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"The Festival" - Feedback Wanted on Sequencing and Mixing.

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Ethan Toavs, Oct 28, 2019.

  1. #1 Ethan Toavs, Oct 28, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 29, 2019
    Good day, everyone! I am a relatively experienced classical composer who is somewhat new to working with DAWs and virtual instruments. I would like feedback on this piece of mine, "The Festival," specifically regarding the realism of the virtual instruments [trumpets seem to give me the most issue, for some reason], as well as the mixing and mastering of it. I am not particularly looking for feedback on the composition itself, since I get plenty of feedback there from my professors already, but I am open to it if you offer it.

    Virtual Instruments Used:
    Aaron Venture Infinite Woodwinds and Brass (Woodwinds and Brass)
    Native Instruments Symphony Series (Percussion)
    Sonuscore The Orchestra (Strings and Harp)

    DAW used:
    Cubase 10 Pro

    Thank you!

    Michael L├╝ckgen likes this.
  2. Hi Ethan,
    Can you maybe provide a lossless version and download link to your piece?
    When I have some time, I will look over your piece and hopefully give you some feedback soon.
    Ethan Toavs likes this.
  3. Thank you very much! Here is a downloadable version: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1BXoRg8tK7Enw95pQSLzengvpn07GzSqg
    Alexander Schiborr likes this.
  4. Does anyone have any feedback that they can offer on the criteria that I mentioned above?
  5. Well, that knocks me out. I don't mix or use sample libraries.

    Alex is the man, and perhaps @Aaron Venture would have time to offer a pearl of wisdom for you.
  6. If you have anything to say about the composition itself, I would love to hear it.
  7. I would delete the material from about 14" until about 40". It's redundant and drags the piece.

    Never a good thing when a piece only 1:56 feels like it has gone on far too long. Get to it, before you lose your audience.

    Just let me know when you have heard this, and I will take it down.

    Ethan Toavs likes this.

  8. Hi Ethan, the mix sounds mostly fine to me (I'm not an expert though), but I slightly prefer the more upfront sound of "a mischevious flight" on your website. Unless you provide a reference track, feedback on the mix will always be colored by personal preferences. If you don't have a reference track you're working from, I suggest to pick one now. It really helps, both for getting focused feedback and for you to get closer to a well rounded template in the first place.

    I could offer a couple suggestions on business related topics if you want. I'm not a composer, but I've worked over a decade as a freelancer and would recommend to do a couple of things differently. E.g. I would strongly suggest to take down that "price list" for your comission work. What you're doing is a terrible strategy on many levels. You could and should be earning a lot more imho.
    Mattia Chiappa and Ethan Toavs like this.
  9. I actually like that suggestion very much. Thank you for that!
  10. The idea of a reference track had not occurred to me. I will use one in a future composition and see how that affects things. Thank you also for your business advice; I will bear those in mind.
  11. To quickly sum up a few things:
    The pricing model you had on your site is bad for you. You don't want to quote any prices on your page, especially not some that are this low. And I would advise against such round numbers because they couldn't look more arbitrary. If someone sees 100,- quoted for something, they might think "well that's a made up number", if you make it 199,- they'll think "don't bullshit me, I know that trick", and if you make it 270,- I would hope that more people just accept it without questioning it as "that's exactly what it costs". It's worth looking into basic salesman strategy stuff like "anchoring" etc.. Googling "behavioral economics" might turn up some useful talks.

    There was some good advice from Daniel James in this thread regarding keeping the rights to your music etc.:

    I would consider making the rights to your music one of your bargaining chips and offer different kinds of license tiers like exclusive, timed exclusive, non-exclusive. But talk about that to some actual composers, I'm not the right one for this.

    I would advise you to invest more in the visuals around your "brand" and in general put more deliberate thought into how you want clients to look at you. The easiest way would be to find someone who is a competent professional and pay them to fix this stuff for you. E.g. I think your logo/avatar is pretty bad and gives me no idea what to expect from you.

    The whole website could be more polished I think. Both visually and content-wise. On your about page it says
    But you don't have a commissions tab at all. When I see something like that as a potential client, I think that's sloppy, their work is probably sloppy as well. Make sure everything on your site is fine.

    An anecdote that a friend told me from his time with a small startup in Australia: He asked the boss why he spends large amounts of time and money on making the companies office space super neat and tidy with a big logo on the wall and OCD-like attention to detail. His answer was, that the suits that make the decisions on the budget for his projects don't understand a thing about either the hardware or the software side of his work, but they can understand and appreciate seeing his attention to detail and perfectionism in the space that sourrounds his work.
    I think I should have spent a little bit more time in my early career putting myself mentally in the shoes of my clients and thinking about how I can design the overall experience of working with me in a more deliberate way so that they are happy and have an easy time conceptualizing what I stand for and why they'd want to work with me again.

