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Chrono Trigger - Black Omen


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I finally have a WIP worth getting comments on. The tune is as-of-yet untitled, but it's a jazz waltz version of the Black Omen from Chrono Trigger. The song isn't finished (I still have to add a piano solo and restatement of the melody), I haven't done any mixing or processing yet, I still have to tweak the flute (all I've done is play it in from my keyboard; I haven't used the keyswitch to make the staccato more realistic and make the velocities on the melody more realistic) and the bass (the sample I have has a few nice acoustic bass effects, plus I want to tweak the part), as well as adding drums. But, for what it's worth, here's the piece.

Version 1 - April 9

Version 2 - April 18

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I was excited reading about the concept - and you pulled it off pretty well! You're already aware of the articulation issues, and I'm sure you also know you need more effects (reverb at least) to tone down the MIDI-ish sound of this. But the arrangement is great! It was smoother and more faithful to the original than I was expecting, but has a nice consistent flow.

It's almost sad to listen to something like this and imagine what it'd be like if an actual jazz band played it...ah well. Keep it up. This is such a great source, and your concept is working quite well for you.

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I'd also like to have it done by an actual jazz band, or at least have a pianist sit in who's much better at comping than I am. Like I said in the inspiration thread I started, the challenge for me here isn't coming up with a concept; it that's all I was trying to do, I would've submitted sheet music for this a few weeks ago :)

What did you think of the flute solo? It's obviously lacking articulation, but I mean in terms of the notes. The challenge of the Black Omen is that the key changes and chord changes of the B section (1:42-2:04, and the flute solos over it at 2:36-3:10) are hard to solo over if you're not used to soloing much on piano (I'm way more experienced on sax than piano when it comes to jazz). I'm not sure whether to leave the solo as is, since some of the unintentional dissonances work pretty well, or whether I should edit or replay parts of the solo to end up with something a bit more straight-ahead.

By the way, happy birthday!

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Definitely does. The lead doesn't have to be flute either; it could just as easily be sax, trumpet, or even piano. I only picked flute because of a lack of good jazz trumpet samples, good sax samples period, a mic to record myself playing alto, and my inability to comp and play a noticeable melody line at the same time. I'll be sending a PM your way.

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This song kicks ass

And I have a question =P

Since u seem to know ur music real well ^^. Do I have to understand piano theory (notes) well in order to create music? Cuz I've never tried FL or any other mixing program, so I wouldn't know =(. I intend to get FL, but I'm not the admin on this comp and I can't DL it, till I get my own comp.

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Hah, me understand music well? This is my first remix that's gotten far enough for me to consider putting it up as a WIP, and even when it's finished and cleaned up, it'll still be so far from being what's in my head (which, for the record, varies slightly every time I hear it, being a jazz composition and all).

Anyway, the short answer is no, you don't really need to know music theory of any kind. FL Studio and other programs will let you point-and-click your notes, so if you're patient enough and have a good ear, you can end up with something that sounds good without knowing the exact notes you've entered. That said, it probably takes a ton of raw talent to make good mixes without any previous musical knowledge. The more you know, the better off you'll be. Doing a jazz mix without knowing basic harmony and either knowing jazz harmony or listening to a ton of jazz or both just won't work.

Now that my computer is no longer overheating frequently (thanks to pulling the side off the case and pointing a desk fan directly at the graphics card), I can hopefully get this done soon.

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Whoa, you've greatly surprised me witht this. Normally, I don't expect a piano mix to be outstanding, mostly due to the classic attitude "expecting-that-the-people-will-be-impressed-only-cos-this-is-a-piano" that i see everywhere. The harmony here is really interesting, even more than the original, the bass is really sweet and the flute sounds cool, even if it's not a real flute. I'm really digging this, but i think this needs some drums. Dude, this is the kind of music that should get into OCremix.

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The flute needs work. The current version is one of the EWQL Symphonic Orchestra instruments. I can't remember which one it was offhand, but it was the one with the most even velocities so that it would sound half-decent without any tweaking. I do intend to use several samples so that, for example, the staccato sounds better and the flute has a lighter tone, but I haven't gotten there yet.

