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Trailer composition I am working on for a client. Advice PLEASE

JTJohnson

Active Member
So the writing is basically finished. Just ironing out the mix and modulation (nothing on the master channel and completely unmastered). Please critique my VI brothers and sisters, i want/need this to be the best it can be.

 

erica-grace

Senior Member
Hi

Extremely repetitive and boring. The extra strings that come in at 1:40 sound wrong, like the players had the wrong sheet music. It just dies at 3:47. Trailer music typially builds towards the end, and has a climax - yours does the opposite.

This piece is completely devoid of emotion and feeling. It is also devoid of a lot of elements that you hear in modern trailer music, making your production thin and weak, comparatively speaking. Trailer music is big, and bold and thick with orchestration. You are way, way off from that.

I like your ideas, but the implementation is light years behind pro trailer music.
 

whitewasteland

Senior Member
@erica-grace's point of view may look severe, but the point is here : the track is obviously way too long, and there are here and there some really weird notes that don't seem to make any sense.

I suggest you take a look at typical trailer tracks and you'll see that the chord progressions are usually really simple (I mean, really !), with no harmonic surprises. All the mojo is in the sound design, the gimmicks, the production and the big bold orchestrations that come with it.

Good luck !
 
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Smikes77

My Avatar looks just like me
So the writing is basically finished. Just ironing out the mix and modulation (nothing on the master channel and completely unmastered). Please critique my VI brothers and sisters, i want/need this to be the best it can be.

Hi JTJ.

I really like that drone you have going on there. It's really good.

You're missing an effective ostinato, or rhythmic pulse in the build up, and the climax doesn't take off as much as it could.

Compare your track to a modern trailer and you should hear the difference. They get you on the edge with the build up, and smack you across the face with a giant mallet in the climax. Also, you haven't put enough markers in where they can change scenes. Super important. Although you have these later on, you need them in the intro too.

Plus it's too long.

If you can, take the evenant trailer course and it will open your eyes. Would love to hear a re-write of this.
 

Barmey

Composer | Sound Designer | Human (BarmeyUng.com)
Although I don't approve of how @erica-grace disrespectfully communicated her response, I have to admit that I think she has a point.

It's hard to review trailer music without also seeing the trailer video.. but based on the music, I think it lacks a strong sense of... urgency or authority (if that makes sense). I think the ideas are there, but the execution needs some work. It needs a stronger build to the climax which would reinforce a stronger release. You will have to decide what that means to you and how to achieve that. Perhaps stronger and more varied articulations all around which support that ark would be a good start, particularly in the strings.

Personally, I think the modulations that you make at sections like 3:39 are awkward.. but maybe that's just me.

I suggest to listen and analyze lots of trailer music and keep on trying to find the specific things you like and dislike about them.. what techniques do they use to create certain emotional response.. and apply those techniques to your work. That's my approach about it at least.

I do think it's a good start and having a good mix will help give it a bigger sound. Hope these suggestions help. and you don't let people like @erica-grace bother you!
 

Fab

protect your ears!
Hi

Extremely repetitive and boring. The extra strings that come in at 1:40 sound wrong, like the players had the wrong sheet music. It just dies at 3:47. Trailer music typially builds towards the end, and has a climax - yours does the opposite.

This piece is completely devoid of emotion and feeling. It is also devoid of a lot of elements that you hear in modern trailer music, making your production thin and weak, comparatively speaking. Trailer music is big, and bold and thick with orchestration. You are way, way off from that.

I like your ideas, but the implementation is light years behind pro trailer music.
Jeez, thats more harsh than the russians. Even to my friends I pull back a bit
 

NoamL

Winter <3
The #1 thing that's missing here is definitely urgency.

You start (after the sub hit) with some distorted ambiences coming in and a cello setting the pulse, that's good and grabs my attention decently enough. Notice that you could practically start the track at 0:20 and have the same impact. Then you start playing this disjointed string riff, which I don't like for four reasons 1) too high melodically, 2) too forward and doesn't feel absorbed into the mix, 3) doesn't really create emotion. But worst 4) it just repeats over and over and over. By 1:40 you have said very little. Remember, urgency.

To be fair I hear that missing as well from many tracks by people who took the Evenant course. They just conform to a pre-specced formula for tracks, while still lacking the emotional reason behind writing trailer music. Trailer music is not about scenes or acts or risers or braaams or ostinatos or any of that. ;) It's about grabbing attention, building urgency, and delivering an awesome finale. Really you could take those three ideas and boil them down to one. ESCALATE. It's like a fireworks display, you always have to have another level to escalate, another card to play. When you think about it that way, the problem is composition much more so than track structure OR track production. One of the worst sins of these tracks is when they try to "fake wow" the listener with huge escalating production but the composition is just the horns sitting on double whole notes. In reality the composition is lethargic and having huge pounding drums underneath just sounds like a contradiction. On those kind of tracks the "big finale" feels perfunctory and stupid because there's no driving element that musically and logically justified arriving at such a crazy finale.
 

Parsifal666

I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
There are good things about it. You have something cool going on the sound design end, but as mentioned above an ostinato would have served the dramatic purpose much better, or perhaps straight up tremolo strings. It's mostly just too long without a payoff, and there isn't enough going on as far as animating the proceedings goes (even some creatively judicious panning would have given more movement to this).

