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XPRTNovice

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  • Real Name
    Joe Zieja
  • Occupation
    Voice Actor, Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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  • Collaboration Status
    2. Maybe; Depends on Circumstances
  • Composition & Production Skills
    Arrangement & Orchestration
    Drum Programming
    Lyrics
    Mixing & Mastering
    Recording Facilities
    Synthesis & Sound Design
  • Instrumental & Vocal Skills (Other)
    Vocal Percussion (Beatboxing)

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XPRTNovice's Achievements

  1. I love the concept of this piece, but I wish it was developed a little bit more. From a production perspective personal biggest beef with this is the piano. The EQ is too boxy - it needs some information around 5k and less at 500hz to open it up. It sounds much more fake than the rest of the instruments, and the performance at times is mechanical and in need of humanization. When it's mixed in with the piece, it sounds better, but at the opening I think it needs to be more cleanly EQed. Vocal performance is stellar. No qualms there. Arrangement, there's just not a lot going on in here; it's extremely simple. I can't argue that this doesn't pass the bar for interpretation or quality, but there's a lot of untapped potential in here, in my personal opinion. And then the piece just sort of ends seemingly in the middle of a phrase, drops off completely. I just wanted a bit more. From a standards point of view, however, this is well within them. YES
  2. Really enjoy that first drop, haha, where it just sort of disintegrates and comes back together. Jingle bells are killing me a bit at 1:15 - they're just too tinny and out in front. They take attention away from the rest of the stuff going on. I like the addition of them, they're great, but they're too prominent. The transition at 2:30 is fun, but that guitar just jumps way the hell out there and it almost sounded like a different track started entirely. I'm all about jumpscares, but in this case it's like the master track went up 10db. Need to smooth that out so they at least sound like part of the same piece. That loudness really starts to carry forward for the next 30 seconds or so, especially with the guitar. The mixing starts to generate here, with the flute/synth melody getting buried by the very busy soundscape here, again with the jinglebells. We come back in nice at 4:00, but that's a minute and a half of some wonky mixing and meandering. I get what Larry is saying about the lack of direction, and it really only bothered me because it was mixed badly. If that section felt more sonically cohesive with the rest of the piece I actually think the ending is kind of charming, even with how weird that snare drum sounds. It's like "CHARLIE THE SONG IS OVER WHY ARE YOU STILL PLAYING THAT DRUM" Ultimately it's the mixing in that middle section that has me NOing this. That's a large chunk of the piece that doesn't feel as well arranged, orchestrated, or mixed, and it does lend credence to the idea of the song not being a cohesive arrangement. NO
  3. Aw the bells in the beginning are nice. I'm generally of the opinion that if I can't hear it, I don't care about it. If I heard some funky stuff in this, and then looked at the waveform, I could diagnose it, but I don't generally watch the wavforms of my spotify tracks. I don't hear anything in this that makes me go HOLY BRICKWALL at all, so I wouldn't even bother looking at the wav. I like the pacing of this track, I like the mixing, the bells sound full and evoke a nice playful character that matches the original. It has plenty of source and plenty of interpretation. Belongs on the site, to me. YES
  4. There's some really beautiful great stuff going on here! Sources are well chosen and blended, the soundscape is nice, and the arrangement is varied and fun. However, you have some real problems going on in the drums overall as early as 30s. They're not blended, they're mostly center, they're right in your face, and they sound fairly low quality. I'm not sure if these were sampled or played and just mixed badly, but they're hurting the piece to the point where it brings it below the bar for me. And when the kick drum comes in at 1:36, it's muddy, bassy, and again, not well blended. It also sounds almost out of time a little bit? It doesn't fit in so many ways with the music. That being said I want to encourage you to fix this! The arrangement IS beautiful and the performances of the instruments are very nice and create such a great environment - but the drums here are the turd in the otherwise very tasty punch. You can do it! NO (resubmit)
