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Mega Man X3 - Blizzard Buffalo Stage (The Frozen City) ReMix: "Sorrowful Bellows ~ An Ode for a Winter's Night"

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Original from An OverClocked Christmas v.16 [Unofficial] Album

What Was Submitted to OCR Judges' Panel

Judges' Original Decision



I'll start this off by saying a big "thank you" to anyone willing to listen to this and give it feedback, or directly help me work on pushing this over the bar. I've had some interest in it from ZackParrish, but unfortunately he's been very busy, and I never want to feel like I am (or actually) monopolize someone's time in helping me deal with my work or get better at it. Next order, I'll try to give a truncated list of the impetus behind the writing, orchestration and composition of this song, and then summarize the Judges' and other people's general critique and comments on the piece from the first time I posted it up on the OCR Discord's #Workshop, up to the Panel decision. . . Feel free to read my write-up to the Judges for a more detailed explanation and framework for the arrangement, but here's a brief breakdown:


  • Based off the idea of big-budget classic Hollywood films, classical composers (primarily Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky), and the songs "Carol of the Bells" / "Sarajevo / Christmas Eve" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra and instrumental versions of "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan", "Nemo" & "Eva" by Nightwish;
  • Arrangement-structure is based off the old concept of Ancient Greek odes in tragedies and comedies; extreme storytelling material, hence the extensive use of foley and SFX with the composition; and,
  • 'Storytelling' "elements" are based heavily on extended-universe stuff from the Mega Max X comics (as explained in the submission write-up), that gets into the backstory behind Blizzard Buffalo before and after he turned into a Maverick--so the context may or may not be lost on listeners, I'm unsure. . . Basically, this song is the BGM of Buffalo's decent into madness, as he continues to prowl the snow-ladened city streets, looking for victims to freeze into the very same ice sculptures he used to make for the children in the nearby village. The 'music box' motif is the only thing keeping his sanity in-check--even for the briefest of moments--and puts the beast back into slumber (an allusion to Christmas folktales, Grimm tales and stuff about Krampus, which is also a great horned monstrosity). The ending of the remix was supposed to allude to Buffalo having a quaint dream about his peaceful life as the ski resort guard before being infected with the Sigma virus.


  1. The pads and backing are too wide in the stereo-field (wet) and they're eating up a lot of the subtle resonances of what's going on above it; reverb tails too long (albeit the pads and backing were heavily-inspired from the Nightwish reference tracks, but I'd figured they'd need to be removed or replaced with something else more melodical that still has that "Nightwish-drive".) It is bad enough for people to barely tell what the woodwinds are doing or whether the strings are legato, pizzicato, or spiccato/staccato, and muffles the drumline entirely...so it is a massive issue.
  2. Confusion about the foley: Liontamer frequently equated the heavy, bestial breathing and subtle roars that ARE Blizzard Buffalo in the piece to "thunder" and "noise", despite the FX being fairly audible. OCR I know doesn't really like slow-burns / long intros, but I felt it was integral to building up the piece, hence the robotic stomping and trudging through the snow, and extra effort placed on music box transitions, etc. If I'm honest, this dichotomy of judges for and against use of SFX in music kind of puts a bitter taste to my mouth (it works in the remixes of, say, Michael Hudak and H36T, but it seemingly doesn't work here); I think some of that is why my remixes get flagged up as "complicated", "over-complex", and "hard to judge", and I don't know whether or not that is a compliment or something other than. But they were there in this song, in particular, for the storytelling. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I can rip them out, if they detract that much or don't add anything conceptually for listeners... Would make me extremely sad to do so, however, considering time/effort spent to mesh them and the musical elements together.
  3. Intro is interesting "in a vacuum", but is a slow-burn, not melodious, and "meanders" (I highlight this word in particular because this is probably the single-most reoccurring piece of vocabulary I see, even in remixes that get a pass; might as well replace my middle names with 'Meander Noodles' at this fucking stage, and makes me want to bury my head in hot sand every time I see it or hear it); Epilogue (section after the hefty orchestra) is chaotic and not very melodic. This was hugely improv'd on my part, in listening to a few alt. piano compositions/arrangements based on The Frozen City/Blizzard Buffalo Stage, and some shit I made up on my own. TO ME, it works, but just might need the added finesse I cannot give it due to lack of skill and practice to make it make sense, coherent, and flow correctly.
  4. Dynamics between instruments (something expressed by Zack and Hemo and H36T in conversations on Discord); they're there and some are expressed OK-ish, but the horns are buried by the strings, and the piano and woodwinds are peaking / have a pitchy-ness about them. This was more-so true for the original take than the submitted take, but it could be a persistent problem (based on Judges' commentary), which leads to;
  5. Blocky part-writing; strings are NOT expressing as they should to sound realistic (bow movements, attacks, too mechanical), and the brass and piano doesn't have an "orchestral flow/harmonic progression" due to it sounding like 'baby's first music sheet', with chunks of heavy chord-lines...I'd guess...(in looking at my MIDI). I did humanize velocities and shunt notes off-grid on purpose, manually and with some seed randomization on Reaper, but I guess the parts need more chops on them. I do not know. I've never written orchestral scores before nor am I used to getting synths to express in an overly-realistic manner with the articulations mentioned. . . So yeah, 'baby's first', is very correct in this instance, LOL.