Some would recommend checking out some libraries specifically geared toward the trailers you're aiming at. And getting a little more mixing savvy would have at least kept the strings from sticking out so unnervingly.
 

desert

Just here so I don't get fined
So the writing is basically finished. Just ironing out the mix and modulation (nothing on the master channel and completely unmastered). Please critique my VI brothers and sisters, i want/need this to be the best it can be.

Is this really going to a client? :O
 

erica-grace

Senior Member
Apologies if I cam across as disrespectful - I had no intention to! :)

But, TBH, I am not sure how to better word what I said :sad: I wanted to be direct, and to the point. And honest. I am not one to beat around the bush, and sugar coat; if this were me, I would want the same response, as I want to hear honest opinions that would help me. And believe me, as I am still learning myself, there are people more experienced than I who could definitely help me. I would not want to hear a sugar coated answer - I'd want the truth, straight up. So that's what I gave.

I even said I liked the ideas! :)
 

NoamL

Winter <3
@erica yes it is always better to give honest feedback! What is worse for a composer, reading bad feedback, or not selling the track? :)

@Parsifal No, tremolo strings is just another variety of sustain. It doesn't create urgency and actually, I can't recall off the top of my head hearing tremolos prominently in trailer tracks. Instead of telling him to think about articulations, mix, orchestration, panning (lol?), production, structure, libraries or ANY of that I would say just take a deep breath, sit down with nothing but a scratch piano patch, and make 4 bars that are interesting. If you build the house wrong it doesn't matter what color you paint it. The underlying sin of this track is that it doesn't contain 16 bars of really DRIVING musical material, much less 4 minutes.

Urgency comes from a musical idea that makes me think "Okay, tell me more." And then the composer needs to deliver with musical development that both surprises and satisfies the listener. It's impossible to define this (which is good or else robots would have our jobs). But there's no point moving on to any aspect of track production until the composer comes up with such an idea as the fuel.
 
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JTJohnson

Active Member
Listened to "all" comments, some more help than others but appreciate them all the same. We all know you need thick skin in this business.

I specifically liked the comments that gave suggestions and actually explained their opinions and critique.

I will take it all onboard and work on the track and also bring those suggestions into my future work
 

Parsifal666

I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
@Parsifal No, tremolo strings is just another variety of sustain. It doesn't create urgency and actually, I can't recall off the top of my head hearing tremolos prominently in trailer tracks.
All respect, but perhaps you should listen to more trailers. Tremolo strings are one of the most dramatic devices in music (especially when applied with conscientious volume automation); don't just listen to trailers, but late era Beethoven, Wagner. You didn't think your words out enough before you wrote them, because you sound inexperienced.
 

Grim_Universe

Active Member
@JTJohnson I want to add something to what has been said already: composing music in the early stages is all about the imitation. Take something simple of TSFH or Bergersen and try to get close enough to this music in terms of dynamics, punchness, loudness, fullness (despite the very simple chord progressions. VERY SIMPLE). Just copy 8 bars and try to make them as good!
I think you should do things shorter, but more interesting. And study orchestration, you just have to know how to make things loud, when you need to. Read some of the scores with active brass sections and next trailer music will be much better, I guarantee it.
 

tokatila

Senior Member
@JTJohnson I want to add something to what has been said already: composing music in the early stages is all about the imitation. Take something simple of TSFH or Bergersen and try to get close enough to this music in terms of dynamics, punchness, loudness, fullness (despite the very simple chord progressions. VERY SIMPLE). Just copy 8 bars and try to make them as good!
I think you should do things shorter, but more interesting. And study orchestration, you just have to know how to make things loud, when you need to. Read some of the scores with active brass sections and next trailer music will be much better, I guarantee it.
Yeah, this feels like a sound advice. To me there is so much problems with your track it's hard to even suggest what to do. I pretty much agree what Erica-Grace said that it's light years away from being pro level, so there is not one magic bullet you can fix it.

I have practiced this quite a lot and couldn't imagine to being able to sustain listeners interest for 5 minutes. I'm not able to do that, not even close. So it has been helpful for me to try to keep things shorter, it's much easier to concentrate on form/harmony/orchestration/mixing that way. I'm not saying that I'm good in anyway, far from it, but I feel that I keep slowly improving when I'm keeping things simple and short.

But where the problem lies? Can you hear it's not good? Or didn't you spend time enough of it? Think about your stage of competence. Myself, I'm hovering between 1&2 depending on what genre I'm working on. I feel that stages 3&4 are much rarer animals in composition and hard to reach.

The four stages of competence


  1. Unconscious incompetence
    The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.[2] The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.[3]
  2. Conscious incompetence
    Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.[4]
  3. Conscious competence
    The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.[3]
  4. Unconscious competence
    The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become "second nature" and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.
 
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NoamL

Winter <3
You didn't think your words out enough before you wrote them, because you sound inexperienced.
Great, so show me a trailer track with prominent use of tremolo strings.

Urgency comes from rhythm and drive - in order to have these elements, you need interlocking layers of pulse based on different subdivisions.

Some good reference tracks




Each of these tracks is based on really languid melodic material but there is a sense of forward drive and urgency because there's multiple layers of subdivision going on beneath that.

or check out 4:45-8:00 of the MoS Sketchbook, notice how every possible layer of subdivision has musical material -


A track with just football notes would lack urgency because there's no subdivision and no drive. Put tremolo marks on those footballs and you still have the same thing.
 

NoamL

Winter <3
About that "scratch piano" idea - here's a good trailer built from just 4 bars of interesting piano, that then gets multiple layers of subdivision added below and above the basic half note pulse:

 
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