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mod-review Zelda: OoT - Gerudo Valley (2/1/12 new version)

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UPDATE 2/1/12: New version! Quad tracked rhythm guitars and a bunch of minor changes. Marked for mod review.

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1/18/12: Version 4

Exciting news: ALL electric guitar and sax parts are now live recordings! That's courtesy of Aster and Xenon Odyssey, respectively. This song's come a long way from when it was just MIDI.

Other changes:

-lots of level adjustments (mostly to mix the guitar/sax recordings)

-put a high-pass filter on a bunch of instruments to get rid of unnecessary lows

-toned down the lows on the kick in the first half

-added a lo-fi/distortion effect to the strings transition

-added some movement to the choir in the 2nd half of the rock section

-now using EZ Drummer for cymbals and hi-hat; minor drum part changes

-now using T-Racks limiter & soft clipper on master track to increase volume (not using Mastering preset like last time)

Potential areas for improvement:

-Sax needs to blended into the mix. I've messed around with adding reverb but haven't been able to get it to sit naturally with everything else. Could use tips on how to do this.

-Spanish-sounding guitar in beginning should be replaced with real guitar.

-More movement, particularly in first half, per Monobrow's suggestion.

-Overall sound could be better. Still doesn't sound great compared to other songs. Don't know why. :-/

12/9/11: Version 3

9/7/11: Version 2

Original post 8/4/10: I know, I know, yet another Gerudo WIP (3 on the first page right now)... what can I say, just funny timing.

This is my 2nd remix attempt (the 1st being a WIP Hebereke piano mix). It's still very much a work in progress (as you'll no doubt be able to tell), but I'd like some feedback. Whether comments on the arrangement in general, production suggestions (I'm a total newb in that department), telling me how much it sucks, etc.

Notes!

-I purposely avoided listening to the other Gerudo mixes on the site (was kind of bummed to see there are already 9). Hopefully this isn't similar to any of them.

-Everything is fake. I'm hoping to have my brother record the rhythm guitar part. Ideally I'd find someone to record the lead guitar parts, as they obviously don't sound too great right now. They're probably also too loud/messy.

-Could probably use more variety in the drum track. Sax could sound better (?). Could just start the song with the normal-sounding guitar/harp-ish instrument rather than messing with the sound in the beginning like I did.

-I can't pan at all on my computer right now 'cause my speakers don't fully work with the Audiophile 2496 sound card I just got (I think I need multiple cable adapters), so there will definitely be panning improvements to be made.

Enough talk, here's the song:

Original version

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The disclaimer: I am drinking and reviewing things. Insert my standard disclaimer + drinking here. Also, I'll be doing a lot of these.

Okay, in the beginning of this, I get the gerudo theme pretty heavy, but slow. It's too slow to work for me. It needs something to make it fun and interesting. As of now, it just drags. It's neat the sounds you've got, and the echo is trying to make up for the slow. but until the thing picks up, it's just too slow. It' needs fast+slow moments to make up for how slow the thing goes. IMHO.

After things pick up the rhythm guitar is trying to keep things together with that 16th patern, but it isn't enough. The track as a whole still suffers from the slow speed. A track like this imo needs lots in the way of tempo changes and 1/2 time to 2x time changes. It's just a hard thing to balance.

Length is an issue, but I'm sure the WIP has something to do with that.

Instrumentation and levels sound pretty good imo. Just needs those production changes.

Hope this helps.

-H

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I like the opening "secular medieval music" feel. With better production, that will sound great on its own. Personally, I'm not feeling the sax at all, but that's your call obviously. The introduction of the rock elements about half-way through the piece seem to uproot what has been planted during the first half. I like the idea of introducing percussion, but I think the distorted guitars are too much for this rearrangement. That's my opinion. I think the best thing for you to do would be to think of where you really want the remix to go. You have good ideas and elements, but they need to be focused on a central goal.

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It's like John Coltrane(famous sax player) time-travelled to the medieval ages, formed a band, then gatecrashed a rock show. Lol. Joking aside, there's not much I can add that hasn't been said, I think SubNormal summarised it nicely. However if you are going to keep the guitars, having them recorded live would definitely help.

I also came across a short guide that could help improve the sound of the sax http://www.benvesco.com/blog/mixing/2007/mix-recipes-saxophone-eq-and-delay/

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Yeah, LOVED where the intro was going and then the sax just killed it for me, but piano and harp work for me. The second part caught me off-guard, it's good, but could use a bit of polishing.

