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Panel de Pon / Tetris Attack remix: Fire Stage

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A rockish arrangement of Flare's level from Panel de Pon (or the Gargantuan Blargg from Tetris Attack) with some synth and orchestral elements. As the title suggests, I was going for something to tribute the burning spirit of the fire fairy, with the rock aspects suggesting the aggressive behavior of dancing flames while the synth and piano hints at a more whimsical fae nature. 

This piece was an attempt on my part to experiment with the Ministry of Rock 2 plugin from Eastwest. Clearly, I have only a trace of clue what I'm doing, and the performance isn't that convincing (particularly the guitars, bass, drums.) The guitars still sound a bit hollow, and I'm hoping to learn how to make them blend with the other instruments without becoming muddy. Critiques, advice, tips, warnings, etc, appreciated. Thanks for listening, and happy new year!

The original source.


Inferno Fairy Meltdown.mp3

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Hey Souperion!

I'm glad to here some your stuff! You comment to almost everyone on the board, and I wanted to return the favor :D

So, the first thing that I heard is the low quality of the sounds you are using. It sounds like a glorified SNES track, which may be what you are aiming for, but I suspect will not be good enough to be publish (if that's what you're going for). Just for you, I watched a presentation of Minsitry of Rock 2 on YT, to try to understand if the lib is the problem, or if it's what you're doing with it. And I'd say it's a mix of both.

Regarding the lib, it's main problem in my book is the fact that guitar have distortion pre-recorded. On a real guitar setup, the distortion will be applied on all the notes played. Given the intervals you have, it'll sound more or less noisy. It's why most of the time, when playing with heavy distortion, people limit themselves to single notes, octaves, or power chords, and don't play the full chords, as it may sound too rich and noisy (exceptions are plentiful obviously). On the other hand, if the distortion is applied on each note individually, when you play multiple notes together, you'll get the impression that each note is played by an individual guitar.

Okay let's breakdown your track and see what you could improve! Spoiler alert, there is a lot to take in.

The synths arpeggios are fine and the little sample at the beginning is cool.

The rhythm guitar clearly needs some more articulation, as it sounds really robotic right now and makes weird gaps when it stop. Try adding more effects on it! A bit of compression, maybe some light reverb, to make it feel less midi like. If you have such a plugin, try some amp simulation (with little overdrive to not overdo it). You should also lengthen the notes and play with velocity. Some patches seems to have "chugs" when hitting low velocity notes, and it would feel more appropriate and realistic. It doesn't feel too mono, so maybe you already have it double tracked? I can't tell, but if it's not, you should definitely try it! You should find tutorial online to do that with Ministry of Rock. You could also add some variation, and play some legato single notes and not only power chords?

Bass lack some oomph. I generally use amp simulations presets, but I guess you could obtain good results with a compressor, light distortion and EQ. Or try other patches, the demo I watched showed some cool sounds.

Same for drums. Your lib seems to have individual mixer and effects chain for the most important groups of sounds (kick, snare, toms, overheads), so add stuff (mostly compression, again), or try other patches.

The trumpet sounds really out of place. It has a lot more reverb than the rest but is in front in the mix, which sounds weird. Plus you play very short single notes, which don't sound very realistic, sadly. It also lack articulation (which is generally what makes this kind of realistic instrument sound bad). You seem to have wrote your trumpet lines as if it was a single instrument, but you have overlapping notes, which is physically impossible on such instrument. You could maybe re-write your brass parts as if it was an ensemble? Pick a few different brass/horn sounds, write pure solo line for each but build the harmony! Also, try to respect the range of each instrument (tuba shouldn't go as high as a trumpet, this kind of thing). And remember that horn players are supposed to breath sometimes ^^

You also have this single string note lurking on the background. It doesn't sound very nice as is, and I'd suggest either getting rid of it and build around the brass section, or expand it and play full chords. Be careful to not overlap too much sounds around the same pitches, as your track can quickly become very muddy (more so if you expand your brass section). Space your soundscape :)

Your lead guitar has the same kind of problems your rhythm guitar has. It sounds fake and robotic. So same kind of advice, add some effects (distortion, eq, compressor, delay/reverb) to expand your sound, and articulate! Play with the velocity, add vibrato on long notes, do some bends! The problem right now is that it has always the same attack on each note. Explore your lib to see if you can make legato sounds. And don't play power chords when playing melodies.

The piano section at 1:10 is weirdly written, with sudden burst of notes (and the section right before it has the same kind of weird sequencing). Try rewriting it maybe? Same for the last section.

There is some section where I hear notes out of the harmony, mostly during the guitar solo from 1:38 to 2:30. The worst offender is this long A around 2:02, which should definitely be an Ab IMO. But you have some minor/major clashes during some of the shreddier parts, which can be palatable, but feel rather spicy right now regarding the overall writing. As far as I understand the harmony of the track, you go from F to G to Ab (all major). It's rather ambiguous, as the arpeggios stays on suspended seconds and never really plays the third as far as I can tell. But it sounds rather major to me, and you play sometimes in major scales, and sometimes in blues scales (which are minor). You could manage it with more articulations, like bends.

I hope I have not crushed your spirit with this ridiculous amount of feedback (I know it happened to me when I posted my first tracks on OCR). You seemed willing to explore the possibility of Ministry of Rock 2, so I suggest you start by working on your guitar sounds and explore this plugin furthermore. To me, this is clearly the most important thing to do right now, as it's the most defining aspect of your soundscape. Try to not add effects right of the bat, but work on sequencing and articulating to make it sound more realistic, and see were it gets you. That, and bad notes.

Hope to here back from you! Have a great day, and a happy new year!

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Oh, don't worry about crushing my spirit, JulienMulard. I'm more flattered that you wrote a short thesis paper to review my little ditty. And submitting yourself to audio torture to do so. I've been needing something to spur me on to better mixing, so exposing some garbage for review has been long overdue. I appreciate the (extensive) feedback, and have just a few technical questions if you've got the time:
- Could you explain what you mean by lib?
- When you say double tracking for the rhythm guitar, do you mean having it play from the left and right amps at the same time?
- What amp plugins would you recommend?

- What would you suggest working on first? You probably can identify, but it's a little overwhelming to be reminded that just about everything needs serious work :P.

Thanks again for your time!

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You're welcome! I like reviewing stuff, but I seldom have the time to do it properly (and I rarely visit the forum when I am not anxiously waiting for reviews myself ^^)

So, to answer your questions:

  • lib = library, as in sample library. In this case, Ministry of Rock 2 :)
  • Exactly. Copy paste from another post where I explained it better: "To double track, play the same riff twice, with slightly different effect chains on each take, and hard pan one to the left and the other to the right. It'll fill so much more space! ".
  • I personally use Revalver HPSE, but I got it free with Shreddage (which is a great guitar library for Kontakt, but rather costly). I'm not exactly sure what to recommend you, I'd suggest you try to find some reviews only for free amp sims (or not free, as you wish) and see which one you like best.
  • I talked about it at the end of my review, and I suggested you worked first on the few "bad" notes (which should be rather quick), and then work with Ministry of Rock 2 to try and make your guitars sound better, both by playing directly with your plugin, and by working on your articulations.

Have a great day!

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