  5. Oh man, I had really high hopes for the intro, and then the beat dropped at :15 and suddenly 50% of the entire sound spectrum is gone. We're missing massive parts of the freq spec here, which make the entire mix sound thin and tinny. Arrangement wise, this is spot on and I really like the feel that you're going for. Enough of a hat tip to the original, but enough of your own interpretation too. The piano at 1:10 is a bit harsh, but again it's hard to judge individual instruments when we have nothing to hold them against on the bottom end. That may resolve itself once you fill in the rest of the freqs. Same with the saw lead at 1:45 - it's harsh, but with a proper backing, it might not be. It's hard to make that judgment. Really enjoy the nod to the pan-demonium (see what I did there) throughout the track, with everything kind of bouncing all over the place. I might call it out as a bad thing if I didn't hear it so much in the original, which makes it endearing. This could really could be something fun so I encourage you to work more on filling it out! NO (resubmit)
  6. Oooo I love the piano in the intro with the strings in the background, really nice choices made in the soundscape. The long strings at :30 sound a BIT thin, but when the rest of the orchestra comes in they fit in nicely. I'm not sure if you could do some EQ automation there, but it might be a nice touch. Horn entrance at 1:20 was beautifully done. Overall, I love the orchestra, I love how you balanced everything, the mix is solid, and the arrangement is moving and passionate. Instrumentation is great, and you know how to use em! Great job. YES
  7. I'm going to echo a lot of the other judge's opinoins here, but at the risk of sounding unoriginal, we're on a grid the entire time for this piece and it makes it feel not human at all, which sometimes can be OK if we're in a genre like EDM, but for something like prog metal (and I use the term lightly) we need something that doesn't sound programmed. We can get a little messier with the programming here with some automation and some light touches within the instruments to get them to sound a bit more performed and a little less programmed. Second, there are some mixing issues that I am going to call out that need to be fixed, particularly in the bass. There's massive mud going on around 150-200hz in the bass. I have a finely tuned space and it's resonating pretty hard in here. The bass really was fatiguing my ears by the end of this piece like I needed to turn the whole thing down. And as a result, you've got your drums a bit buried (particularly the kick) and the whole thing comes out unbalanced. I don't need to cite a specific section here because it's fairly pervasive to my ear. There are several sections where it just sounds sparse, particularly the introduction and the ending. Some of this, I think, will be fixed by your humanization, believe it or not, because our ear will be perceiving different performances and even though there's not more instrumentation, it'll SOUND like there's more instrumentation. But, you could probably also use more instrumentation, particularly in the ending. There's so much blank space in the soundscape, and also in the rhythm, that we get the sense that it's thin and incomplete. A very cool interpretation of this source, but we've got some work to do. Good luck! NO (resubmit)
  8. I really like the idea behind this but there are a couple of things that are making me give this a NO. First, the hardpanning. If we're going to make a soundscape, but only use 10% of the field, we're not really making an ambient track. Instead I get the feeling like I'm a little paranoid because nothing is in my center perception. There's TONS of room here to expand and try new and different things, which leads me to point number two. The interpretation. I don't feel like we really intepreted this at all; most of what we've got is in the same key, tempo, and flavor as the original, with better sound files. While I don't necessarily need you to tell me a story in a piece like this, I do need to feel like this is a new take. In this case, while I really do ENJOY listening to this take, I don't feel like it's substantially interpreted enough to hit above the bar. NO
  9. omg this piece has SUCH a fun vibe, there's a lot of good happening here! But ultimately there are a lot of volume issues that are honestly maybe 30 minutes of work away from making this a clear pass. Examples below. Guitar melody at 1:09 could use some EQ trimming of the low/mid freqs so that you can bring out that melody without adding mud to the mix. I love 1:20. Just so happy feeling. Same melodic issue at 1:35 with the piano; its overtaken by the background instruments and the bass especially. You can trim EQ of that piano to give you more headroom to bring it out. 2:00 is a perfect mixing shine for me; I love the flute and trumpet and they are balanced perfectly. But then we get the loud drums popping in at 2:15. But 2:00 is the kind of balance you should shoot for throughout the piece. To me the mixing is the thing that's pushing it below the line. The drums are way too far out in front for me. But I LOVE the attitude of the piece and the guts of it; I really just think this needs some volume adjustments to pass. NO (borderline/resub!)
