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Katawa Shoujo - Painful History (Hanako's Theme)

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http://tindeck.com/listen/qssk

Looking for critique/input.

Ok, my first comment is that the instrument being used at the start (the word "Music Box" keeps popping into my head:-P) feels like it's poor quality version being used, especially around the 0:13-0:16 second mark where it just grates. I'm pretty sure that can be fixed by using something else though. The Music Box also makes the song start out "Hesitant", as if it was being played by a kid not quite confident in actually playing. It did get better on that front by the time the piano came into play though.

The song also goes really kind of soft volume wise at both the 0:28-0:30 and 2:27-2:29 mark. The piano works nice, though the song did feel a bit repetitive by the time I hit the two minute mark. Hope this helps you.

Edited by Robo Jesus

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Ok, my first comment is that the instrument being used at the start (the word "Music Box" keeps popping into my head:-P) feels like it's poor quality version being used, especially around the 0:13-0:16 second mark where it just grates. I'm pretty sure that can be fixed by using something else though. The Music Box also makes the song start out "Hesitant", as if it was being played by a kid not quite confident in actually playing. It did get better on that front by the time the piano came into play though.

The song also goes really kind of soft volume wise at both the 0:28-0:30 and 2:27-2:29 mark. The piano works nice, though the song did feel a bit repetitive by the time I hit the two minute mark. Hope this helps you.

Thanks for your input, I want the song to start of hesitant so that's a good thing.

It's a music box or rather a collection of music music boxes according to the description. I changed the EQ some and the velocity on some places. It's the highest quality music box I have so just have to make it work.

Upped the volume at 0:28 and added clarinet so the volume will be higher at 2:27.

Changed piano to harp and violas to marimba at 1:49 to make it less stale. Changed some of the notation on that part as well.

http://tindeck.com/listen/oyvd

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Come to repay back a comment!

I have never heard the original song so I cannot judge how it has been used. I really enjoyed listening to it, the beginning is subtle and works nicely into the next section. @0:32 the guitar/piano is it? I felt it could have come in perhaps a tad softer so the dynamic comes in a little smoother. @0:41 this section is really awesome. Everything after that is nice, the transition @01.50 I thought was particularly well done. I did not feel like things got repetitive at all either. I'm not sure if you're finished or plan to add more but the ending as is kind of says to me "ok I'm done now" and I felt it could go on longer. If it were to go on I would personally be interested to hear a longer variation of the section @0:41 and a change up of the chorus section @0.54.

Sample wise yeah it sounds like soundfonts, not a problem for me as a listening experience, I think you write well. The only sample for me that doesn't fit as well as the others is the higher strings in the chorus section, something smoother could make that more enjoyable. The one thing that irritates me starts right at the beginning and I'm not sure if it's coming from one of the instruments or something you've done to the master channel (or both) but there is an immediate 'hiss' over the mix. Probably due to EQ but try to figure out the cause of that and isolate it, a simple fix would be to use a low pass filter to cut off that noise.

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This is essentially a cover at the moment. Structure and instrumentation are very very similar to the source.

That being said, it is nicely done so far. The samples don't really sound off to me, but then again the source uses cheap samples, so maybe I'm just used to it. Also I don't think the music box sounds cheap at all. The fact that it starts out a little hesitant is perfectly fitting with Hanako's character, so I have no problem with that. The only thing that really stood out for me is that the pizzicato strings are a little mechanical when being played fast due to their small delay. Otherwise the sounds fit together quite well.

On the production side, the scarce percussion has too much high-end reverb and the flutes after 1:49 have too much high end themselves (which might be the source of the aforementioned hiss).

The low end gets a little muddy when piano and strings play together. Maybe taking a little bass out of the strings would help.

But this is all just nitpicking. My main advice for now is: Change it up a little.

Minor notes: Is the music box clipping at 2:03? And what is that clicky-scratchy background noise at 1:56 and between 2:07 and 2:15? For some reason, I like it. :)

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Thanks for your comments, RoeTaka and Sinescape.

Here is the updated version: http://tindeck.com/listen/rlqp

I tried making the changes according to both of your feedback. I will list it if you feel like reading the changes. I'm not sure which version I prefer now.

I wanted to stick close to the original. I mainly wanted to hear it with different samples.

RoeTaka

  • Changed the 0:32 dynamics, yes I'm done with the song unless I get more feedback but on the arranging/composing front I don't think I'll add or change much.
  • The samples are from Albion 1, Kontakt Native Library, MSO (modern symphony orchestra) and Spitfire Audio (Pianos, and Vibes in the new version).
  • Changed the string hi to a different sample, made automation to legato speed on it and on the flute hi.
  • Lowered the warmth (in Pultronic EQ, which I use for mastering) to get less hiss/high frequency noise/static, also lowered the overall highs and lows.

Sinescape

  • Positioned the pizzicato in the beginning differently to make it less delayed but still somewhat awkward.
  • Changed the marimba to vibe.
  • Lowered the high frequency on the flute.
  • Lowered the low, mid-low frequencies on piano and bass strings.
  • The music box had 3 notes that were high velocity at 2:03 so it sounded like it was clipping, I changed that.

The noises at 1:56 and on are sounds from the music box.

There are some other minor changes that I did that wasn't based on the feedback but they are less noticeable and I don't feel like it's worth listing them.

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Ah, the new version definitely sounds more pleasant, at least to me. I like the new dynamics at 0:33, this doesn't startle me anymore.

I'm wondering what makes the pizzicato strings sound so awkward. My best guess is that the sample sounds like a couple of performers plucking the same note with slightly different timing, which sounds good when they play slowly. Once it gets faster, real performers wouldn't have the same timing differences anymore because it gets easier to synchronize when you have more events to synchronize to. Hence, the sample becomes unnatural in these circumstances.