As was said in the Panel decision, and further discussed with Prophetik Music in private, (and a few others are aware of this)--no...I am not classically trained in any music theory or the theoretics and practice of part-writing for symphony orchestra, or anything else, for that matter. Insofar as music is concerned, I had a brief stint for 3 years in Junior High School in band, and learned a few instruments either on my own or with an instructor/tutoring, but that's the extent of formal education. All this comes from vicarious learning, YT vids, reading and taking notes and listening to a lot of classical (and modern) orchestra, etc. I've always liked and have been fascinated by more..."unconventional" classical music, (which is where the comment about why does this sound and feel more archaic in nature, yet doesn't work to its fullest potential, comes from), and this is very much rooted in stuff like symphonic poetry and Greek theater. Admittedly, this piece wasn't my first foray into part-writing, but it is probably the first in exploring that concept on a wider scale, throughout the piece, and it's way more than just a simple chord prog slapped onto the VG melody in an EDM remix, or me futzing around with the melody by a few Jazz improv stuff here and there like glides, or chromatic/diatonic runs, or a couple added/changed up notes to keep the beat 'fresh'. Major parts of the opening/Intro of this arrangement, and the "waltzy jig"--sort of...foxtrot vibe...near the end were derivative of the melody and harmony of Blizzard Buffalo, but were written from the ground up by myself, solo.

I would like to closely work together with someone to...better understand without misunderstanding Prophetik's (and others') original point about why the part-writing may be "interesting and unique" but doesn't hit strong enough because of the various other issues that bring it down, inclusive of the ending that's "too chaotic and disharmonious" to be the lighter, more whimsical epilogue of the piece. I'm open to the usual suggestions (e.g. having someone like Zack add broody guitar chugs or the dark, melancholy drumline he's known for), as that would lean into the favor of this being a TSO/Nightwish-inspired remix due to the usage of more boomy drums and electric lead/rhythm guitars along with the orchestral VSTi...but at the same time I'm hesitant to pull others into a project I poured a lot of heart and soul into like this, because I (for once) wanted to try and get a remix I've done BY MYSELF through the trenches, of its own merit . . In no way is there anything wrong with tag-team assisting on these, but I'm at that weird crossroads where I equally love to collaborate and learn from others, but at the same time am really trying to push myself and pray that solo ventures are equally as...cool...and able to pass the proverbial benchmark, or bar, or what have you. It feels like I'm 'piggybacking' when I do sometimes, and that's a bad/negative mindset to feel.

