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Hollywood, Ho!

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Kent Kercher, Jun 30, 2018.

  1. On the one-year anniversary of my arrival to Los Angeles, I've written a new piece, which fulfilled a couple of different things for me:

    1. Got to try out orchestrational and compositional techniques I'd learned by studying Goldsmith in my own original piece.
    2. Had something to submit to the Pete Carpenter Fellowship opportunity.
    3. Had a good wild usage of my in-progress Cubase template (which has forced me to totally reconsider everything...ugh!)
    4. Was the first time I really got to dive into Dorico (2.0) ... and I was incredibly impressed. It is almost there, folks!

    Score (Dropbox)

    John Eldridge and Aaron Venture like this.
  2. And here is the ReelCrafter link, if you don't want to listen to the compressed, distorted, lossy dumpster fire that is SoundCloud.

    (@Mike Verta - can we get RC added to the media embed list?)
  3. Nobody? :( I am eager to have this ripped apart, since it's already been submitted (and therefore "set in stone") so I can move on to subsequent pieces! :)
  4. #4 Gregory D. Moore, Jul 3, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
    The writing and orchestrations sounded quite good although the mockup and performance quality left quite a bit to desire. I assume you're aware of this? Some simple performance expression and mixing skills would do wonders for the presentation of your work. I'd give your writing a 7-8 and the performance and mixing a 1-2, but it leaves my overall impression at a 1-2. And of course, this isn't "fair" but the presentation isn't helping matters. I'd suggest you focus on the presentation problem to give your far better writing and orchestration skills a fighting chance. Mixing and performance are easy in comparison to writing and orchestration and can easily be learned. Just do it! You owe it to yourself.

    Even if your resources are limited, it doesn't take much to make a mix sound professional. You don't need expensive samples, plugins and gear. Its more a matter of adding expression to whatever samples you have (even if its Garritan) and some simple mixing balance (any generic plugins will do). For example, you suggest that the ReelCrafter link sounds better. It doesn't. The lack of expression and mixing balance is what's killing you. If those are good, it should sound great on a lo-fi mp3 or even with bad YT compression. John Williams still sounds great coming out of the crummiest speakers. And below is an example of a great mix playing right off of soundcloud. The audio fidelity isn't great, but that doesn't matter. You can hear the orchestration, expression and mix all add up to a great performance here by Alex Temple with six year old samples.

    [EDIT] Until I opened your score, I thought the opening melody was an accordian. Seriously. Even with the worst samples, you should be able to make an english horn sample sing a bit more. Have another look at Mike's free tutorial on adding expression to your recordings. This is the issue here as far as I'm concerned. You don't need Berlin Woodwinds to make this sound 500% better.

    Your writing is already very good so take yourself to the next level by addressing these other issues that are pulling your presentation down.

    Sorry to be overly harsh, but you asked for feedback and it looked to me as if you might not see the golden opportunity you have to improve this. Listening of course is the key. Please tell me that you do hear what I'm talking about. You do right?

  5. #6 Alexander Schiborr, Jul 3, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
    I think Kent knows that, but playback dorico man, I think his intention was not to create a realistic mockup performance but more to get a feedback about the basics like style in orchestration and writing. ;)
  6. Yes, I hope your right. However, doesn't Dorico now support NotePerformer at least? I think it does and this can make a huge difference.

    You make some very good points in your commentary. I'm learning from them as well! Cool of you to do such a detailed commentary breakdown.
  7. Oh, I don´t know any of these tools because I don´t work like that. If it does it is cool though. Thank your for your words, Gregory.
  8. Really? I suggest you at least check it out. Not perfect, but damn good! Its the best $129 I've ever spent.
  9. Yeah, I know what it is and what it does, but I don´t use it and I am not the guy who is working with that, it just doesnt interest me for my midi mockups. Not because I don´t like it, but because I don´t think that (just my opinion of course) with notation softwares you can reach that level of realism in mockups which you can get with a real performed and balanced template to a real orchestral recording. I think that tools are great for visual orchestration and to prepare score sheets though and so nothing wrong with that.
  10. Well, its true you don't even need pen and paper, just the ability to hear in your head. However, I think what Arne has done is brilliant and I find the ability to solo sections and select instruments to be a terrific learning tool (for me). Plus, in its current state, its not an unreasonable presentation tool, although not on the level of full-blown DAW mockup. And why not support and use such a wonderful tool? After all, we're all using samples so none of us can claim to be purists. Whatever works for you though.
  11. I love note performer !!

