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Symphonic Metal Track

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Marko Dvojkovic, Jan 10, 2020.

  1. Hi guys, happy new year!
    Here is a track that I just finished, I got also some feedback that it is a little progressive-esque, although there's no frustrating people with odd meters and long rhythmic patterns. Despite getting better with performance with VI stuff I'm more and more frustrated with it. Guitars are real only.
    But well that doesn't matter because we are here to be torn apart for composition xD.
    My biggest doubt with this one is since it obviously doesn't have a pop song structure, in other words there are no parts that obviously stand out as chorus or verse for example, but I'm not sure if it is enough "symphonic", there are couple of elements that I rearrange and do variations (two melodies, couple of chord progressions, versions with pedal tone, modulations etc.) and despite seeming "resourceful" I'm not sure is it enough.... or too much xD.
    Thanks as always!
    Bjarke Tan and Martin Hoffmann like this.
  2. Hey. Great piece. Some things that I notice that could be a little better is that I feel like there isn't much horizontal development(taking the same idea to different places) in it I feel like it could be a little better if you tried to develop the ideas more. At about 1:58 I don't feel like the strings give a clear pattern it's a bit hard to follow it or it might be that it sounds a little bit thin otherwise, I think the mix is pretty good. Overall good job.
    Marko Dvojkovic likes this.
  3. Thank you Bjarke Tan for feedback. Yeah that line at 1:55 was such a pain in the ass to perform and record properly and it still sounds sloppy, strings libraries are so frustrating sometimes and I have problems with latency sometimes. I wish I could run everything on lowest possible buffer size but my 7 year old laptop CPU struggles. But that arpeggio pattern goes through decent amount of the piece, mostly in glock and harp, it's not actually new at that moment, so that's interesting that you mention.
    Thanks again!
    Bjarke Tan likes this.
  4. hey Marko, cool ideas here. the biggest thing that sticks out at me is that the choir is going like the ENTIRE time. personally after the 56 second mark I seriously need a break from that choir. I think with a piece like this you need to give different instruments places to shine and do something cool, especially when there isn't a chorus/hook thing to keep you interested. like maybe at 56 cut the choir out (or better yet don't even have it in yet), and create some really driving guitar bass and drum groove. let that chug pattern get crazier and have more energy, I feel like the whole beginning builds up to that point and then its a major let down when it doesn't pay off like it feels it should. then you can do the big build up with different orchestral interments coming in and then BAM! use the choir at the end. I feel like a piece like this needs a big dramatic arc to it or it just falls flat. there needs to be that "fuck yeah!" moment that makes you want to hear it again.
    just my first impressions, thanks for posting man.
  5. Hey Alex, thanks man! That's a good remark about the choir, there is some variation with vowel choices and articulations but yeah it's basically covering the chords role whole time so I understand that it's not good enough to count as color change. A good suggestion for the 56 second mark, I wasn't bold enough to leave just melody and pedal tone (I mean it's fifth in the guitar) and yea that can be interesting when there is only bass and melody tone, that the audience will automatically try to fill with chords and then when everything kicks in it could be a nice surprise due to their expectation, but yea I personally am not often enough confident for that kind of really simple stripped down but very elegant and effective techniques.
  6. Hey Mate!

    Thanks for sharing your cool piece. I hear definitely some influences from Nightwish there. Now you got already some good feedback from Alex and Bjarke here.

    Now, what I enjoyed about the piece is that it hits the symphonic metal vibe definitely. It has that driving triplet patterns both on guitar and drums and the melodic and textural components above it.

    Now a few things depending on how far you would like to go with your piece:


    Yeah, though I normally say: Composition is King, don´t forget Sound is very f*** important too here. Of course, it doesn´t compensate a bad structured and written song but still sound and specifically drums, bass guitar are the fundamental ass of the song. So, in detail:

    Drums: Your drums are a bit small and having not that typical sound what they in my opinion need for that kind of genre. They don´t slam, they have no big room and no impact and driving capabilities. Typical contenders are Snare, Bass drum and the Toms. And that is not easy at all. Therefore, I would like to point you to a few tutorials in order to get more information how to do that:

    Also, about snare production:

    The Guitar sound is too tame, it needs more edge and oompf. Give them a bit more edge in the upper mids here. Try to mix first only guitars, bass guitar and drum set together. Are these Software Simulation Amps Guitars here? Sounds a bit like that to me. Watch also that:

    In case you can afford and have the Di Signals: Re-Amp them over either a Kemper Amp, Fractal Audio Axe FX or some real ampl like en Engl Fireball 100 E 635, or Bogner Überschall, or a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. There are out there Studios that offers for relatively good rates re-amping, incl. myself though I really recommend to reach out to them because I am packed actually.

