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Souperion

1. work-in-progress Golden Sun: Wintery Imil

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This is a mix I've been trying to solidify for a few months now. Imil has a captivating, homey feeling that welcomes you in and seats you next to a warm fire. I wanted to take it out into the frozen woods under an aurora lit sky. Poetics aside, this is the product of an amateur playing with equipment that's probably out of his league (EW Symphonic Orchestra and Sytrus), so I welcome any tips/hints/critiques that could help me make this a more complete song. Thank you, and enjoy!

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Hey Souperion! I love the Golden Sun soundtracks, and I'm glad to see you're shining some light on them here (heh). You mentioned in your post that you felt you might be out of your league with EWSO/Sytrus, so I figured I'd do my best to give you a detailed breakdown of what I think is working well so far and what could be improved. This ended up being kind of a huge writeup lol, but I hope some of it helps!

GENERAL THOUGHTS
The mix is clear, and I don't find myself struggling to differentiate instruments. So you've avoided muddying things up, which is a good start.

I find the piece a bit thin and lacking in richness though. I think this is because frequency-wise I'm hearing mainly mids and highs. You seem to have a low synth pad at times (heard most clearly right in the beginning) but it's pretty subtle. You might try beefing up the low end during the busier sections (e.g. 1:16 to 1:40) with a deep cello/doublebass ensemble or something similar. Go for slow-moving progressions with a low attack/gradual buildup on each note, and see how that sounds.

Overall the playing style is fairly mechanical. Your voice selection is good - lots of bell/mallet-type instruments which create a nice wintry mood - but these instruments always seem to be hitting right on the beats and with the same velocity each time. In an orchestral style like this, more humanization is often preferable. Give some notes a stronger emphasis (i.e. higher velocity), while others can be quiet, understated, and/or slightly off the beat to sound more natural.

COMPOSITION/ARRANGEMENT SPECIFICS
From 0:36 to 0:44, you've got some nice melodies on what sounds like a music box, and I like where things are going here. But starting at 0:44 I'm detecting some dissonance between the pan flute and the music box (esp. during 0:54 to 1:04, after which the dissonance seems to clear up). I can't be sure without seeing the notation, but I think what might be happening here is that you're using different scales for the flute/music box progressions, so they occasionally play notes that are out-of-key with one another.

The flute sounds close to the original song during this section, so I think the best way to address this is to revisit what the music box is doing and explore some progressions that sound more harmonious with the flute. It'll help a lot to know what key the flute's playing in, if you don't already.

Moving on to 1:32 - the strings and other instruments are working well together here, and I'd say this is the strongest part of the piece. It's richer and has some pleasing harmonies. I'm less fond of 1:47 - 1:54 - the sense of completion at 1:49 seems a little abrupt and flat, and what comes after (until 1:54) strikes me as a bit underdeveloped. I might say end on the note at 1:47 instead - draw it out with a faded sustain, which would then flow into what you have at 1:54 to complete the musical thought more succinctly. (You might end up needing to trim out a few seconds of the song to make something like this work, but with a total length of 4:17 I'd say you're safe to shorten it some.)

At 3:14 - the swifter, descending progressions here and the way the strings jump upward in pitch for a bit before releasing at 3:33 works nicely. It's a good change of pace, an effective variation on the original piece, and the breathing room for a moment afterward helps with the song's pacing. I'd like to hear more stuff like this so the arrangement surprises me more and seems less homogenous.

For instance, there's a repeated musical phrase (an ostinato, more or less) that you first introduce at 1:58 on the music box, and the specific rhythm of this ostinato becomes a bit dominant throughout the second half of the song. It goes away at 2:20, but the strings pick up a close variation 8 seconds later. It's absent during 2:44 - 3:00, but returns again from 3:00 - 3:14. Then it's back at 3:40 and persists nearly until the song ends.

So due to this, I came away from the song feeling like the progressions during the second half relied a little too much on the timing of that ostinato, and exploring slight variations on the pitches involved with it. I think your relatively sparse instrumentation is part of what made that stand out to me. It's a fine phrase to use and repeat from time to time, but I'd take a look at some of the sections mentioned above and explore different phrases you could provide for that background rhythm. Or maybe eliminate the ostinato entirely in some of those spots, allowing the piece to flow in a different way for a while.

From 3:33 onward I like how the piece wraps up. The final staccato string notes that start at 4:02 sound clipped to me though - like they haven't been allowed to fully decay. This is especially noticable at 4:06 through to the end. I'm not sure if this is something about how your reverb is set up, or maybe to do with your original instrument samples, but perhaps you can hear what I mean.

So to sum up: arrangement-wise, what I'd like to hear is more build + release, more contrast in the pacing, more moments where I can anticipate what the piece is preparing to say and then be pleased by what's ultimately said. I think the best example you have of this now is 3:14 to 3:33. More humanization (velocity variation/less consistently precise timing) would also provide dynamism, and I feel like some extra low-end richness (cello/doublebass ensembles here and there?) would help as well.

Take my suggestions with a grain of salt though. Sometimes you can identify a problem in a piece and provide a solution, but that solution doesn't work so well in practice. You might find other better answers once you head back in.

Good luck with the next draft!

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