OK...enough blubbering. 'Bout to hyperventilate and all I'm doing is posting this up on the community forum. xD


TL;DR: help would be lovely, or some kind of lighthearted, extremely casual tutoring. I've done a lot more free-flow / from-scratch part-writing and mixing exercises with recent remixes, but...IDK... This one hurts just as much as NieR did, and more than some of the others with the reject, and for fear of massive upheavals to what's already here (besides ripping out the annoying backing and pads). But, if that's what is needed to make it 'successful', so be it. The distance and time away from this piece has only lessened the initial sting a little, but in having to re-read the decision and taking these notes on it, I find myself unable to know where to turn or how to start fixing this entire thing. There are fundamentals with the individual composition bits alone that make it disjointed and apparently "too far away" from the source, despite almost everything within BEING CREATED from said source, and the immense frustration I had felt before has returned. It hits me with the "you dunno what the Hell you're doing" vibe, so I'm lost, and anything at this rate would help.

Thanks for reading all this... Can always PM me here or DM me on Discord more for private stuff, and I'm up for the back and forth publicly. My hope here is that this discourse and kind of...displaying step-by-step-wise progress on MMX3 will help others in the community who have similar struggles, be it with the "noodley" bullshit or classical mixing, writing and orchestration. I've heard people say they want more VGM remixes leaning into the symphonic rock and orchestra, so this'll add to that, too, if the decision is made to add the rock/metal-elements to it. :)

Anyways, I look forward to the discussion!

Cheers. ♥


Edited by The Vodoú Queen
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Hi VQ!

I’ll be giving this one a listen in full a few times, along with re-reading the judges’ feedback, before giving you some recommendations. It may take a bit, but don’t fret! - the goal is to improve and that’s what we’re gonna do!

Will likely need to edit this space several times, so I’ll make another comment once all the thoughts are put together!

- Opening SFX set the scene. Bar 9 (around :15) is when the mallet percussion and cello enter. The cello seems to be giving a low pad/bed for the percs to lay on; the reverb here is good, though the stomp sfx bury the instruments by about 1-2dB when they occur. I would recommend dropping the volume on the stomps at this point by about 3dB and see if that doesn't open the space up more for the melodic content to come.

- Around Bar 21 (:40), we've reached the transition to the A section of Blizzard Buffalo. The cello swells up to a peak around :44, and the sustain on the peak here softens the impact of Bar 25 (:48) where the A section kicks into gear. The sustain seems to be a combination of the reverb tail and compression on the low-end; automation on the reverb (decay first, and then the reverb bus as a whole) would be my first area to tackle.

- Bar 25 (:48) has harp (or pizz strings) running an arpeggio against the chords created by the perc, cello, and added violin(s), as well as the thunder sfx in the back. The reverb here is really strong, making the articulations on the strings harder to distinguish. The instruments feel stacked on the center channel as well; I would consider spreading the percs suuuuper wide to free up some space for the arpeggio. The cello will maintain its center channel position throughout to give a solid foundation, and a slight widening of the violins will also help give some room for the arpeggio.

- Bar 41 (1:21) has a wonderful solo violin swell! This is good dynamics here! The reverb level is appropriate given the space it's filling out, however, it's worth automating the level of it down for the next section at Bar 45 (1:28) since the soundscape is about to be more dense with instruments. I would also keep the violin center here, even if you panned the violins earlier.

- Bar 45 (1:28) trades the mallet percussion for a piccolo and adds a muted piano(?), with bells at Bar 59 (1:56). The first bell strike comes in late (about 50-60ms after the rest of the orchestra) and makes its addition feel awkward until the tempo change around Bar 60 (1:58). This combined with the reverb still being too high in this section makes distinguishing the individual parts harder, just as before. Before we look at addressing the EQ of the reverb, let's see if we can't fix it by adjusting (and automating) the verb's output volume first.

