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Silent Hours

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It's after 11pm and you're alone, working and thinking, with only the silence to accompany you.

This is my entry to the Knockout Round of this year's Newgrounds Audio Underdogs contest, made in basically 5 days with a bit of mastering over the 3-day extension. I'm happy with a lot of it (especially the main lead) but wish I had spent more time adding stuff.

Anyway, it's back to my old chill-ish DnB style, with a nice intro, a drop, and a return back to the original theme. I tried to vary it a lot while keeping it coherent, as TaintedLogic put it.
Also, these are my most complex breaks yet. Let me know how I did with those.

Plugins used, in no particular order (all are freeware):
Cyanide 2
TDR Nova

Project screenshot (warning boring REAPER colors): http://imgur.com/a/NKU5L

All of the percussion is actually synthesized in Eclipsis. I took some patches from the various packs available on KVR and modified them to fit the song. Unfortunately some of the noise got a bit messed up between playback and rendering and I don't know how to fix it...

Thanks to Dylnmatrix for helping with the name.

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Cool. ;)

Hallow responds:

I like reviews, not brief comments.

Hello hello! As I've done before, full disclosure: I'm very blunt in my reviews, please don't take offense to things, I don't mean to be cruel or mean - just very clear and simple to understand without sugarcoating. The not-as-good section will also be longer than the good section, if only because I have more to say for how to improve there. Thanks!

-This has a very nice lo-fi feel to it overall. Lo-fi and peaceful dnb is fairly rare, and it's very appreciated.
-There's a good and solid progression of climaxes and breakdowns. The flow may be much more even than most pieces, but it's audibly there.
-The instruments you have are used well.
-While it could use some improvement, you have a pretty decent ending.
-Your mastering is actually pretty good.
-I like the little background sfx that you have. It's very subtle and much appreciated.

-Starting with the smaller things, I would say that your mastering can use a little bit more in the high end from a lot of your instruments. Try reducing all instrument channels to roughly 80% of their normal volume to leave plenty of headroom for mixing and mastering. It helps a surprisingly large amount.
-Your ending can use some conclusiveness to it. While your filtering reduced the impact, it still sounds very much like you simply stopped repeating the patterns that were going. A simple way to improve this would be to have the lowpass filter go entirely to 0, so that the sound fully fades out. A better way to do it would be to have some kind of compositional technique to conclude your ideas.
=There isn't really a melody. There are arpeggios, and a few riffs which are decent, but no actual melody for the piece that I can put my finger on. This actually makes the piece fairly forgettable, which isn't a good thing.
-Now for the elephant in the room. You used the instruments well, but the instruments themselves are, well... garbage. First things first, your kick drum needs more of a thump and shouldn't have as much reverb. The high click of the kick is also fairly low-quality as well, particularly for a dnb song (even a lo-fi one). The snare is better and works in this instance, but still feels a bit weak. The biggest problem are the instruments around 0:48, which I will address separately.
-0:48 onward is the biggest issue with the piece. It has too much reverb, which makes the mix muddy. The instruments are fairly indistinct here as well due to their overlap in frequencies. I would try to have fewer instruments here in general, but have them used to flesh out the mix more evenly. The bass is a problem in its own right, as it is extremely muddy on its own, and better suited to longer held bass notes. That would improve this section significantly on its own.

THE RESULT: 5.5/10
So, this piece is pretty decent in some respects, and falls flat in others. The instruments were not very good, but the concept and the usage of them is generally quite good. I'm sorry if the last section of the not-so-good portion seems harsh, but there isn't too much of a way to clearly say it more nicely. In the end, though - instruments can be fixed. Your basic ideas and skill at using your instruments can't be improved nearly as easily, and those are solid. You have a great foundation to make future music, so go for it!

Hallow responds:

Blunt reviews are great because it means I actually know what I need to fix. And the not-so-good section should be longer, as you have to be specific :P
I'll probably ask a few more questions; if you can PM me the answers, that would be greatly appreciated.

Glad you like the peaceful feel to it. That was exactly what I was going for.
Good to know I had a decent progression - the drop was very different and I was slightly worried about how it fit in.
The background percussion was something I spent quite a lot of time working on, and I'm happy with it as well.

I actually turned down the high end on a few instruments to make a bit more room for the lead and percussion - thanks for pointing out that it was one of my mastering issues. I'll make sure to use those tips as well.
In regard to the ending, I was trying to add a little final showcase of the percussion. Maybe the lowpass didn't fade out quite quickly enough - I did have it go to zero, but not until the end of the phrase.
I tried to make the main melody - being the one near the start and end - as memorable as possible, so it's disappointing to hear that it didn't work... I decided against using it at the drop because I didn't want the piece to feel repetitive.
This was my first go at synthesizing percussion, so I'm not too surprised that it didn't work. How should I bring out the thump in the kick more? Also, what frequency ranges should the clicks for the kick be in? I wasn't very happy with the kick in general, so I'd love to know how I can make it better. Does the snare just need a bit more noise? I tried to make it a bit more of a note but I may have overdone that a bit.
I tried to get the mud out somewhat when mastering, but I guess it didn't really work. I had taken a suggestion to add more reverb to a lot of it, so I probably just needed to work harder to get out the mud for those instruments; meanwhile, I wasn't very happy with the bass but just tried to get it to work. I think it was a pretty hard key to be working in in terms of the bass, as I found myself stuck between the kick and the mud zone.

It's fine that you were a bit harsh - it helps me understand what's wrong.
General questions - which instruments in particular (besides the bass) could have been improved, and how? What do you recommend in terms of adding reverb (how much, on what, etc.)?

In the end, this piece was really all about improving. I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it through, so I'm really happy to have all of this feedback now, and I'll be able to make better music in the future, as you said.

Great song!
I like it as BG music :P

Hallow responds:

Cool, thanks for the comment.

Credits & Info


3.44 / 5.00

Jul 30, 2016
11:01 PM EDT
Drum N Bass
File Info
2.9 MB
2 min 41 sec

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