If it where me, I'd replace the sax alltogether, throw in a second pad just after the begining, and up the overall depth by adding small details here and there. I have to say, I like the slow tempo on this one. I've heard enough fast tempo gerudo remixes and none of them I find as interesting as this one.

Otherwise I'll keep my eye on this one. Keep it up!

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I'm gonna disagree with the comments about the speed being too low. I actually like the more deliberate tempo taken here. With some actual instruments instead of these virtual replacements he's using, it could be even better.

For instance, that guitar/harp thing at the beginning sounds pretty flat once the filter comes off of it. If I were you, I'd either get a real acoustic guitar and play it in, or just leave the filter on so it's not so obviously a guitar in the first place.

Soundscape is a little dull when the sax comes in. I'd try and add some little flourishes into the back, like wind chimes, or something, just to break the monotony. The arrangement here is also too conservative. Something needs to happen here to vary things up, because it's pretty boring.

Transition to the heavier section is much too abrupt. There's some solid dynamic contrast, but nothing to really stick the two parts together, so I was kind of thrown off by it. What I would do is play a power chord at really low volume, and fade it in to signify that the next section was coming. Or maybe play it backwards or something nifty like that.

The heavier section is a lot more interesting, though. So most of the work needs to be done on the first part.

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I'm loving this beat! So laid back and calming. Makes you just want to nod your head like Pedro! This is good stuff.

In contrast to the last post, I think the abrupt change from time in 3 to time in 4 was great. You gave it that bang it needed to really make the arrangement sparkle. It would be even COOLER if you, over time, turned the hard part into a super-mind-numbing metal chase/duet/competition between two guitars. Like it speeds up and then at the end when you just can't take it anymore, it breaks to the slow time in 3 intro. That would be cool. I think the kick in the intro is either too muddled or too soft. It's a little distracting. Nice work here, dude. Not my style so much, but I enjoyed everything but the very end. :D

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I like the direction you took with it. I would suggest adding something else to the beginning. It does get monotonous. Maybe a tenor sax would work.

The transition into the rock piece is very abrupt. You could try slowly fading it in or something like that.

Personally, I would cut out the rock part and keep going with what you had in the beginning. If I was in your shoes I would make the whole thing into a medievelish sounding remix, but that's just my opinion.

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Terrible phase interference in the muffled intro. Dry sax and guitar vs really distant drums is a pretty interesting idea, but those foreground sounds must sound better for it to work. Unexpected rock section, might need better transitioning but I've heard worse. Terrible paper-thin guitar. No bass instrument? Volume edits towards the end do not sound intentional at all. Outro is cool tho.

Seems like you're trying to do something way above what you have the tools or skills for. Also seems a bit random to go from an arpeggio-based calm bit to something that's supposed to rock. That calm thing you had going had some promise, and a rock version of the source is possible, but it's gonna be tricky to bridge them into a single track and still have the track make sense.

It's a bit on the conservative side, so if you're aiming for ocr you'd best practice the creative interpretation side of arranging. I don't see this track going anywhere in its current shape, so I'd suggest you scavenge this tracks for ideas that'd work in the same arrangement. You had some good ones in here.

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Thanks for the comments, everyone! I definitely appreciate the feedback.

I got to spend some more solid time with this recently. Some of the changes:

-Removed the filter and slightly modified the sound on the opening guitar/harp/koto.

-Added some atmosphere & percussion to fill out the piano section starting at 1:17

-Added a strings break between the calm and rock sections

-Guitar now fades in to start the rock section

-Improved the sound of the rhythm electric guitar

-Added a bass to the rock section

-Added another set of 8 measures before the electric leads come in

-Volume/panning/cymbal changes

Here's version 2:

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DOWNLOAD LINK

For completeness' sake, here's a version without the strings break. I prefer the break, but that might be because I've heard this song so many times that the break's freshness makes it seem better.

Once again, feedback is welcome. I'm still thinking I'd like to add more to the rock section (most likely original material), but I haven't tackled that yet. Some comments in response to the feedback:

-I definitely want to stick with the slow feel; it doesn't sound too slow to me.

-I like the way it is with the slow section and the rock section, so I don't see myself cutting one out. That's the way it's been in my head since the beginning.

-I never would have thought to call this medieval-sounding, but three people called it that, so there must be something there.

-Other than the filter removal and slight modification of the sound, the beginning's still mainly the same. Gotta figure out what I want to do with the guitar as well as decide on the sax - maybe get someone to play a real one or replace it with another instrument. I do like having a sax there, but I'm not in love with it to the point where I couldn't change it.

