This is an NGADM Round 5 review.
What I liked:
-Very chill atmosphere.
-Neat piano work!
-I love the introduction of that synth around 1:20. Very tastefully done playing it off the piano like that!
What could have been better:
-It's been said already, but the drums need some variation.
-Wasn't a huge fan of the synth you chose in the beginning, but that's just personal taste.
-I don't think the breakcore section really worked. It feels out of place to me, and even throughout that the drums in the background stay the same.
Overall this track feels a bit rushed to me, and I think you can definitely do better, but the ideas presented here are quite good.
- NGADM Round 5 Review -
Another one track recognizable as made by you. :) I like your melodic composition a lot, the bass, and the light, casual atmosphere you've established for the first three minutes. There are a couple of clashing notes in the piano, intentional or not, but they are quickly forgotten. My favorite parts are up til 1:10, and at 2:07.
The change at 2:25 is nicely done, and the buildup to 3:06 is melodically great - which brings me to my next point: the drums. Before that point, they are already a bit loudly mixed, which doesn't help its repetitive beat; afterward, they sound like an obstacle, getting in your way, preventing you from hearing the rest of the composition clearly. What offsets that later on is when you filter them out toward the end, easing their presence, leading them to the track's soft, well-suited outtro.
> clashing notes
WHAT. THERE ARE NO CLASHING NOTES. >:O
.. Maybe you could point them out to me? :P
> drums lol
Yeah :( I've come to realize this was a mistake. I wonder how much better this song would have been without drums at all? Oh wellllll :P
Thanks for the review AS! I appreciate all the work you've done here.
I was looking forward to your round five track, and I was not disappointed.
Your melodic work is always incredible so I usually find myself humming something from your tracks several hours (or days) after I listen to them. The introduction sets the appropriate tone for the rest of the song and I dig the soothing synth jazz coupled with those smooth piano notes that you have sprinkled everywhere - ahhh it's all so good!!!
I really like how you walk the instruments down (particularly the bass) at 2:25, it really helps everything flow into the transition into the latter part of the song. By the way, the 3:00 mark to le fin is just so darn catchy and heartwarming that I couldn't help but smile! I think you really captured the theme well here. I absolutely loved the piano during this portion of the song. I should mentioned that mixing the jazz and breakcore genres was an interesting creative choice that worked surprisingly well! The overall mixing is pretty good.
The mixing, as stated above, is alright but could use some work. I loved the piano work, but applying some more reverb and taking the 'dryness' out of the sound could really bring out the emotion in the instrument. Things also tend to get a bit fuzzy around the 3:00 mark when you bring in the break-beat percussion...things sound cluttered and it becomes a little hard to focus on your cool melody due to this. On the topic of percussion, the drums in the introduction are just a tad too loud. Otherwise, this is just a solid track that I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Well done johnfn! I cannot wait to hear what you create next! I am sure I will be humming this song for a while. :)
Thanks Neon-Bard! I think we're pretty much in agreement on your points. I'm glad you liked it, and let's see if I can find enough time to mix my next submission ;-)
P.S. Nice catch on the falling bass at 2:25. I always enjoy a good chromatic descending baseline. :D
-Aw man yeah, gotta love that piano and synth combo in the smooth jazz.
-Melodic content is excellent.
-Your instruments are good. I'm curious, what is that lead synth that you use all the time? It reminds me of stuff from Omnisphere, but I haven't found it. ...unless, of course, you made it, in which case it looks like I have some sound design to do because it sounds awesome and the filters on it are excellent.
-Solid mixing for almost the entire thing, just a few complaints I have.
The Not-So-Good: Oh, you want me to list ALL of the flaws, do you? Right, you asked for it. No mercy shall be given, I'm going to nitpick the hell out of this.
-Okay, right away those drums see a bit too strong for something laid-back. Would be nice if there were some kind of introduction aside from instant "thump".
-The background chords get really buried very quickly under the piano and synth combo.
-The drums start getting really repetitive when they've not changed for an entire two and a half minutes. The same 'break' all the time is a bit boring if it can even be called a break. Plz. The bassline also stays the same for a lot of the piece as well, really kinda boring.
-Such mud at 3 minutes in. Right around there things start getting stressed in the mix due to the kick. Also, the piano doesn't seem like the velocity changed much at all - it sounds as if it's being played at the same volume as before.
-Not sure I like the filter on the drums at 3:20, it seems kinda unnecessary.
-Your bass is a lot more unclean at around 2:40, things are pretty muddy between it and the kick and the piano notes all together. Also, the bass in the piano panned to the left is slightly off-putting.