    I have listened to parts of a couple of your tracks and I think your work would fit mobile games very well. If you want to actively look for jobs, I would recommend you head over to Unity Connect and make an account there (with your new and improved logo) and see if you can find some work there. Other places worth checking out might be the community of Gamemaker Studio and maybe the one of Cocos2D if that's still a thing. Off the top of my head those are the 3 biggest game engines for mobile.

    If you enjoy working in games, get familiar with 3rd party audio middleware like FMOD and WWISE to build adaptive music systems. It's an interesting compositional challenge and those things aren't harder to use than a DAW, but you'll gain skills that help set you apart against your competition. For some jobs that knowledge will even be a requirement.

    I think when you negotiate prices you should start with offers at least ~3 times as high as what you had on your website, and try to keep the rights to your music or at least put a time limit on exclusivity. E.g. 1 or 2 years of exclusivity and then try and get some secondary use out of your music by e.g. selling it on the Unity Assetstore (which will give you negligable returns if at all, but it would be a way to reach a broader audience that you can offer your commission work to). Maybe try to be the most expensive offer in your category, sometimes people looking for quality will sort by descending price, and you'll want to be the top search result somewhere. Make sure it's clear where and how you can be reached for commission work without needing to actually buy your products there.

    And last but not least, I would delete all references to your age and for how long your business exists from everywhere. Copyright notice of current year on your website is enough imho, you can set that up to automatically display he current year with a script (this is not legal advice and I'm not a copyright lawyer). My reasoning is that if anything it's likely going to be to your detriment if people actually know and form expectations about the age of you or your business. Just let your work speak for itself and communicate clearly what you stand for and what people can expect from working with you.

    It's just my 2 cents, I'm not even a proper composer, but I hope there's something useful for you among my recommendations! :)

    I hear Mike Verta's masterclass on business is also excellent and will touch on some different points. I recommend you check it out.
    Ethan Toavs likes this.
  12. Thank you very much for your very in depth and insightful critiques of my business model. This is a great amount of information to process, and I will require some time to do so. I will consider every suggestion that you have put forth here.
  13. Hi Ethan, i am a novice at this stuff but I can offer my first instincts while listening to your piece. from the beginning to 0:15 you have this nice vibe with the strings and twinkley percussion that really draws you in and sets the tone (which is great!). but then it just drops out to that hi hat thing and all the momentum disappeared. by the time the next section arrives it feels like its a random melody (even though I know its not because its a great intro to the main melody that comes later). that was the biggest thing that jumped out at me while listening to this for the first time. I agree with Doug on cutting out that section and letting the idea come sooner.

    I was also wondering about the section the starts at 0:50, it seems like this is a contrasting theme for your main melody that happens at the end of your piece. it works perfectly as a set up to the main theme and I really like how it flows.
    its like you put the contrasting theme first, had your main theme play twice, and then hammered it home with the modulation at the end.

    did you write that as a B type section and then have it act as an intro to the main melody? it works really well IMO

    the mix sounds pretty good, has a little bit of that "homogenized string pad sound" in the background that jumps out at you as being a little static and unmoving. I would mess around with the strings to make them swell and vary a bit.

    just my two cents, cool stuff man ;)
    Doug Gibson and Ethan Toavs like this.
  14. Thank you for your feedback! I composed this in a very stream-of-consciousness manner, and did not give the form of this particular piece much consideration beforehand. When composing the final melody at 1:16, I did base it in part off of the contour and motives used in the melody at 0:50, so the two melodies are definitely connected in that manner. I will consider my strings writing in future compositions.
  15. @Ethan Toavs nice composition and nice orchestration. I like the very positive, upbeat mood. I think you pulled off the constantly changing orchestral colors very nicely.
    Ethan Toavs likes this.
  16. Thank you very much!
  17. Hi Ethan! I think that you shouldn't worry much about mixing and mastering unlike about the performance with virtual instruments, at least it's much more important than mixing and mastering. The general dynamics seem pretty flat. I think that a good practice when you finish composing and arranging and start to record virtual instruments is to determine where will be the loudest part and I usually record that first and then work from there and everything else then pretty naturally falls into it's place and you exploit the dynamics of your template as much as possible and needed and with orchestra it's of course always better to have too much than too little dynamic range. And anyway with virtual instruments too much dynamic range is never the case xD some samples have pretty limited dynamic range with the modwheel. If you haven't taken yet Mike's Template Balancing class I highly recommend it and it's on sale for 18$ now. It helped me a lot it's really packed with a lot of great info, it should be called actually "Template Balancing and Mixing". When I got it I actually didn't expect that it will cover anything about mixing and it covers actually everything that you need. I hope this helps.
    Anyway it's a nice little piece, I get some Christmas vibes from it.
  18. Thank you very much for your feedback! That is an interesting point you made about starting by mocking up the loudest sections first. I will consider that. I will also look into that specific masterclass of Mike's. I am currently taking his "Virtuosity" class at the moment, actually. I am glad that you enjoyed my music.
    Marko Dvojkovic likes this.

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