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  #1  
Old Jan 31, 2014, 12:43 PM
Marysia Flower Marysia Flower is offline
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Smile Advice/resources for a noob?

Hi there

I'm new to writing game music, and I'm stoked - I've previously only written and performed heavy metal (guitar) and solo piano music, but recently I wrote some music for some small game projects of my brother's, and it was really fun and I'm excited to get into it more.

Do you have anything you could share that was useful to you when you started out making VGM? Tutorials, advice on VGM conventions/culture, resources on mixing/mastering for VGM, other sites/communities?

I've been using the software instruments in Logic X, but are there any essential Logic software instrument plugins I should know about?

I searched the forum for this kind of discussion, but didn't find anything -- but if just suck at searching and all this kind of advice is up here somewhere already, let me know!

Thanks guys :)

- flower

PS if you want to check it out, my first wee compositions are up at https://soundcloud.com/marysiaflower -- constructive advice is very welcome

Last edited by Marysia Flower; Jan 31, 2014 at 01:10 PM.
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  #2  
Old Jan 31, 2014, 05:04 PM
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_if _if is offline
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Hey, "Nekorush Theme" is surprisingly good! I wasn't expecting to hear something that sounded so polished and authentic. I've listened to it several times now. I think adding extra melody into the sections where it repeats a bunch is the only suggestion I have with that piece. Well, maybe turn up the drums a couple decibels (although it'd actually be better to turn everything but the drums down to have better dynamic range), but strong drums are just a personal preference of mine.

If you intend to write game music with those "retro" kind of sounds then you already have a perfectly good basis for that. If you wanted to get into doing synth orchestral stuff, buying sample libraries for that can cost a good chunk of cash. Two major ones are East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra and Vienna Strings, but most pros have access to numerous libraries.

Your other recordings with guitar have a kind of muffled sound quality. How are you recording it? A lot of people are into metal-styled game music but I don't think that tone is suitable for anything on a finished piece of music unless it's buried in the background of the mix.

What do you mean about advice on VGM conventions and culture? What, like popular examples of game music amongst the community and such?

Last edited by _if; Feb 1, 2014 at 04:55 AM.
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  #3  
Old Jan 31, 2014, 10:51 PM
Marysia Flower Marysia Flower is offline
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Thank you for the feedback _if !!

Sure, I think I was hesitant to add another layer, but I'll try out maybe a long legato melody to that part. I don't know much about mixing, so thanks for the advice on the drum parts.

The game's been submitted so I won't make any changes that will make it into the game, but I'll play around with another mix for myself and try out your suggestions.

Yes my brother asked for a retro "cute" tune for NekoRush, but I look forward to trying out different styles too - on the cheap, for now.

Yeah except for the "QueensOfMetal.com" tracks, those others are just guitar tracks for previous band projects, for showing people I was jamming with, I should take them down... Line 6 Pod X3. I think I'm really loving making game/MIDI music because I can just be creative and my lack of knowledge about recording and mixing audio (especially distorted multi tracked guitars) doesn't get in the way of making something decent sounding.

I think you listened to Level10guitar's track -- not mine. Though I wish it was haha.

I guess like writing, recording, or mixing conventions specific to VGM, if there are ideas that exist in the community of what's considered acceptable and not? just curious. Maybe it's a too big a topic. It seems like anything goes, which I'm loving, but if there are like any newbie mistakes that happen, someone pls let me know! :P
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Old Jan 31, 2014, 10:55 PM
Marysia Flower Marysia Flower is offline
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PS "polished and authentic" --- you made my day! :)
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  #5  
Old Feb 1, 2014, 04:55 AM
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Oh oh, sorry, got mixed up somehow between the original post and your reply on level10guitar's thing. I'll just trim that part out of my post then...

I wouldn't say you need to worry about obeying any conventions. An extremely wide range of musical styles and writing/production techniques are encompassed within VGM, so I think most of us are accepting of a lot of diversity in sound and genre. One trend does stand out though: many of us are unhappy with the move toward imitating Hollywood scoring styles in game music, i.e. less melody, more "epic". This afflicts Western games the hardest and I think the fact that the large majority of attention here is given to Japanese music is due to that.

As far as mixing goes, you appear to have a pretty good grasp of it already. Generally, just don't try to make the volume blast constantly and use a limiter for peaks that want to go into the red and you should be pretty free otherwise. It's preferable to have a specially designed listening room and studio monitors with a frequency response as near to flat as possible, but of course lots of excellent-sounding music has been mixed in less than ideal conditions. And with as bad as many professional releases sound it's not that hard to seem alright in comparison. There are places like Gearslutz where you can get more specific tips than "do what sounds good" about things like using EQ and other effects.