    Thus don´t forget that the butt of the guitars are supported through bass guitar which correlates together, so spent also some times making sure that the bass guitar is neither too loud but also not too quiet. So what is the right balance here? The thick impact just isn´t guitars alone, it is like a mélange of interaction between both ends. Make sure that you even out the bass guitars low end mud with a compressor also which helps that it doesn´t poke out too much, same goes for the guitars. Multiband Compressor are your friend in the regions between 200 - 300 Hz for guitars.

    Watch that also:

    2. Composition/arrangement:

    While I enjoy the ideas, the song really doesn´t offer that much variation and part development as others pointed out rightly too. Also, pointed out rightly, the choirs are very omnipresent throughout the parts. What I think is great here though are the melodic ideas which are catchy and I think that it is great, but the song needs a bit more of other corners to go too. In simple words a bit more of variation and other themes too.

    Maybe it stinks to present my own work here and it is not symphonic melodic metal but symphonic old school Dark / Black Metal, take a listen here:

    Now, my aesthetics are quite different in some way because simply of genre, some of the things are of the same nature even throughout the genres in metal / rock.
  7. Thank you Alexander! These tutorials will be really helpful next time I do something similar to improve my mix from here.
    Yup I love Nightwish xD.
    Hahh, no, guitars are actually re-amped through a really nice tube amp (Hughes & Kettner Triamp MkII) but miked in an isolation box and still I can't crank it enough without destroying the neighbours xD. I am actually primarily a guitarist but really switched piano/guitar priorities in recent years.
    Generally when I reach mixing stage I just want to finish the piece and get over it xD, on this I think I spent a day maybe, but then when using those sounds next time I load my previous mix as a starting point and try to improve it.
    It's perfectly fine. I like some harmonies and moments, growl vocals are too much for me, but that is completely subjective. I think that going past about 3-4 minute song length (depends on the tempo) becomes really hard to make a really cohesive piece, but again with this kind of genre I think it is expected to have some chaos and uneasiness, it's done properly.
    Alexander Schiborr likes this.
  8. #8 Alexander Schiborr, Jan 12, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020

    Well, give the guitars a bit more presence and character. It would be a shame with such an expensive amp with potential that you leave it like that.

    Well, I can understand that you just want to get over it, but isn´t it the goal to make it as good as possible? I don´t know..but at least I always try to fiddle around with my pieces until I feel that this is the maximum I can get out of it. You know, I am on the side that half-baked mixes always make me feel that there wasn´t enough effort put into the track and the next track will treated with the same attitude which creates a row of "average" tracks. Better make one but excellent. I know everybody is different, however it is your baby, not mine. :) Just my thoughts.

    I can understand your sentiment on my music. When someone isn´t used to such a genre it might become unclear. You know it is like not the kind of music which opens all doors by first listening, but that makes it on the long run more interesting in the end. Just my opinion of course.
  9. I agree it is a shame. After about a year of putting my pieces out I am becoming a little frustrated and now I would like to get some real work but still also showcase more genres and contexts I didn't do yet and there is also a concern of speed that I guess a lot of people have, so I know my production generally suffers because of that. But I also changed my bias to it and Mike's philosophy influences me a lot I admit, in that regards. And through the course of that I discovered that I can enjoy some great music that's shit production-wise like even 16-bit video game music xD, but of course that I would prefer that it is also nicely produced. But that's just me :)
    So also regarding your song I am biased and it was hard for me to give useful feedback, I am sorry if it wasn't useful. But usually for black metal I have hard time listening through the whole piece and here I actually enjoyed giving it a listen.
  10. I can totally understand that there is a kind of frustration regarding that and believe me, you are nothing doing completely wrong here. However, in order to be good at something or excellent you need more time and more practice. Don´t worry so much at that point about your speed. Speed comes with the time the more experience you have. First make sure that the stuff you do is of great quality. Spent that time, it is worth. I know it is tempting to move on. But in the end you simply postpone the problem but you don´t get a glimpse of the bigger picture of why your production is not kicking ass. And 16 bit video game music sounds good yet that music is limited by the old wave table soundboards etc. Unlike you, it was really limited by technology at that time but you have top-notch possibilities there this kind of music isn't limited by its hardware, not in your case mate. And another thing: Just do one thing at a time, not everything at once. E.g. if I want to know how to make lets say a good drum sound, then first I just concentrate on so many aspects connected to it:

