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The Little Kingdom (fantasy orchestral music)

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Daniel Drebing, Aug 7, 2019.

  1. Hi all,

    I'm wrapping up work on a new piece and was hoping people here could help me ID things that might not be working. This is a fantasy orchestral piece inspired a bit by the World of Warcraft soundtracks. I'm trying to write more detailed music, more actual lines for the backing parts instead of just held chord tones, but I think that I've maybe overwritten because the internal voices sound a bit cloudy to me or without definition. Does anyone have feedback or ideas on how to fix this ( or other problems you notice)? Thanks!

    Niko Tompuri and Paul T McGraw like this.
  2. Hi! And thanks for sharing your piece.

    I'm not familiar with the World of Warcraft soundtracks so I don't know exactly what kind sound your after. I liked the introduction and the overall vibe right from the start but already at the :20 second mark it starts getting cloudy, just like you said. From that point on I found it quite difficult to get a clear picture what's happening. Now I don't know how intentional this is but the harmonic structure becomes quite shaky after that although I think you might have a clear idea how you would like it to sound. If you feel there is something that's not working I'd suggest checking the harmonies chord by chord at the piano. In the way that every chord itself is really voiced in the best possible way. After that process the overall voice leading and all the inner parts would find their way more naturally, I believe. Also if you have access to your favourite scores I would suggest studying them closely. Perhaps you've already done it? Anyway, that's something that has helped me personally a lot and keeps doing so.

    On the other hand there is a really nice release of tension at 1:26, where the music suddenly opens up beatifully. So whether or not the slight shakiness of the harmonies was intentional or not it kind of served really well in preparing the listener for that. By the way I think the string theme there is lovely.

    The other thing is that the inner lines (for the backing parts) aren't very audible at the moment. For example at about 1:34 you clearly have a nice 4-3 suspension happening. Why not make it shine through by making it more audible? Almost the same thing with the clarinet at about 1:50 mark. It's a little bit more audible there though. Is there an arpeggiated harp from about 0:46 onwards? If there is it sounded like an important statement so that could be made more audible too.

    Starting from about 2:20 I liked the way you brought the piece really gently to it's closure. I feel that there might be a lot of nice counterpoint happening throughout the piece. Just make sure that it's audible and that there isn't any unnecessary clashing of lines involved.

    Hope there was at least something helpful here.

  3. Niko, thanks for the really thoughtful feedback. It sounds like my suspicions were confirmed about the composition, orchestration and/or mixing. The harmony is definitely meant to wander, maybe that's because I was getting so bored of hearing the same basic harmonies over and over. I think that the tonic is so well established by the pretty simple melody and the constant resolution that it's okay to wander around a bit. But I want the harmonies to be clear and it sounds like they're not.

    I actually started with a piano sketch that was block chords and melody, but once I exploded the parts out into orchestration I ran into balance issues and decided to write more contrapuntally (sp?) which didn't help the balance issues. This tends to happen to my pieces unfortunately, a sketch that balances nicely in the piano sketch starts to fall apart once I orchestrate.

    Good ears catching the harp, there is actually a lot of harp throughout but it's quiet because I wasn't sure how to mix it.

    I think I need to simplify the inner voices so that I can balance a couple ideas more easily.

    Here are two tracks from the soundtrack that I really like:

    The orchestrations are really simple and clear BUT they don't sound empty/thin because of sound design elements, mixing and production. That's really what I'm going for, along with the kind of "storybook fantasy" style.
  4. I agree the internal voices sound cloudy. I have no idea how to fix that in the mix. Compositionally you would fix it by reducing the number of moving parts. It sounds like you have multiple voices crossing over each other all in the same range. That will create a "muddy" sound. I have noticed that it is more difficult to avoid the blurring of voices in mock-ups than it is with real instruments. Probably because live musicians make all sorts of subtle adjustments in volume and pitch that elude most of us when doing a midi-performance.

    There is a rule of 3. One should have 3 layers to a texture, foreground. middle ground and background. I would add for a mockup, never more than 3.