-The final ending is a bit awkward for three reasons. First, the way the drums go out is a bit awkward, it sounds like a loop just ended rather than the drums actually completing. If you had faded out the volume a bit more entirely rather than just lowpassing it this could have worked. Second, the bass is wobbling a lot in there compared to the other places - the only thing I can of as a result from this is mixing error or it was covered up earlier. Finally, it just sits there on something that sounds like it should continue but doesn't.
Overall: Score of 9/10. K, so, you asked for all that feedback and I went full nitpick on you. That said, this is still excellent. The biggest problem in my opinion is the drumline - that needs a LOT of improvement in realism and in overall mixing/transitioning of them.
YES IT IS SO SMOOTH URGH
>Your instruments are good. I'm curious, what is that lead synth that you use all the time? It reminds me of stuff from Omnisphere, but I haven't found it.
Yes, it is synthesized! I use a synth called Zebra. It's not all too complicated. I take some simple shape like a saw, toss a vintage filter on it, reverb and delay to taste and it's pretty much done. I was pretty attentive to modulating the filter cutoff practically throughout the track, and I think that a bit of the secret sauce also comes from a really subtle LFO that I apply to the cutoff, which gives it a bit more movement and flavor. For this track I also added a subtle bitcrush on top of it, which I modulated too.
I agree with practically all of the complaints actually, particularly the drums. I knew that was going to be a big problem but I was too busy rushing around to glue the song together, slapping transitions into place, making the mix slightly less bad, etc. Hopefully that won't be a problem next round O_O
I will need to internalize some of them for next time but 50% of writing this song was thinking "skyewintrest is going to kill me for this but I don't have enough time to fix it." I dunno. I don't have any excuses for next time though :P
Thank you as ever for the amazing reviews. You and Step can share the trophy for "best person ever". :3 (along with the other judges <3)
This is an NGADM Round 5 review.
Mixing needs work? Yeah. Abrupt transitions? Some here and there. Premature ending? Yup. But damn it all, I absolutely adore this approach a lot more than I thought I would. This is in the same light as an NGADM 2012 track by BlazingDragon, Alpine - http://goo.gl/pZaqCh, but at the same time, despite stylistic similarities, it really is entirely different. BlazingDragon's felt more serious and sophisticated, whereas this had a more laid-back mood with positive, warm vibes (plus it is kind of twice as long). Both are solid approaches though, that both showcase the expressive and diverse nature of this genre. Anyhow, enough chit-chat - time to delve into the meat of the track.
You know I first saw your submission on my mobile while at university and obviously didn't dare to listen to it through tinny, mono sound from my mobile speakers. I still read the author's comments, and was elated to see that you said "I love the melodies" because I think you have a really great sense of melody (or at least one that mirrors my tastes haha), so I knew instantly that when I'd hear it 10 hours later at home, I'd really enjoy the composition (plus, it's a really good sign that a musician enjoys the melodies he composes). And I sure as hell did enjoy it. Wonderful, memorable and upbeat melodies with a very appreciable amount of variety.
One thing I feel like noting is that you didn't take the route that's often tempting in this kind of music, and just keep a whole line of directionless, probably improvised melodies going on from beginning to end, but you actually gave this a really strong flow and well-built structure, formed heavily on melodies that lead naturally onto the next and melodic phrases answering each other. Some of your melodies remind me of melodies by Reasoner here on Newgrounds. Don't know if you've heard his stuff before but I'd highly recommend it. I just love how intricate your melodies are over here. This is exactly what I was hoping for after hearing your track in the previous round. The harmonies and interplay of different instruments is just magnificent. Your control over all of these different elements is masterful and showcases your compositional skill wonderfully. Just yes.
In terms of actual sound, I presume you used the same piano sample you used in the previous round, didn't you? Whether you did or not (can't tell because I'm audio noob), the piano here sounds great. I think it could've done with a touch more reverb, but the melodies are already pretty muddy as they are (more on that later) so that might not be the best of ideas unless you make the reverb tail quite thin (I find high-end reverb does a great job of wettening an instrument while not interfering with the mix much). Still, overall you've created a really unique and flavourful soundscape, that shines very much at parts like 1:19, where your piano, bass, and synth ambience combine to create this astoundingly warm and gorgeous texture. Also, the drums are really nice, if a bit interfering at times. Also, watch out, they get quite repetitive. The secret behind making a flowing drum line, I find, is to add a tonne of subtle hits, variations and fills here and there, which isn't quite what you did, opting to repeat the same drum pattern over and over again.