There will be a full drum part, added once I finish the rest of the instruments (hopefully tonight).

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That's what I used. Silver edition, since I believe in supporting artists and programmers and couldn't afford better. EWQL SO is a great tool if used correctly; at the moment, I'm using it no differently than I'd use a soundfont, but that's what velocity editing and keyswitches are for :)

EDIT: I added more last night, but couldn't get FL Studio to export it, and didn't feel like fighting with the software at 2 AM, so it's not posted yet. I'll get it up tonight, as well as hopefully adding more to the track. I cleaned up some timings and a few notes on what I already had, altered the first four chords on the intro, redid the flute solo, changed the flute melody to vary a bit more from the original melody, did background parts for the piano solo and did the break section after the piano solo. I still have to notate the piano solo itself and do another section of the main theme at the end to close off the piece. After that, drums.

I have a few ideas for the title. If you're a jazz nerd, you'll probably get the theme (and the second source of inspiration for the mix), especially after you hear the song quoted somewhere in the mix. Opinions?

1) A Shorter Way Near Lavos

2) A Shorter Path to Lavos

3) Footprints Through the Omen

4) Footprints of Lavos

5) Ominous Footprints

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Had time to finish the initial MIDI recording, as well as do some other changes. The first post is edited to have the current version up. The changes mentioned in the previous post are also up in this version. I also changed my piano samples; I'm now using EWQL SO's dark steinway and I like it better in terms of realism.

I realize the piano is particularly quiet from the piano solo to the end of the song. I somehow managed to mis-configure my MIDI keyboard so the velocities were recorded softer than I was expecting, and I didn't catch it until I'd finished all the recording and switched to one of the pianos in EWQL SO. This will be changed, but not at 2 AM :)

Also, there's a couple places with noticeable breaks between sections, particularly after the piano solo around 5 minutes into the piece when I change up from Am to Bm and switch back to a 6/4 pattern instead of groups of 3 bars of 3/4. The drums will fill in the space once I get them done.

Still to do: Drums, articulation/velocity editing, mixing/effects.

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Had time to finish the initial MIDI recording, as well as do some other changes. The first post is edited to have the current version up. The changes mentioned in the previous post are also up in this version. I also changed my piano samples; I'm now using EWQL SO's dark steinway and I like it better in terms of realism.

I realize the piano is particularly quiet from the piano solo to the end of the song. I somehow managed to mis-configure my MIDI keyboard so the velocities were recorded softer than I was expecting, and I didn't catch it until I'd finished all the recording and switched to one of the pianos in EWQL SO. This will be changed, but not at 2 AM :)

Also, there's a couple places with noticeable breaks between sections, particularly after the piano solo around 5 minutes into the piece when I change up from Am to Bm and switch back to a 6/4 pattern instead of groups of 3 bars of 3/4. The drums will fill in the space once I get them done.

Still to do: Drums, articulation/velocity editing, mixing/effects.

Drums are hard to do, if you don't use pre-made packets, so I don't blame you. Bass and drums are a major downfall for me when I try to remix my crud :S

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Drums are on hold for the moment. I was planning on using Jamstix, a VSTi that has a mode where it comes up with a drum part in response to your music and a playback mode. I'd tried it out on a few other styles, including a 4/4 jazz pattern, and it worked reasonably well. My idea was to do a basic part with Jamstix and then load the MIDI data into FL Studio and rework parts of it to make it fit the song better (for example, I have a very specific drum part in mind for the flute/piano/bass unison break around 4:30 in my track). Jamstix failed horribly at doing a 6/4 or even 3/4 jazz pattern, so I ordered Battery and am going to do the drums by hand. So now I'm just waiting on Battery.

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Def some hot shitte dude. Panning; you should pan each of the instruments slightly to represent an actual jazz band playing. Everything sounds very centered and soft right now. Granted everything should sound soft, but it is a lil too soft. Work on lil build ups in the dynamics. Prob do this through velocity editing.

