BloomingLate

3. completed Swamped With Nostalgia ("Bayou Boogie" + "Stickerbrush Symphony" Remix)

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This remix has been a work in progress for a long time. I wanted to mash together a number of favorite tracks from the Donkey Kong Country and Land series of games. I had a lot of trouble getting things to work well together and ended up pretty much abandoning the project (very disappointed). I decided to swap out a few instruments for the new FLEX synth in FL Studio and managed to at least finish the thing.
It is definitely not at the quality level where I would have liked it but I don't want to really continue working on it either. I'm posting it anyway. I still find it personally enjoyable :)

 

PS: ever since I started sharing tracks on OCR I've been having this nagging voice in my head that keeps saying "They're sure to point out the lack of humanization". This is one of the toughest things to get right for me and I don't need the added pressure from voices inside or outside my head :P Now, no one is actually putting that pressure on me; its just my insecurity. I'm trying to let it go, as well as weird ideas of supposed expectations people have of me.

 

Edited by BloomingLate

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First, I like this. Especially that percussion thing. Really good sound.

Humanization is tricky. Too stiff and it's mechanical. Too loose and it's just poorly "performed". This sounds human enough to me. Except the stickerbrush ostinato. Its timbre and the mix makes it stand out, and the timbre is difficult to humanize anyway. I tend to cheat by recording (poorly) and then quantizing to 70% or so. But I make more electronic sound stuff anyway.

I'd spend some time working out which instruments you want as foreground and which ones you don't, and mix accordingly. The percussion (which sounds pretty nice), sounds very foreground-y, and the guitar which sometimes functions as a lead, doesn't. You adjust foreground-y-ness with track level, eq and reverb. EQ down the tracks that aren't supposed to be foreground, muffle them slightly, make them softer than the foreground tracks. If your foreground tracks come out of their synths/samplers/recordings already muffled, there are tools for adding higher frequencies (energizers/exciters, sure, but you can also make your own with a bus with distortion and a filter).

You can also consider adding some higher-range percussion to the earlier parts of the arrangement. I've been using various shakers since GSlicers recommended that. There are many tools for that too. It might smoothen those parts a bit. If you find a nice shaker loop, that's good. If it's for a background part, you can probably record a box of rice on your phone, too, just filter out any room/fan/clock/other noises. Touches like that add a lot of human feel to a track.

This is all advice applicable to this, if you change your mind about it being completed, and to future mixes.

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12 hours ago, Rozovian said:

Humanization is tricky. Too stiff and it's mechanical. Too loose and it's just poorly "performed". This sounds human enough to me. Except the stickerbrush ostinato. Its timbre and the mix makes it stand out, and the timbre is difficult to humanize anyway. I tend to cheat by recording (poorly) and then quantizing to 70% or so. But I make more electronic sound stuff anyway.

That's basically how I tend to see it. I also sometimes record parts and do some quantization if necessary. In general I don't even mind mechanical sounding stuff too much, but ever since Timaeus shared some examples of robotic versus humanized (piano) pieces I do see the superiority of the latter. So I try to make things sound more realistic, but often it is mostly out of fear for what other people might say.

13 hours ago, Rozovian said:

This is all advice applicable to this, if you change your mind about it being completed, and to future mixes.

Yes, thank you very much for the tips and positive comments :) Maybe I will change my mind about it being completed. Perhaps I'm giving up too soon, just to rid myself of the anxiety that a project produces.

13 hours ago, Rozovian said:

I'd spend some time working out which instruments you want as foreground and which ones you don't, and mix accordingly. The percussion (which sounds pretty nice), sounds very foreground-y, and the guitar which sometimes functions as a lead, doesn't. You adjust foreground-y-ness with track level, eq and reverb. EQ down the tracks that aren't supposed to be foreground, muffle them slightly, make them softer than the foreground tracks. If your foreground tracks come out of their synths/samplers/recordings already muffled, there are tools for adding higher frequencies (energizers/exciters, sure, but you can also make your own with a bus with distortion and a filter).

This is an area I definitely need some direction in. With reverb, what would I need to do to make an instrument sound farther away without creating a ton of unnecessary "echoing". When applied to the drumkit it tends to really boost the kick and snare sound beyond what is desirable. Maybe I'm using too big a "room"? And as for panning, is it advisable to pan a drumkit or bass guitar or should they stay centered (and thus keeping that foreground feel)? Would it help to draw up a "plan" for a "stage" as it were, to determine where each instrument should go and pan accordingly?

Its funny that you mentioned the percussion (which I also like a lot :) ), because one of the last things I did was boost its volume so it wouldn't disappear into the background :) Its so easy to overdo things.

13 hours ago, Rozovian said:

You can also consider adding some higher-range percussion to the earlier parts of the arrangement. I've been using various shakers since GSlicers recommended that. There are many tools for that too. It might smoothen those parts a bit. If you find a nice shaker loop, that's good. If it's for a background part, you can probably record a box of rice on your phone, too, just filter out any room/fan/clock/other noises. Touches like that add a lot of human feel to a track.

