I listened to this just on a whim but boy am I glad I did. First thing I wanna say is that the composition and phrasing in this is absolutely brilliant. I was enraptured through the entire song. Your harmonies are genius as well, absolutely fantastic work.
I do have some issues with the way this ended up in the production department though, it's gonna seem like I'm really dumping on you in this review but it's only because I really really liked this piece and it comes from a genuine place of appreciation and wanting to help you improve and make more awesome stuff like this.
First: As strange as this may sound, I think your voice is too loud in this track, and it's a bit too dry as well. I think you could have re-balanced the vocals to be quieter dry and have a thicker, and maybe even darker since your voice is very bright on its own, reverb to suit how the piano and whistle are mixed.
Second: In the first half (weirdly only in the first half, not the second) your vocal harmonies and extra bits get lost in the main vocal. If you were to revisit the mix of this song, I would recommend giving just a slight volume boost to your harmonies and extra bits in the section starting around 1:00. Also the extra "wanted to fall" at 2:58 could do with a healthy boost - moreso than the first vocal section.
Third: The piano could use more presence in the lower end and a bit more of the foley from the piano wouldn't hurt either :) Hammer sound, string sounds, and seat creaks go a long way in terms of selling an authentic recording. Bringing the low end of the piano through would also help balance the brightness of your voice.
Fourth: This is a personal one so don't let it derail your creative vision. The switchup at around 5:00 - first of all don't get me wrong this section is hands down my favorite part of the song - I don't think there's enough payoff (payoff being the fast pace, lots of harmonies, forte piano, etc...). There's really only like 8ish bars of payoff and then we instantly revert back to the pace of the rest of the song. I think you could have extended it to 16 bars before reverting and building up to the switch back to the slow pace after building to the 16 bars of fast pace.
Lastly: There are just a couple places where I think you're a bit flat or don't have enough definition on each note in a run. If you have a plugin like newtone or melodyne load up your vocal recording in one of those programs and see the difference between what you wanted to sing and what you did sing. I'm not a singer and I haven't trained my ear for vocal pitch but there are a few spots where it does sound a bit off to me.
Here is what I noticed:
0:34 - "The" in "through the trees" is a tad flat
1:06 - at the end of "follow" I think you may have hit a totally wrong note, and the run itself lacks definition
1:15 - "of" in "forest of old" the harmony sounds sharp
That's about it for my criticisms. I just want to reiterate that I really enjoyed this despite all that stuff, but I honestly believe that this could have been taken up to an even higher level than it already is with a few small changes. Excellent work, huge love, biggups. I'm gonna watch out for more stuff from you!
My favourite type of review! Thank you for taking the time and putting the energy into appreciating my track enough to look for ways it can be improved. I appreciate it - it's my favourite element of these contests on NG :)
In response to the vocals being too loud in the mix, I think that if they were a bit lower it wouldn't make too much difference either way; they certainly could afford to go a little lower and they wouldn't be any less clear. I used to have a real problem with mixing my vocals so loud that they almost sounded on top of the instrumental rather than in the mix. I think it was Step that taught me the trick of turning the volume of the track down as far as you can only hear the loudest instrument to get the balance right - when I turn it down as far as I can, the piano, whistle and vocals seem to all be at complementary volume in my headphones ^ ^
When I go back to the mix, I'll experiment with the gain on the harmonies on the beginning - I think they really kick in in the second half as the first half is just one layer of harmony. Perhaps they can be brought up a bit more! I'll definitely give it a go :) I totally agree with the 'wanted to fall' as well - I noticed it was quite low after I'd uploaded the track and gave it a fresh listen. That's something I'll definitely bring up a lot when I go back to remixing it, which I definitely will after the reviews I get.
I'll see how it sounds after boosting the bass on the piano. I think it could do a lot for the dynamics of the performance, especially on the lower chords when I play them louder. A nice idea in terms of the piano sounds too! I recorded this using a digital piano using The Maverick VST which produces a lovely tone, but it does miss a lot of those woody creaks from an acoustically recorded piano. Let's see if I can inject a bit more charm into it when I go back to it! :)
I can really tell you've got a great ear for things because going through it, you've paid attention to all the things I have been too. The original piano improvisation was 7:30, but I decided to take out two parts that deviated a little too much from the main motif. Because it was an improvisation, I wanted to turn it into a structured piece where the placement of the verses, choruses and different solos made sense in terms of the dynamics of the piece. I still wanted a bit of variation with the piano of course! This is how it ended up after I pieced it together.
I have a pitch correction tool in Adobe Audition that allows me to manually correct notes without sounding at all noticeable (which is perfect for the types of vocals that I record that would kinda be ruined with that awkward pitch bend you hear from so many pitched vocals). I used it minimally on some of the harmonies, maybe on about ten small notes altogether. I much prefer to sit here and re-record the verses/choruses over and over again until I get a perfect run. The performance of the vocals tends to be more natural that way and working like this has really developed my control and pitch over the years! Of course, there's still little imperfections that often fall through the net. If they're very barely noticeable and don't take away from the quality of the track, I don't like to change them all too much - I quite like the human imperfection. That being said, I certainly hear the sharpness on the 'of' in the harmony and I do try to make sure the harmonies are on point! On the line 1:06, the 'follow' line, it's exactly as I intended to perform it - no wrong notes :) perhaps the melody doesn't sound awkward to me as I've been going over it so much, but maybe it sounds unexpected or awkward to a new listener? :) I'm not sure!
Once again, seriously, thanks for going over it. Definitely some objective and potentially game-changing tips here for me to experiment with when I go back into the mix in a few weeks! I'll give some of your music a listen - clearly you have a great ear so I'm looking forward to it. Thanks also for following me on here. Are you also in the NGUAC? If so, good luck!