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Topic: Yay, it's finished!

  1. #1

    Yay, it's finished!

    My WIP finally becomes a work in the bag. I hope you don't mind a new thread.

    Thanks to the great feedback from the forum members, and a special honorary mention for Cass, who's kept a close eye on this as I stitched it together from bits of old notes and sticky tape.

    If there's any questions or more information wanted (Cass was interested in the mixing), I'll elaborate here as best I can. Which usually isn't very good. I'll try and be detailed for once!

    From the previous thread I mentioned the following:
    When it comes to finally mixing the piece I find I don't always have a lot to do because I try to get the MIDI as close as possible to something finished. (I used to always just export the MIDI and that'd be the finished piece).

    Now I make changes in volume envelopes at the mixing stage to help with the balance and dynamics. When you can see the envelope as well as hear, you tend to realise that some elements are getting completely lost rather than just bubbling under the surface. You can rescue the detail you intended with watching for this.

    I have it set up now that each midi channel (each instrument) has its own audio output track. That way I can put different EQ and reverb settings on every single track. I have to admit I'm not so great on the mixing side of things either - I use a lot of presets and rarely make too many adjustments. With the MIDI data sounding hot off the press, the audio data only needs a few tweaks, meaning I haven't learned how to do anything too extensive. I'd even be interested in handing the mixing stage over to someone who really knows what they are doing so I can hear what's possible (or how someone else might interpret the mix).

    The reverb is on 4 separate busses (100% wet, one reverb for each family, Woods, Brass, Percussion, Strings). I send a portion of every instrument to the relevant buss - so Flutes 1 and 2 for example, starting at no signal, I send about -10db of the original signal to the woodwinds buss. (this is how Ableton, the DAW I use, handles 'effects tracks'). I use Altiverb for reverb, so I have stage placement set up in that to bring the sound closer for strings, or further, for percussion.

    Repeat the reverb assignments all the way down through each instrument.

    I only pan instruments that were not recorded in their positions already - for what I work with that means only percussion needs panning.

    Not sure if any of this is helpful, I could probably waffle on about any number of random mixing/setup scenarios, so if there's a specific question you could grab from this, let me know.
    YouTube Music:
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  2. #2

    Re: Yay, it's finished!

    Nice one, Lad! Very cinematic.

    I have no criticism. I enjoyed listening to your work. You are a talented composer.

    Thanks for sharing your music with us.


    Larry G. Alexander

  3. #3
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Jun 2009
    Canada,winter Mexico

    Re: Yay, it's finished!

    I do not wish that you would think I am overstating how I feel about this music: It is magnificent.
    Don't change a thing, it is great. I love the whole, replayed it several times, but went back each time and replayed the last bars again and again. Your brass is truly great and how you using them, how you have mixed, is incredibly good.
    Thanks, and I will get back to this, getting inspiration from it often in the future..

    May the wind always be at your back...


  4. #4

    Re: Yay, it's finished!

    Dum dada Dum! It's wonderful to hear what you've done with the project, Graham. The other work-in-progress thread has been great to follow, diverting me a bit now and then from my seemingly endless notation projects.

    I'm glad you mentioned Cass - He's really been a champ, working with you on this. Go team!

    It would be so fun if John Williams could hear your work, Graham. I have no doubt he'd get a kick out of it, and would also be flattered. I'm sure he knows he has acolytes spread out all over the world, but how could he not be impressed with such a talented one as you are?

    You know me - I highly approve of how you're working more with audio now. After all, we're making recordings, and those are all about audio. Mixing has always called for an intricate and constant balancing of tracks to enhance a recording, and we can avail ourselves of that process even though the initial source for our tracks are the invisible MIDI musicians we employ. As you say here, a richer, more detailed result is possible when you've rescued moments that were getting lost by using track automation, and when you've used a bit of EQ to help with the balance.

    DPDAN is a big champion of not just Digital Performer, but also of Altiverb. I've tried his reverb method a few times, but I didn't feel comfortable with an approach so different from what I've done for years. But there's no arguing with Dan's great results - What he does works extremely well. In case you're not familiar with his posts about his Altiverb theory, here it is in a nutshell:

    --Instrument tracks are all panned to center and sent directly to the bus that has the appropriate instance of Altiverb. No Sends are used - the entire signal from the track is sent to the Bus.

    The traditional way, what you're doing, and what I do, is to have the track signal go to the Master with a portion of the signal diverted to a reverb bus.

    Dan relies on Altiverb to provide stage positioning which includes panning, and the amount of reverb. Dan's theory is that the only way to have a natural sounding signal is for the entire track to be coming from inside that Altiverb impulse file - just as an instrument is actually sitting inside a room in real life. He feels that with the traditional mixing method used in conjunction with Altiverb, the result is two audio images of the track's signal - A dry signal + a reverberent ghost of that signal. He feels the two never completely meld in the way we intend.

