Unraveling the Mask


Author Comments

It took a relatively long time to come up with this title, but it was worth the effort. I think it captures the story very well without spoiling anything.

I really love the sound of a harpsichord and celesta playing the same melody. I can't believe I never tried it before!

I recently bought Embertone's new piano vst and this was my first time using it. I'm very pleased with it so far.

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The accents on the downbeats of the cello are a little extreme. I'd try to pull those back slightly.
The hand percussion should be further back in the mix. While they tend to cut through in a mix, they would never be this present in a live ensemble since the room would have to be pretty big to accomodate such a big ensemble. I'd pull them down in volume as well as pull the dry signal back a bit so it sounds like they're further back in the room.

Violin performance is pretty good. I'd try to shape the phrases a bit more with expression to create a more believable performance.

The harpsichord is a bit too loud in the mix. Harpsichords are very quiet instruments, and in an ensemble like this, it would be further back in the mix.
1:22 - the transition here is a little abrupt. I think you could have tapered the instruments a bit more into the thunder sample.
1:59 - I would have liked to hear basses doubling the cello down an octave here to really open up the arrangement. You do a good job of building into this section, but I think it could be more. Perhaps switching to bowed strings in the background strings would be nice?
2:12 - this part stands out as a new idea that doesn't ever go anywhere. The previous section ends a little too abruptly, then this comes from nowhere. The abrupt ending of the previous section could work, but you absolutely need to develop this further to make it work. It's a brand new idea in the piece which is typically not something to bring in at the very end unless it's written for a movie and there's something on screen (in the case of a score) that makes the tag make sense, or perhaps it's a callback to an earlier section (or foreshadowing to a future one) in the context of a bigger programmatic piece (this happens in famously in Symphony Fantastique in quite a few places, but it makes sense in context). As is, I can only judge the piece by what is presented.

In general the production needs a little mixing love in post. The balance between the instruments is a little funny, and they all sound like they're from different sample libraries (mostly because I assume they are). This is typical of MIDI scores, but there are tricks to making everything sound cohesive. Samples for MIDI instruments are often recorded under the most idea/pristine conditions. While this offers a lot of flexibility in mixing and they sound great by themselves out of the box, they typically don't sound right when mixed with other instruments. This is partially because this type of music would be recorded as an ensemble in a large room instead of individual instruments in a booth. First, I'd do some work with reference recordings to get basic mix levels. Find live recordings of a similar ensemble and put it in your project, then bus all your instruments to a separate track. A/B between the two of them, and try to get yours to sound as close to the reference as possible. You'll learn a TON of tricks this way when it comes to manipulating reverb/eq/mix levels. Look at maps of how a traditional orchestra is laid out and realize that, while sections are spot miked in recording sessions, most of the mixing work is done to replicate the sound we're used to hearing in a concert hall (eg, percussion sounds further away because since it's the loudest and cuts through the air fairly easily, it's placed in the back of the room so it doesn't overpower quieter instruments like violins or harpsichord). When we work with virtual instruments, it's easy to forget what a live recording sounds like, but when you A/B it, it can help you make better mix decisions. If you want to get REALLY down with how each of your instruments work, actually transcribe a chunk of that recording note for note into the instruments, and then do the same A/B work. One of the tricks is to put reverb on each group of instruments to get them placed in the "room" at the right place and depth. Then, on the master mix, put a SUPER subtle super short reverb on everyting over the top of that. This will act as a sort of glue and pull all the instruments together into the same space. The main work will be done by the individual reverbs, but the final one will help smooth over differences between the sounds of the instruments.

All in all, nice work compositionally. This has a very Danny Elfman feel to it. A little more work on the orchestration and mix and I think this track will shine even brighter!

Everratic responds:

Thanks so much for all the mixing tips. I'll try to bear these things in mind next time! Tbh, I was aware of some of those things but I got lazy and was unmotivated.

I like your suggestions for the arrangement. The only thing I want to point out is that the section at 2:12 is not a brand new idea. The violin melody from the previous section is repeated, but in a different context (no one noticed this, surprisingly). I did this to create some emotional contrast for the outro. It seems that very few people interpreted the ending the same way I did, so that's something I can learn a lot from.

I don't really understand how you got to a score of 6, but it doesn't matter now.

Thanks again for the review!

