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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:56 am 
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For an old tune originally written for guitar, it sure sounds at home on the NES!

Not sure if it's how it's meant to be, or if it's just a consequence of polyphony reduction and not having heard the original to fill in the gaps, but some spots leave me a bit lost, if that makes any sense. It's nothing serious though - if I was busy trying to jump over spikes while dodging medusa heads when I first heard it, I probably wouldn't have noticed it at all.

As for theme: it makes me think of a cave in the middle of a Castlevania game. Has an echoey quality that makes me think of confined spaces, but it's too disorderly to be manmade. Too ominous and intriguing to be very early in the game, but not 'evil' enough to be near the end.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2018 5:29 am 
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Thanks for the feedback!

The rhythm section (drums and a lot of the bass) was written on top the old arrangement. There's a few instances of polyphony reduction and some new colours due to the bass, but it might just be that

-my 15-something year old self (not too unlike my 30:s self) had too little experience and just went by feel when trying to mash together "secret agent"-styled blues/rock cadences with bach-style classical music.

-the baroque composers, on the other hand, were well trained in music theory and never strayed too far beyond the convensions of their time, even though harmonic tensions were resolved in a more direct and somewhat heavy-handed manner. So whatever they did was kind of easy to follow, even if there's space for types of discomfort that we're unfamiliar with in modern pop.

-since the tune is so familiar to me, i probably have an easier time anticipating every turn which makes me a little deaf to movements and jumps that are too sudden, and then then i went a bit overboard with the rearranging, supported by a presupposition noone is hearing.

I think the root cause for disorientation is a shift between bars 7 and 8 where i think i botched it.

Feel free to compare to this simplification - i think it'll sound nicer if i just stick to a chord progression following this melody.
Attachment:
File comment: edit: added a few guiding chords
FG_simplification.ftm [3.46 KiB]
Downloaded 69 times


Re: the theme. That's interesting! I just couldn't make up my mind when listening to the arrangement if it'd be a 1st stage type of song or a close to the end type of song, but never thought it to be a middle of campaign type of song.

Edit: Updated the link with a new version of the song. Some minor changes plus some quite noticeable ones in bar 7 and 8. Not quite the same as the ftm file as that chord progression became to high strung in this key.

https://frankengraphics.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/frankengraphics_tr27.mp3
Still a WIP of course.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:47 pm 
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Bear in mind that I know absolutely nothing about musical composition. I can't even read music - I can play the piano by ear, and that's about it. I think about music a bit like how I think about speech, with languages, phrases, words and so on. When I say a song makes me feel "lost", I mean it's abruptly changing ths subject, or saying things that don't "mean" anything.

I actually get that more in pop songs than anywhere else, because they really don't have anything to say - they're just a rhythm, a melody and some overpriced filters, repeated ad nauseam. I like NES music and other chiptunes because they're more complex, creative and unfamiliar than the "mainstream" slop, even if I don't have the vocabulary to explain why.

All of which is a polite way of saying I have no idea what you're talking about, but I think the results sound awesome. :D I really should take some courses/read up on the subject so I can contribute more.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am 
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Here's another one - the one for the password/save screen, possibly menus overall.
https://frankengraphics.files.wordpress ... pel_fg.mp3

It's the song that made me start the DPCM troubleshooting thread.
in the end i wound up with two of my original 17 byte samples that do the same notes but with altered timbre and volume, and two of the smaller ones from lidnariq's dmc files to complete the range of notes used (file 68 and 72).

I'm a little bit worried about its PAL implementation, though it should be managable. FT seems to lock me out from PAL emulation for this project file, not sure why. But it'll eventually be an easy check up if the tuning sounds too raunchy or not once i get back home in august. But i'm pretty sure i need to either use another of lidnariqs' samples for my B-2 that doesn't use sample rate $C as a divisor, or if it still would sound too raunchy on PAL, come up with separate instrument lists for PAL and NTSC.

Anyway.. what do you think of the composition? I'm probably going to reuse the main line in a more upbeat, sample-free context too.



rahsennor wrote:
When I say a song makes me feel "lost", I mean it's abruptly changing ths subject, or saying things that don't "mean" anything

This could probably be the symptom of keeping too many motifs in one song or insufficient elaboration on main motifs. I find it quite easy to get lured away from keeping to a small collection of motifs per song in a pattern based editor, with each pattern change a potential threat to the continuity. That's two different things, actually. Second thing being insufficient lean-ins and bridge-overs between patterns.