    There is a harshness to the sound that I associate with too much in the 2.5k to 3k range. I suggest trying a medium broad EQ cut in that range and see if it gives you a warmer, more attractive tone quality.

    If you are after a realistic sound, be aware that a low flute would never cut through the full orchestra as you have it in the first 30 seconds or so. This is a sign of a template that is not balanced properly. Supposedly the engineers never had to do very much with a John Williams recording session because he knew the instruments and the orchestra so well that his orchestration just naturally gave him the sound he wanted. I think this is definitely something to shoot for. In the meantime, to cut through the full orchestra, oboes, and clarinets in unison. should work in that passage. You could also throw in the flutes, but they will not be heard, though they will slightly color the sound. Tchaikovsky sometimes used the flutes in that fashion.

    Please stick around on the forum. Listen to the music posted by others and respond to them. I look forward to hearing your next piece.
  5. Hi! And sorry it took me so long to respond.

    I can definetely hear a similar vibe right from the beginning of the Dalaran music. The sound design elements with long held notes in the background. Yeah, there are moments in the Dalaran music where the harmonies get more intense but never blurry. But like you said it must be a mixing/productional thing also. I guess I'm in the same boat with Paul here; I mean, incapable of advicing exactly how to open the mix. Have you tried some simple panning with those elements? I guess some EQuing should also help like Paul mentioned above. I'm still trying to learn mixing and fortunately there are a lot of good tutorials in youtube.

    For the most part I think I know what you mean by that. I guess in contrapuntal writing it's easy to get carried away with so many possible options to go with. The one thing that always works is to secure a good intervallic relation between the melody and bassline, inspite of being tempted to move the pieces around more dramatically. :)

    I genuinely think your composition has a potential of becoming a great piece of music. :)
  6. #6 Daniel Drebing, Aug 17, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
    Thanks for listening and replying guys. I took your advice and did a bunch of rework: clarifying harmonies, cleaning up lines that crossed or just didn't make sense, separating instruments more in the stereo mix and generally trying to bring everything more into balance. Having the flute be louder than is realistic in the opening was a conscious choice, I tried to generally follow how an orchestra sounds but I allowed myself a little cheat there :)

    Here's a much improved version:
    Edit: the Little sfz /decrescendo at 1:11 kinda sucks and will get replaced, too much time tweaking CCs I guess

  7. Hi Daniel!

    Sorry about the delay of my response. Should've responded right after listening through the revised version. Anyway, still Think there's a huge potential in your piece. :) I liked what you had done with your orchestration and mix to create a little more sense of space. I think what would help to further improve your piece harmonically is to notate it, if you haven't already done so I mean. Taking a closer look into what's really happening functionally is really useful in terms of clarity and continuation.

    Have you taken any of Mike Verta's masterclasses yet? I have taken some lately and found them inspiring and helpful. In the masterclass archives you can find masterclasses concerning chord voicing and orchestration, just to name a few. Also there's a laborday sale happening right now, in case you've missed it.

    Just keep on consciously nurturing and further developing your craft.

  8. Hi Niko,

    I have taken a bunch of Mike's classes and do I a bit of score study on passages I really like too. I actually bought the chord voicing class but haven't watched it yet. I think that moving from a sketch to orchestration is a weakness and hopefully the voicing class will help me start with better chords and then get better moving them from piano to other instrumentation.

    The updates I made came after going through all my channels and viewing them together to see how they were interacting harmonically. Then I spent a bunch of time rebalancing so that things were cleaned up, along with writing some more counterpoint. I think the improvements I made are probably the last I'm going to do on this track, probably just onwards to the next piece for me :)

    It looks like my last link broke so here's the final copy:

    Niko Tompuri and John Eldridge like this.
  9. Hi Daniel!

    Nicely done! :) It sounds much more cohesive now. The harmonic transitions seem clear throughout the piece, so great job there! Also the overall sonic picture seems now somewhat brighter which does justice to the piece, I think. Really enjoyed listening to it! :)


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