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Master Mi

2. ready for review Star Tropics - The Fire Of The Southern Cross (Master Mi Remix)

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The hot summer inspired me to make a remix of the NES game Star Tropics.
It's a remix of the dungeon theme. It's still far away from being finished - but I hope you'll enjoy it.

Original game track:
>>>


----------------------------------------

Newest version of my remix: 1.4
>>>


>>> https://clyp.it/ggch1nth

Have fun and enjoy the awesome summer time! ))

 

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Just have uploadet the newest version 1.1 - there I removed the compressor/limiter in the master track completely for much better dynamics.
Maybe you'll have to turn up the volume a little bit more.

I think I'll keep it this way (no or far less compression/limiting) with all of my future soundtrack/remix updates to go back to the roots of full range dynamics and high quality sounds - instead of trying to be the "winner" of the loudness war or something like that.
I hope the composers/remixers of OCRemix will support this idea, too (I think I will start a special thread for this topic in the forum).


So, check out the version 1.1 of my remix:

>>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcqC7asM-sM
>>> https://soundcloud.com/master-mi/star-tropics-the-fire-of-the-southern-cross-master-mi-remix-version-10-uc

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I've just uploaded Version 1.2 - this time without any compressors/limiters, not in the master track, not in one single track (not even in the drums - and I really like 'em as they are now).

Although the track has not the loudness of the previous versions but the full range of dynamics sounds so much better now.
I think we should definitely get rid of compressors and limiters just hunting for some undefined extra loudness.


Check that track:

>>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3K5oF9Cmy0c
>>> https://soundcloud.com/master-mi/star-tropics-the-fire-of-the-southern-cross-master-mi-remix-version-12

 

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Well, I for one strongly believe limiters are extremely conducive to helping achieve an optimal loudness. They are not inherently going to ruin our music. Anyone who uses them to write ridiculously loud music is doing it wrong. I use one all the time, and I have no compression issues at all these days.

 

In general the vibe is enjoyable, and the instrument choices make sense. However, the flute and strings are noticeably in need of more humanization. The flute keeps reintroducing its slow attack envelope, instead of playing connected legato notes whenever it makes sense to do so. The strings also experience the same issue. It would really help if you overlapped your notes more in places where it makes sense to play legato. With strings samples like those which lack sufficient articulations and round robins, you essentially need to overlap most if not all the notes to hide the fakeness. It would help even more if you additionally automated volumes of the flutes and strings to properly emulate breathing and bowing. Right now, the flute and strings just do not sound convincing to me. With those instruments being pretty much primary, this becomes the dominant portion of the composition that should be addressed, if nothing else.

 

I should also mention the drums, which are pretty quiet. You should boost them higher so they're actually audible and not just able to be felt. They just feel subdued, IMO. And then of course you'll probably need to actually use a limiter to keep the drum peaks in check. You've basically led yourself into this one. :lol:

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Yeah, see the point in adding some further expressions/automations to the flute and strings - will also try some overlappings at the strings.

But hey, no chance with compression/limiting in this wonderful track - even not in the drums. Think they're loud enough since t's not a metal track or something like that.
I could make the drums louder and more pumping just by lowering the volume of the other tracks and rising the volume of the master track - or just by doubling the drum track.
Would make the same effect without taking away the natural dynamic range of the drumset with compressors.
Maybe I'll give a small amout of dB to the drums, but not a lot - since just a few dB make a big difference between joyful drumming and disruptive pumping.

I'll create another part in this track where some exotic orchestral drums will have a dominant part together with the legato strings where the louder drumming will fit much more.

Thanks for the hints and the feedback, dude. ))

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I've finished the newest version 1.3 of this remix.

Check it out here:
>>>


>>> https://soundcloud.com/master-mi/star-tropics-the-fire-of-the-southern-cross-master-mi-remix-version-13-wav

In this version 1.3 I've made a few new things.
First of all this was my last remaining soundtrack I wanted to master at EBU R 128 loudness standards without the use of compressors and limiters for the best dynamic range, the best hi-fi sound quality and - of course - for keeping all the characteristics of clean, organic and natural sounds.
On the other side you can also save a lot of time by getting away from futzing around with compressors and limiters which are actually not necessary for making good music. You just have to put some time in the mixing stuff instead - but with much better and cleaner results.
So, now all my remixes are mastered at these pretty cool EBU R 128 standards - there aren't any more problems with annoying loudness differences between my songs after getting away from the peak-level-based mastering to a mastering style that goes for a fixed program loudness (at EBU R 128 the maximum program loudness is about -23 dB) where the peaks play no longer a major role you have to carry about the whole time.
Besides - if we talk about the disadvantages of compression we should also talk about the disadvantages of compressed sound formats. Before I had created this remix update I've exported my music projects only as MP3 files with a bit rate of 194 kbit/s. But this time I recognized that this can mess up the sound at some points of the track - and if it's only one single messed up high drum note - you will hear it with a good sense of hearing. So I decided to upload my music projects based on uncompressed WAV files from now on.  