Another thing might be to get the piano and winds playing off eachother for one section.

Overall in terms of mastering the song needs to sound wider and have more presence. Alot of this composition is top notch.

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Awesome, this is the kind of feedback I was hoping for at this point. I have yet to do any editing of any kind (besides removing and correcting the few wrong notes I hit as I played this). Everything sounds centered because I have yet to use any panning at all. I was planning on doing the velocity editing and so on now while I wait for Battery, and panning once I have a drum track.

About panning, it's kind of a tricky subject since there isn't really a "standard" stage position for instruments in a jazz quartet the way there is in an orchestra. If I was doing a stage setup, I'd probably want drums and piano on the outsides, facing each other and bass and flute close to the centre, with bass closer to the drums than the piano. In terms of panning, that tells me which instruments are left and right, but not how far right or left to go. Obviously I don't want drums full left or anything, but is there any kind of rough guideline to how far I should pan them, or is it just something I do by ear?

I generally like the idea of a call-and-response solo or something more formalized where the piano and flute are doing something, written or improvized, off each other. I don't think I'm going to here though, because I like the arrangement the way it is and adding another section would work, but at the cost of making it *really hard* to fit the song in a 6 MB MP3, and if I get rejected submitting this, I don't want it to be because I can't follow the file size guidelines :).

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I'd say do the panning by ear. Def keep the bass centered. I don't know the spacing of a jazz set up either. But in terms of giving everything proper space, I agree keeping the piano and drums on opposite sides is a good idea.

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In terms of what I'd want on the stage, the drummer and pianist would either be facing each other or have the drummer facing the pianist and the pianist at 90 degrees so turning his/her head would let him/her make eye contact with the drummer. Bass is definitely central, because bass really is the core foundation of a jazz rhythm section, not drums. I've seen a few concerts, both big band and small combos, and that's generally how they do it in a combo. In a big band, it really depends on stage space; I've seen the pianist and drummer beside each other in the back row with the bass player on the other side of the drummer from the pianist.

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Do have GuitarRig2 or any type of amp simulator? In GR2 you can position the mics in relation to the amp. This help create the correct spacing you'd be looking for. If you'd like you could rip the 4 different parts and send them to me and I could use GR2, to see if it would produce the results you'd be looking for. If you do this though, turn off the reverb completely as GR2 adds an airy feel anyways.

Edit: If you do have GR2 and are going to try and use, be careful and mindful bc it take some serious tweakage to get the sound right. I've used it a couple of times and failed miserably, but after messing with it more I've gotten better.

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I do have GuitarRig 2, although for that matter, I could also use the B4-II as an amp simulator. When I get the drum track done, I'll give that a try in addition to using conventional panning and see what ends up being better. In all honesty, the lack of fixed stage positions in jazz means it doesn't matter as much and I can just go for what sounds good.

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Before I make my point, I want to say that this thread is not about my specific WIP and is not intended to insult DJ Pretzel or any of the judges. I have a lot of respect for the work you all do for this site. I also am not complaining about the fact that my mix in particular would be rejected if I submitted it now (apart from production issues; I know about those and they're irrelevant to my point). I am hoping to point out that a particular genre of music has little hope of being accepted.

Anyone who's been to the WIP forum recently knows that I'm working on a 6/4 jazz remix of the Black Omen theme from Chrono Trigger. What I have done with it is common practice for a small-group jazz arrangement. I have an intro (based on World Revolution from Chrono Trigger), play the melody twice over a chord progression based on the original Omen progression, play a flute solo over that progression, play a piano solo over the chord progression in two different keys, have a short (12-bar) break section of totally original material, use another mini-theme from the Black Omen as a transition, state the melody once more, and have an ending similar to the intro (World Revolution again). In terms of length, the song is 6:11 in its current form, with roughly 3:30 of that being solos and the 12-bar break.