Edited by pixelseph
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Posted (edited)


[The added SFX/drum loops and eventual drum treatment are heavily-inspired by the epic shit @ZackParrish cooks up on his mixes. :) ]

TY for the advice so far, @pixelseph. Will keep it movin' and groovin'. Next is FX sends, volume and reverb issues. . .

Additional ears would be lovely. Tysm. ♥

Edited by The Vodoú Queen
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Additional ears? You got it. I'm coming in cold on this one so you're going to get all of my impressions - not saying that all of this needs to be addressed to pass a resubmission, but hopefully you can make use of the brain dump.

The intro brings some really cool flavor - the noisy distorted elements remind me of Porter Robinson's Fellow Feeling (see the 3:00 mark if you're short on time.) If you're going for random blasts of noise, I think this works - if you're trying to make it sound like footsteps stomping through, it's not giving that impression at all because every stomp is exactly the same. There's no variation in the sample and it reaches uncanny valley territory fast when you play the sample multiple times in a row. This all boils down to what you are going for here, but either way, I think some subtle variation with each repetition of the sample/layer of samples (without knowing how you actually did this) would build immersion.

Some of your orchestral elements (flute, glock) are very resonant, oftentimes peaking at their fundamental frequency between 3-6db above everything else. The bells in the intro also feel comparably dry. This will probably get ironed out in your next pass, but I'm going to point it out anyway. The orchestral sequencing sounds workable for the most part, you're getting good mileage out of your samples. It's not the best but I do think you're using them effectively for the most part - the main areas that sound really noticeably fake are the half-step chromatic runs on the strings at times like 2:48. I just don't think the big ensemble patch moves fast enough to accommodate that writing, and would recommend adjusting the lead writing to fit better within the limitations of your samples.

I also feel like the intro could use some deeper sub bass presence. It's not that the stomps aren't contributing any bass frequencies, but a big cinematic sub drop or sustained bass to accompany the stomps (see Fellow Feeling) would make this feel much more dynamic, or have some risers building up tension in the low end leading into :49.

The decision to intersperse various melodic elements (glock, harmonic strings, cello) was a good one - otherwise, this intro would be way too long. It already feels a bit lengthy as-is, but those additions help pad it out quite a bit and justify the length. However, this gets to the problem of transitions and buildup, which I think is my biggest gripe currently. There is rarely much going on to signal that we're approaching a new musical idea, so even though you have some very dramatic changes throughout your arrangement (which are quite inspired and interesting, I must add!) they come on very suddenly. Cinematic risers, fills, sweeps, etc. are a part of this equation and could definitely be used to greater effect here to bridge your gaps, but there's another element I want to touch on: the idea of movement in your part writing.

You do a great job building atmosphere and have all the makings of a very dramatic song, but there's a lack of movement on a compositional level. When cinematic music is clicking well, composition and sound design have a lot of synergy. Right now, you are doing a good job building an interesting sound palette for each individual section, but the underlying chord progression feels weak. It hovers around the tonic chord for most of the time, and even when you do have chord changes, they don't feel properly supported with anything strong in the lower frequencies. This is where a bit of music theory troubleshooting could go a long way - your melody has many opportunities for powerful chord movements that build drama and tension, especially as you lead into new sections, but you're not fully capitalizing on that potential. I don't think it would even require changing up much fundamental about the rest of the parts; just identify the chord progression you're playing and make sure that there's strong support in the bass for whatever chord/root note you're trying to play. I don't know how else to suggest addressing this without studying up on some fundamentals of music theory, but certain chords just move naturally into others and can help you allude to future changes and help transition between vastly different musical ideas in a way that feels rewarding.

I think you're running up against some of the same problems I faced before I made the decision to finally start researching music theory. I had a conceptual idea in my brain for what each section of my song was supposed to do, and could support it in terms of selecting sounds and picking grooves/effects/etc., but it boiled down to luck whether or not it worked on a fundamental composition level, and I spun my wheels trying to fix that issue with every other production tool known to man.

