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Cyrus Jackson @Suspended-3rd-Chord

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The Five Most Common Criticisms within the AP Music

Posted by Suspended-3rd-Chord - February 26th, 2008

I've been on the AP for about 10 months now, and I spend the majority of the time here listening to music and sometimes writing reviews. When pointing out and explaining potential flaws that I see in a track, I notice there is a common trend to what I (and possibly others) would change. By no means what I say is correct or always will be considered a flaw, nor do I want you to agree right off the bat. What you should do is when you create another project or go back to what you were working on, take each reviewer's critiques in mind, and if you apply what they say and think you have improved from their advice, then use those techniques. I'm also guilty of committing these "crimes"!

1. Lack of Reverb
I would probably say I've made a suggestion to use (more) reverb in more than half of my reviews. Obsessed with this effect I may be, but reverb can make an instrument/synth/sample that initially sounds cheap and lackluster in quality have that needed depth to produce a more vibrant, lush, and deep sound when used. IMO, it will instantly make your instrument just a touch more authentic, as it can sound like you're playing in a small room, arena, an open field, etc. I just think reverb is a necessity on making music have more imagery.

2. Using FPC/Stock Samples
Everyone that has used FL Studio at one point is guilty of using these. Not that what samples or synths you use are a bad thing, preset or not. There is a place for everything, and I've seen music where they've been utilized well when trying to convey a certain mood or sound. And this may depend on the listener, if you use Reason you may not be familiar with FL Studio's factory sounds, and vice versa. Fact is, the vast majority of newer artists that submit music to the AP start out with FL Studio, and of course will usually be aware of the internal samples that the program has provided. It's hard to find fault with them- but to the more experienced listeners, it will be tiring to hear the same shaped sound over and over again. The least you can do is resample, mess with the EQ settings to get a better personal shape- but furthermore you can look around on the web for samples, or better yet when you get more experience resample like I said or sample other tracks yourself (with of course giving credit).


Percussion Samples: (thanks to zodiak7)
http://files.filefront.com/synrgy+16bi t+Drum+Hits/;6821990;/fileinfo.html

Sample Resources:
http://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/topic/41 2168

www.Google.com (by typing in the type of kit/samples you're looking for, you'll be amazed at what you can find)

Give it a shot, you may like what you hear and you will have more original sounds to work with.

3. Clipping

This is another common, more objective error found with people who are newer to creating music, or are at least new to mixing their music. Clipping will usually dilute otherwise a good work as no one wants to hear a song fuzz or cause unwanted, sometimes painful volume "spikes". While I'm no mixer or audio engineer at all, this problem can simply be suppressed by putting a light compression effect on the instruments that are causing problems, and by using a soft limiter on the master channel to remove any other overly loud sounds that could seep in...I might not be entirely correct on how to use these; and of course there is a lot more to compression- but this all I know, and you should atleast take these quick steps to make your work sound more professional and clean.

More on compressors (tutorial by Rucklo):
http://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/topic/71 8886

Another Tutorial (thanks MusicisBliss!)
http://www.dogsonacid.com/showthread.p hp?threadid=507671

4. Abrupt Endings
Doesn't happen that much actually, but it's done enough to be brought to attention. This is certainly the most subjective point in my blog, IMO. When I criticize for abrupt endings I usually am referring to an unresolving chord/note, a sudden finish without a good melodical and/or rhythmical phrasing to leadup into the conclusion, or notes that should be sustained longer to bring out the ending effect. This would be a situation where it doesn't hurt to know a little bit of music theory. For example if you're playing in the key of C, and generally are going with a happy/sad context, you're going to want to end on C or A usually or you will throw off the listener yearning to hear more. Of course there are modes and scale degrees; but importantly try to resolve to the tonality that you've established in your last passage. There is tons of theories and contexts that will go out of the bounds of this blog; but my point is just don't half ass your ending.