Quote:
I actually get that more in pop songs than anywhere else, because they really don't have anything to say - they're just a rhythm, a melody and some overpriced filters, repeated ad nauseam.


Pop music is also littered with secondary chords (example: the dominant of the dominant), which weren't around before the baroque era. They can be quite lively and act as surprise elements. Too much of the good stuff can be disorienting, though. But yeah, there's also the metagenre where there's no movement at all (substitutet by filter swooshes and "millenial whoops"), and that's even more disorienting, because the song doesn't really go in any particular direction and keeps stomping in the same place.

The millenial whoop is not so bad in itself in a neutral vacuum, but is a bit disorienting since it is so commonplace that radio songs blend together. Every decade has overused musical memes though.

ok, that was quite the tangent.

Also, thanks again! It's good to get some feedback, music theory grounded or not.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:56 pm 
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Here's a bunch of notes on romanchapel_fg.mp3, and an accompanying FTM to illustrate. Numbers in parentheses indicate a pattern and rows to look at in the FTM.
  • The first thing that stands out to me is the lack of variation in volume. One of the big problems in chiptune, for me, is that it's very easy for the hardware to produce very steady, unchanging sounds, and I think it quickly produces what I think of as "fatigue" for the listener. There's some detune here, and a gradual vibrato on some long notes, which help, but volume and duty are underused.
  • Maybe a volume swell on the chordal square instruments? (00)
  • The triangle at the beginning seems to be the important melody, but is buried in the mix. Maybe move it to a higher register? Could treat it as a soloist, e.g. let them linger on a note too long for emphasis, or do stuff like that. (00)
  • The harmony seems to move very erratically to me. I find it difficult to follow. I made a simplified version of the first part for illustration (01) and then sort of a rewrite of it (02).
  • Those first three chords make a strong opening cadence, why not repeat it? It seems like it's an important building block for the piece overall, worth making firm. (02:08)
  • Next you pass through two diminished chords, but this chain feels very very disconnected to me. Consider switching the voices so the bass instead moves up a tone; rather than jumping from dissonance to dissonance, connect them in a chain of smaller movements between voices. (01:06-0C vs 02:0E-14) Same four chords just with voices rearranged. Might help to step through the rows slowly with Ctrl+Enter.
  • Maybe even consider making another cadence here to close the harmonic phrase, and finish establishing the initial key... (02:10-1E)
  • This chord with F# in the bass (01:10) is a very nice tonal contrast, and it first fits in with a larger tonal shift to E major that is sort of going on, but its connection with its surroundings feels vague to me.
  • Using the newly created cadence as a place to make a big tonal leap to E major, also creates a context to use that F# major chord. (02:20)
  • Passing through the original key a little bit but in the new E major context might make a nice contrast of meaning for it? (02:28-2E)
  • Repetition, reinforcing/reusing that previous harmonic leap and creating another phrase. (02:20 vs 02:30)
  • Sorry, I went on a bit of a tangent in the new key, eventually returning to a cadence in the original key. Just trying to provide an example of harmonic phrasing that's complete enough to be useful. (02)
  • Often it helps a lot not to move all the voices at the same time. This can create useful moments of dissonance (suspension/etc.) but also provides separation and rhythmic variety, and breaks up flat spaces (fatigue).
  • There's a really nice moment about a 1 minute 3 seconds into the MP3 where there's a brief melody that enters on one of the squares. This is definitely my favourite part of the piece. I think that melody deserves to stand out a bit more so I did a little reorchestration to demonstrate. (03)

I don't know if you're comfortable sharing the source FTMs but it would probably be a lot easier to illustrate if I wasn't starting from scratch.