Volume edits towards the end do not sound intentional at all.

I'm not sure which volume edits you were talking about. Hpefully that's not an issue with this version; nothing sticks out to me at least.

Seems like you're trying to do something way above what you have the tools or skills for.

There's probably some merit to that. I've enjoyed composing (mostly simple stuff) for years as a hobby, but I haven't really worked with serious music production tools much before this. I'm still very much learning as I go.

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Acoustic guitar sample is lol. :D So's the timing issue at 0:19 - the voice comes in just too late to line up properly. Too much bass in bg in 1:16-2:00 part (and the whole thing could stand to lose a few dB of lows). Rock part is too loud (clipping!!). Rhythm guitar is too soft, distant and reverby (and fake-y, obviously). Additional guitar melody at 3:19 too loud.

The volume edits I was talking about before were the sudden stops of the tracks at 3:34. The reverb makes those a bit softer, but they're still too drastic, as if you killed the volume on half the tracks.

It's too disjointed for ocr. I still like your ideas, just not the way you've tried to fit every idea you've had in here. It's like you stitched together two distinct mixes of the source, one that's atmospheric and slow (0:00-1:55), and one that's a slow rock thing that would rock if done right (1:55-end). Not saying this kind of style medley can't be done (it's being done all the time on this site), just saying it's not gonna work like this.

But whatever. You've made significant progress with your update, that says something about your ability to apply critique and/or your critical listening skill. Keep improving. :D

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Excellent ideas but definitely needs some better samples. I'm not sure if you wanted that initial arpeggio to sound like acoustic guitar or electronic piano.

Better samples (at least for the leads) will take this remix way high up. Keep up the good work and best of luck!

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Acoustic guitar sample is lol. :D So's the timing issue at 0:19 - the voice comes in just too late to line up properly. Too much bass in bg in 1:16-2:00 part (and the whole thing could stand to lose a few dB of lows). Rock part is too loud (clipping!!). Rhythm guitar is too soft, distant and reverby (and fake-y, obviously). Additional guitar melody at 3:19 too loud.

The volume edits I was talking about before were the sudden stops of the tracks at 3:34. The reverb makes those a bit softer, but they're still too drastic, as if you killed the volume on half the tracks.

It's too disjointed for ocr. I still like your ideas, just not the way you've tried to fit every idea you've had in here. It's like you stitched together two distinct mixes of the source, one that's atmospheric and slow (0:00-1:55), and one that's a slow rock thing that would rock if done right (1:55-end). Not saying this kind of style medley can't be done (it's being done all the time on this site), just saying it's not gonna work like this.

But whatever. You've made significant progress with your update, that says something about your ability to apply critique and/or your critical listening skill. Keep improving. :D

The thing about the guitar is... it's not supposed to be a guitar. A not-so-good guitar patch is one of the instruments used in the blend, yeah, but to me, it's just a sound. I think it fits the mood of the song well. Not saying I'm going to keep it, but it's not like I meant for that to be an acoustic guitar and that was the best I could do.

The voices sounded fine to me, but if you really listen, I guess you could say they are a touch behind the beat. The sudden volume drops are intentional instrument drop-outs for dramatic effect right before the "climax" if you will. The right-side guitars are definitely too loud, not sure where along the line that happened. I agree that the rock section as a whole is too loud, so I'll work on bringing down the levels of everything evenly. Took a few dbs off from the lows per your suggestion.

Thanks for the specific critiques; it's very helpful. :)

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Well, after more than a year I've finally decided to come back to this and try to finish it. I messed with the beginning a bunch and made some other minor changes:

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I know it's still a bit rough. My next step is gonna be replacing those fake guitars with real ones; that'll make a huge difference. Unfortunately, I don't play guitar at all. If anyone is interested in collaborating with me and recording the electric guitar parts, please let me know. I'd also be interested in collaborating with someone on the sax in the beginning; though not as bad as the guitars, it could definitely be improved. I've started a thread over in the Recruit & Collaborate forum; between that one and this one, hopefully I'll get some responses.

As always, any feedback is appreciated.

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Cool track so far, one of my favourite sources ever!

Seems a bit conservative still, so maybe have the sax and guitar come in at the end for some Pink Floyd style solo-off as the track fades out for 7 minutes. Will have another listen once you've got the live parts recorded!

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Hello to my new favorite WIP.

