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Steel Ballroom (speed writing)

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Aaron Venture, Apr 29, 2018.

  1. #1 Aaron Venture, Apr 29, 2018
    Last edited: May 1, 2018
    Hey folks!

    Here's a new piece I did as a sort of speed writing practice. I wrote the descending figure as it appears in m.2 some months ago, I was just jamming around and thought it was cool but had absolutely no idea what to do with it, so I saved it and forgot about it. 4 days ago I was going through my folder of ideas and when I heard it, it was the most obvious thing in the world.

    I decided to do a speed writing exercise and see how fast I can get it done. The main goal was to compose the entire piece and do broad orchestration strokes in one day. I wrote the piano sketch in ~4 hours and did a rough pass on the orchestration the same day, but working it out in detail and doing the mockup took 3 more afternoons.

    It would have probably been easier to do the full orchestration in Sibelius since I already composed the piece and had worked out the focuses during the process, and then just mock up the orchestrated piece, since trying out exact combinations in MIDI is a bit annoying. I expect this to improve as I keep working and transcribing so that I'll have to guess less.

    Anyway, here's the piece. Any feedback welcome.

    WAV Stream (in case SC keeps throwing a fit)

    Original piano sketch: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2igcz01red2p7h3/Steel Ballroom piano.mp3?dl=0
  2. I'll listen shortly...... but first thing to advise is changing the title from Steel Ballroom to "Steel Balls."
  3. Saying "oops we couldn't find that track" ? I tried listening.... no go.
  4. SoundCloud having maintenance or something. I can't even find my account page or log in, hah. Dropbox WAV stream here. Also updated the first post.
  5. From the first listen: Very entertaining piece so far, yet the motif is short you get to manage to keep interest throughout the piece. I actually think you have done here a really good job here showing that shifting orchestrations + modulations can keep short motifs interesting over a longer time. The only thing I am not sure about is the 2nd break there at 1:20 around. It sounds by itself nice, but you are building momentum before and then it goes down again. While I think the first time is cool, maybe don´t do it a second time there, instead of I would go there really big like the last part. But there is no right or wrong imo, matter of personal choice.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  6. I echo Alex's statements mostly, and I actually like it when you go quiet both times you do it. Simple theme, lots of changes. Could you post your piano sketch?
  7. Thanks! Fun is what I was going for, and the goal was (isn't it always?) to keep it interesting throughout. I think of it as an action piece, and I wanted Exposition > Action > Break> Action> Break > Finale. It fits pretty well to the scene I imagined in my head, and I'm sorry I couldn't communicate it completely over to you in that second break. I think I know why you're feeling that way about the second break (I think it's just dynamics in that break - it could go a bit bigger) but I definitely want a break here (like take a step back, take a breath, but the action isn't really done yet). I could've kept going for 4 more minutes, but then I'd need a melody too, and it wouldn't be a one-day piece anymore. Here's hoping a day comes when I can pull a 6-minute piece like that in one day! Or, you know, score and mock-up a 17-minute short in 20 hours :D

    Thanks! Of course, here it is.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/2igcz01red2p7h3/Steel Ballroom piano.mp3?dl=0
    Alexander Schiborr likes this.
  8. Yes, I get the point and intention there. Nothing wrong about that. But maybe you could fill then up the section a bit? Maybe will some more percussive instruments which create more interest? I would add some snares syncoping the rythm on quite timbre dynamics and add fullness by adding a bit of low winds and a bassdrum or timpani? Try out things..why not? :)
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  9. Exciting rhythms Aaron, avoiding an emphasis on beat one (which can be boring). Liked the 2 against 3. Really interesting sound at 1:15. I especially liked when the bass drops a half step at 1:30, anticipating the next chord. Four hours. Impressive. You remind me that I should work from a piano sketch. Nice work. Speed writing sounds like another useful exercise.
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  10. Thanks! I just drew upon a bunch of stuff I picked up from transcribing over these past few months. I think they're a great way to check what you really know. So right now this is the kind of stuff I can pull off if someone comes calling at 3am. I imagine orchestration will only get easier and faster as I keep working, and my goal is to be able to fully orchestrate a piece like this in the same day.
  11. Thanks, that really helps as its easier to see your construction in the piano version. Your A is very strong and carries highlights into the B and the two themes don't feel distance to each other - I've been trying to write that way myself but I find sometimes even if I have the same tonal center as A on B, I feel like I have 2 different pieces at times. I feel like the best B sections are just A sections completely modulated and changed to a point where they become a B (and that's how they feel right to the A) - does that statement make sense?
  12. Yes that 3 on 2 rhythm is nice - did you play that piece out as is or add to it after playing a simplified version?
  13. Just had a chance to listen fully.

    Yeah.... so I just post about rhythms in another thread so I guess that and my prior "Steel Balls" comment might overly influence my comments below.


    Overall... look you are at a very high level overall, and so I kind of just let it be in the background that the overall sound quality is at a professional standard.

    Additionally this is clearly and firmly in a film music genre, so one must always remember that the picture/director or what follow this, or comes before etc..... means a composers will make choice to heighten or pull back certain aspects. So with all my comments, I can see why you WOULD want to do exactly what you did, if the film needed that dramatic turn. I am treating it as a stand alone.

    I've always felt a like reviewing soundtrack music as if it was a concert piece is sub-optimal. So keep that disclaimer in mind too.

