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Ice Climbers - Big Band remix


JohnStacy
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Hello.

I have recently gotten into arranging video game music seriously.  Before it was never anything significant, but now I'm putting my chops as a jazz arranger to work!

Here I have a track from an album I'm working on of big band video game music.  The album is a work in progress, but this is one of the more complete tracks.  It is the theme from the Ice Climbers for the NES. Which can be found here

The ensemble is the JohnStacy Orchestra, a big band dedicated to video game, anime, and similar styles of music.  For recording, it is a multitracked ensemble with 2 sax players playing 5 parts, 1 french horn player (me) playing 4 trumpet and 2 horn parts, 1 trombone player playing 4 parts, a tubist, a drummer, and a pianist.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/8065011/Ice%20climbers%20copy.mp3

The track features Misael Tambuwum on Piano and Jacob Rives on Trombone.  This is mostly complete, although I will gladly take advice from the community on how to improve it.  Thank you for your time.

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Good stuff, this update seems to improve the mix nicely. I think Smooth4lyfe is referring to the horn leads around 0:42 - 1:02, which are making the mix a little right-heavy during that section, and I agree they could be shifted a bit more towards center for that part, but other than that everything seems well-balanced. Around 1:22 I also thought I heard a bit of clipping/distortion or maybe just a weird hiccup in the mix - listened a few times and it does seem to be an artifact of some kind, maybe have a look at that. But yeah, good trumpet and drum solos, a great ending, and a nice length of just under 4 minutes so that the song feels concise and satisfying.

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I changed the panning, everything now fits in a much narrower radius, and the Saxes aren't far right anymore.  As for the thing at 1:22, I don't hear a difference or notice anything.  Nothing in the DAW is peaking or anything at that point, so I'm not sure what it is.

 

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Yeah, I prefer the saxes with the new panning, sounds better balanced to my ear. Upon relistening, it's possible the sound I was hearing at 1:22 is just part of the brass fall that occurs right around there, so as long as nothing's clipping in your DAW you're probably good to go.

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There's probably a hundred different ideas on how instruments should be panned. I find this panning a bit too excessive, or at least unbalanced. I prefer that each panned element of the mix is counterbalanced with an element panned opposite. In EDM, you can have hihat left and a shaker loop right. In rock, you can have hihat left and a hissing, noisy amp right. That's the high range, and the same applies down the ranges down to the lows where human ears can't really discern direction much, and it just wastes headroom to make it stereo.

As for this track, the right-panned brass doesn't seem counterbalanced with anything. It starts off with everything slightly left of center, until the right-panned brass comes in (before the rest of the brass comes in, as they're slightly left of center). Imitating the positioning of the band from the perspective of an audience member is a valid pan philosophy. In this case though, it seems this audience member is actually on stage. I suppose that'd just as valid, but a lot less common. In my experience, anyway. I don't listen to enough jazz to know, and rarely with my mixing/eval headphones anyway.

Yes, this is on headphones. It's most likely a lot less of an issue on speakers. Still, I would recommend putting the drums center, and trying to counterbalance everything when possible. It might be too late for this, depending on how it's recorded. Fortunately, it's no dealbreaker. Just a nitpick that's worth three paragraphs of text.

The arrangement is great. Lots of creative takes and variations on the source, easily recognizable, nice structure to it. It feels a little too loose, though, as if you needed a conductor, a louder drummer, or something.

As for the mixing, it should probably be louder. Difficult to say when I'm listening through soundcloud. Dig up a couple of big band jazz things on ocr, for reference. #1847 The Shinra Shuffle and #1947 Big-Band Battlefield both sound louder than your track (again, soundcloud might be mesing with this). Just don't overdo it. Better too soft than too loud.

The piano should be louder, more clear, more upfront, more prominent in some way. It's lost somewhere there in the background, yet you feature the pianist in your first post. That seems a bit contradictory. It sounds okay during the soft parts, eg around 2:00, but even there it could be a little louder.

There's still technical adjustments left to do in the mix, but depending on the material you have recorded, you might not be able to correct everything pointed out to you about it. Find the point when it's no longer cost-effective, time- and effort-wise, to keep fiddling with this one, and then sub it.

Cool stuff. Nice work, guys.

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I'm getting some nice Nestico vibes here. Cool arrangement!!

It might be a bit late because everything is recorded already, but I think that there could be a few improvements. It might not be applicable to this mix, but you can always take the advice with you for your next song, which I really hope there will be.

 

First of all the bass lines at the intro, before the horns come in, are quite boring. He/she keeps going back to the root of the chord at the first beat of each measure. If you take a listen to the original Count Basie recordings you can hear some really nice four on the floor bass lines which are way more interesting to listen to. 

Then for the piano, I'd suggest to have played less. Basie might be the extreme, but especially when accompanying, less is more. Some of those piano lines are really nice, but they do not always suit the rest of the music. At the trombone solo I hear more piano than trombone. Again, I'd suggest listening to the Count Basie orchestra. Playing piano in a big band is the worst kind of piano playing there is, as it 

The drumming is good, but I think you could have given him some more help in the arrangement. He doesn't play any of the kicks in the horns, and at times he's just doing some normal swing drumming while the rest of the band is playing syncopes, which takes away the swing. Also, at the end the drums play a bit longer than the rest of the band, which kind of ruins the climax.

Then for the horns. It's cool, but at times a bit messy. Most likely because there are some slight articulation differences between the voices. It also seems like the trumpet isn't really used to playing those high notes, as the tone itself is a bit lacking when it gets above the staff. 

The messy lines are sometimes also the fault of the arrangement, though. For example at 3.38 the saxes get in the way of the trumpets by playing those accompanying lines. Writing three different horn lines through each other is really hard, and unfortunately it doesn't really work that well at some places. The trombone accompaniment at that spot works well, though. I'd also suggest checking the voicing at 2.44, right before the drumsolo. It sounds weird. And not in some Brookmeyer kind of way. 

 

But yeah, I really enjoyed it. I think OC Remix needs more big band, so thanks for helping out!!

 

 

 

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The opening reminds me of what Ice Climbers would sound like if Vince Guaraldi scored it.

I'm liking the mix. A few comments:

- 0:40ish woodwinds sound older, or like Mole Mountain from Super Mario RPG, which is incongruous with more vibrant brass that comes in soon after

-1:03 background brass are a bit... muted? They, too, are a bit out of place with other instruments.

-1:45 bring that trumpet forward!

- 2:53 any way to include a stand-up bass to keep energy up and segue into the the woodwinds?

This is a great concept piece, and a style that's generally lacking here, at least in my experience. Really, I think it's just a matter of samples and balancing. The commenters above know a lot more about music theory and style, but I think it would fit in nicely with any Glenn Miller Orchestra set list. Good work!

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