    1. What makes a good or great drum performance?
    2. What is groove and how can I do that with samples?
    3. Playing vs. programming
    4. What are the top-notch sample libraries out there (superior drummer & expansions, slate and expansions, other 3rd party private studio libraries etc)
    5. Programming drums in depth, creating dynamics, creating interesting patterns, what kind of patterns are there? Which are typical and authentic. / Physical limitations playing vs. programming and how to avoid. Programming groovy double bass: How does a real performance differ from programmed where is the groove?--> Dynamics and inner motion life.
    6. What are ghost notes and how they can contribute to realism in my case?
    7. Snare drum? What kind of playing styles you can do with, how does that sound change in dynamics, how are about flams, rim shots, and how they are used by real drummers? What are cymbals? When to use a chyna and when to use a splash cymbal? How do they sound?
    8. How rooms and micings work and create drum depth?
    9. Compression on drums. (regular compression vs. parallel compression)
    10. Equalizing rock / Metal drums how to? How to eq them to get a big rock & metal fingerprint on those?
    11. How loud should the drums be mixed? #
    12. Bass drum low end vs. Bass guitar. How they both correlate? Problems of separation



    So each of these points deserves a lot of attention, if you are not willing to spent time with that focus on each of these topics, forget about getting to a quality level in production because everything is important in that chain and adds up.
    There is a long long list just for that one instrument, and then we have guitars, bass guitar and there is a similiar long list about how to record guitars even to mic guitars?
    It is entirely up to you to spent more time with each of that topics though. :cool:
  11. Thank you very much Alexander for all your input, advice and time I really appreciate it. And now that I think about all of that I should maybe open this project file after a while and play around with everything you suggested so that way there won't be pressure of finishing a new piece, it will be more like a mix practice session, since I usually run out of stamina when I get to mixing stage and then I don't put enough effort into experimenting, trying out and learning new stuff. I actually also enjoy mixing but not my stuff xD, I remember seeing other people mentioning they have that problem. Thanks man :)
    Martin Hoffmann likes this.
  12. @Marko Dvojkovic: Cool track! It's a little outside of the metal genres I still listen to. The closest I ever got was Blind Guardian I think. But the composition sounds pretty legit to me. I like how you're filling the space that normally might be taken by vocals or guitar solos with melodies in the string section. Don't think I have anything helpful to add and I don't want to nitpick for nitpicking's sake. Well done! Did I see that right that the snow starts falling faster in the video at a faster part in the song? If so, nice touch!

    On the mixing side I agree with Alex that there's room for improvement. When I start a new template for something I typically take a reftrack and mock up a short piece from it, trying to get so close in the sound that I can play an A/B loop of my mockup and the next part in the reftrack, that after a while it gets hard for me to blindly tell which is which. Once you get pretty close to that, you can still start again to deviate from it and make your own choices to give the mix a personal touch, but I find this kind of deliberate mixing practice to be hugely beneficial both for the result and also for the learning benefit. If I don't anchor my ears to a reftrack, I'll just keep tweaking knobs forever without making any progress, because at some point I'm so sick of it that any change sounds better, and there's no limit to that.

    There once was a study where two classes being taught a craft skill (iirc it was pottery) were given different instructions at the start. One class was going to be graded on quality at the end, and the other class was told to be graded on quantity and should just focus on getting the most work done, as measured by weight. In the end the quantity class outperformed the quality class even on quality, without even explicitely trying. However I think one needs to consider that different tasks are to different degrees reliant on early-in-the-process steps. Paintings and compositions can very much profit or suffer from some of the earliest choices you make. With a mix it's perhaps easier to make drastic choices later on. And given that mixing can be so detail focused with a thousand tiny steps in the right direction making a good mix, that you might not get far if you just make many half-assed mixes. I think it'll need a little bit of both. Really digging in on a couple of projects and spending days to make them as good as can be, and also doing a couple quick rough mixes on different genres to get some more experience for going through the whole process efficiently and not losing sight of the big picture.