Dude, this is awesome. Killer even. The slowdown makes this absolutely haunting, and I understand what you mean by not trying for an acousting guitar sound. During the first few seconds I didn't, but it clicked after that and I think it sounds very good.

The only two issues I have:

1) The choice of using a sax as lead. I by no means think it sounds bad; I was actually surprised by how much I liked it. With this type of mix and emotion however, a violin seems the better choice to me. Purely a style thing, and you may be using the sax just to avoid that style, but whatevs. I think a violin would rule so hard, especially considering the transition you later make to rock. The violin could back up the electric guitar and add some serious oomph. Which brings me to my other issue...

2) I LOVE the rock portion. But the segue to it bothers me; it's too sudden. If around that 2:25ish mark you could add another short section and allow the lead guitar to bubble up from underneath before it comes charging out, it would feel more like a transition of emotion rather than two good ideas that were sewn together for the sake of having a single song.

Just my opinions, and I'll gladly admit I'll be burning this onto a CD for my vehicle regardless of if you make these changes. Great work!

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First let me say that the sax and the guitar combination is brilliant for this arrangement.

I love the intro to this song, it's slow and old school metal. The acoustic sounding arrangement for the guitar here is perfect, reminded me of a few of the old black sabbath intro's, until the sax comes in. But because of that, i feel a buildup near the transition with the sound of an open guitar's volume and gain getting turned to 11, but then it just muddles after the first chord.

The rhythm guitar is too simple. To me, it sounds like it should be loping more, as in galloping, the easy rhythm part. It doesn't have be made faster or anything; just for the sake of being fast, but it would break up a little of the monotony of a rhythm line that doesnt change.

I can hear a small gallop in there, but dammit if i dont want to hear it loping with aggression at one part, particularly where the solo is at the very least. It would do wonders for adding a bit of oomph to the piece, because sometimes you loose the rhythm guitar totally to the harmonics of the first lead and the 3rd guitar.

Other than that, it's just my favorite gerudo valley mix of all time. Love it.

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My one complaint would be that the first and second halves are at pretty different volumes. As someone who listens to OCR in the car on crappy speakers a lot, if I turn up the volume enough to hear the first part well, it'll blast my eardrums in the second.

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Finally revisited this:

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I've spent quite a bit of time on it the past few days. Aside from a bunch of minor changes (mostly levels), I added a sax solo to the end as well as some interplay between the sax and guitars. The song's now 5:11 instead of 4:51. I also changed the very end to a triplet feel.

One thing you'll notice is the rhythm guitar and first two lead guitar parts are now real. They're currently rough takes and will end up being replaced by the guy I'm collaborating with, but it's definitely an upgrade from the fake guitars. The other guitar parts are fake and will hopefully be replaced by real guitar in the future.

The sax is still fake. I'm collab'ing with someone here and will hopefully have real sax the next time I update this.

What I could really use now are mixing tips. The track seems to sound decent on my Rokit 6s and headphones, but very "eh" on cheap consumer speakers. Even on the high-end stuff I know it could be better. The rock section in particular seems lacking compared to other rock remixes I've listened to. This is the first time I've ever tried to mix real guitars in one of my songs, and I'm a newb when it comes to production to begin with. Any guitar tips, EQing suggestions, and comments in general are greatly appreciated! :)

In case this helps at all - right now I have T-Racks on the master track with a Mastering 1 preset on it. After bouncing it from Pro Tools, I loaded it up in Audacity and used its compressor based on the peaks to try to increase the volume a bit (seems to only make a minor difference). This may very well be a really bad idea, but like I said, I don't know a whole lot about mixing and mastering yet (despite buying and reading through some books awhile back).

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The guitars sound good to me. The choir is setting nicely in the mix. The sax sounds okay in the beginning, but doesn’t sound right when it is thrown in with the guitars. That can be fixed either with some panning, surgical eqing, or a combo of both. Or it could be some simple volume adjustments via automation around that particular area.

IMO it shouldn’t be necessary to use a compressor to raise the volume of the song in Audacity after you supposedly mastered the track. The compressing and limiting via T-Racks should do that for you. I guess that particular preset is not the one that works the best but then again presets in a couple of these mastering programs (ESPECIALLY OZONE) don’t cut it. If anything, the “Do My Own Damn” setting approach to these programs is the most effective. The first step is to make the mix sound as good as it possibly can. When you do that you will find that there is generally less to do in the mastering stage. One thing to avoid when using those types of programs is to use presets. Also avoid using every component of the program. Use what is neccessary. What was it that was necessary? Well for that you had to listen with unbiased ears (which is difficult if it is your own work).