Attachments:
romanchapel_fg_notes.ftm [23.4 KiB]
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:26 pm 
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Some notes on frankengraphics_tr27.mp3 (sorry no FTM for this)
  • The triangle could use some note cuts to break up the constant flat tone. In the intro you could even break it into multiple notes, i.e. "E E E B E E E B" instead of "E - - B E - - B" which would also reinforce the metric rhythm at the same time. Especially around 5 seconds where the triangle moves around a lot, the line is sort of like a wobbly noodle to me, which some space around the notes would supply some definition for. (I would probably just create an instrument for the triangle that has a volume envelope that sets 0 after some number of frames, so that I don't have to type in a bunch of cuts.)
  • You might consider a duty envelope of "1 0" or "1 1 0" for some of your percussion instruments (especially hi-hat) just to add a bit of a metallic ring on the onset.
  • An arpeggio envelope on a snare can make a really effective onset too, like a short burst of noise at one of the lower frequency can add a nice bassy punch to it.
  • At 19 seconds you seem to a melody line alternating with an accompanying fill, and it sounds like you're using one channel for each of them, but leaving one empty while the other is speaking. You could probably make little diad chords for the accompaniment part, and the melody could get a doubling at the octave or with detune to make it really stand out. That melody part "B . . . B - - A#- -" seems like something that is worth hitting with a really hard and fat sound. Maybe even some sort of crash cymbal sound on the noise could contribute to that.
  • At 38 seconds a new melody enters. It's in a different duty than the previous melody, but I think it might be worth putting up an octave to make it stand apart more.
  • The accompaniment in this same section has a lot of long held notes, that might be opportunity for a little more variety of sound. Maybe something as simple as an "echo" style volume envelope with a few decays of decreasing volume could make it a bit more lively.
  • At 1m12s there's a really nice little bridge of a 2-channel echo, I think that might be worth making twice as long, maybe with the notes twice as fast the second time.
  • At 1m45s there's a melody that doesn't really stand out from the mix... though at 1m36s where this section began, I am wondering if it would benefit from being a little quieter, more subdued, maybe again I'd suggest more gaps between notes (making notes shorter is one way of making them quieter, in a way), and it might give this section a more open orchestration where things like that melody can sound more distinctive within.
  • At 1m54s I think this restatment of that earlier theme could come in really heavy. A change to some noisier drums here could help (another place for that crasy cymbal).


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 7:39 pm 
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Not bad! I like how you've used the DMC as a sorf of second triangle, getting a clean but artificial sound instead of going for the Sunsoft-style flashy but noisy. I have heard it before but it's way less popular than it should be.

There are a few spots with some nasty artifacts, but I'll leave that to the smart people like rainwarrior to comment on.

FrankenGraphics wrote:
This could probably be the symptom of keeping too many motifs in one song or insufficient elaboration on main motifs. I find it quite easy to get lured away from keeping to a small collection of motifs per song in a pattern based editor, with each pattern change a potential threat to the continuity. That's two different things, actually. Second thing being insufficient lean-ins and bridge-overs between patterns.

Pop music is also littered with secondary chords (example: the dominant of the dominant), which weren't around before the baroque era. They can be quite lively and act as surprise elements. Too much of the good stuff can be disorienting, though. But yeah, there's also the metagenre where there's no movement at all (substitutet by filter swooshes and "millenial whoops"), and that's even more disorienting, because the song doesn't really go in any particular direction and keeps stomping in the same place.

The millenial whoop is not so bad in itself in a neutral vacuum, but is a bit disorienting since it is so commonplace that radio songs blend together. Every decade has overused musical memes though.

ok, that was quite the tangent.

Also, thanks again! It's good to get some feedback, music theory grounded or not.

That stuff about motifs actually makes a lot of sense! I think you've hit the nail on the head; songs that have too many motifs or too little variation are probably what I'm talking about.

Not so sure what you mean about chords though. I've collected quite a few non-12TET songs, and I get the same thing there - some 'feel' musical, despite sounding weird, and others sound like someone hooked a random number generator up to an interval table.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 12:36 am 
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Those are lot of great suggestions, rainwarrior! I'm moving slowly, but here's a new version of track 27. I tried all the suggestions for size, kept some, and here's the result:
https://frankengraphics.files.wordpress ... tr27b1.mp3

I also attempted to tidy up the patterns in the intro to something more digestible beside giving it a bit more rythmic reference in anticipation of the noodle (great description when somethings' busy doing little twirls without a strong rhythmic presense).