    The 54/55 second mark was the first let down. As a teacher used to say to me "Sounds like you have already shot your wad". Crass.... but I still remember it.

    Ok.... yeah sure you are back up.(See Steele Balls comment) but it seems you get seduced by the Cellos and ostinatos are like nymphs calling your name. (a la Odyssey)

    You need a counter melody. It gets 2 dimensional. There is just the ostinato and the brass shots, and that's it.
    Use rhythmic augmentation. Music with 3 layers is 20x's more interesting that 2.

    More variety with tempo. At around 1:15 to 1:17 why not pull back the tempo drastically.
    It's one of the oldest cliches but works wonders. Think about being on a rollercoaster...... you know how it slows down at the top, and sometime
    moves so slow over the hill. Same with music. You are getting higher (in register only unfortunately) the music is getting louder, more dissonant intense........pull back the tempo. Give it resistance, ..... ie,.... delaying climax for greater intensity (yeah baby!)

    From about 1:20...... I get the drop.....but I would only use fragments of the low Cello ostinato. Just say (don't take this literally) we took one measure and cut out all material on the ostinato on beast 3 &4. The next measure on beat two. Then two measures rest. Maybe now it comes in on beat two and then we get two measures like you have now. Keep us a little more "off-gaurd" I

    After this section I don't have a specific spot at this moment of where, but your melody always is under things. It's like it's in a jar.
    Put your melody up in the high register again, and with long slow sustain.

    From about 1:40 onwards you have all the great elements.....but here is the thing.

    ANYTHING WORTH DOING IS WORTH OVER-DOING. We.... just.... need ...more power Scotty.

    More flash. String runs ......the whole kitchen ....... fireworks.

    And make it longer god dammit.

    One last quote I had from a teacher:

    Think of your piece of music like flying an airplane. There are two parts you absolutely have to get right.

    The take off and the landing. In the middle .... you can fuck around..... get up and stretch, watch a movie
    but you have to get the take off and the landing right.

    If I may give an example of my own: Regardless of what happens in the middle of the piece, I felt the proportion of intensity for the opening and ending
    was correctly executed.

    Aaron Venture likes this.
  14. You're too kind.

    Hahah. Also good points.

    Hmm. I'll see if I can work it out without breaking the whole piece and the momentum I (think I) have here.


    Ah. Of course. And I could let the bass below carry it on, but break up the cello.

    Coupled with the counterpoint suggestion, you might be onto something here.

    Thanks for all the comments, Doug. Insightful as always.
  15. Hey, sorry for replying late, I somehow missed the post. My B section is literally inverted A section with the "semitone trill" notes adjusted so they fit my "2-mode" thing I was doing with the whole descending figure. I don't think B sides are always just warped A sections. B side is a complimentary section that is rhythmically fits the A section (doesn't have to be the same rhythm or pattern, but it should be "in the vibe", and hitting the important anchor points that make the rhythm what it is - for the lack of better words to phrase this with) but isn't weaker than the A section, it plays the role of the same importance. At least that's how I perceive it.

    Uhh, I'm not sure I follow. Could you clarify your question? I perceive the whole descending figure as one measure of 7/4 (for simplicity) and am aware that it can also be perceived as 4/4 + 3/4. I just simplified things for myself. Here's my tempo map if that helps you with your question.
  16. How is "Balls of Steel" coming along ?

    Update please
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  17. Your comments about A and B make sense, I think when I write my B, even though it's in the same key of A it sometimes doesn't carry the "vibe". I'll keep working on that.

    For your second comment I simply was asking if you can play your piano piece. Sometimes I find I want to write something more complicated than I can play but I wish I was a good enough player to just play it.
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  18. V2

    What's new:
    • Horns+Clarinets counterline at m.16
    • Soaring violins in the second break
    • Minor cello rhythm variations in the second break
    • Slightly more power in the climax (it's all we have, captain!)

    Couldn't pull it off. Tried a bunch of stuff, and it just kills the momentum. Might be just that I'm bad. If anyone wants to freestyle over my piece with stretching tools and show me how it's done, by all means.

    I turned it up a notch, but I don't I have anything left. The flutes are trilling, without drawing too much attention, the triangle and drums come in on the second half and the harp is sitting this one out (except that one measure in the first B side). Point taken, though.

    Not sure if you meant the fireworks or the piece in general. Either way, I'll have to disappoint you here too.
  19. You can also think of B sides like different melodies with the same rhythm, just jumble up the notes. Then create some rhythmic augmentation while still hitting most of the rhythmic anchors. (I mean, you can also break this rule in a number of ways but it's a good starting point).

    Of course I can play it, at 20 BPM :D I'm not the greatest keyboardist (slowly getting better), but I don't let that stop me from composing. I know some of the things in my piano reduction might be a bit weird (and impossible: three octaves descending in the finale, hello?), but if a pianist were to arrange it, I don't think it would be a hard piece to play. I can play the normal speed descending figure when it's not in octaves, and the block chords and left hand rhythms are fairly easy.
  20. @Aaron Venture wow and just let me say again, wow. I am really impressed. I totally enjoyed this piece. I wish it was longer. I listened several times to both versions. I do believe the second version is clearly better. I could try to dig for something to criticize or suggest, but why? I enjoyed it very much as is. My one complaint, too short! More, please.
    Aaron Venture likes this.

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