Love the shaker, sure. I'll keep that in mind. I recently created one out of a toilet paper roll and rice :P

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On 10/2/2019 at 1:21 PM, BloomingLate said:

This is an area I definitely need some direction in. With reverb, what would I need to do to make an instrument sound farther away without creating a ton of unnecessary "echoing". When applied to the drumkit it tends to really boost the kick and snare sound beyond what is desirable. Maybe I'm using too big a "room"? And as for panning, is it advisable to pan a drumkit or bass guitar or should they stay centered (and thus keeping that foreground feel)? Would it help to draw up a "plan" for a "stage" as it were, to determine where each instrument should go and pan accordingly?

Reverb - Big halls don't work for all tracks, so yeah, you might want to use a smaller size. The parameter might claim it's 40m, but don't believe it. Use your ears, adjust to taste. And you don't have to have a long reverb. Length can be fairly short. The dry/wet ratio lets you adjust how clear a track is, so less wet means more foreground-y. You can filter and eq the reverb too, and the reverb plugin might have some options for that, like low ratio or something. At least filter out the lows. If you can set early reflections separate from reverb, you can give the reflections of your leads a longer pre-delay, so their attacks are clear, while the attacks of background instruments blends into the wet signal.

Of course, you can do a single reverb bus for the whole thing, or multiple (e.g. foreground, background, distant), or give each track its own reverb. Or some combination. Different methods give you different options, like full control over a reverb bus with eq and side-chaining, for example. Reverb levels per track matters, more reverb means more background-y sound. But track level is ultimately determines foreground-y-ness, reverb is an addition/enhancement to that. As is panning and eq.

Panning - Our ears easily tell where high frequencies come from, not so for low frequencies. Center is usually best. Usually. A stage-like plan can work, depending on the music, but I find the better way of thinking is to spread out frequencies, to spread instruments depending on their roles. Kick, bass and snare middle. The rest of the drumkit mimics what a drummer hears (so stage, but mirrored) with the amount of panning adjusted to taste. With the hihat panned left, other high-frequency percussion can go right, eg shaker. If a guitar goes left, another guitar (or any instrument occupying roughly the same frequency range at the same time) can go right. For this track, I wouldn't hardpan anything, I'd go for a kind of jazz club thing, with some instruments panned a bit, others not at all.

There are different schools of thought when it comes to panning. I can think of a few:

-No panning (stereo is just for stereo-recorded tracks and for effects)
-Listener-like panning, with variations:
  -Drums from drummer or listener POV
  -Drumkit and bass centered, or placed according to band
-Center and hardpan only
-Frequency balancing (works well for my tracks)

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Sorry for the late reply. I've been a little preoccupied with other things.

Anyway, thanks for the tips. All those different terms are a little mind boggling at the moment, but I've recently purchased a helpful book that might help me out in that area. It contains some step by step tutorials so I can better understand what I'm doing.
I have a number of tracks in the making that will benefit from this information. :)

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A good way to learn is to pick one thing you're gonna experiment with and have fun with it. I made Beyond Velocity with only synth patches I had made myself. I challenged myself and that was the result. I had to learn a few new tricks for it, like how to make a shaker sound from white noise. That's what you get when focusing on one thing. I should do that more often, actually, I've got some mixing things I need to learn or refresh.

Make a new track where you only worry about panning. Boring instruments, vanilla arrangement, but crazy panning fun. Then make a track all about reverb. Super distant stuff, super close stuff, and stuff moving forth and back. Come up with your own ideas for these little tests or challenges. I guarantee you'll learn a lot from them. And not a bunch of fancy audio engineering terms, but practical, useful, applied knowledge.

And books are nice. I've picked up a few of those, too. I learned parallel compression from one. It has its uses.

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19 hours ago, Rozovian said:

A good way to learn is to pick one thing you're gonna experiment with and have fun with it. I made Beyond Velocity with only synth patches I had made myself. I challenged myself and that was the result. I had to learn a few new tricks for it, like how to make a shaker sound from white noise. That's what you get when focusing on one thing. I should do that more often, actually, I've got some mixing things I need to learn or refresh.

Make a new track where you only worry about panning. Boring instruments, vanilla arrangement, but crazy panning fun. Then make a track all about reverb. Super distant stuff, super close stuff, and stuff moving forth and back. Come up with your own ideas for these little tests or challenges. I guarantee you'll learn a lot from them. And not a bunch of fancy audio engineering terms, but practical, useful, applied knowledge.

And books are nice. I've picked up a few of those, too. I learned parallel compression from one. It has its uses.

That sounds like a good idea. By doing experiments like that I'll likely not get overwhelmed or stuck in perfectionism (which is what tends to happen now). Without any pressure to finish with a completely polished song I suspect the learning process will go smoother.