Someone who listened to my track earlier today pointed out that it would likely be rejected for straying too far from the source material and being made up of too much original interpretation. I asked a judge (who I will not name; it's not relevant to my point) to listen to it with respect to that comment. The judge agreed, and also suggested that my arrangement might be too sparse. One possibility I had was to drop the flute solo, cutting out 45-60 seconds of original material. This would no longer make the flute necessary in the piece, as all it would do would be to play the melody. The judge suggested that cutting it and sticking to a piano trio format would make the sparsity worse.

I have no issue with the judge. I have a lot of respect for all the judges, and I know this judge made comments in response to the submission standard. My question is about the standard itself.

Firstly, original material. In any good jazz arrangement, there is going to be original material. Jazz is an organic musical style built on improvisation. Tweaking a few notes in the melody is done in all styles; jazz takes it farther with full solos over chords. My arrangement was by no means experimental with respect to jazz: Head-Solos-Head is commonplace in every style of jazz. Furthermore, any reasonable jazz listener is able to tie the chord progression of the head to the chord progression of the solos, provided they're shared. Unless someone were to start listening to my mix 3 minutes in, it's not at all a stretch to expect them to be concious of the main theme during a solo. My mix was also of average length for a song of that tempo; many songs (including Footprints, the 6/4 jazz standard from which I got some inspiration) are over 10 minutes with multiple solos each much longer than both of mine.

As a point of comparison, Neskvartetten's Waltz for Zora (my favourite of the jazz mixes on the site and one that probably everyone would agree was not wrongly accepted) clocks in at 4:30 of which only 1:45 or so uses melodic material from the source tune. So why does mine seem longer? Perhaps because there's more melodic material in my source tune, and thus the solos are themselves longer, and so there is a longer period of time between statements of the theme. While 15-20 second solos are common for beginning soloists, you don't hear that in professional jazz outside of the context of call-and-response solos.

So, it appears that in order to get a jazz mix posted, one necessary criteria is to go against artistic sensibilities and either have one solo or short solos, or to have a well-recorded live band do the mix (in which case the 50% interpretation, 50% original rule of thumb suggested to me by another mixer might be overlooked due to the awesomeness of live instruments; again, I in no way intend to suggest that Waltz for Zora shouldn't be on the site).

My second point is about a jazz quartet or piano trio setting being too sparse. There are many high-quality solo piano mixes on the site, all of which would, by definition, be more sparse than my mix. I know that the judge's comment about sparsity was influenced by the fact that I don't yet have drums in my mix, parts of the piano need a boost in velocity, and I haven't done any effects or panning, but assuming this doesn't make all the difference, why are solo piano mixes not too sparse but a jazz quartet is? Perhaps it's because my mix was intended to be light and quiet in parts (it is, after all, a quartet, not a big band). If so, what's wrong with this? My mix, when I'm finished with it, will have a wide dynamic spread. Or maybe I didn't have enough notes in the piece? To me, silence between notes is music too, and playing more doesn't equate to playing better.

It doesn't make sense to me to keep a flute part in the mix when I'd rather reduce the mix to a trio format simply to meet some standard of sparsity. Piano trios have been making music the way I envision my mix since long before video games existed. I don't like the fact that I have to compromise my artistic view in order to get a song accepted to this site.

My point in this thread isn't to complain, but to raise awareness of what I believe to be a shortcoming in the submission standards for this site. I value this site and its goals, and am just trying to raise awareness of what has quickly become an important issue for me. That said, I am attentive to the judge's suggestions and will be reworking my mix; I'm not giving up because I believe the standards may have problems. At the same time, I feel that other remixes in my strongest style will face the same problems and I am reluctant to begin future jazz remixes for this reason.

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1) Waltz for Zora (4:30-long) - Overt points of Zelda source usage are :00-1:00, 1:23-1:30, 2:07-2:15, 2:22-2:26, 3:15-4:08 & 4:15-4:23, i.e. 2:20's worth of source arrangement.

1:30-1:40 sounds pretty liberal, as well as 2:52-3:07, since those rely mostly on the supporting instrumentation, so I didn't count those areas. Nonetheless, there's more than 50% usage of the source material.

