you progress through the piece.
As I said previously, you've orchestrated this piece well, especially in the strings. I love your sparse use of percussion as accents throughout the middle section, as well as your orchestral effects. Nicely done! While you handled all of your instruments well, I don't think you used the orchestra to its full potential. Low brass could have been very effective at the end to help thicken the bass line as you draw the piece to a close. Trumpets would have helped heighten the climax at the end, setting an arrival point and giving the piece a sense of accomplishment. Orchestra bells with a soft rubber mallet would have helped the piece sparkle (you have them very briefly). This would have been a nice contrast at the middle or end of the piece.
My main point is this: with a full orchestra, you have LOADS of options. Don't restrict yourself to just a few instruments from each family. Every instrument has its own color, texture, and range; each brings a unique offer to the table!
Overall, I thought your mixing was very well done. You added a healthy dose of reverb, which helped fill out spaces in the music. This track's mixing has a professional sound to it, great work! My biggest suggestion would be to watch out with note overlaps. In your strings, there are moments when notes overlap a little too much, creating unintended dissonances. This sounds like just a sequencing error (and is pretty easily fixable), but make sure to keep an eye and ear open for any excessive spill-overs. It can make the music sound muddy and unrefined. Also, some of your melodic notes popped out of the line excessively - make sure you go through and smooth your velocity levels with a fine-tooth comb!
Your introduction was well-written, and the thick chords you scored in the strings throughout the piece created a strong foundation for the rest of the ensemble. I didn't hear enough direction throughout the four and a half minutes. That's plenty of time to take the listener somewhere distant and bring them back, but I didn't feel like I had moved very far by the end. In soft, lush music like this, a full-ensemble climax can be extremely powerful. If you're paying the whole ensemble to play your music, don't be afraid to use every player!
Hey David, thanks for the thoughtful review. I really appreciate the time that you and the other judges put into making this contest happen, it was a lot of fun.
I only have one point of disagreement with your review, namely the idea that I was somehow "leaning" on high quality samples. I think you are severely underestimating the amount of work that went into making this sound how I wanted it too. I don't have an "easy" button. I will instead take it as a compliment that you liked the sound quality and leave it at that.
Thanks again for the review!
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