This is what I usually what I do with my self-mastering. I start with EQing. Not surgical EQing where you do mad cutting and boosting at a very specific frequency ranges like you would with instruments, but more broader and subtle boosts and cuts. You shouldn’t have to do more than maybe +/- 3-6dB to notice a difference. Multiband Compression is like regular compression but at specific frequencies. I don’t really use it because I don’t know how to use it properly and even from what I read it is really used most of the time if it is not possible to redo the mix. Since you are capable of redoing the mix, you may not need it and probably better off without it (IMO anyways). Regular compression is fine I guess. To boost the overall volume, I set the limiting threshold to -0.1dB and just boost until I get a satisfactory volume that doesn’t squash the mix.

There is a free mastering guide on isotope that is a REALLY good resource. Find the link below.

http://izotope.fileburst.com/guides/Mastering_With_Ozone.pdf

This is specific to Ozone but the concepts for the most part still apply.

Hope this helps a bit. Good luck with your track!

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Interesting.

I like how this moves a lot.

My problems:

1. Humanization - As intimate as the overall concept is for the first half, the writing in the beginning seems kind of choppy, especially on the first guitar. Is that a sample? And who played guitar for you later on, or is that you? If you can record some acoustic and embellish on that part you've written a bit more I think it would help a lot. More flamenco guitar writing please. I think in a lot of the first half, you could take more liberties where you do not.

2. The sax is nice, if your current collab partner isn't Prophet, and it falls through for some reason, yeah ask him.

3. I think you have a cool semi-Vangelis effect going on in the first half, but you could take it to the next level. Basically, don't be afraid to fill up the sound spectrum with nuances here and there to make the intro sections seem a bit more delicate. You want to give an impression of movement more IMO. Right now everything just seems a bit too blocky. I think something like, flamenco guitar things here and there throughout the song would help.

4. That violin part before the song changes really doesn't fit. It sounds really really fake, and even if you reverbed it up I think it would still sound out of place. I get the idea of the transition, but maybe try something else for it?

5. When the RAWK part comes in, things get a bit better, but it's still a bit blocky for the most part. I think part of it is those whole note choirs... Like in the first half, more movement would be helpful. Crescendo/decrescendo, volume automations, don't be afraid to write notes in the middle of measures w/ them... The song gives the impression that it should be very dynamic, and instead, besides the nice drama of the sax and guitar, an occasional drum writing, it's kind of flat. Also, the same on the choir writing in the beginning as well actually.

6. 1:36 gets kind of muddy. It's those low notes with lots of resonance. When they combine w/ the kick drum, things get a bit too clashy. I'd honestly EQ back the kick a bit, make sure all freq you are using for it are necessary. When there is clash like that, it actually takes away from the sound you're going for when the two parts fight for the same place in the spectrum.

7. I think overall your sound is okay, but could sound better... Just make sure you're EQing up some freq to make parts playing sound their best, and getting rid of unnecessary frequencies that will clash w/ other parts more IMO. The current compression seems to work okay w/ the later guitar driven parts, but I'm not sure it adds to atmosphere of the intro.

8. The intro just needs to sound wetter IMO... Draw back on too much wet/resonance on lower parts, but don't be afraid to get some higher freq wet. You have a whole room you can fill better IMO.

Phew, that was way more than I thought I would write. Hope at least some of this helps, and good luck.

For semi-inspiration here's some

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Everyone's hit this with a decent amount of feedback, but the drums didn't seem to get covered, so that's what I'm here for (I'm starting to hate myself for playing to the "percussionist" stereotype, but whatever I guess...). The bass drum in the beginning seems to mask the other stuff quite a bit (sax and choirs, namely); try some EQ or even low end compression, since that sample sounds pretty heavy in the ultra low range.

Later on in the rock section, a couple of the drum fills feel super mechanical. It's mainly when you have a lot of notes in succession on the higher drums (snare and high toms). I'd recommend slight velocity changes and some minor quantization so it doesn't feel so strangely perfect in time. Part of it is the attack on the drums too, since it never changes; if you have another sample with a *slightly* softer attack, put all the notes after the initial attack note played on that instrument. Since a drum head vibrates when you hit it, notes played in quick succession will have slightly different attacks because the vibrations position the head slightly differently by the time the stick gets there again.

Also, I will go ahead and say that the string segment leading into the rock section does feel pretty out of place; sequencing strings is really F'ing hard.

That's all I got for ya, hope this helps!

pH

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