I like the cute instruments and waltzy meter. The celesta melody was nice, and has a great call-and-response effect with the strings. I like the percussion at :43, too. There’s an enjoyable amount of variety in the texture here, while at the same time a near-uniformity of theme that’s quite pleasing. One thing I think could really improve in this piece is how the individual phrases are shaped. Right now, it seems like most of the transitions consist of Band-Aid-like approaches (reverse crashes, sudden changes in dynamics) rather than more carefully crafted, gradual lead-ins. My second biggest problem is that the coda at 2:13 really takes the piece in a different direction. All of a sudden, the mood is very melancholic. Instead of wrapping up the thematic content of the piece, it seems to function more like a bridge or breakdown to my ears. I also thought the underlying harmonic framework of the piece (as indicated by the strings that play on every beat) can be a bit cliche, and this is most conspicuous at the very beginning. That said, these are all tiny details. Overall, the piece has the same immaculate sound design, melodic content, and mood as your other recent tracks. Keep up the good work, BO! ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
Instrumentation and sound design
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
Originality and uniqueness
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
Composite score

Everratic responds:

Thanks for the review! :)

Ah, a waltz! I'd like a bit more volume on that mallet synth around 0:05.

High and whiny violin could also do with a slightly gentler accompaniment. At times the accompaniment and the left channel and the waltz backing do overwhelm it.

The mix of this track overall is somewhat tenuously balanced. New elements like bongos seem to lie on top of the arrangement rather than within it.

I did like the combination of harpsichord and mallets. Nice and subtle. I also liked your harp runs in the background, as well as what sounds like some flutes hiding out for swells.

1:34 section sounds good but if that's a rain sample, I could probably do without it. The mix is so thin here that any extra noise sounds almost unwelcome. By 2:04 however, at least the drums feel more in place.

I also wish 2:20 had been a B section and not an outro! That sweet little trilling swell was magic. Even a cheesy finale minor I chord at the end with the piano doubling octaves down low would have given me a bit more closure.

Overall, nice work. I wish I had more to say other than "good composition, lots of nice music theory jazz, but X, Y, and Z were too loud, and I'd like to hear more of Q." It's been great just to hear you growing over the years. Now you've got a structure that works. I'd like to see you start stepping out of the box every so often, expanding on your themes.

Thanks for coming out to NGUAC!

Everratic responds:

Thank you for the review! :)

This is an Official NGADM '18 Round 2 and NGUAC Final Round Review

Beginning Comments: Congratulations on making it this far in both contests

Production / Mixing: Quiet, but if fits the song. Production value is good on most everything. The only thing I might complain about is the harpsichord. It sounds a bit too close or dry. However, this is still very pleasing to listen to,

Composition / Structure: Well this is definitely a BlueOcean's song. As a song by itself it's nice, but I've heard this style/structure/theme/feel multiple times now. Knowing you this isn't as unique, but you are doing more to expand and perfect it. The somber and melancholy, but hopeful waltz style that you have. Your theme that starts at 2:14 is a much more unique section that you introduce, and honestly I think that could have been introduced much sooner. It's a way to keep the style that you have, but it sounds completely new and fresh. I enjoyed that well and I wish that would have a lot more development earlier in the song as compared to using it as an outro.

Sound Design: I like the instruments you've used. The piano sounds really good, the strings all blend well with the leading fiddle. The harpsichord combined with what I think is a glockenspiel is a nice combo. I'm not sure if I agree with the sound effects you have around the 1:30 area, but they don't detract with what you have.

Ending Comments: Unfortunately, I've heard this style and chord progression from you before, so I can't really say it's unique. It's beautifully made and short. I like how it sounds and it's relaxing in a way, but it didn't sound new aside from an outro I would have liked to have heard more of.


Production - 2

Composition - 1.5

Structure - 1.5

Sound Design - 2

Replay - 1.5

Total - 8.5

*Disclaimer - remialcsid

Everratic responds:

Thank you for the review!

"Your theme that starts at 2:14 is a much more unique section that you introduce, and honestly I think that could have been introduced much sooner"

My intention was not to start at a new theme at 2:14. The violin melody is identical to that of the previous section (it's surprising that no one noticed that). I repeated it in a different context to create emotional contrast for the outro.

That's the only comment I have. I agree with much of what you said.

This could be a perfect choose for an intro or a main menu theme :P <3
This is great work I loved this ^-^ <3

Everratic responds:

It would be cool if someone used it for that! I’m glad you like it.

Credits & Info


4.51 / 5.00

Aug 16, 2018
2:35 AM EDT
File Info
6.1 MB
2 min 40 sec

Licensing Terms

Please contact me if you would like to use this in a project. We can discuss the details.