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This piece can go F**k itself

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Duncan Formosa, Apr 28, 2021.

  1. #1 Duncan Formosa, Apr 28, 2021
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021
    I don't think I've ever gotten this angry writing music before. I've spent 22 hours just trying to figure out how to put it all together, coming up with ideas, scrapping them almost instantly then going "actually maybe it wasn't so bad after all" then realising "no it definitely was."

    I think the main idea has a lot of potential but I can't get it to feel thick and beefy so that it gets the hairs up on the back of your neck. Then at around 1:28 the whole thing dives off a cliff. No idea how to keep the idea interesting anymore, no idea how to do the arrangement, it's just a frustrating mess.

    Can anyone give me some guidance? Maybe some pieces that have similar vibes for me to transcribe or maybe some advice. Literally anything to get the lightbulb back on because I think this could be a good piece.

    EDIT: Now I'm annoyed that I missed one of Mike's streams trying to work on this -.-
    David Healey likes this.
  2. Well i can't compose anything this good.
    Duncan Formosa likes this.
  3. I can't the vibe I was hoping. I think the sax, drums and bass are pretty good up until 1:29 and then it kind of loses something. Doesn't have has much weight or punch to it. Might be because the key change goes down instead of up so it feels less powerful?

    Then I have no idea what to do with the trumpets and trombones. At the moment they don't seem to be doing much and by 1:29 I'm not sure how to change them up a bit so it's not just doing the same as it was before. I want it to develop a little more. But then you have the bass, sax and piano doing an awful lot there so maybe dropping them is okay at that point? Also experimented either trumpets and trombones accenting some of the bass solo parts but then something felt off about that too. At 0:57 I'm not sure if the trumpets here are taking away from the melody a little?

    The organ fits in some places but then I quickly drop that too so I'm not sure if it's even worth introducing it.

    I dunno. I've tried experimenting with a lot of things but I don't seem to be happy with them. Just can't get it to go "OOMPH" especially near the end. I think that should feel a lot better than it does right now.
  4. Damn, you sure do sound pretty angry!
    Sometimes it's okay to not being able to live up to the potential of the piece. I feel like if I get angry today because I feel like I can't write to the expectations that I set for myself, I'll get angry in 20 years because I'd keep moving the bar higher and higher. It's okay to take it easy and let the pieces be what they are. Some of them turn out ugly and that's also okay, maybe the next one will be better :)
    Aside from the fact that this is a pretty ambitious thing to strive for (the "hairs up on the back of the neck" part :D ), it sounds like it's maybe beneficial to step back and revisit this 4-5 months from now. I don't know if spending more time on it with your current level of knowledge will improve the arrangement that much. I realized that if I don't have an immediate mental overview of what the arrangement should be like, no amount of sweat and hard work will actualize it. If it's not in my vocabulary, it will just not come up no matter how much time I spend on it.

    Sure, you could find some music that has similar vibes and transcribe it, but I think you'd need some time to digest what you learned before you come back and improve on the arrangement.

    This especially makes me wonder if should maybe get more accustomed to the genre in order to have more satisfying results. You shouldn't beat yourself up this much if you're just learning the musical vocabulary for this type of music :) every day is a learning opportunity, it's okay to try and fail and learn!

    Regarding the actual music, the one thought I already had when I heard the piano version was that I hoped the harmony was denser. It feels pretty sparse harmonically, and I feel like you'd need some more dense and dissonant (interesting) chords - at least with regards to this genre.

    The arrangement/orchestration is another problem, some things that could be done to take the piece to the next level like are: changing the lead instrument throughout the piece (especially for a B part), doubling it, playing the melody in octaves, etc.; the climax at the end doesn't really feel like a climax because the melody is still kinda naked and you only really have some "shy" piano counterpoint (it's very unnatural to hear a jazz pianist play some melody and drop out completely and not even playing some chords underneath). I would much prefer some thick piano comping, brass/sax rhythmical figures and counter points, a more interesting drum pattern, and - in general - more instruments joining in! It's way too clean and empty! The first half is way more intense than the second part, you totally reversed the dramatic direction of the piece in a way.
    It's okay to have a more intimate sound at the beginning, but the more you listen to it, the more you want the ensemble to join in and the sound to open up. Towards the end I wanna feel like there is a whole damn big band in the room, playing as an ensemble. You're already setting the mood in the first few seconds (with the brass swells and everything), but not following up with the orchestration "density" by the end of the piece.

    The key change is definitely not the problem, the problem is in the arrangement IMO.

    And lastly, a special mention for the drums! Somehow the drum part at the end is way less interesting than the part in the first half, which definitely doesn't help in making the climax memorable. Drum parts deserve love and can definitely make or break a piece like this, so I'd be careful :)

    But cool musical ideas nonetheless, good job. Good luck with your next compositions!
  5. What I'm imagining is that at the 1:28 mark, the piano would completely take over the lead and the sax would continue with only a supporting role. I think that would add a lot of interest to this piece.
  6. Hey there,

    How about doing a break instead of forcing 22 hours working on something that does not turn out the way you want it. And don´t expect to create a well-crafted piece after 22 hours. Get a different perspective. That is just my advice without the need to break down your piece.
    Michael Lückgen likes this.
  7. I agree with this. I recommend going for long walks where you think about a specefic problem related to the piece it should help with creativity.
  8. Hey Duncan!
    As others said, take it easy on yourself. Some things can't be forced. I just listened couple days ago to an old interview with Jerry Goldsmith and he said that even if he had something like 6 weeks (which seems was even back then not too uncommon) to do the whole movie score, to find the main theme that sits exactly in place, that precious piece of material which he then develops in different ways, he may spend even two weeks. So I hope that is a bit encouraging.