The most "emulatory" way to solve this is to record multiple single-instrument takes instead of one multi-instrument take. Alternatively, you could have the faster notes played by only one instrument while the slower notes are played by multiple instruments. That would make a nice variation without straying from the source.

You introduced a rather unrealistic pitch-bend at 1:08 and 1:36. I think changing the attack time instead would work better.

The oboe(?) going down at 2:17 sounds as if each note is blown separately instead of playing legato. This, I admit, could be difficult to change depending on the available samples.

I hope I don't come across as too negative here. This piece is quite beautiful already, and the fact that I have to resort to such minor details should convey that. Orchestra is among the most difficult things to get right, and you're doing a nice job of it so far.

On the production side, there also is less and less to quibble about. You took care of the muddy lows well, though I wouldn't mind having a little of the piano lows reintroduced. The hiss is still there, but less pronounced. RoeTaKa's suggestion of using a lowpass filter on the channel causing the hiss could suffice without having to change the EQ.

The marimba/vibe change makes the piece sound even more "fragile", which I like quite much.

The reverbs would benefit from "unification". At the moment it sounds a little as if the instruments are recorded in different rooms.

Edited by Sinescape
Typo correction

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Thanks for your continued feedback Sinescape.

All the way up to version seven http://tindeck.com/listen/ifbc

  • I changed the pizzicato to solo violin + (low volume) ensemble violin.

In terms of timing it works better. I can't get the pizzicato from Albion to do fast pizzicato notes well, if I stretch it, it fits better but sounds worse.

  • Changed the speed of the legato.
  • Layered the oboe.

I don't have a good oboe legato though. Only have samples with a starting blow.

  • Added some lows back, tweaked the eq further on instruments.
  • Changed the reverbs.

I don't have a clue to make them feel like they are from the same room when they aren't, there are 3 main sample sources.

  • Created some automated lowpass on areas where it was needed the most (beginning and end).

This song is becoming a painful history. I appreciate your feedback though, it's just frustrating to not be able to make it sound how I want.

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Are we at version 7 already? I count only 4. Anyway, I'm glad I can help!

The pizzicato sounds way more natural now. The solo violin works better as a de-facto rhythmic instrument at that point. It may fit that role even better if the volume of the few off-beat plucks was lower than of the on-beats.

The pitch-bend on the strings @1:09/1:36 is still there, albeit less obvious due to the longer attack time. I'm not a performer myself, but I think they usually don't do that aside from vibrato.

I have an idea for the legato oboe that might work here: I don't know Kontakt, but I doubt it comes without adjustable sample start times. You could use that to skip the initial blow of the oboe and start further into the sample.

Production:

The hiss is history! (badum-tss) Well done.

The whole "same room" thing essentially means not having a big damn concert hall reverb on one instrument and a small chamber reverb on the other (speaking in extremes here). The reverb changes you've made for this version have helped in that regard. I have to admit though that I had listened to the last two versions on my portable in-ear plugs. I'm listening on studio-grade headphones now and on those the previous version isn't as bad as I had made it sound. Version 7 is still better though.

A second thing the better equipment reveals is that the high strings are a bit loud in comparison to the rest and a little sharp (especially at 1:33). Nitpicking again, but otherwise I can't really find anything that bothers me.

Don't let the song become a chore. There's always room for improvement in every song that exists, so at some point you have to decide that the song is finished and then stop fiddling around with it. I know the frustration potential of the difference between what the song sounds like in your head and in reality. The wonderful thing is that as in many other things, perfection in music is boring anyways. The imperfections are part of the soul of a musical piece. That's the reason why I like the clicky-scratchy music box sound so much despite it objectively being non-musical noise. It's not even rhythmical noise, but it adds a tremendous amount of charm to the piece. I bet you didn't have that in mind when you began working on the thing. Long story short and sorry for the rambling: Don't become obsessed with it. It will never be perfect, and that is a good thing really.

Also, you did pick one of the most difficult pieces of the entire soundtrack, so you brought this on yourself. :) "The Student Council" or "Raindrops and Puddles" would have been much easier targets.

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I counted with the versions before posting as well.

Number eight http://tindeck.com/listen/gfaw

  • I made the off-beat notes slightly lower on the pizzicato.
  • Made 1:09 and 1:36 not legato cause no matter which speed I used it would still make that sound.
  • Tried my best at making the oboe legato, by cutting off each start time except the first.
  • There would be cool if there was a VST that could measure reverb realtime, that way you could compare and adjust easier. I don't have an ear for it so that'd be really useful.
  • Lowered the strings in volume and high eq.

I really appreciate the feedback, it has helped me learn new things especially workarounds. I'm still not completely happy with how it sounds but maybe I'll go back to it some day when I can do it more justice.

The music box sounds weren't intentional, it was just there, but you're right it does add a lot of character. I did become obsessed with it for a while. Gonna try to stay a little more casual in the future.

I could've picked another song but Painful History and Cold Iron are my absolute favorites. I tried to cover Cold Iron but I didn't capture the feeling of the original.

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Hey there,

sorry for keeping you waiting for so long. I was on vacation and just recently caught up with things here.

The subtle improvements show. Especially the fluctuation in pizzicato volume makes it seem much more natural. The oboe still sounds a little artificial, but I guess there's only so much you can do with the samples you have (that is a general "you", I have similar problems with my samples).

I'm running out of specific things to suggest. The overall reverb a bit much in my opinion, but that's a matter of taste really. I'm starting to prefer your rendition to the original due to the nicer samples.

That being said, you don't by any chance have plans to, perhaps, do the same with Shadow of the Truth, do you? ;) That's one of my favorites that suffers terribly from sample quality. The piano is more or less the only instrument that sounds convincing there.

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