I think if you were to pick an area to focus on, the big orchestral section starting at 2:36 would be where I'd focus my energy most. Everything else before and after that can skate by a little easier, but when you're trying to make a big melodic orchestral statement, the fundamentals need to be strong first. Figure out what chord you're playing on each measure and map them out in sequence using just a basic patch. I find that it helps to actually just plot my chord progressions out on piano so there's no temptation to get distracted by sound design. See if the song sounds strong and compelling when it's just played on a single instrument, and go from there.

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There's not much that can be added on top of the stellar critiques you've received so far, and I won't bore you with technical FFT analysis and stats. Imma just tell ya how I feel about the arrange, and of course take it all with a bucket of salt cuz I'm nobody and this is just my unimportant opinion. ?

It's refreshing to hear a take on 'Blizzard Buffy' that isn't the usual fast paced EDM or Metal. The 'meandering' nature of the piece is part of the charm, and I believe you've achieved a cohesive wintery aesthetic coherent with the theme of the album. The slow building intro and winding outro, on top of setting up the scene properly, also showcase an eye for worldbuilding and composition. As someone who both partake in and appreciate the work that goes into an audiodrama, I give ya props for going the extra mile and adding Buffy's stomps and groans to add context to the arrangement in a way that surely fits this 'filmscore' interpretation.

Now let's talk address the elephant in the room, 3 times heavyweight champion: Mr Glockenspiel. While a fitting instrument choice to an Xmas theme, it has been processed in a way that boosts its natural resonance beyond what a human ear is designed to contain ?. It may or may not be due to the sample itself, but I suspect toning down the salad dressing on the ol' glock would remedy this small, if pivotal inconvenience. 

One thing that would greatly help this remix stand out, especially in regard to the genre you're going for, would be to work on strengthening bridges between parts of the track. The piece as a whole proves you've got the arrangement chops to make this a hit. But each transition feels like an afterthought, almost as if you were ice skating from one part of the source to the next. It's never jarring, but if you put the same care/thought into them as you did for the intro and outro, this could truly elevate the whole song. ?

The bombastic middle section from 2:35 onwards sees the return of our favorite superhero, Captain Glockenspiel, which once again shatters my heart by dancing without a care on top of an entire orchestra that is trying its best to convey the source material. It's a bummer because you've clearly put all the stops for this part, and imho this is legitimately well done. But that repeating leitmotiv on glock should be a background dancer, not the vocaloid Diva it's trying to impersonate. I'd also push the thunderous percs back slightly, as they seem to impact overall dynamics, and to let the orchestra breathe so the source melody can properly dominate the soundscape during the fulcrum point, one of the only instance where the audience can hear your interpretation in an uninterrupted sequence.

The last section before the outro features a kick that's (I'm guessing) intentionally simulating a heartbeat and its acceleration as the piece/fight reaches its conclusion. It feels estranged and anachronistic to the rest of the conventional orchestra instruments. Also its overpowering the lows, as any Trap kick should, except in this case the sample's character is clashing with an already busy composition while trying to compensate for the orch lows you didn't write. Otherwise, that section is a wonderful way to wind down before the outro. 

All in all, this is a captivating arrangement that confidently tells its story in a brave yet understated way. It only needs a little more love to reach its full potential, and I'm confident you'll get there in no time, with all the great feedback from remixers and staff alike. Gambare VQ! ?

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  • 1 month later...

As promised, I said I would update things here...instead of bombarding Discord #Workshop threads like a madwoman. xD

As it currently stands, this is probably my last iteration on the song, fully done now and updated with everyone's kind feedback in mind and actioned--inclusive of the old critique from the past rejection. It is unmastered, and I'm sliding it in here to see if The Sages or @Dj Mokram or @Emunator has any further ideas to glint. More-so, I think...I'm just trying to catch people for a final vibe-check (in case my ears are shot), and see if it's ready for the Panel again, regardless of result. Dunno how to necessarily master it, but I mixed it to the fullest extent I could after doing a lot of research and video watching on orchestral composition/arrangements (and practice with other work), and limiting/reassessing the reference scope to primarily TSO with hints of Tchaikovsky and Chopin.

