Jump to content

How to get sad night time sound into piano music?

Recommended Posts

I'm far from an expert on this, but I have some suggestions you could try.

First, not all pianos and piano samples are created equal. Some are naturally "brighter" than others. It's hard to explain what that means precisely, but certain pianos have a little extra "sparkle" in the upper registers. One characteristic of a brighter tone is that the piano in question will be especially rich in the higher frequency range. Similarly, if you're adding your own reverb, that can also configured to be brighter, versus warmer/darker.

"Bright" is what you want to avoid when going for a nighttime-ish, darker, forlorn tone. It helps to find a piano (real or sampled) that naturally posses this quality, but you can also cheat your way there somewhat by EQing down those higher frequencies that are responsible for sparkly sounds, and by choosing a deep, dark, warm reverb (a lot of reverb plugins literally have a settings labeled "warm" and "bright"). The amount of reverb you can get away with depends on what else is happening in your mix. In Midna's Lament, there's almost nothing else going on, so they cranked the reverb way up, and you get this distant, lonely piano sound.

A couple more tricks are detuning and delay effects (both are used in Midna's Lament, if I'm not mistaken). There's something about a slightly detuned (down) piano that sounds sad to me. Maybe because it sounds like it's been neglected? I don't know, but it's effective. The delay effect used in Midna's Lament (where notes echo more fully, in a different way than reverb), adds to "lonely" aspect of the sound, I'd say.

Most important, however, is the writing. If you're going for "sad," there are certain chords, voicings, passing tones, etc, that can help you convey that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just checked my in my Notation Software, and it does sound like a Bright Piano. I was remembering when I played piano on my MIDI keyboard a few years back, and that's what I remembered it sounding like.

In this case I think it's a mix of what we both think. It could be a reverbed bright piano, or one that was altered in some way.

Edit: In my opinion the brightness gives the song a "sitting under the full moon's light and dreaming into the distance" feel :). Just as Twilight Princess has that "wolf under the full moon" feel to it.

Check out this site for some soundfonts. The General User Soundfont is the one that has the Bright Piano in it. http://musescore.org/en/handbook/soundfont

Edited by Cosmic Sounds
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you can read music try going to ninsheetmusic to see how the song looks. I remember going here to find this so that I could play it on the piano, it is fun to play:). I still have the sheets actually; but not the piano.


Time Signature, Key/Informal Key, and Chord changes can help you accomplish the feel that you want for a song. Minda's Desperation/Lament actually reminds me of Moonlight by Beethoven.

I hope that this helps :).

Edited by Cosmic Sounds
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most of it is actually the writing. Minor chords and not a lot going on will sound more empty and nightly. You don't have to block out the entire chord either; if the melody already contains C and E, you only need the A note in the bass to have a chord. Low velocities will sound more contemplative and vulnerable. High keys will sound bright and lack presence. Low keys, on the other hand, will sound darker.

As already covered, reverb will make it sound emptier and more distant, creating that lonely sound that implies sadness and night. Delays can also be used like this, giving some rhythm to gaps in the playing and letting you write even more minimalistic melodies. Think about how the piano melodies repeat in DKC's Aquatic Ambience. Done with a delay, most of those could just be single four-note melodies and the rest echoes of those. If you have a midi keyboard, a real piano, or a guitar or something, experiment with the melodies there.

Then, as has already been touched on, the frequency balance of the piano sample you're using. There's a band of warm frequencies around 500Hz. If you EQ those down a little and perhaps brighten the sound a bit higher instead, you should get a more cold, clear, crystalline piano sound. We associate those sounds with night and darkness, while warmer sounds imply daytime or lit indoors. Whether you EQ the entire piano sound, or use an already thin, bright, cold sample, or both, this temperature helps you build a more solitary mood.

Combining these gets you that sad night time vibe you're looking for. Play soft, high notes; simple minimal melodies, implied minor chords and minor key melodies, with a cold sounding piano.

Once you have the writing down, transpose it to see how it sounds in different octaves. Maybe it'll sound better in the low range, with the bass EQ'd out; or in the high range. Maybe it'll sound best with the left and right hand writing split far apart, or kept really close.

There's some thoughts on it. Hope this helps. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Minda's Desperation/Lament actually reminds me of Moonlight by Beethoven.

That would be the Alberti bass talking.

Any idea of what types of those things to use?

Pick a minor key and a slowish tempo, arpeggiate a chord in the left hand while you have a relaxed single-line melody in the right, do the aforementioned production tricks, and you've got the effect you're looking for. Go for simple chord progressions: i iv i V kinda stuff, repeat. Just working really quickly, I made four examples in four different keys in four different meters:


I didn't do anything with the audio, this is just Finale's sounds. Out of all four of those, the first two are good, the third has its moments, and the fourth kinda sucks. I'm following the same procedure for each of them, which is arpeggiated accompaniment figure plus a simple melody. The last two, I put the accompaniment in the right hand. You can hear how much better it sounds in the left hand when it switches over in bar 32. The third melody, at bar 17, sounds better with the accompaniment on top, but it's in minor, the melody is also better, and there is more separation between the two layers. Anyway, the point is that this is an easy texture to put together. Try making some yourself now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.


×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...