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XPRTNovice

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    http://joezieja.com

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    2. Maybe; Depends on Circumstances
  • Composition & Production Skills
    Arrangement & Orchestration
    Drum Programming
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    Vocal Percussion (Beatboxing)

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  • Real Name
    Joe Zieja
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    Voice Actor, Science Fiction and Fantasy Author
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XPRTNovice's Achievements

  1. What a fun source, and a fun take on it! Right away, the drums come out to me as needing some production help. I agree with Prophetik in that there doesn't seem to be much in there, from a lack of reverb, to a lack of compression, to just being sort of too forward in the mix and not meshing with the rest of it. I hear the kick and snare right up in my face, but I barely hear the cymbal work. The performance of them is actually quite good IMO, and has some nice variation, but needs help production wise to make all that good work not go to waste (like when you're following the samba beat of the acoustic guitar at 2:30 ish, which was super cool). The guitar leads that come in at :35 don't sound like they're in synch timing wise, though they lock in after a few seconds, and the mixing makes me lose track of which is playing what. My real beef is there are a LOT of guitars happening here, and they need to be set apart somehow so they don't confuse each other. This problem is persistent throughout the piece; having so many guitars can be effective, but if you're gonna do that you need to have a surgeon's precision when you're mixing them, which isn't happening here. The result is something that sounds muddy and confusing, with the listener unable to focus on any one thing, so they focus on nothing. The guitar melody at 1:20 gets lost - it's way too far back in the mix and gets eaten up by the arp guitar. Again, a production issue, but also an arrangement issue from an instrumentation standpoint. Those two guitars sound very similar, so having them compete for brainspace is disadvantageous to your objective. Arrangement wise, I think it's fine, but could benefit from some variations. This felt a little more like the structure of a jazz head (i.e. you play the melody a bit, then noodle, then play the melody a bit, then noodle) than a cohesive story, but the noodling was just sort of a repetition of the melody on a different guitar. NO
  2. Ah one of my favorites. As is typical of Rebecca, the arrangement is lovely with lots of creative, interesting interpretations of the music. I particularly like the harmonization at 1:25 and the switch to minor thereafter. Lots of great moments, including the ending. Production wise, it leaves something to be desired. Harp in the beginning needs a bass trim and to come back in the mix; it muddied up the melody for me. The piano felt mechanical and plunking with a real lack of humanization; by the time 1:45 rolled around I was noticing it constantly. The dynamics don't really seem to seem to change throughout the piece, which creates ear-fatigue for me. There are plenty of places where there are emotional swells and ebbs that would really benefit from some dynamic adjustments. The strings seem to achieve it, but the rest of the instruments need some TLC from a production standpoint. That goes the same for tempo; with so much expression in the arrangement, I feel like there needed to be expression in the production as well to take this from good to great, but I felt like we were on a train from the beginning to the end going along at a very consistent, maybe even a little too fast of a tempo, and the emotion of the arrangement gets lost in it. I felt like I was being pushed along, not led along or coaxed along, and with a piece like this I think the latter is more important. I keep thinking I hear a wrong note in the piano at 2:48 ish? Or a glissando that just isn't mixed in enough? Again, a production issue. I think this one needs to go back to the production phase to really make it shine. I am loathe to give it a no, but in this case I think it is not ready for the site and could really be made to stand out with a little bit more care toward humanization and production in particular. The arrangement is outstanding as usual. NO
  3. Hey don't huehuehate on yourself for not having a concept be original. You don't need to reinvent the wheel every time you want to reimagine a song, and this is a great remix. Was nodding my head within the first 30 seconds; the arps in the background that are slightly off-beat (off-swing?) really add that weirdly classic bit of anxiety into lo-fi where you never quite feel settled but you're okay with it. I had no issue waiting until 1:09 for the bass to drop, I felt snuggled by the rest of it and patient. You could easily, EASILY have told me that I was listening to Tenno, here, and I would have believed you. Your mixing is on point, the instrumentation is on point, your arrangement has good peaks and troughs that keep me interested but also don't force me to pay attention too much. That's lo-fi, baby. Music to chill/relax/farm stuff to. Nothing stuck out to me from a production standpoint. It really does sound professionally produced and well done. I think, maybe, that the arrangement could have been a touch shorter, if only because I felt myself drifting around the 3:30 mark, but that could have been a function of the fact that the chord doesn't change for almost a full minute starting at 2:40. I don't know much lo-fi that extends to a full 5 minutes, you know? I felt like you had expressed most of what you wanted to do by the time 4 minutes rolled around, and the rest was a recap, but because the mix itself and the content was so good, I wasn't exactly upset by it. Just something I noticed. Overall, fantastic job. YES