Secondly I've created some overlappings in the strings section. Not the big deal - but sounds quite better now.

And lastly - the probably biggest improvement of all - I've made this remix about nearly 1 minute longer.
Therefore I've added a very big and natural sounding drum ensemble that really fits the lovely southern island atmosphere and that goes together with a slightly changed flute into a nice finish.

I'll keep working on this track - hope you like the improvements and changes I've put into this version.

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I was disappointed with the big and natural sounding drum ensemble, which was more of a simple loop. It didn't vary nearly enough, though it was a nice addition. I must complain about the snare drum in that portion though - It's got a very distorted, static sound to it that in my opinion takes away from the track. It certainly distracted me from the rest of it.

 

Really, you have a nice enough soundscape going on. My biggest complaint(and most common among your stuff) is the lack of personal touches - little embellishments and alterations that would really make it your own. I don't mind that it more or less follows the source to the letter, as I'm a very conservative arranger myself, but it just feels like it should branch out from the source a bit more. The drums were a nice idea, for example. But what if you changed up the main melody a bit at that point? Maybe switched up the drum patterns a bit to keep it fresh?

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So, for the orchestral drum ensemble I think I will add some reverb to let it sound less hard (actually forgot to make any reverb there - it's 100 % dry - sounds much better with about 10 to 15 % reverb into wet scenario).

After listening to my remix a few times, I don't think that the snare drum in this area is a big problem (there's really no extra distortion or stuff like that - maybe it's cause of some drum buttons in this VSTI make pretty heavy sounds - but it's mostly because of the absolute dryness of the drum ensemble - will fix that in the next version update).

Another (much bigger) problem I'll fix in the coming update is the shaker sound in this area - this is really far too monotone - could be much more rhythmic. Would totally bother me if the happy southern island people would be stiff like that. :D


Maybe I'll also try some variations in the drum and lead melody section.

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After a long time I've finally made a pretty huge update of this remix.

Better check out the Youtube version (... somehow it has a slightly better audio quality than the Soundcloud version and in addition to that it contains a video with some of my very own in-game scenes from my very own walthrough).
Informations about the changes I've made in this remix update you can find in the descprition of the upload for Youtube.

Here's version 1.4 of my Dungeon Theme remix "The Fire Of The Southern Cross":
>>>


>>> https://clyp.it/ggch1nth

 

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The concept for the intro is wonderful. The slow and unsresponsive strings drag it down though. You might want to look for a better strings patch for it, or go with a synth, and/or possibly write longer chords for them.

You keep on using elements of the source verbatim, where I think you could take more liberties with it. For example, the 2:25-ish piano melody doesn't have to follow the original exactly, it can play something more mellow, or more intricate, depending on the mood you want to go for. It can play from a different chord (Willrock-style). There's nothing wrong with using stuff from source verbatim, and changing them just for the sake of chenging them doesn't usually work. But I think there's times where you can make deliberate changes to the mood and dynamics of the remix by altering the melody.

You're also inclined to repeat the structure of the original, where going back to a previous part might make more sense for the structure of the remix.

Consider what I've done in Frozen Rose. At 2:09, the track skips part of the source. Why? Because I'm saving it for later, for 5:04.

At 3:35, I bring in the main melody on flute, but I don't finish it like in the source. I don't do that the next time it plays, either. Or the next, on another next instrument. Or ever, during this remix. Why not? Because it didn't fit. The source plays over 6 measures, mine on 8. Or something like that. They're different, so I had to adapt it.

Or compare the start of the track proper, at 0:57, which mimics the source, with 4:28. I've left out a note, I vary the rest of the notes depending on the chord.

Obviously I'm using one of my own tracks, because that's what I know best. These are all things you can do as well, when it makes sense for the arrangement you've got. Don't feel so locked in to follow the source's structure and melody exactly.

Back to the eval.

The mix should be louder. Just watch out for the problems that come with trying too hard to make something loud. Compare levels to that of posted remixes for reference.

The sound design is great. There's little things you can do in the mix to improve it, like making the tom part feel tighter and less reverb-y, and the aforementioned issue with the strings in the intro. But the overall sound design is great. Nice work.

Source is there, and while I think there's plenty of creativity in here, the conservative use of it bothers me. I don't think it's the point where it's a problem (difficult to say, difficult to do something about thais point in the remix' development), but it's definitely something worth looking into for your future works.

With the intro strings improved and the overall level brought up, I think it might be ready to be subbed. Nice work

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Thanks for the encouraging feedback.

Though I'm really satisfied with the track at the moment I'll wait with subbing.
I'm sure my skills in creating music will improve even more within the next years - but at the moment I can really enjoy this level.

The funny thing with the strings in the intro is that I had tried some much more realistic samples of strings, but I didn't like it (maybe the better samples sounded much too formal for such an easy, tropical melody, but maybe I have not added enough reverb and delay). As I remember I tried some synths as well but they were too artificial and too spacy - they didn't fit the other acoustic instruments.
So I used the average "golden medium string samples".
But yeah - I could work on the notes of the chords and make them longer or a bit more interlocked.