    However it is no where near the level of midi sophistication like what Alexander or Mike etc. accomplish.

    Personally I would rather hire and pay Alexander when needed and just use note performer myself.

    OK........none of that has anything to with the OP

    Can I suggest you reconsider your title ? I think you mean "ho" as in get on the horse and make the journey to LA.

    Let's just say a lot of other images filter thru my mind when reading the title.
  12. #13 Aaron Venture, Jul 4, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
    Hey Kent!

    Here's my commentary. Generally, you have so many wonderful chances for colorful and interesting counterpoint, and you didn't capitalize on many of them. It's a simple melody with plenty of space for new layers of music, it's a shame not to fill it out!

    At 0:33 the orchestration sounds a bit empty. Like we're suddenly on hold. I feel like this part with cellos a dynamic below would work really well as an opening statement. However, after the piano, glock and harp set up this motion for the past 9 bars and the basses come into 8ths, this hold feels really weird. It's a simple melody; add another layer to it. A counter-line, maybe something like

    Just a thought, but definitely needs some motion. You get the idea with the low string entrance soon after, but "soon after" isn't quick enough as the energy levels are already down. Whatever counter-line you conjure will play nicely with that bassline, I'm sure, no need for it to be one or the other.

    0:53—I've just said it, but counterline! I can hear some high winds doing a variation of those last 3 bars of melody (measure 17). I hear this

    M.24—try putting the bass pizz on the offbeat.

    M.26— come on, give to me! Give me that Hollywood feel! Try horns doing short rhythmic chord stabs from 26 to 29 in addition to everything you're already doing
    or something like this (maybe no need to go that high on a second bar, oops)

    then switch those chords down to trombones so horns can do your melody.

    2:11—missing a rhythmic counterline. The easiest solution here would be–you've guessed it–snares! It'd be cooler if you could pull it off in the first half of that climax with something else, then bring snares to finish it up with a nice juicy pre-roll.
  13. To echo Aarons well though out post:

    In general you have two areas I would suggest focusing on developing with your compositional craft.

    1. How to write music with 3 layers effectively.
    2. Avoiding the audience hearing the "bar lines" and how to enter/exit instruments between sections. (You can over lap them, and also don't give it all away in the first 2 seconds.)

    Score looks nice. Is that Dorico ? Have to pick that up soon.

    Best wishes to you

  14. Wow, this is some great stuff guys! Thank you so much for your honest and detailed feedback.

    A few responses:

    I see where you're coming from, but the ReelCrafter link does sound better. Compared to an uncompressed WAV, SoundCloud's compression algorithm kills air/top end, stereo placement, and dynamic contrast. Your example sounds fine - obviously a good performance, and clearly inspired by some "magical" music, but I'm sure it would sound far better away from SC.

    Would you mind sharing a recording of an accordion that sounds like this? I just can't hear this at all, but I'm interested to hear what your point of reference is.

    I do see at least some, if not much, validity in what you're saying...except the accordion thing. I'm truly lost on that.

    Wow, a 20-minute walkthrough. Not to discount text replies or the times and efforts behind them, at all, but I'm truly humbled by this.

    I agree with many things you've said, but I was trying to keep a hand on the reins for most of the piece and really hold things back. I see your options would be effective, but they would fundamentally change that element of my piece which I was consciously trying to cultivate. Is there a way to accomplish both goals?

    To be honest, this is not Dorico playback.

    Dorico's playback uses HALion, which is pretty terrible (it doesn't even have a harp, so it subs in nylon guitar, for example...including the harmonics to reach very high notes. It's gruesome!)