  4. Okay, okay! I really dig the feel of this, a lot. It's chill, but hard-hitting. A nice mix of tones, well balanced, well mixed. The arrangement is straight-ahead, but still moves through different parts of a story while keeping things interesting, varied, and tight. I really don't have a whole lot to say about this one, but I will jump on the idea here that Prophetik mentioned about the leads doing some damage to the overall story of the mix. The lead that comes in at :58 is too wet for me, it muddies the excellent soundscape you have going on, and I think could probably benefit from less reverb to keep the rest of it gelling nicely. I reached for the volume knob pretty fast because it was just too much BUT I LOVE the contrast of how wet it is vs the rest of it. It's just too heavy on the one side of the scale for that brief moment. You can still achieve that wonderful sense of relief when the lead dissipates with less. The lead that comes in at about 4:00 needs to be pulled back just slightly in my opinion - it's a very small adjustment, but it was distracting when it came out and I think you're so well tuned-in to the rest of the mix that you want to keep that vibe going ad smoothly as you can. I didn't have any issues with the repetition in this one because there were layers to it all, and the source itself is pretty minimalistic. I think this is a great interpretation of it. The disintegrating ending was also really great Nice job! YES
  5. Hi Rebecca! Thanks for submitting. It's a cool, wandering melody that you translated into something that nicely envelopes the atmosphere/ambient nature of it while keeping it interesting to listen to. In fact, my only real critique with the arrangement is that it might be a little *too* interesting; there's too much going on that doesn't seem to jive with itself. There were many times where I felt I couldn't find the center because there were so many different things going on in different instruments...which is sort of like the source, but it was hard for me to feel like the arrangement was a cohesive story/piece. It all starts to feel a little bit like a bridge, or an intro, instead of a piece that has a beginning middle and end. The source, despite being ambient, has a strong melody and direction, but this arrangement is too far on the ambient side for me to feel like a complete piece. The violin used in the melody at :48 ish is pulling my ear, I think, because it keeps swelling in exactly the same way with every note of the melody. I would replace it with a steady legato, otherwise it almost feels like its pumping/breathing and it was distracting. When the bass comes in at 1:40 ish, it booms to me and is too loud. Adjusting this may give you more headroom to raise the overall volume. I might even suggest a frequency cut if you want to keep the presence, but I actually just think the bass doesn't fit in the mix due to the volume. The volume is the biggest production issue for me. I had to crank my speakers to listen to this; it needs a good compression and mastering pass, which I know you know how to do. The whole track is just way too quiet. NO
  6. The buildup is really great, I love the ambiance and the delayed/multiple drops that lead into a 2 nd build phase at 103. All the introduction production is very solid, I don’t hear anything that tickles my ear, and then when Dracula’s Castle comes in at 1:25 it’s very satisfying. It makes it feel like one cohesive melody between the two sources. The melody really never gets lost, which is easy to do in a dance arrangement like this, and the countermelodies stand out nicely. Really love the wubs at 2:39, they keep the arrangement interested. I never found myself getting bored at all here. The short interlude 3:25 is excellent and very satisfying to the ear, but I couldn’t quite tell what was supposed to come out there, if it was a bridge you wrote, or if there was still some of the source left in there. Overall, this aces production and source usage. To offer a little bit of feedback: The part leading to that second drop at 3:26 loses some clarity for me; I am not sure what I am supposed to listen to because there is that saw lead that's taking over, but it's clearly not the melody. I feel like I hear something in the background that should be coming forward. I could use a little more volume, maybe literally like 2db, of the lead in the first section (1:36 ish). The arrangement is a *touch* on the repetitive side, but for a dance piece it didn't stand out enough that I'd feel comfortable really nitpicking at it. Great job! YES