And which toms you mean with "like making the tom part feel tighter and less reverb-y" - the orchestral drums towards the end or the toms in the drum kits before?

According to my loudness & peak metering in my DAW I have a free headroom of about 6 dB between the 0 dB mark and the highest signal peaks in the track.
So, I guess I could easily increase the master volume up to further 5 dB for the OCRemix upload version without using any compressors/limiters.

But for my personal uploads I'll stick with the EBU R-128 loudness standards because it's much easier to keep a certain loudness level for all my tracks without reducing the dynamic range, limiting peaks or making unnecessary changes in the sample or sound quality.

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The orchestral ones, the ones from 4:16. You might want to touch up the strings there as well, use a staccato sample or something. Maybe.

I now discovered that the steel drums have a very artificial sound, during the rolls. If your sampler lets you do it, set sample start to a little further into the sample so soft notes don't have as strong an attack, and let velocity affect the sample start parameter so higher-velocity notes start normally. Humanize velocities, and also perhaps slightly the timing of these roll notes. It's a small thing, but it stands out during my re-listen. You can't spend forever fixing everything that comes up, or you won't finish many tracks. But when something stands out, it's worth doing something about it.

Headroom is a tricky issue. Intersample clipping is a problem, but so is disparate levels bvetween different works by different artists. For ocr, I recommend you make it a suitable level for being playing with other ocr tracks.

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Hm, that's a strange thing. I can't really hear a too reverby sound in the orchestral drum section - and even the VSTI parameters don't show a too big hall effect. The wetness is about 40 % and the hall time (or let's call it the hall size of the room) is just 4 seconds. I can't even hear a too much reverb there if I play each section as a solo.
Somebody else who has the same impression by listening to it that this is too reverby?

Maybe the different headphones are the main cause for the different perception - I've got some of the Panasonic RP-HX550 series >>> https://www.amazon.de/Panasonic-RP-HX550-Street-Kopfhörer-schwarz/dp/B00FG5H6II/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1494161177&sr=8-12&keywords=panasonic+kopfhörer

In my vision for creating this part I was thinking of some of the islanders praying and drumming for Mike's sake along his courageous and dangerous journey - some kind of a powerful spiritual support from far away.
----------

The rhythmic strings in this section are already "spiccato" - that's nearly the same like the general term "staccato" (I guess, spiccato = staccato for strings).
Maybe they are interfering with the legato strings in this section - although they have a different setting in the panorama.
But somehow I like this how they sound together.
----------

The steel drums are actually no real steel drums - it's a special preset for my vintage organ which sounds quite similar.
And I tried different velocity curves there - but for this VSTI the "Ayers Rock" velocity curve with slightly randomized velocity of the neighboring note simply sounded best there.
If I go too semicircular in the velocity there you won't hear too much of this in the whole soundtrack anymore.

Unfortunately I don't have a real/realistic acoustic steeldrum for this one.
But at least I have some steeldrum synths where I could use a different velocity curve (pretty much semicircular) that actually don't sound that bad as I thought.
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At the moment I want to take all my time for fixing things and trying out new stuff for my tracks. It's just my 4th or 5th year (as far as I remember I began somewhere in 2013 or 2014) of getting into music from ground zero and creating soundtracks.
And I'm still learning lots of new stuff every month just by reading, seeing, hearing or simply trying out new things. So, at the moment it's really okay for me to improve continuously over considering my tracks as being finished. ))

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Spiccato means bouncing the bow against the string. Staccato means sharply detached from the other notes. Where did you find a spiccato? I've been looking for an affordable spiccato option.

In any case, if you like it, then you like it. I'm not remixing this for you; it's all about the decisions you make in making this. (How do I say this without it sounding passive-aggressive?) The person whose opinion on your mix matters the most is you. All I do is point out possible flaws while you can still change stuff. And I can be wrong.

There's still a mechanical rolling sound to the steel drums. Less annoying, but still there. I would recommend varying velocities more, or making the synth/sampler respond more to the different velocities. A trick I used with Logic's built-in sampler was to make low-velocity notes start later in the sample, so only the high-velocity notes got the louder start of the sample. This trick, I think, would help with steel drums in particular, because they're used in those rolls. If the synth or sampler you use allows for it, make it respond more to velocity differences. Or make the velocity differences greater. Or both. You might also want to slightly randomize or shuffle/swing the rhythm of the rolls, for a more human sound. I don't know what would work best, but you can try everything and just keep what you like.

If you're looking to invest in a really nice steel drum synth, Pianoteq has an add-on for that. It'd set you back a bit, though, 150€ for the basic Pianoteq and the add-on. I like its sound, both the steel drums and the base piano (and I use the Rhodes add-on on almost everything I do nowadays), but it's way too much for a single remix, so if you're not planning on doing a lot more with steel drums, it's not worth it.

I think I've heard enough of you to say you've been improving nicely. Keep at it. You're doing great.

And take your mixes off eval when you get your eval.

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