5. Equalization/Panning/Dynamics
This is perhaps quite an overlooked effect and like most aspects of music it can take a while to master. I know I personally suck it at it. But EQing is arguably the most important aspect of engineering music. It's also not all based in just using the effects to get the proper room spacing to get all of your instruments to have their own definitive sounds, but using the appropriate selection of samples that will blend more nicely. For example, you will want to EQ your bassline differently from your basskick so you can feel and hear both instead of just one drowning out the other. If you have a bassy, deep pad in the background then it may sound better if you use a kick with higher mids. There are ways to include everything, I wish I knew more to go into specifics. Just look around for tutorials on the web, and for a start- just pay attention to each individual channel, and make sure you can hear all your sounds adequately by adjusting different EQ levels until you can get closer to the sound you want.

As for panning, some artists don't take the time to do this. Unless you're waaaaay back from current technology, you own a set of stereo speakers or headphones. Take advantage of this; and don't let your music sound like one big mono. Primarily, you will want to set the bassier sounds in the center of the track, and place the mid to higher ranged instruments to the left and the right. Within drumsets, take advantage of the stereo and pan your hi hats and cymbals 60-80% to the left of the right, if you use toms and melodical percussion, an interesting usage of both speakers is start from the left speaker with the lower sounds and gradually move to the right as the higher notes come in. These are not rules, but just don't make each sound dead in the center. If you use both speakers effectively to space your music, your instruments will not be competing for attention.

Lastly, another overlooked step is ignoring to pay attention to changing the note velocities. This won't happen often with musicians who do live recordings with their instruments, acoustically or digitally through a midi controller, because dynamics will naturally come through playing your instrument and applying expression. This process is relatively tedious, and is one of the elements that is hard to perfect, separating the genuineness of actual and electronic instruments. You can start to remedy these problems with accenting your hi-hats at the start of every measure, your snares at the third beat of every third measure, crescendoing a timpani roll into an epic motif- again, these are not rules, and I don't traditionally know where accents are generally placed, but its important that you experiment. Take two bars of eight notes, and mess with the individual velocities, put emphasis on certain notes where you feel the need and see how it comes out. Most importantly, just experiment and just try to get a feel that sounds good.

Honorable Mention: Midi Sounds/Unsuitable Sytrus Presets

In the current age of digital music, this is completely unacceptable :). even if you are using just a simple notation or tablature program, there's plenty of available alternatives to achieve a better sound on your music- for free. Try downloading a program like FL studio or a program that can load vsts and soundfonts, if you haven't . Use these third party plugins instead of the synth presets that do not do a very good job of trying to emulate actual instruments. Just slap on some reverb for a start, and you're good to go!

Squidfont (Orchestra)

This is easily the best free soundfont that I've found. It includes the major orchestral sounds: violins, violas, cello, and contrabass strings with their bowing techniques: legato, detache, pizzicato, and tremolo, and the brass and woodwind section too with tubas, trombones, trumpets, flutes, piccolos, French horns, bassoons, clarinets, an oboes, each with the choice of being staccato or legato. It doesn't have layered or indepth libraries like you will find in East West's Symphonic Gold, but squidfont is 500$ cheaper and will still produce an authentic s sound, too. It also isn't 14 GBs.

For orchestral percussion, squidfont has a section, but you will want to download roland orchestral rhythm- which even has layered notes.

They both can be found on this page: http://www.soundfonts.darkesword.com/


Pick up a good choir sound while you're at it too.

Flobakks Male Choir (ahhs)

KBH Female Choir (organic sounding oohs and ahhs

Upgrade your GM Bank

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_M IDI_Level_2 if you don't know what I'm talking about

Even if you are stubborn and don't feel like leaving your midi sounds, there are soundfonts and .Vsts to upgrade to. I personally use Chaos Bank, but there are probably better alternatives if you search around.

And of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. Search for a rare instrument that you like, and you might be surprised to find a soundfont or vst out there.