  7. Thank you for your submission! Unfortunately there is not sufficient modification of the source to pass OCR’s standards for submission. In this case, the source material is indeed “identifiable and dominant” but the arrangement is not “substantial and original.” There are very few, if any, departures from the source material, with the exception of the key. It is approximately the same BPM as the original, and doesn’t change sections or involve any interpretation other than changes in instrumentation. This falls more cleanly into the definition of a “cover” than an “arrangement” or remix, and doesn’t fall into the spirit of what OCR has on the site. I encourage you to look at the submission guidelines and spend some time reviewing posted remixes alongside their sources, and noticing how vast the interpretations can be while still strongly representing the source. Production-wise, this sounds like a portion of it would be an excellent dreamy intro into an arrangement (adding a sweep filter as it rises into some kind of drop, for example), but with the dramatic amount of frequencies cut out (you mentioned high and low cut in your letter) it comes across like an unfinished piece of music, and lacks any body – I kept expecting a drop to come where the rest of the track comes in, but it never did. I would be interested in hearing what exactly you cut out; you might play with reducing the dramatic EQ bit by bit and also listening to other songs of the same target style at the same time (“reference mixing”) and see if you can’t get the sounds to start to match up. Training your ear takes time, and reference mixing will help you start to understand what happens when you move what lever. NO
  8. I cannot tell you how much I love this idea. We do need more polka. But the production on this needs a lot of improvement before it can pass OCR’s standards, and the arrangement, though brilliant, could use some expansion. There doesn’t seem to be any volume/velocity variation between any of the notes, which creates a flat mix that’s very much in your face, and lacks nuance. The ears fatigue quickly under that kind of pressure. The samples used don’t seem to have much articulation options, which made it so there isn’t any legato in the clarinet or any other instrument, and the drums are at a constant, loud volume. I empathize that these sorts of arrangements are EXCEEDINGLY difficult to do with samples. You have your work cut out for you here. The solution for me when I started was to play the instrument, but that's not available for everyone. What IS available is a healthy dose of collaboration; we have a giant community of instrumentalists who are ready and eager to lend their skills to tracks. That's not always convenient or quick, so what I'd recommend is really just doing some google searching and exploring sample libraries, many of which are free, that can supply some insight. It's a question of humanization, which is hard but the resources available in modern day music making is endless and inexpensive. All that being said – the arrangement is astounding though a touch on the short side, especially when you consider that you have two sources that you can work with. Your instrumentation is spot on, and I think it really does create the character that you want to create with it, but there are more opportunities to incorporate the sources (particularly the Kirkhope piece) into the arrangement and extend it to tell a bit more of a story. That will also help with the in-your- face issue I described before; some variations in the arrangement will give you opportunities to play with more dynamics. If you go listen to a bunch of Polka, you’ll notice that although some is high-intensity like this, it often weaves back and forth. Please, please don’t quit on this – bring this sort of goofy energy to OCR. NO - RESUBMIT
  9. I love this arrangement and it is so close, but I think that there are some production elements that could be improved to really make it shine. What I really want to hear is more of the low end throughout, particularly the kick drum and the bass guitar (I’m talking like 80-100hz). Reference mixing with some Dropkick Murphy’s or something like that - or even the band you reference in your submission - will help you zero in on how a full mix might sound with this instrumentation. Celtic rock is so much fun, but you also have some prog metal elements hear that would benefit from making that kick a little more snappy – try some high-ratio compression on that kick and experiment to your taste, but it definitely needs some more low end. Arrangement wise, there was only one thing that really bothered me - by 2:01, my ears are getting really fatigued from repetition of the main theme. I think that also has to do with me just not having enough depth in the production, because it was the high-end part of my ears that was tired . When it breaks down at 2:30 ish, I get a nice break and I start to feel interested in the tune again. The piece is long enough to stand on its own; it might actually benefit from simply cutting one of the repeated sections of the main theme in the beginning. Maybe I’m waxing philosophical here, but this happens a lot during Celtic pieces because of the way the flutes/tin whistles have all these mordents that make it seem like every note is the same note because you can never find the center. I love the source and I love the arrangement; it’s really fun, and you can absolutely bring this to passable with just a few tweaks. Some suggestions to help with both the ear fatigue and the production, which also may help the arrangement sound more complete if the ear isn't tired: I hear the tin whistle off to the right; since the guitars seem to be hardpanned, you could bring the tin whistle to center, especially since it is the main melody. At that point it would require that you bring it down, though, because now it'll be right dead center in your face. The cymbals (crash/splash) are also really crackly and high-end ish and could use some EQ. NO (resub)