    What I can say right of the bat that could maybe help you find new perspectives on the piece is that when that groovy pentatonic bass line starts at 0:10, I immediately imagined that as a bass ostinato that goes thorugh all kinds of interesting harmonic changes, but you abandoned it.
    That is at least what I always like and would personally start from there, so maybe exploring that could lead you to a new perspective on the piece.

  9. I think that's a Scottish thing lol we're very good at ranting when we're annoyed.

    Agreed, might be worth coming back to when I've transcribed more Jazzy stuff and understand it a little better. I think some of the frustration has come from the fact I've set myself the task to try finish at least 1 piece a month, and this month I got a little lazy with music. I haven't transcribed or wrote as much this month and then all of a sudden I was trying to rush it out. The idea was that I'd set myself a deadline as if I was doing a job. I think cause I've already finished 7 so far this year I thought I could slack off then annoyed myself when I hadn't done anything productive lol.

    Do you think I should switch them around? Or does the last beat need a complete re-do?

    I think the initial idea was to switch to piano and have sax as the supporting role at 1:06 but then decided that it felt like a more saxy kind of line. It was in the back of my head though that I should switch the melody to a different instrument at some point but couldn't decide which instrument or when.

    I maybe should have specified on this one, I didn't spend 22 hours straight on one piece. I have a time tracker so I can see how long I've spent on projects and see how productive I've been vs how unproductive I've been. For example I spent 22 hours on just trying to orchestrate it and 3 hours sketching it on the piano. For anyone interested this is a small example of how my time was spent this month...Clearly need to workout more.


    6 weeks to score a film?! Is that really how long composers get to score a film? I thought it would be a bit longer than that. I'm currently working in editorial and we normally have more time than that so I'm quite surprised that composers need to find and record the music in that time.

    As someone who's just kind of dipping their toe into Jazz, what kind of pieces are recommended to transcribe? Think what I might do is try and keep the new pieces coming but transcribe jazz stuff for a couple of months and hopefully come back to this piece better equipped.
  10. A switch would probably be okay, but also a re-do would definitely be good for the last pass. Reworking it a bit would definitely spice things up!

    Good luck :)
    Duncan Formosa likes this.
  11. There is a phrase I heard once from another composer that I really liked and it has to do with the "when" aspect... 'The color clarifies the structure'. So if you want the audience to know that "this is a different section", change the color.
    Duncan Formosa likes this.
  12. Are you really German? The only reason I clicked on this thread was hoping some German would say "Work on it for 4 days straight, and if you don't get it right I will feed you dog food"

    That's just "Karma" slapping your ass down (rightfully so) for choosing cheesy instruments like the Sax and cocktail lounge piano while completely ommiting Guitar.

    Lots of good advice from Francesco.

    This is also another piece of gold. It's very true

    Your bass line reminds me a lot of RHCP. Around :45 second mark

    You could talk to your doctor about Viagra.

    More like watching two puddles of water slowly join together, to be honest.


    Let me give you another "general principle" about music. If one element is active, another needs to be inactive. Vice-versa too.

    For example, the rhythms of the opening movement of "Moonlight Sonata" are mostly "inactive". Just steady triplets. The harmony is very active.

    Schoenberg is often very hard to grasp as everything is active and difficult. (most of the time)
    Aside from all the really good advice, what is also missing and very hard to do well with samples, is "inflections"

    Think of how a singer sings a ballad, or a blues guitarist plays (Hendrix). There is so much to be said for the "in-between-the-notes" creating a fatty in your pants.

    The other, as others have already pointed out is the "feel" of the piece. That really is 90% of it. James Brown always began by recording just drums.

    This is not really fair, as Steve Gadd is a legend, but here is a similar line up to what you have in your piece.

    He also saved songs like this one, (imagine how boring the tune would be without the drum part)

    Now, let's listen to some examples of "inflections" in the instrumental parts.
    At 2;40 listen to how a simple repeated riff can build excitement.

    Hang in there until the keyboard solo and you will hear one of the best ever. He mimics the first guitar solo and it's those inflections that give it so much life. Lose the cocktail piano vibe. Also, notice how the keyboard player creates bass lines. It's very effective

    Duncan Formosa likes this.
  13. #13 Alexander Schiborr, May 2, 2021 at 12:14 PM
    Last edited: May 5, 2021 at 2:49 PM
    @Doug Gibson No, I think not any more quite 100 percent. I am in a transformation. Partly has to do with the Puerto Rican-style food that my wife serves at least once a week. (is pretty good).

    signal-2021-05-02-131249_002.jpeg signal-2021-05-02-131249_003.jpeg signal-2021-05-02-131249_004.jpeg
  14. Yeah it definitely needs some funky guitar. Not sure what I would do with it mind you. I'll ask someone I know who plays the guitar, see what they think and maybe even get him to record it rather than do it through midi.

    I think a true Scotsman would have a clever witty comeback for that straight away, so I'll blame the fact I've got nothing based on the fact I'm half Maltese.

    Can't tell if that's better or worse lol.
    Is this about the bass line being active at 1:29 onwards? I was thinking that since both the sax and bass are repeating what's been played before that it might gel together okay. Or is it getting too busy?

    Was debating whether to have piano or switch to the organ. There is a little bit of organ in there but it's mainly chords. Do you think moving the piano part to the organ and adding some rhythmic chord stuff will be better?

    Some great advice been given on this thread, been given a lot to think about. Will park the piece for now until I have learned a bit more about that style of music then come back to it later on this year. Hopefully by then I'll get it to sound right.

    Thanks everyone for the help!

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