Mixing... well, you're aware of most of this I'm sure. I still think your piano could have a bit more reverb (it sounds kinda bare and dry at 3:19 especially) and I also think your bass could have a deeper low end (although it's still clean as hell, because it's made by johnfn). More significant is the fact that the mix can get undefined at times, especially the piano. I'm not too bothered about this in certain parts because you've made a much clearer effort to humanise the piano and give it irregular timings and all that, which in turn made for some notes that were a bit buried in the mix - no biggie in the expressive, slow section. However, during the climactic sections I felt like the piano's melody could have been tighter and more defined.
The synth you use at the beginning was a sweet idea that landed you points for creativity and sounded nice for the most part, but at parts like 2:12 its raw nature, I felt, clashed with the deeper sound of the piano. Also, the hats from 2:58 onwards are too upfront in the mix, just like the tambourine in your Round 3 track. Leading from my point about the undefined piano melody, in the climactic sections the mix does unfortunately get a little bit cluttered, undoubtedly due to your admirable ambition of having a zillion beautiful melodies going on at once, on top of such heavy and quick drums. However, the clutter is much less prominent than I expected, especially given the little time you had to mix this.
In terms of intro, outro and transitions... at first I thought the way you just dove right into the track without much progression was a bit too hasty, but nah screw that. I love the intro - it just sets the mood effortlessly, and then when you introduce the synth subtly later on it came together very well (but that's just my opinion). The outro was definitely premature. I felt like 4:14 came in a bit too early and didn't quite have a suitable, well-thought-out approach. That said, I love how the track dies down for the ending, even if I wish that it was a bit more gradual. Oh and... as much as I'd like to enjoy the transition to the fast section, because you clearly put effort into making it smooth, I can't help but think that it still felt like it came out of nowhere.
When it comes to the semi-finals and finals, I become really indecisive about my scores. However, I think I'm going to settle with ranking you as 2nd place in my scores. This track has a hefty amount of flaws, and etherealwinds' track is damn good, but there's such depth in the composition and thoughtfulness throughout that I'm going to have to give you a marginally higher score. You're becoming one of my favourite artists on Newgrounds. Keep it up!
Ah this piece is nice. I don't listen to a lot of sophisticated jazz. I need to get on that. I actually have drawn a good bit of inspiration from BlazingDragon on earlier pieces (though not so much this one).
YES. The one thing it seems I can count on during the NGADM is that we have the EXACT SAME TASTE. So if I like something then you definitely will too.
Aw crap, his drums are so much better than mine D:
He is really good though. Gonna pick apart some of his pieces later.
> gave this a really strong flow and well-built structure
Now this is what made me really happy. In fact, the piece *was* built off a lot of disjointed improvisations. What I spent a huge amount of time on was the arrangement - gluing all those separate ideas together with snappy transitions to make it appear like the entire piece was a big journey to the climax rather than random ideas stuck together.
Yes! I fooled the NGADM judges! HEHUEHUHUE! I'm super happy because before NGADM I couldn't do transitions like this to save my life.
Yep same VST as last time. I like it too much.
> drums are repetitive
YES. I completely agree. I ran out of time. ;.; Mostly because I was doing all that arrangement stuff. I can normally do the fills and stuff pretty fast, but I'm unfamiliar with jazz fills so that would have taken longer to figure out.
> bare piano at 3:19
This is a really good point. Relistening shows that this is an obvious error. Will keep that in mind in the future.
> deeper bass
I think this is just because the deep frequencies of the piano are colliding with it. But yeah, a definite error!
> buried notes during the climax
Yeah I agree. I'm pretty sure this is because I have a synth melody and a piano melody that practically completely overlap. Essentially at the end I had a choice between making the climax feel full but muddying the mix, or making it feel empty but having a clean mix, and I opted for the first one. I should have just gotten rid of that synth (or put it somewhere else) though.
> synth clash at 2:12
I actually can't hear this at all, probably because I've been listening to the synth/piano combo for hours straight. I'll come back to it in a week with more fresh ears and see if I can pick out the problem.
> 4:14 comes too soon brah
On a relisten I agree. I think I was actually slightly worried the climax was too short even as I was composing. And the die down after the climax could definitely have taken a little bit longer. I need to learn from people like Kor-Rune who properly structure that sort of thing.
> beats come form out of nowhere
Yeah this is hard to realize while I'm composing, because I'm too busy being like "zomg this sounds awesome" to see if it's properly justified by the rest of the song. I think you're definitely on point about this, so I need to go see how other people introduce crazy drums into a song.
> lots of nice things
THANK YOU STEP. I don't know what I'm going to do after NGADM when I'm no longer guaranteed to have amazing and detailed reviews that point out literally every aspect of my song and make so many helpful suggestions. The whole thing has been an amazing learning experience, thanks in no small part to your hard work. I can't even properly express how appreciative I am.
Please contact me if you would like to use this in a project. We can discuss the details.