I'm being hopeful...and trying to find and instill the confidence in my solo projects to try again.

As most people are aware, I've been hammering at this in-between nonsense for a good long while throughout the process since the reject. I hope...I've compressed the lump of coal into an unprocessed diamond, and now have given it the cut and polish to push it over the goal-line. :)


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I am currently working on the mastering for this as well. Dunno how to really effectively master orchestra-centric pieces, but I can damn sure try and use some new techs I've learned for sub-processing and organization in REAPER to experiment on / with.

So... I can have a chat about either end of it, be it mixing or mastering. I think the arrangement is pretty much solid and finalized because I had taken the advice during a previous Office Hours WIP Review session at face-value, to modify MIDI so that notes didn't clash, and I have cut some harmonies and countermelodies that I wrote myself--that I really did love in the piece, and out-of-context or isolated, worked in certain situations; but because I couldn't get them to work with everything else going on (muddying up support parts and taking away from focus / front-end parts) I...had no other choice. Logic-brain / emotional-disconnect prevailed. It was for the betterment of the piece, in the end, so folks who commented on that and the disparity caused by over-complicated part-writing were, indeed, correct all along.

I'm saying this to prove the point I am listening, and to apologize for stubbornness and flying too close to the sun / being too married to some of what I had wrote. It's a huge amount time/frustrations/emotions sunk, clipped, and gone now, but the raw MIDI (meta-)data is around somewhere, probably, and I learned some stuff about how to compose for left vs right hand piano concerto. :) At least there's a silver lining to be had.

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Hey Queenie. Glad your hiatus was brief and I hope you're feeling better today. ☺️

Last review I held back the stats, but there's an issue in this version I need to address right off the bat: you've got at least 14 instances of clipping and a sample peak of 0db ...on an unmastered track. Your master is gonna brick wall something fierce unless you do some gain-staging and leave headroom for dynamics, which are critical in an orchestra piece. I'd advise toning down the busy chorus part at 2:53, especially in relation to the previous section as the crescendo leading to it is pretty succinct/sudden. 

Speaking of, the Evil Glockenspiel was tamed but alas not vanquished. It remains overbearing during said chorus despite being noticeably quieter, yet still louder than everything else, detracting from the impact of that section. And while you took the time to make the composition less complex so every element can now shine, this also puts an additional spotlight on the Glock here. Easy fix tho: just drop a few dBs on it and let the orchestra be the dominant feature. I'd even suggest omitting some notes at intervals on that leitmotiv, to give it humanization. 

The last section still has some dissonance and note-clashing between 4:11~4:35, though I'd love for it to be entirely intentional, cause it adds a unique twist of uneasiness that confers character to the remix. Those small complaints aside, you pretty much addressed most gripes I had before, so props on the outstanding effort. 👍

Gotta say, I admire the pugnacity with which you fought for your creative ideas, but am also glad you went back and tinkered to fix issues pointed out by everyone. I respect your desire to claim this victory all by yourself and wear your crown with pride in front of the panel, but if you need help ironing out last kinks or with orch mastering, don't hesitate to hit me up. Good luck polishing this diamond to a shine. 👑💎

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Posted (edited)


Mastered and Unmastered mp3 versions of both of these, in the context of seeing if anyone has anymore to add for the final stretch. ♥

...Think Snowy Lambcow is just as tired of seeing me as I am of it. Feels like I'm crawling with a broken spine after dat boi trampled me on the way to the finish line...

But I ain't frozen yet. I didn't hear no bell. ;)

So, yeah. Any final pearls of wisdom or word of advice or cautionary tale on these before I ship it back into the lion's den would be immensely helpful, thank you so much.

Time to crash out in the meantime, rofl.








Edited by The Vodoú Queen
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