    I think I'm describing Dan's method correctly. He uses a new instance for each instrument, since he's relying on the plugin for panning, and doesn't want to reduce the stereo field to just four groups.

    I mention that in case you feel up to experimenting with that approach sometime.

    But I still mix in the more traditional way, much as you're describing here, using Sends, and using the track pans.

    Note that it's not just Altiverb's stage positioning which helps place an instrument front to back, but also the amount of Send you're using, since the amount of reverberation is the biggest indicator of an instrument's placement on stage.

    In any case - I think what you have here sounds super, spectacular. It fits perfectly in the Spielberg epic adventure genre.



  5. #5

    Re: Yay, it's finished!

    Gosh! When you go Graham...you go! That's quite a leap from the last update...phew....finished....Hooray!!! I wish I could produce excellent results at that speed , but then again I'm lucky to spend 45 minutes a day with my music so one can't get much done with that kind of regimen.

    Love the ending. So many of these types of pieces fizzle at the end ,having a plain, trite, cliché ending. The unison brass at the end was very effective and works beautifully . Never would of thought of that.

    I also like the title. When you get to the main theme around:30 , you can just see a dragon soaring through the skies. You chose well.

    And thanks for all the mixing info. I know it takes valuable time to write all that out, but it was a great help and I learned a lot from it. And Randy's addition was also helpful as an alternative. When I get back to orchestration I'll try both approaches.

    Finally, thanks for quasi working with you, sharing thoughts, and ideas, and seeing the piece come to fruition. I really enjoyed the whole process. It was great fun and an eye-opener for me.

    I know you spent more time on this piece than probably any other that you've done for the length of the piece, but the efforts were worth it. This is a highly professional, articulate piece, and most importantly, enjoyable to listen to. A big success in my view. Congrats!!!


  6. #6

    Re: Yay, it's finished!

    Hi everyone - well I'm relieved the ending went down well, because I tried a few variations of this until I was happy enough. With all the work and rework gone into the body of the piece, I was scratching my head and fretting at the thoughts of how to end it.

    Delighted you seemed to enjoy that enough Ted for a few replays. And thanks, Larry, for your comments. Coming from another talented composer, that is great to hear.

    I did think it was a kind of typical da-da-da-dum ending, but nice to hear you felt it was a little bit different, Cass. I wondered too at how to make the ending big enough given there was already a sustained high dynamic in a lot of places, but I think it managed to go up to 11 with no layering or extra tracks. And thank you, too, for following this - I too enjoyed our quasi working together here. Sometimes progress is slow, sometimes I fly through minutes of music in a couple of hours. Overall output is often a track in 3 hours (though something far less intricate that this usually). Pity you don't get the time you'd like for your own music. You might be surprised to hear I get barely 2 hours an evening if lucky - and it's been like that for the last couple of years.

    It's probably worth mentioning, as close as possible this is written and played very much exactly as an orchestra would be able to play it - no extra tracks or layering of any kind. All instrument numbering is correct (except I suppose when you have ensemble brass playing chords, they aren't separate instruments, they are always the ensemble). Mixing individual instruments I find doesn't work nearly as well. Then don't naturally 'combine' like a real ensemble would.

    Randy, that mixing approach sounds like it is worth a try. I'd be curious to attempt it and see. There was clearly a level of depth I heard in reference pieces I listened to, which I found I was not able to match. Better knowledge of Altiverb might help me with that so I think that's the next thing I'll be doing.

    Cheers all
    YouTube Music:
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  7. #7

    Re: Yay, it's finished!

    Wonderful, I love it. Especially since I set up new computer this past Saturday with a sound quality that make old computer sound like I was listening over a land line phone. Listening to your composition make me want to go back several years and listen to everything all over again.
    Samantha Penigar


    Dream it! Then Do it! Good things come to those who work while they wait. [COLOR=purple]Persistence[/COLO

  8. #8

    Re: Yay, it's finished!

    Graham! This really sounds great. Sorry about the late response on this. I thought this was a re post so I did not listen to it, but then decided to hear it. This is just a remarkable piece of music. I realize now that you have been poking at it for a while now, trying to get it just right. And just right it is. I also like the insights you gave us as how you do some of your mixing. Thanks for the great post. Jay

  9. #9

    Re: Yay, it's finished!

    Thanks Samantha and Jay.

    Samantha, I recognise that new setup excitement. When I jumped to a 64 bit pc last year with better soundcard and some software additions, I was like a kid in a candy store.

    I don't recall seeing anything from you in the listening room recently - be great if you get the chance to share something soon. :-)

    Jay - no worries, I don't like to repost or create too many, but if something or the focus of something has changed then I think a fresh post for a finished piece helps. The WIP post was winding down.

    Glad you all like this, as the score is now being prepared for the Carolina orchestra :-) It's undergoing some minor changes in this process as well. When you get to see the horizontal structure so much clearer in a score, there are little things that pop out all over the place for improvement.
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