    My personal instinct is usually on the make-it-as-good-as-you can side, and especially for mixing I have maybe too much patience for my own good to spend down that rabbit hole. I've easily spent a total of 20+ hours just trying to recreate that one lead synth sound from the system shock 2 soundtrack, and then never made a proper track with it once I got it. And I've definitely worked on non-music projects that failed because I over-focused on polishing too early in the process and didn't iterate through a big enough amount of different works fast enough to make sure the thing I'm polishing is worth the time investment. And ultimately I have nothing to show for those. So I would definitely not recommend going for maximum quality on every single project. I admire your ability to be able to pull it off, and for you it clearly works, but I wouldn't be able to put in that same amount of intensity over the same amount of time and it would spread finished pieces out too far and ultimatey following my instinct to keep polishing there would be detrimental to me personally. So in my case, I'm actually making concious efforts of learning to let go sooner. But I'll definitely keep picking a couple projects where I go for making it the best I can, especially on the mixing side.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge on the topic and all the video links with us! I'm gonna go over a couple of them (I think some I know already) and see what I can learn for my blackmetal stuff. I had an idea yesterday for a new metal template trying to do more with less recorded guitar tracks.
    Marko Dvojkovic likes this.
  13. Thanks Martin :)
    Yes haha, I try to make the video so that there's at least something to watch while listening in video editing I'm even more freaked out than in mixing, I am like:"The music is done, I need a video right away!" i would like to find a good workflow for editing to beat, manually doing it is always super tedious.
    Yup, I always use reference track(s) but never go to that extent when I'm mixing my stuff (but that would be nice to try and aim for in the mix practice that I mentioned), generally I just check with the reference if I'm not really off with something and try to get to the ballpark. For this track it was really obvious for me what reference to pick (some Nightwish), but sometimes I have hard time to come up with a relevant reference, more so for orchestral stuff, but I guess that is probably because I haven't studied enough repertoire yet so I can't tell immediately that my piece sounds like piece x or y.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences!
    Martin Hoffmann likes this.
  14. What kind of programs do you have access to for video editing? I think with adobe after effects you can do some cool "setup once and forget" visualizer type effects that you can tweak and re-use fairly easily, like that waveform spectrum in the read energy beam in this video:

    @Alexander Schiborr: I have a bit of an advanced mixing question, or at least I haven't really seen this explicitely mentioned in any of the tutorials that I watched. I noticed that on some test voice-recordings that I did for my blackmetal project, that the harmonics in the frequency spectrum don't move much and have very distinct peaks, and while testing out a couple different guitar cab IRs I noticed that to be true for them too to a lesser degree. It seems like the IRs leave a couple of dents in the high end of the frequency spectrum that stay static even if the melody moves. Assuming your vocals are the hardest to change because the frequency spectrum is largely defined by your voice and screaming technique, does it make sense to try to pick cab IRs that don't "collide" in the frequency spectrum with the peaks of the spectrum of the voice, so that you have to EQ less? Or is that all a job for the mix and mastering stage and I'm overthinking this?
    I'm thinking about setting up another metal template for mixing practice, that is very barebones and raw in terms of effects, so that I focus more on choosing cabs, dialing in ampsims and some simple highpass filters to clean out the mud. And that made me think about this.
  15. #15 Alexander Schiborr, Jan 18, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
    That's indeed a thing unless you record white noise or IRs over a longer period of time and apply those to dry signals. However, in order to have more variation you need something which modulates the harmonics over time, you know like Nebula or something or any reverb which is simply not static in that regards.
    However, I don´t at least myself (maybe it is a mistake who knows) to put too much thinking into that. I have the philosophy that a lot of magic or shit happens also in front of the microphone, also well..quality of mic, but also quality of cables. I actually had that funny experience where I switched my old cables from no name shit XLRs to some nice 100 Dollar excellent XLRs for my mic and replaced just this chain. And mate, it was night and day. I was really surprised how much better these new cables sound. Having said that: Make also sure that you pay attention to things like:

    1. Performance

    BIG THING FOR ME..I often record from the same line..5 sometimes 9 takes, sometimes 15 takes..just to make sure that my performance is the best I can get. There was this funny story with that singer..was it Iron Maiden or somebody else who started to kick the chairs in the studio because the producer let him record 20 times that high-pitched roaring scream until he told him: "Now, that is good enough"...

    2. Right Recording Techniques.

    - finding the chocolate sound of a mic. Sounds a bit esoteric but there is a thing in finding the sweet spot for your voice and the mic you are using
    - Get in the Zone, do you sit while recording vocals, or stand up. think about how different that can be in order to push air through your lungs, not only that..think of acting in front of the mic, bring soul into your black vocals. Expression and some Mofongo and some nice arroz con gandules.

    3. Quality chain

    -(you know the fucking cables..?) :D
    - There are mics..all over the place..find the right mic for you. I use an SM7B..
    - decent soundinterface with low noise and good AD/DA like babyface pro, or UAD Apollo or RME Fireface

    Can you maybe post something that you have recorded..maybe a mix? Would like to explore more in detail.

    Thank you mate!
    Martin Hoffmann likes this.
  16. Thanks a lot for the great advice!

    100$ xlr cable... nice! Compared to your setup I'm really working with the ghetto version of a bedroom studio. I bet on average every piece in your signal chain costs 5 to 10 times as much as in mine. :D
    But I'll make the best of it, good think black metal isn't famous for needing fancy equiment.