Some things i left out:
-raising the somewhat flutelike voice an octave. Even if i damped the highest notes a notch and gave it more breath pauses, it felt a bit too abrupt to me. I might experiment with it more, because there was something in it i liked. On the other hand, it also focused all attention to that voice, which made the accompanying plucked sq.channel a bit struggling.
-I've seen the tip to use looped noise as a metallic attack on cymbals and hihats before, but i must be missing some trick to it, because when i try it i think it sounds like two separate and a bit unpleasant digital noises rather than a composite sound. Do you tune the 1st vs the 2nd tick diffenently or the same?
-i didn’t do anything with the suggestion to repeat the echoing bridge. It’s my favourite part but i’m unsure how i’d prefer to go about it, and am a little worried that repeating it directly will sap its ”short and sweet”-ness. It has a transposed reiteration close to the end which i’m pretty satisfied with. I might return to it though once i have a physical instrument at hand again to try some things with.



Looking forward to return with something new regarding the DPCM organ piece :)

rahsennor wrote:
Not so sure what you mean about chords though. I've collected quite a few non-12TET songs

Are you referring to my mention of secondary chords? They're all in the 12-tone chromatic scale. 'Secondary' refers to that their function is relative to another function, rather than relative to the root key of the composition. Function here describes the nature of the tension in a transition between two notes, or chords. It's what causes suspense and release, for one thing that you'll find in any composition, and a whole other range of motions/emotions. Examples of primary functions: tonic, mediant, subdominant. Examples of secondary ones: mediant of the mediant, dominant of the subdominant. In notation, functional chord analysis is noted in roman digits. i, ii, iii and so for primaries, and v/v, v/iii and so on for secondaries.

Theorecitally informed composers will often actively use these concepts to provide a sense of direction, alter relationships, and describe the journey through the musical piece. This is not my expertise, but i'm practicing to get better at it. But mostly, i break out theory when i percieve a problem that is difficult for me to solve by ear/imagination.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:03 am 
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FrankenGraphics wrote:
Some things i left out

Well I don't really expect all (or even any) of my suggestions to be used, pick and choose any you like, ignore the rest.

One thing that's hard to discern what you're doing with just the MP3s is how you set your volumes, but just in case here's a general tip: in my own work, I find it helpful to keep the volume of the two square channels fairly low, like maybe 8 or less on average, except for transients or things I want to really stick out. Those two channels can go loud enough to overpower the others, and just having some headroom can really help for clarity of the mixture.

FrankenGraphics wrote:
I've seen the tip to use looped noise as a metallic attack on cymbals and hihats before, but i must be missing some trick to it, because when i try it i think it sounds like two separate and a bit unpleasant digital noises rather than a composite sound. Do you tune the 1st vs the 2nd tick diffenently or the same?

Maybe depends a lot on the pitch used for the periodic noise portion. I tend to always have arpeggio macros on my noise instruments, and play them at pitch 0 so the values in the arpeggio are just the direct pitch values.

I've attached a quick FTM with a simple drum pattern that uses 1 frame of onset periodic noise in one of the hats, with two slightly different textures, if that helps illustrate some of the things it can do.

Though I guess in general my process for making percussion in Famitracker is usually to put down all the notes first with blank instruments, like just typing a pitch 0 note on every row that needs an event, then type different instrument numbers in to fill out which instrument is to be used for each note. Then I hit F6 to start looping the pattern and start putting envelopes on all the instruments while listening to it continually.

I don't actually keep a library of pre-fabricated instruments, I just make new ones every time, pretty much (exception: making a whole soundtrack that needs to share instruments), so I tend to make some arbitrarily different decisions each time, even if I have common techniques.

Edit: sorry, accidentally uploaded wrong revision of FTM.


Attachments:
noise_test.ftm [5.3 KiB]
Downloaded 102 times


Last edited by rainwarrior on Tue Jun 26, 2018 6:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:52 am 
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Quote:
One thing that's hard to discern what you're doing with just the MP3s is how you set your volumes


Yeah, sorry about that - i used to normalize all songs to -3db after exporting, before i realized this may be very, very confusing, as the mixing for the APU is quite absolute, and moreover this doesn't get quite right when comparing tracks with percussion vs tracks without.

