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Topic: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

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  1. #1

    The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    A collaborative project with a friend from India! The very first version of this was made when I was probably 14-15 years old. It started out as a short demo, one of many that I created with my synthesizer back then. My friend Rutam once asked me to send over all of my music. Amongst other wonderous pieces he found this - IdeaSix and thus we set out carve a full-length song out of it. He sent me an incredible demo of himself singing along to IdeaSix with lyrics he had written. And it was amazing and literally blew my mind. Slowly but steadily I kept expanding on the original musical idea, wrote the verse parts, expanded the intro.. somehow even managed to come up with some fabulous bridge sections. Rutam kept writing lyrics for me.. and I have to say, he does it so well I almost never had any objections. The original IdeaSix basically now stands firmly as the chorus part of this song and I'm so relieved that this long-lost piece will, hopefully, find an audience for itself and will be enjoyed by many Happy listening!

    The Serious Ensemble - Upcast | music/vocals: myself | lyrics: Rutam Rane |
    NEW version! The Serious Ensemble - Upcast2

    Lyrics:

    these twilight skies
    call us tonight
    severing our ties
    we're reaching new heights


    feeling of floating this open ocean of dust clouds and stars
    rising above the horizon we part saying goodbye to the ground

    dreaming..
    feeling our senses..
    coming together..
    why can't I stay?


    feel this expanse
    nothing but shallow cries
    graves facing the sun
    we’ll leave them behind


    feeling of floating this open ocean of dust clouds and stars
    weightless infinity sweeping around us without any bounds
    dreaming..
    feeling our senses..
    coming together..
    why can't I stay?


    dreaming..
    feeling our senses..
    coming together..
    and I can't escape!

    feel I'm alive don’t you let go of me now!


    Oh yes, almost forgot the instrumentation. Here it is:
    • acoustic guitar: TheoK Fender Acoustic Guitar
    • lead guitar: Garritan Electric Guitar [clean]
    • lead guitar 2: Garritan Electric Guitar [overdrive]
    • bass guitar: Garritan Jazz & Big Band Fretless Bass and Jazz Fretted Bass combined together + both tuned down an octave
    • piano: Alicia's Keys Yamaha C3 Neo
    • strings: Session Strings with default EQ and Pole 1 LP effect
    • FX [from 2:32]: Garritan's Upright Bass and Sitar combined together
    • percussion: Garritan Jazz & Big Band Fusion Drum Kit and Garritan's own Fusion Drum Kit combined together
    'Music is like this pure thing that exists for its own sake, just to make something perfect..' ~ Ephram Brown

  2. #2

    Re: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    Hi, Brindle - You don't come by the Forum often enough. But I'm glad you're here now.

    It's a wonderful story, thanks for including it with the post, how this piece came about slowly, the collaboration with your friend in India. It's so remarkable the way we can make contact with people in other countries, and even work together with them on creative projects like this.

    The song's soaring and soulful quality I found very captivating. There's a very admirable simplicity to it, coupled with some interesting and effective complexities throughout.

    And thank you for listing the instruments you used - some very unusual combinations you used, like a JABB bass and sitar mixed together! - I didn't understand the last entry of your instrument list - "Garritan Jazz & Big Band Fusion Drum Kit and Garritan's own Fusion Drum Kit combined together"--what's the difference between the Fusion kits?---I guess I could look at my JABB and understand what you mean.

    Technically, there's something I just have to comment on. You're using Soundcloud which displays the waveform - I wouldn't have needed to see it to know that there's a very pronounced amount of compression used on this track. Looking at the visuals, you can see it's an almost smooth, tapered cone - starting out a bit lower than it ends, but smoothed out all the way from start to finish. It's literally the picture of an overly compressed recording - the highs and lows are virtually non-existent.

    You can hear the negative results of this over-compression. On what were once the peaks, most notably the vocal entrances, you can hear what was originally a louder part of the recording suddenly squashed down - That's pumping, an effect you only get when over using compression.

    I urge you to experiment with the original uncompressed mix-down, dial the compression Way back, or take it out entirely, and listen carefully--I am sure you'll hear there's much more musicality in your mix than what you're presenting.---

    It's a lovely song, and it's been squashed to death by a compressor---.