    Very good points about recording technique and performance too! I'm sure there's a lot of room for improvement still. I'm really unsure how I'm gonna solve the vocal part, because I seem to have a voice that is very much not suited for the typical black metal singing techniques. I can't record anything at the moment because I think had a laryngitis a short while ago and that feels like it still needs a couple days to heal. So I can only send you something instrumental for now.

    I've watched a ton of videos on the various extreme metal singing techniques, but either I'm not doing it right, or they all still seem to hurt my voice. I noticed that I am very much more prone to "lose my voice" from normal use, compared to people that I know. E.g. talking with a friend on an 8 hour car ride, where I know we've talked about the same amount and I drank more water, at the end his voice is still perfectly fine and mine gets sore and hurts.

    I've found that I can get the closest to a passable result with the least amount of pain, by whispering and processing the hell out of the signal. But literally every article about this says whispering is even worse for your voice. I did find an article about a study though, that found that from 100 participants, for 13 it actually put less strain on the vocal cords. Here's the link in case anyone cares:

    So I'm thinking I need to experiment some more to find the way that does the least damage to my voice, and then make the best of it with mixing. But I can already tell you that the "do 5 to 10 takes and pick the best one" approach is simply not feasible, because I don't have the stamina for that. I'd just injure my voice again and need a long break.

    Does posting "private" soundcloud links work here by now? I've had problems with it in the past:

    Everything except the drums is recorded in this snippit, and put through virtual amps and effects. But I tried to keep it very basic and "raw". I'm going for a "pretty nice for a demo" sound with this one, not a fancy setup with sidechain compression and stuff. I didn't pick a specific reference track this time, but I still want the sound to go in the general direction of "Mgla", so not very thick on the low end, but lots of treble.

    And for comparison here is an old blackmetal template of mine, that uses only virtual instruments:

  17. #17 Alexander Schiborr, Jan 18, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
    Would it be possible to provide the mix of the version as a Google Drive or Dropbox link? Then I would check it out on my speakers. But there are no vocals in it, alright. Also, you need training. As simple as that.

    No vocalist for this more extreme bm style was born right from the beginning. Also you need to warm up. It takes a while. I never record like cold takes. That simply doesn´t work.

    Also singing from the throat or from your chest. When standing it is easier to put more air through your lungs also. Do breaks also..often underrated imo..But depends on style and what you want. You can if you like record backings too with a slight different style, for instance lower and mix them into your takes if you lack of fatness.

    Though..proximity is your friend and fiend. Going closer to the mix creates more bottom end but also some problems depending on the technique and mic you chose. Not all mics are good with close recording.
    Martin Hoffmann likes this.
  18. Sure, here it is:

    This is what it looks like in my DAW:

    I'm curious what you think of the instrumental mix in general.

    What do you do for warmup?

    Definitely! I'll do more breaks and try to work my way up slower the next time I try to tackle this.

    Thanks mate!
  19. #19 Alexander Schiborr, Jan 19, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2020

    One major thing for me: Guitars are a way too loud. I would do the following. Turn down the fader completely, and move it up while the playback is running. Now..adjust the fader slowly until you feel that both drums and guitars are balanced out. It is simple balance problem in first place here for me.

    I come later with the warm up thinggs.

    PS: I like the Guitarsound. :) Really cool one!
    Martin Hoffmann likes this.
  20. Thanks! I'll try that out. I've heard it's quite common for guitarists to like the guitars too loud in the mix.

    I checked out some tracks on youtube for reference on vocal levels in the mix, and one that I liked had a comment like "does this even have lyrics at all?" :D. So those will probably be lower than usual as well.

    Glad you like it! It's TSE x50 with slightly different settings and a different cab IR for each stereo guitar track.

    I'm happy that the bass didn't seem to jump out at you as the biggest problem, because I'll admit I cheated there: I don't own a bass! I played the bass part on my 8 string guitar, which is tuned to double drop-d currently. And it's also the cheapest fanned fret 8 string guitar on the market x]. https://www.thomann.de/intl/harley_benton_r_458bk_fanfret.htm

    I did my best to process it to sound like a bass and I think in the mix it is ok, but in isolation I'm sure you could tell it's not a proper bass.

    Also I noticed quickly, that I still need the midi instruments to write down the riffs that I played, or compose more interesting new ones that I wouldn't come up with just noodling around on the guitar, so this time I tried a single multichannel midi track that routes to bass and guitars, so that I don't need to keep jumping around between different midi tracks/items. So far it feels like a comfortable writing workflow for me. I changed the colorcoding on the tracks to match the midi channel color coding in the editor.


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