For example the DPCM organ song is meant to be a step more quiet than the average soundtrack to sort of drone a bit more distantly while the player is making menu choices and picking save files (or passwords, depending on where this ends). So i use the delta counter offset to lower the tri channel and also not the strongest .dmc loops either.

For the whole soundtrack i've used 3-5 as average sustain for diads, 4-5 and rarely 6 to lead/solo instruments, to give more presence to the triangle (doing all the punch of the kick and snares, beside bass). The organ piece is mostly 2-3.
I might want to up all that a little bit in case my headphones are fooling me and there's too much relative bass and noise floor on the average tv set.

I seem to remember castlevania 1 used mostly 4 or 5 for sustain (don't remember which), as a comparison.

Also, sorry about not being convenient with the ftm file at the moment. I'd like to share it but it feels a bit uncomfy right now as there's a lot of loose ends i don't want to show just yet. Now is probably a good time to separate all the songs into their own project file, as you suggested earlier.

I've kept them all in one mainly to keep a unified selection of instruments across most of the project, but it is probably time to grow out of the $3F restriction at this point.

edit: thanks for your hihat file! I think i have a better idea of what is happening now. My standard hihat has a very quick, soft, and short envelope: 4 2 0. Quiet lounge drummer, sort of in contrast to the heavier snares and cymbals. So with the metallic clink, that's a significant 50% of the whole body of the sound, which is why it comes across as a bit like 2 short chirps.

With your envelope, there's a much longer decay (sort of a hard-hitting pop/rock sound) which is basically required to establish a sense what sort of instrument this is meant to synthesize if there's a metallic attack at the start.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 6:05 pm 
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FrankenGraphics wrote:
'Secondary' refers to that their function is relative to another function, rather than relative to the root key of the composition. Function here describes the nature of the tension in a transition between two notes, or chords. It's what causes suspense and release, for one thing that you'll find in any composition, and a whole other range of motions/emotions. Examples of primary functions: tonic, mediant, subdominant. Examples of secondary ones: mediant of the mediant, dominant of the subdominant. In notation, functional chord analysis is noted in roman digits. i, ii, iii and so for primaries, and v/v, v/iii and so on for secondaries.

Theorecitally informed composers will often actively use these concepts to provide a sense of direction, alter relationships, and describe the journey through the musical piece. This is not my expertise, but i'm practicing to get better at it. But mostly, i break out theory when i percieve a problem that is difficult for me to solve by ear/imagination.

*uses vigorous head nodding to simulate comprehension*

I'll just be over here looking up all those big words... for now, new song sound good!


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:46 am 
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Just got home from a long tour and found it relaxing to work on the "roman chapel" song.

I think it is shippable at this point (except ensuring PAL compatibility), though knowing myself i'll probably go over it once more at least. :P

Thanks for all the input. It really helped this song get somewhere.
https://frankengraphics.files.wordpress ... chapel.mp3

It loops at 2:10-ish

some significant changes:
-longer
-wider instrumentation/arrangement
-extensive use of the fxx effect for quick/off-grid trills, stops and pace changes.
-volume column changes, and some other effects, since it is supposed to use the famitracker driver in the menus anyway.
-a firmer motif establishing in the first 30 seconds or so in hopes to cause less confusion.
-a lot of rainwarriors' tips taken to heart.
-i didn't normalize the output this time, so the volume is absolute in relation to the APU emulation.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:28 am 
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I like it, it's really nice. Some parts reminds me Faxanadu to some degree. Makes me wants to see the final result (graphics in the game with the music).

Would love to be able to make graphics and music to that level. I guess I need to find a book called something like "making nes graphics and music for dummies" :lol:


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:13 am 
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Thanks, banshaku! When i played faxanadu as a kid (don't have it anymore), i always thought the soundtrack was pretty cool...

The song is in the stage where my ears probably are too acquinted to its winding path, so it'll be some more time before i'll review it again for possible changes, but any critique is of course most appreciated in the meantime.

The end result is unfortunately a long way from here. The story is set and much of the universe is fleshed out, but serious assets production specific to the platformer has only been an on and off occupation for maybe a year or so. I can't see over the edge of my task pile haha :P

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 6:03 pm 
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Those UI assets are very nice that I may uses it to test my maps an collisions in my engine until I can make my real assets :)


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