    Randy

  3. #3

    Re: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    Hmm, thanks for the comments!
    Although I'm not so sure about compression.. I haven't done any post-production editing on the music after getting the output from Finale.
    Vocals... hmm I recorded them in a local studio with a weird engineer, I do have the vocals separately, guess I could try and see what I can do. But if that engineer over-compressed something already..
    What I can suggest though, is that I MIGHT have used a bit too much reverb on the instruments already with the Garritan Ambience in Finale.. I definitely want to have a go at it again, decreasing the reverb, playing around with panning (any ideas for this?). I have a tendency to wash over with reverb too much, I can tell you..
    'Music is like this pure thing that exists for its own sake, just to make something perfect..' ~ Ephram Brown

  4. #4

    Re: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    Quote Originally Posted by Brindle View Post
    Hmm, thanks for the comments!
    Although I'm not so sure about compression.. I haven't done any post-production editing on the music after getting the output from Finale.
    Vocals... hmm I recorded them in a local studio with a weird engineer, I do have the vocals separately, guess I could try and see what I can do. But if that engineer over-compressed something already..
    What I can suggest though, is that I MIGHT have used a bit too much reverb on the instruments already with the Garritan Ambience in Finale.. I definitely want to have a go at it again, decreasing the reverb, playing around with panning (any ideas for this?). I have a tendency to wash over with reverb too much, I can tell you..
    Hi, Brindle - Thanks for the reply.

    I'm positive its your engineer who used the heavy compression on the vocal track. It's pumping on the louder transients that I hear heavily in this track. Compression is routinely used on vocals because they can be difficult to tame. The human voice has such a huge dynamic range, and raw vocal tracks can vary way too much to work in a mix - they have to be tamed, so a compressor does that for the engineer. A more painstaking approach, using an elaborate volume envelope achieves pretty much the same thing a compressor does, but without that squashed sound. It'd be great if you can get a microphone, and start doing vocals yourself in your home work place - maybe that's possible for you to work toward.

    The amount of reverb seemed appropriate for the style of the song. There is a lot used here, and I don't generally love a heavily processed sound, but it seemed right for this.

    Just look at the wave form of your song - Like I said, the volume is extremely constant, looking very compressed. Besides what the engineer added to the vocal track, I'm wondering if there's something about what happens with audio tracks coming out of Finale? Or maybe you didn't use much CC1 volume control, so the levels are so constant?

    Here - I have this screenshot handy, and it will suffice for illustration. Notice how many fluctuations in volume there are, as compared to the relatively smooth line of your wave form. You can also see a volume envelope which is sculpting the output:



    Meanwhile--I like the song!

    Randy

  5. #5

    Re: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    Yes, I understand what you're trying to say Seems that my engineer had gone a tad too far with his editing, I'm starting to dislike the enormous reverb and delay I have on my vocal track. I might have another go at recording this though, at home Or in another studio.. will decide later.

    Anyway, I've tried cutting down as much reverb as I possibly can right from my Finale output. I listened to all tracks separately and adjusted the decay time + wet reverb amount and I think I have improved it quite a bit. At least the music sounds a lot less muddy. Another thing I did was play around with the panning. So it's more spread out. Different instruments on different sides. I kind of like it Hah!

    Btw, I know soundcloud shows you the waveform, but in my visual opinion, what I see in my Audition is different.. or I don't know.. maybe the volume levels ARE quite even throughout.. :/ I enabled downloading in these new uploads so you can check for yourself (the arrow pointing downwards right beside 'add to set' will let you download the song).

    So the new full version of the song, with the same vocals (cause I don't have anything else right now), less reverb and more panning, is here:
    http://soundcloud.com/leuphonie/uc-new-full-demo

    Also, just the music, without singing, with less reverb and more panning:
    http://soundcloud.com/leuphonie/uc-new-back

    Think it sounds any better? :P
    'Music is like this pure thing that exists for its own sake, just to make something perfect..' ~ Ephram Brown

  6. #6

    Re: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    Quote Originally Posted by Brindle View Post
    A collaborative project with a friend from India! The very first version of this was made when I was probably 14-15 years old.