  10. Alright let's get down with the Funktertale. I'm going to echo a lot of what people said here, namely that there's SO MUCH GOOD going on here. The character of the piece is awesome and I can tell you put a lot of heart into making it. I DO think the piece is too long, arrangement wise, and a lot of the fat could be trimmed without hurting the piece. In fact, it would probably enhance it. The guitar really needs to be humanized - it doesn't feel like a lot of attention was paid to making the performance sound believable, and it absolutely needs to come out more in the mix. Satriani wouldn't be in the background like that! And I feel like that's the the way the guitar goes through most of the piece. It's too much in the background, and too robotic. There were parts in the piece where I actually lost it entirely, and couldn't pick it out, but when it came back in it was clear it was supposed to be the star of the show. There's a lot of other comments here that I think are too buried in detail - the mix is near passable IMO but needs more attention paid to the articulations, the lead guitar, and I think you could benefit from killing a couple repeats. You could easily kill a minute of this piece without losing its power. Maybe this is the author in me, but I'm almost always trying to cut things by 20% on my first editing pass when I'm writing - I think you could benefit from that here. NO (resubmit)
  11. I really like the lo-fi vibe going on here, and was grooving with the piece for the first minute. It's a settle-back kind of piece, and I respect the choice to not go bonkers with throwing the kitchen sink in there. That being said, there's not enough here. Mixing is solid - nit pick is that the drums and bass are too far forward, but only by a pinch. Enough to muddy my ears, but be gentle when tuning it back. It doesn't need that much adjustment. Ultimately I have to agree with a lot of other judges on this one; I need more of whatever this is. This 100% is in Quentin Tarantino's version of Majora's Mask, but also sort of suffers from the same problem that most of his movies do; it meanders and doesn't really get to the point. With a track that's only 2:45, though, you have some room for experimentation and fun - a B section would be awesome here. NO
  12. Man this has such a cool 80s vibe. It's happy and spunky with sparkle with the right amount of lo-fi stuff going on. I personally have no beef with the general midi/old OCR sound; I think the throwback is intentional and you made a choice. 0:57 though, what's going on with that organ or piano in the back? It sounds like it's like...out of tune? If there's some kind of pitch warble on there in the FX chain, I would turn that off or pick a sample that doesn't do it. It's the right timbre, but it actually sounds disonnant, which does not jive with this piece. It actually might be the bass. It could be a mix of both? It's hard to immediately tell, but something is happening with the bass and that piano that makes it sound not right. Drums are generally rinse and repeat for the entire song until that breakdown at 2:35 3:15, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be listening to - the lead is buried WAAAAY back in the mix, almost like it's a karaoke piece. If you're making a saw lead statement, make it. Make sure we're hearing the story we're supposed to be hearing. Piano at 3:45 is too harsh and in the front, and that harshness continues through 4:20 and buries what is otherwise an underwhelming wolf-howl of a lead that fatigued my ears by the time it was done. The piano outro is great, though there's some mud going on at about 400hz. To me though, the song was over at about 5:04, and the rest of the arrangement threw me off. It feels like it ends for 30 seconds or so, and it would have made more sense in context to just kill the piece there after the piano thing. There's so much good going on here, but it needs better attention to detail in the mixing before it's passable. NO (resubmit)
