Like I said last year, I’ve taken to learning me musical arrangements because it will help in my musical journeys…this includes creating better and better tunes too.
So first Here’s chpt 4 of Queenie Chan’s amazing Legend of Zelda fanfic, and my sounds for it. It’s work in progress but ready for a sneaky peaky. I will talk more about the previous chapters when I get a little bit of a breather but ONWARD my spiderlings! for now…
Overall sounds for Zelda
Queenie basically gave me (almost) free reign in the drafting of Zelda’s sounds.
My first approach was to try and mind-meld with readers and do a reading soundtrack..which Queenie liked but wanted to try a more “Location loop” soundbyte approach.
For those of you who are gamers, this would be a familiar concept.
The original Zelda’s theme by Nobuo Uemetsu is largely divided written for different locations. Zora’s domain, Gerudo Valley etc. You get the idea…so when players enter a world they immediately associate a musical soundbyte with an event.
This gave way to my interpretation of Zora’s Domain, which, to me, was good enough for chapter 1 since it was largely based in…Zora’s domain but proved a little challenging for subsequent chapters which had a wider emotional landscape with multiple location switches.
Looped “event based” soundbytes vs “film” soundtracks
There were a few problems with using the location music approach that made us eventually do manga trailers with more film like soundtracks instead. Here are my theories on why it didn’t work.
- Reader speed – Since I cannot yet mind meld with you, the listener, I can’t make music with adjustable speeds tailored to your reading speed…yet. As such, I cannot predict when you are moving from one location/ emotional landscape to another in Queenie’s tale.
- Interactive vs non-interactive landscapes- Looped music without event triggers = boring= irritating. In games, one uses event triggers to make musical variety so gamers don’t get bored, in this case Queenie’s ff is a tale where the main triggers are the emotions and the events in the story are non-interactive so a more film soundtrack approach was used for later chapters but as trailers (see reader speed…at least now I control it)
Sounds in Zelda
The original legend of Zelda theme always feels east-western to me. I wanted to keep that sentiment so I kept the largely western ensemble, but used quite a bit of eastern percussion with the western style drums. So, Taikos, Mu yu ((木魚) , you name it…I probably whacked it in at some point.
Chapter 4 drafting process
Queenie gives me a host of “trailer pics” she wants on the chapter trailer. After reading her full tale, this is usually how I start. Preview screen open on the mac, one hand on the keyboard, playing the draft and then scrolling through the pics. I do this a few times until I collect a few musical sequences I like.
After which I have an “emo-map” so I know where I am. Where the musical changes are etc then set out to set it in semi stone.
Drafting these soundtracks for Queenie are, in a way, heaps easier than drafting for moving pictures. Afterall, the “hit points” (important visual events specifically scored for with music) are decided by me…
This… for composers who work to moving pictures will be like composing in god mode since you don’t have to time musical changes to the nano-second for scenes that you want to emphasize sonically.
My drafts have started in different ways for different pieces but for chapter 4, it’s pretty much been a one take on the piano….like so. From nothing to a one track draft…takes me 30mins or so.
Imperfect Piano draft.
Quick arrangement draft
Then I do a quick arrangement draft. All this happens in 1-2hrs on average.
Here’s an excerpt…
Then comes the painful/ fun part. The actual arranging, where you split the instruments into their respective instruments (dividing string parts into their respective violin, viola, cello, dbl bass etc. Do the same for brass etc etc.
It’s funny, 12 weeks ago I would draft string/brass parts like pad sounds and play the parts like a piano… Since string/brass not equals piano because thinking it is so makes everything murky, voiced wrongly and horrifyingly unconvincing.
This is my long haul…deciding what ranges and sounds are right for which instruments. Making sure the harmonics sit right and aren’t sumo fighting each other etc. This process is taking me about 15-20hrs per track which makes me slightly batty because I still don’t think I know what I’m doing and I’m still really new to all of this and I want to be faster faster faster.
With Chapter 4, strings were the primary culprit. At some point I made the mistake of giving the lead “here comes the calvary” line to an 18 violin ensemble. I thought more people playing = more grand= this line of thinking is very very wrong.
This is the lead line that’s been plaguing me. Imperfectly exported from logic.
<< click for full view>>
But leaving the lead string line with the ensemble makes the strings all lost in la mancha land and the tune simply loses strength after the build. Of course…the hilarious thing was that I attempted to solve this problem by turning the strings way UP. Check out the resulting sonic mess….
Lead line played by 18 violin ensemble. Big Calvary line comes in at 4 secs there abouts. Notice the WEAKNESS? It’s like having a grand looking war elephant with a leaking jagular vein…messy and not very helpful to the clause.
After I had quite literally pulled all my hair out and frothed all over the keyboard in frustration, Lee eventually pointed out that I had actually written a piece that was more for a string quartet. (I’m still in the midst of cleaning all this up so it’s actually a quartet…but simply changing the key string sounds to solo make a universe of a difference in power.)
Lead line given to 1 violin, 1 cello. (largely doubled – the work in progress version you are listening to which still needs cleaning up…but I can already hear the difference in power)
1) This may seem obvious (BUT don’t give lead string lines to string ensembles). The sound just loses power. Save ensemble parts for lines that need “airiness”. For something more powerful and present…solo it is. 2) oh…and string solos get panned right up front. Not at the back with the rest of the ensemble…(eh…no wonder it got losted initially.) I am borrowing a smidge of these ideas for later chapters. Steve Reich is uber fun. Check this piece out. It’s WRINKLING my BRAIN!!. Anyways…coming up in a few weeks…it will be back to TWISTED TALES for us. Stay tuned.
1) This may seem obvious (BUT don’t give lead string lines to string ensembles). The sound just loses power. Save ensemble parts for lines that need “airiness”. For something more powerful and present…solo it is.
2) oh…and string solos get panned right up front. Not at the back with the rest of the ensemble…(eh…no wonder it got losted initially.)
I am borrowing a smidge of these ideas for later chapters. Steve Reich is uber fun. Check this piece out. It’s WRINKLING my BRAIN!!.
Anyways…coming up in a few weeks…it will be back to TWISTED TALES for us. Stay tuned.