    Luckily, Dorico 2.0 now supports NotePerformer, which is generally pretty cool, for what it is. It won't do what Dorico can't do - trills, for example - and it doesn't really allow fine-tuning the way that Dorico wants its MIDI editing capabilities to accomplish, but it can do a decent job:

    NotePerformer in Dorico - DropBox

    This performance from the OP is the result of another...oh, 8 or 9 hours' worth of MIDI work in Cubase using libraries like LASS, Spitfire Symphonic Brass, Adventure Brass, the EW Orchestral Percussions, Berlin Woodwinds, and similar. My then-current template was just too unwieldy (over 3300 tracks! blah), so after this I've abandoned it and have begun work on a leaner and meaner template. However, given that I know I'm still working on part expressiveness (though believe me, expression is used all over here), and also given that you may not agree with some of my "mastering" decisions, I'd say this sounds much more pleasing than the NotePerformer playback, as cool and handy as that playback can be.

    If you (any of you) don't think so, why?

    Ha! I think that says more about you than about the title ;) Reminds me of the joke "I enjoy three things: eating dogs and not using commas." I think I would have made a better joke about the Sunset Strip if I had been going in that direction!

    Yes, like I said to @Alexander Schiborr, I purposefully held back and embraced restraint and simplicity for most of this piece. And so I ask you: is there a way you can see to accomplish both your goals and mine here?
    I did bring the woods in (albeit subtly) for the second half of the melody for just that purpose - I felt that the earlier attention should be on the horn's "B" response to the main melody's "A" call, and not introduce too many elements at once. Are you saying that you, as a listener, could have handled more information there?

    Thanks again y'all!
  15. There is. Use simple counterlines.

    But you need counterlines nonetheless.
  16. Hi Kent, yes I actually do mind as I have better things to do with my time. However, I will reply to your comments in hope that this reply might be helpful. Suffice it to say that I know hi-fidelity audio. I worked with Sony for over twelve years creating audio demos and I know what good sound quality is. My point was, that all cases, musical composition, performance and expression far supersede the audio quality. This is why we have great recordings of old performances that are poorly recorded and yet still highly appreciated. Upon hearing your initial demo it appeared that you had mocked this up and that you were serious about seeking constructive feedback. So I gave several suggestions which I thought could be helpful (from the performance quality perspective) to improve the sound quality:

    1) Use NotePerformer (not to replace DAW mockups, but as a learning tool - and not a bad "crude" mockup)

    2) Watch Mike's free tutorial on adding expression to vi instruments. Here is the link:

    I have nothing further to add other than to emphasis that I would simply reiterate myself with the above advice. I think others have given you excellent writing suggestions and together this should give you some great guidance to move forward. I think Mike Verta's videos all reinforce these same ideas as well as provide lots of ideas for further thought so I would highly recommend those as well. One thing I will add though is that from all the classes and advice I've received, the most valuable was self-reflective - listening, being self-critical and looking in the mirror. I think this is where you might gain the most insight if you can be objective with yourself. Not to compare yourself with others, but to use comparative critical listening to come up with ideas on how you can make improvements to whatever it is you're working on.
  17. Sorry it took a few days to respond - just wanted to make sure I'd really mulled over everything you guys have said.

    First, in case it got lost in that long reply post: this is how NotePerformer handles the playback in Dorico.
  18. These are pretty similar points, so I figured I'd address them here.

    If you look at the score, at very few points in the piece am I not using at least 3 distinct layers (in my opinion), albeit fairly simplistic ones. The way those three layers appear most of the time in this particular piece are as foreground, midground, and bass.

    But since you both bring this up (and you are not the only people to bring this up), it means either:

    1. I did have them, but my mix/performance didn't bring the elements out as much as I had thought it did;

    2. I did have them, but they weren't musically engaging enough; or

    3. I didn't have them, and what I thought were those elements were something else entirely.

    My hunch is that the answer lies somewhere between 1 and 2, probably closer to 2, but I could be mistaken. What do you say?

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