I'm sure that if you want to record guitar that your Pod must be able to get better sound somehow. I know Brendan Small recorded the music for the first season of Metalocalypse through a Line 6 Pod. I can't really give you any advice on it though since I don't have one.

And of course I'd be happy to give you my assessment of whatever you come up with next.

(One more suggestion: turn the lead instrument up in the part that starts at 1:08.)
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Old Feb 3, 2014, 01:05 PM
Marysia Flower Marysia Flower is offline
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Okay, that's interesting. I'm kind of a melody addict, and don't yet have the skills (or plugins) to go 'epic', so that's all good.

I haven't played much with volume automation or limiters yet, so I'll try that. I just use flat-response AKG headphones right now, and maybe I'll get more spendy on studio monitors later. That Gearslutz forum (and their newbie sub forum) looks like a great resource.

Yeah I'm not blaming the Pod in any way, I just don't really get what the trick is to getting layered distorted guitar tracks to sound clear. I also have a lot to learn about EQing. So that's also on my list of things to figure out.

If you have ay examples of music you think is mixed really well (or your own stuff?), I'd love to hear them.

Thanks for the offer! I will take you up on it for sure. What you've given me has helped a ton.
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Old Feb 6, 2014, 04:08 AM
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I've been trying to think of some music that's mixed especially well, but for me my attention is usually only drawn to the mix in particular when it has some deficiency. It could be too much or too little bass, an uncomfortable imbalance between the left and right channels, muddy or thin sound, etc. If something is recorded badly in the first place, that overshadows how well it may have been mixed afterward. If something sounds great it's usually because it was recorded well and mixed in a way that has no obvious problems, and, like I said, there is a lot of freedom in how that can be done.

I'm afraid I don't have music of my own to show as I'm not really a composer, just a hobbyist of the engineering side of music and a critical listener. Pink Floyd is the band that got me really caring about sound quality and I think their best-sounding albums are Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Delicate Sound of Thunder (which is actually a live album, so that is quite a surprise), and The Division Bell. All extremely well done on the production side and I love the music too. Queen is an outstanding example of the mastery of mixing considering the large number of instrument tracks and voices in much of their music, made even the more impressive considering the equipment they had at the time to do all that. But few artists are so ambitious as to even give an opportunity to tackle such a mix!

Your headphones sound like a good thing to use. If you intend to make music with synth, spending money on high quality instrument samples first would surely have a larger impact on your sound quality. Some will say you should mix with speakers to get a proper appreciation of the sound stage, but in anything less than an anechoic chamber that brings its own set of inaccuracies like sound reflections off the walls. You should listen to your mixes on multiple systems to get a more complete idea of how it sounds, but a difficulty with that is that you might expect it to sound like other music you have which is frequently made much too loud either in mastering or at the mixing stage itself (see "Loudness war"). A good mix should not be spending all its time in the top portion of the volume meter. Also, remember to take periodic breaks to let your ears rest. You may have learned this from experience by now, but you can start to believe some funny things are improving the sound and then you come back and listen later and go, "what was I thinking?"

I repeat though, "Nekorush Theme" is mixed really well, my suggestions notwithstanding. In particular, the stereo panning of the main melody part and the background additions that build as it repeats. The volume of those background parts and of the harmony that starts at 10 seconds is very tastefully done; you can hear them clearly but they retain their subtlety. I'm sure it's easier to mix retro synth sounds than instruments with more complex frequency characteristics, but in most things you do you should strive to get a mix like that.

Of course it's best to get a recording that sounds good in the first place, but often you can enhance something significantly after the fact. Like with your issue of getting clear sound on your distorted guitar tracks, I bet EQ could go a long way to solving that. The problem is likely to be in the mid-bass region and a treble boost would also improve your sound. If you want, you could upload to a file hosting site some individual guitar tracks you want to layer and I could see what I can do with a mix and tell you how I did it if you like the result.
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Old Feb 10, 2014, 05:56 PM
Marysia Flower Marysia Flower is offline
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Awesome, thanks again for all this great advice, this is really helpful. I've been reading about mixing, but it hasn't been entirely sinking in. I'm probably letting it overwhelm me a bit -- there's a lot to learn, but I appreciate how you emphasize some basic and important points, stuff I need to hear.

I'm also taking some courses on Lynda.com on the new Logic X and on mixing, so hopefully that will also fill in some knowledge gaps for me.

Sure, next thing I record guitar for I will send your way - EQ ing help would be nice, I really don't have an ear for it yet. Thanks for the offer
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