  10. This is really tightly produced, and I honestly can’t give any feedback on the mechanical side of things. You found a pocket and hit it dead on; there’s a great little mix of new age and 80’s synthwavy stuff going on here. If I were to offer some feedback, I would maybe say that the weird synthy panflute melody or whatever could probably stand to be more in front starting at :55 or whatever, and that continues to the cello (somewhat, the cello has dynamic variation and could benefit from some automation to just kind of make sure it's up front). I am just such a fan of the lead guitar playing, and it's a LIIIITTTLEEE too warm in the mix? But man I just attributed that to the style, it sounds like it's from the 80s. A touch more drum variation might help the piece, but overall I think it's solid. The arrangement is beautifully written, incorporates the source in a creative and interesting manner, and creates some really fun soundscapes with the varying use of virtual instruments. The guitar “performance” is really well done with little flourishes that keep my ear interested in what’s going on. Great job! YES
  11. Let’s be honest – nobody has any idea what Dragonball is about. But that didn’t stop you from making a good arrangement of the music. It’s not quite ready for the site though – but it can be with just a fix of the ending. The smash cut at 4:05 needs to be smoothed out. It extremely abruptly transitions back to the A section of the piece without any transition, almost as though it was cut/paste. The same voice files were even used, and then the track sort of suddenly stops at the very end – and you didn’t let the effects bleed out before you set the rightmost export gate, resulting in reverb getting sliced off. Returning to the A section is a natural way to bring the tune home, but the transition to it needs to be smoothed out. Drop out the bass and let it breathe for a second and re-build it into the A. A fade-out might even work at the end (these are just suggestions – your taste will supersede mine.) I don’t have any issues with the production or source usage. Everything is really tightly EQed, and you have good control across all your sidechain compression. The panning is effective and clean, and your instrumentation is varied and fun to listen to. All this needs is for you to end the piece! You’re almost there. YES CONDITONAL (fix the ending)
  12. The arrangement takes a source that doesn't have that much material and weaves it back and forth with some nice breaks in there to create some breathing room. The switching of the melody back and forth between vocals and other instruments creates variety, and there are some nice interpretations. I think there was room for more - with such a short source, it would have been easy to deviate from the melody and create some variations rather than use it verbatim each time it is used, especially considering you have a vocal as the main melody, but I'm not evaluating based on missed potential. Vocal embellishments are easy to incorporate, and would have helped solve one of my major problems with the arrangement, which is just that it's too long; I felt like the piece came to its conclusion with the fade out at 4:19, but then we came back in for another minute of essentially the same thing we have been hearing for the first 4 minutes of the track. The source is very, very repetitive on its own, so having it extend for 5 and a half minutes made it easy to lose interest in the track. Production wise, the elements are well mixed and balanced. The instrumentation is good, and so is the overall EQ. I think the vocals need to come back in the mix a little bit, and could maybe even use a little touch of reverb; it's very dry in comparison to the other elements you have going on, which tend to be very wet. I had a considerably hard time understanding the vocals, but that could be turned into a positive rather than a negative by using the vocals as an instrument rather than a lyrical device (see groups like Massive Attack for examples on that sort of use of voice-as-instrument). This part is purely an idea that you can take or leave, but I do think the vocals need to mesh better with the rest of the instrumentation. NO (resubmit)
  13. Hell yeah! This is great! The complex timing you’ve got going on the drums is really amazing, the bass line is killer, and the organ really is the jelly in this PB&J of jazz. Your piano performance is stellar, the instruments are mixed well and appropriately, and the arrangement maintains a healthy addiction to the source while being varied enough to keep the ear interested, even at a 5 minute jazz arrangement. It’s like Soulive put on a red cap with an M on it and jumped off a cliff yelling WAHOO. Great job on this – I don’t have any other feedback! YES
  14. [This is an automatically generated message] I've reviewed your remix and have set it to Completed status, indicating that I think your remix is ready to be submitted to the Judges Panel. Congratulations! If you feel like you still need to work on your track and want more feedback, you can change the prefix back to Work-in-Progress and we'll go through the review process again. If you decide to submit your track, please change the prefix to Submitted after sending your email. Thank you!
  15. MOD REVIEW Hey there! So this is a really unique take on this tune with some really interesting sound choices. Taste wise, you might split the room a bit, but these are your choices and you should stick to them! It's a very unique sound. I enjoy the broken rhythms and the drums. My major nitpick is that sometimes I couldn't quite catch what the melody was supposed to be, particularly at 1:30 ish. There's the pumping pad in the back, and I think that needs to come back in the mix and have the melody ride more in the forefront. That happens again at about 2:10, where your wubbing bass kind of drowns out the interesting spooky lead you've got going on. Honestly, I think that's probably more of a personal taste kind of thing, and this could be ready for the judges without it. I'm marking it as complete; you can make the changes or tweaks, or submit it as is! Good luck /MOD REVIEW
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