2) If I miss anything as far as timestamps, definitely correct me, as I'm not overly familiar with this source and it's a lengthy track full of phrases to choose from. You could be using even more from "World Revolution" that I'm simply not picking up on.

As far as your mix goes, the first 1:59 is pretty standard arrangement. During the soloing, playing solos on top of the chords is definitely ok. You do have the chords of the original come in at 2:35-3:09. 4:10-4:40 refers to the original with the bassline, and later with the piano. 5:17-6:11 returns to arranging the source.

So at least about 3:57-total's worth of source usage in a 6:11-long track sounds perfectly fine to me from a standards perspective.

3) Whichever judge you got the feedback from was mistaken on how liberal the piece was, IMO. While I admire your passion, I don't think the issue this post brings up is in fact a valid one. "Waltz for Zora" is liberal, but not too liberal. Your mix is jazz, but the arrangement concept isn't teetering near the realm of unacceptablilty from a standards perspective. There's no double standard being applied to jazz mixes and how relevant they need to be to the source material.

In terms of the sparseness, I agreed with that, but reckon that more work has yet to be done in terms of fleshing out these sounds.

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Oinkness, I wouldn't say this is particularly slow. The tempo of my melody notes, accounting for the rhythmic differences of changing a straight-ahead 4/4 piece to a 6/4 piece, is nearly right on with the original. 6/4 may feel slower, but other than the intro and ending, my mix plays back at 191 bpm.

Thanks for the feedback, Liontamer. Obviously I can expect some differing opinions when this gets to the panel unless I do indeed drop a solo :)

Zora does a better job of small quotes from the original than I do during solos (no reason why I can't do so myself, instead of/in addition to quoting Footprints). When I gave a time, I was counting solos as being improv over the source chords, and due to what I'd heard earlier, not source material, and I forgot about the few quotes thrown in.

As for mine, the only place World Revolution happens is in the intro and ending, the rest is based on the chords from Black Omen. Basically, the source has three sections. Section 1 is in G minor corresponding to 0:36-1:05 and repeated again right away, Section 2 is in G minor with a change to A minor, corresponding to 1:36-2:05 and Section 3 is in B minor corresponding to 4:56-5:07 (the riff I do in the piano at that point is straight source material with the rhythm shifted a bit).

If I understand your analysis, the reason you think this is fine (and perhaps what the other judge and remixer missed) is the fact that every time I play section 2, such as 2:35-3:09 and 4:10-4:40, I don't alter the chords so the resemblance to the original is much more clear than when I play section 1, where I do alter the chords (albeit in a way that still resembles the original to jazz-sympathetic listeners). The only thing I can see that you missed is 4:56-5:17 which contains the 3rd section in the form of the piano riff followed by the end of the second section in the piano and bass (right after the little silence where there will be a drum fill; this is the same thing I play at the start of the piece for 4 bars before the flute melody comes in).

Thanks again for your comments. I got a few things out of your comments: 1) as long as I stick closely to the original with respect to chords, solos are fine, 2) it might be a good idea to have the occasional quote from the source material within a solo, and 3) besides processing, I might want to make the piano part thicker and/or try to find another instrument or two that could be added without disrupting the direction the piece is headed.

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Drums are on hold for the moment. I was planning on using Jamstix, a VSTi that has a mode where it comes up with a drum part in response to your music and a playback mode. I'd tried it out on a few other styles, including a 4/4 jazz pattern, and it worked reasonably well. My idea was to do a basic part with Jamstix and then load the MIDI data into FL Studio and rework parts of it to make it fit the song better (for example, I have a very specific drum part in mind for the flute/piano/bass unison break around 4:30 in my track). Jamstix failed horribly at doing a 6/4 or even 3/4 jazz pattern, so I ordered Battery and am going to do the drums by hand. So now I'm just waiting on Battery.

Oh cool, I'm new to the music world, so most of that just went *zing*, but it sounds like you've got it down ;-)

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