The book I got is the one that DJPretzel recommended in another thread: "The Secrets of dance music production". It is a nicely organized and illustrated volume that introduces just the right amount of stuff in each section, without being overwhelming. Like I said, it comes with step by step tutorials and has some stuff you can download and work with. I haven't read it a lot yet, but I plan to do so in the near future.

My beef with most other tutorials that I've come across is that they suffer from what I call the "Bob Ross" effect. They pretend to be really easy, but pretty much come down to "do this and it will be awesome". Yet the "doing this" is the part that I'm supposed to learn from the tutorial in the first place! They're about as useful as saying "Just play all these notes" when asking "How to write a piano sonata?"

I'll give your suggestion a try and maybe I'll be able to share a few results with you when the time comes. :)

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I was gonna write an excellent post on perfectionism but screw it, I don't have time or energy. Perfectionism is okay for learning but terrible for productivity. Do it 90% of the way, rest your ears, and correct the most glaring problems still remaining. And then release it and move on to the next thing. Otherwise it'll never be finished.

As for tutorials, the more you know, the more you forget you had to learn. The less advanced stuff is so obvious to you at that point.  Drawing the line between broad strokes and hand-holding in feedback is hard. Tutorials, which people don't go back and edit, are kind'a the same thing.

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On 10/31/2019 at 5:49 PM, Rozovian said:

I was gonna write an excellent post on perfectionism but screw it, I don't have time or energy. Perfectionism is okay for learning but terrible for productivity. Do it 90% of the way, rest your ears, and correct the most glaring problems still remaining. And then release it and move on to the next thing. Otherwise it'll never be finished.

I'll keep that in mind. My perfectionism originates for the most part from the lack of knowing when something is good enough. This has plagued me my entire life. Basically, if no one tells me what the standard of completion is, I have to assume it is perfection. When I worked as a web developer this was often confirmed when the boss or client gave their feedback. There was always something that needed to be tweaked or fixed or changed. So for me that says things need to be perfect.
Because of the stress this produces, I tend to either burn out before completing a project or get stuck in a loop of starting over from scratch. Or I end up deciding it is good enough for me. Then when I share things, people will point out all the mistakes, which then reinforces the idea that perfection is the standard. And later when I go back to listen, I have to agree with people that these are problems that do need to be fixed.

"Most glaring problems" is something I can work with. There are often piano mistakes that are really obvious and bothersome, or badly done ritardando's or annoying balancing issues. If I can at least commit to working those out, that would be a big improvement. Basically, if something bothers me every time I listen to the song that's a sign I need to go in and fix it.

I wish I had someone around (physically) who could help me with musical projects. I honestly don't know anyone close to me who is also into music production.

 

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I can identify with the perfectionism problem, BloomingLate. Wanting to go in and make a flawless piece of work that expresses all you want to say with a song. It makes us vulnerable to come out into the open with a project and hold it up for scrutiny. Even well intended and kindly administered feedback can be discouraging, shattering your previous concept of accomplishment. You might have seen my old post for Imil from Golden Sun: I wanted to make a piece of grandeur that would be good enough for a tribute album. I got good feedback on it, which culminated with the understanding that I have got a LOT to learn to pull off what I had in mind. I still cringe a bit when I listen to the song, but you learn a lot from spending time on a song and getting feedback on it, even if the advise doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a while. It may be a lonely hobby, music production, but each piece you bring for examination teaches you more. And, for what it's worth, I've enjoyed hearing your pieces in the workshop.

Keep at it!

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On 11/5/2019 at 8:56 PM, Souperion said:

I can identify with the perfectionism problem, BloomingLate. Wanting to go in and make a flawless piece of work that expresses all you want to say with a song. It makes us vulnerable to come out into the open with a project and hold it up for scrutiny. Even well intended and kindly administered feedback can be discouraging, shattering your previous concept of accomplishment. You might have seen my old post for Imil from Golden Sun: I wanted to make a piece of grandeur that would be good enough for a tribute album. I got good feedback on it, which culminated with the understanding that I have got a LOT to learn to pull off what I had in mind. I still cringe a bit when I listen to the song, but you learn a lot from spending time on a song and getting feedback on it, even if the advise doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a while. It may be a lonely hobby, music production, but each piece you bring for examination teaches you more. And, for what it's worth, I've enjoyed hearing your pieces in the workshop.

Keep at it!

Thanks for the encouragement :) I mentioned that I often have a problem with the lack of "standard" by which to go, but I realized that the feedback list (somewhere on this site) is actually pretty helpful as a guide. It deals with the most common and obvious mistakes or areas of attention. I understand that we're all going through a process of learning and so naturally we will get a lot of 'discouraging' (but not ill-intended) feedback at first. For me, the challenge is to not get overwhelmed or insecure about it and to keep on trying to implement the feedback that I get. I am looking forward to that point in my development when the beginners' mistakes don't show up anymore :)

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