    Beautiful!! Just Beautiful!!

  7. #7

    Re: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    Very nicely done - really beautiful song and great vocals. But shoot your engineer. This would benefit from less reverb and a some good remixing.

    When bass enters a song where it had since been absent, it is meant to lift the song and solidify it - this is the effect of it having been absent. When the bass enters here, it is so badly out of the mix it ruins the entire sound and made it hard to enjoy from that point on.

    The piano at the start is in another room by the sound of it. As is the guitar. And appears to be gated - a careful listen at the start seems to show there's silent gaps between the piano, where possible the reverb is cutting off.
    Website:
    www.grahamplowman.com
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  8. #8

    Re: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    Quote Originally Posted by Plowking View Post
    Very nicely done - really beautiful song and great vocals. But shoot your engineer. This would benefit from less reverb and a some good remixing.

    When bass enters a song where it had since been absent, it is meant to lift the song and solidify it - this is the effect of it having been absent. When the bass enters here, it is so badly out of the mix it ruins the entire sound and made it hard to enjoy from that point on.

    The piano at the start is in another room by the sound of it. As is the guitar. And appears to be gated - a careful listen at the start seems to show there's silent gaps between the piano, where possible the reverb is cutting off.
    Thanks for feedback! Which version did you listen to though? Piano gaps in the beginning is probably the pedal being lifted, I suppose :P
    'Music is like this pure thing that exists for its own sake, just to make something perfect..' ~ Ephram Brown

  9. #9

    Re: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    Hi - listened to both versions and the 2nd version is an improvement with a less drowned out sound to it. The bass line from just after 2:30 though doesn't suit the mix at all and it takes over the entire mix once it enters. If I was being dramatic about it, I would say it ruins the rest of the song.

    The piano at the start, the gaps could be the pedaling. It's neither 'correct' nor 'incorrect' - I mention it because it did sound gated to me. It's different if the music has an actual rest, or is played detached on purpose.

    I'm rarely so direct with my comments, but I would say the whole piece would benefit from a new mix. But if the original instrument recordings have problems then it might be a harder prospect - easy for me to say it needs another mix, but it could be a very difficult thing to do.
    Website:
    www.grahamplowman.com
    YouTube Music:
    My Channel
    Twitter:
    @GPComposer
    Facebook:
    Facebook

  10. #10

    Re: The Serious Ensemble - Upcast

    Hello again, Brindle - BIG improvement on the new mix, congrats! Dialing back the reverb did help a lot, it usually does. Considering the nature of the song, a bit in the Moody Blues mode, a big spacious sound is appropriate - so I was hesitant earlier to be very critical about the amount of reverb used in the first version. But I'm glad to hear that when you tamed the reverb, the results are more pleasant.

    It must seem like Graham and I have really been busting your chops on this. I do have the impression though that you know we're just wanting to be helpful. It's a captivating song, and deserves to be demoed in the best way possible. What you have now is much better, and may be the best that can be done with the original tracks you have. I still feel the engineer overly processed the vocals, and that the mix isn't ideal - but hey, it's a lot better than a lot of stuff online. The best thing this has going for it is the song itself - it's way above par. AND I'm the first to freely admit that I find getting an adequate mix is still extremely difficult, despite my years of experience.

    Very important - I now strongly suspect that this Soundcloud site you're using is guilty of at least some of the compression we're hearing on the mix. I didn't download as you suggested, because that would only be a download of the compressed/processed version they have available there at the site. Maybe you'll want to check out other ways of presenting your music.

    I endorse Box - It's simply a way to share files online. No changes at all are made in what you upload. Many of us use Box for storing and sharing our music - because what listeners hear is exactly the same as what we have on our hard drives. You don't really need the fancy visuals of a displayed waveform like they have at Soundcloud--especially since I'm positive they're hurting the quality of your music in the upload process. SoundClick is popular - but they really wreck music, like YouTube wrecks videos.

    THANks for your patience with us - Your new version is doing much less damage to your work, and so that's a big positive.

    Randy

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