  13. Flute and lead guitar are mixed really well, I love the place it sits in the mix. The beginning up to :29 was a little out of character for the rest of the piece I could definitley use more bass throughout, but that's not a dealbreaker. I don't think it's a mastering issue; I think the bass needs to come forward - at 2:15, I start to hear some low end mud probably around 200hz that might be preventing you from turning up the bass without clipping. Maybe do a little EQ sculpting and see if we can't get that bass more to the front on a final pass. The high trumpets come through nice and clean, really enjoying that sound. The arrangement is a touch long; at 3:00 I kind of felt I'd heard what you had to say and was expecting the song to come to a conclusion, then was surprised to see that I was barely halfway through. The section between :30 and 3:00 would not suffer from deleting one loop, especially since you revisit this later in the piece. The ripping guitar lead at 3:35 def needs to come to the front - that was a GREAT little solo but it got buried in the back. The choir secton 3:30-4m is brilliantly arranged, but less brilliantly mixed. The chorus - along with the accompanying lead guitar - should come RIGHT to the front and get in my ear. There are some timing issues within the chorus performance that, while humanizing, are distracting. I hear a lot of the drums and rhythm guitars, but not a lot of the stuff that's actually making the section. The piano arps in the background muddy it up as well. The re-entry at 4:10 is GREAT. Probably my favorite part. 4:20 suffers from a mixing problem again; the lyrics are all the way in the background. I hear mostly brass stabs and drums here. That carries all the way through 5:15 and further, where I am getting lost in the wall of sound. 6:30 needs more lead guitar in front. This piece is definitely suffering from burying the most interesting parts. I love this; I think with some polish, this will be an incredible track, but the mixing stops me from passing it NO (resubmit)
  14. Lots of great stuff going on here. Cool take on a couple of sources that mixes some really heavy metal stuff with more melodic stuff. Drums are overall too loud and chew up a lot of the great stuff going on. 1:45 was a big culprit here. 2:24 as well. There's something going on on the hihat in the L sound of the space at 1:00 that crackles in a strange way - I actually thought someone was stirring something in the kitchen for a while, but I think it was the hi-hat sample getting a little wonky. Listening a second time - I feel like maybe bringing the guitars up, instead of the drums down, might fix some of this. I feel like the guitar chonk-a-chonks are the thing that should be driving the piece, but instead we get kind of a stale, repetitive drumbeat instead. 3:20 I kind of lost a lot of the piece entirely due to everything being slammed together. Have to agree with Liontamer abotu 3:33-4:26. This mix needs work; drums are overwhelming, the parts are blending together in not a great way, the melody is somewhat lost in there. Ears were extremely tired by the time the section finished because of wall-of-sound. The ending has such a great vibe, but I think the transition to it was a little abrupt. I would likely change my mind if I hadn't just been soured by the mix from 3:33-4:26 NO (resubmit)
  15. I have to say I really didn't expect what was going to happen at 1:25 but then it happened and I was happy. This arrangement is supremely weird in the best kinds of ways. My major issue with the piece is basically what many of the judges here have already said; the piece feels thin and underdeveloped. When we DO have the full ensemble, we get good balance and mixing, even if some of the timbres are a little stale, but the in-between stuff lacks depth. It doesn't have to remain powerful - it's that contrast that helps us appreciate the big booming parts - but if you listen to the first minute and a half, and the last minute in particular, it feels like we're just missing a huge part of the sound spectrum. The drums in the beginning feel sparse, as well as the lead, kind of like you were sketching the skeleton of the piece but never gave it the rest of the muscle and fat that go with making a full body, an analogy that I am going to depart from now becuase it's kind of gross. My suggestion might be that if you ARE going to make the choice to be intentionally thin (and I am assuming here) then make it. This tune reminded me of a Trigun track https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-9iDfnBxLA - if you listen around 1:10, you hear this thin drum sound in the background with a full flute over it, but the arranger there made a clear choice, so the listener isn't confused. This is a good piece, and definitely exceeds the OCR bar in many ways. With some polishing, it would be a clear post. NO (resubmit)
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