Due to my lack of time, I only had a chance to read a couple of paragraphs, but you are indeed right in most of the things I've read. When I have time, I'll read this and the rest of your blogs because they're fairly interesting :D

sweet, thanks for the interest :D yeah, these blawgs are looooooong, i tend to ramble on when trying to make a point lol

This is great. Definitely makes me think more about what I submit to the AP.

Thanks, I'm glad you find it helpful.

Finished reading it all. If there's anything that I can't do AT ALL, it's the mastering and adding dynamics (section 5). I have -nightmares- whenever I think about mastering my music. It's just an awful process. Hell, sometimes it can even take longer than writing the actual music. Clipping is another problem that I have to deal with when using very distorted sounds.

About using default samples. Something I learned from a friend is to never use a single samples when you're going to use the default ones. I usually use 2 or 3 different layers of different samples to achieve a better sound, and it pays off sometimes. Still, nice links, might use them sometime.

Great "guide".

yeah, i know what you mean. I don't really enjoy the mastering process simply because I'm not really good at it.

Layering is indeed good to do, but it ties along with using dynamics. The FPC is great for this, because you can add a bunch of layers for seperate velocity levels. The only problem is trying to find samples that connect more smooth, where as the default samples contained in the FPC fit better. sometimes it might be hard to find a good closed hi hat sample that matches the open ones as well. There's re-sampling techniques that you can use to emulate how the waveform reacts when its hit softly or louder to try and re-create a similar sound, but I personally don't know much.

Thanks for reading!

wow, that was awesome, i already knew most of it by now, but still, i learned some things, kudos with the awesome article, i hope more people will come read this.

also, I thought you may want to link to this information on compression
<a href="http://www.dogsonacid.com/showthread.php?threadid=507671">http://www.dogsonacid.com/showthread.

it has a bit more than rucklos, i found it last week, and since then all music i work on sounds 3 times better, and twice as clear, its amazing.

also, i agree with you and gromon on layering, my favourite 2 things are layering a dance kick with an fpc kick, and then eqing the dance really low, and the fpc low and high mid, then reverb, the eqing of the fpc, and the reverb blend the 2 together well, and now with compression, it works even better

also, just thought i would bring up, i love mastering, and am awful at writing songs. i can write samples, but i can never connect them into songs. just sample and mix, sample and mix, its more evil than not being able to mix, trust me

thanks for the link, I'll add that to my post.

you seem to know your stuff :) I've never intrically thought of layering and the EQing stuff that way..i'll certainly have to try that out, it sounds interesting. I would definetly love mastering if I knew what I was doing :D I just kind mess with the levels until I it sounds good and eliminates unwanted noise, but I would like to know the theory behind that you know? that goes for other things in my life too, like math, science, lifting weights...(lol)

Thanks man, it was a pleasure hearing from you tonight. I'm glad you got something out of this.

oh, another issue near clipping, people equing up their kick to ear bleeding levels, i am sometimes guilty of this myself, but when i can bring myself to it, i lower the bass on my kicks, cause lots of kids love the earbleeding

lol nice one ;)


w00t :D

I read through it- and I tend to suggest adding more reverb... ALL THE TIME- I'm getting annoyed about myself some times when I suggest it. Good to see I'm not the only one :D

lol yea dude. glad to see i'm not the only one as well XD

I have an unrelated and rather noobish question to ask. How can you make your new Profile posts show up on the left side of NG's main page? See, months ago, I used to be able to do so every 20 or 30 days, but now I don't see the &quot;post on main page&quot; option when I'm making a new posts. Any help?

i believe they removed that option, as I dont see it either with my past two blogs. it did appear on the frontpage of NG when i checked tho- so it might just tell you when you surpass the limit.

Oh hello, thanks for your reply to my Blog post.

sure, no problem :)

If you're interested, I'd like to make a musical collab :D

I'd love to work with you and nubbinownz on any genre really.

yes, i certainly am interested :D that would be fun to work with you guys. although, i've done collabs in the past and they didnt get done but we'll see how this works. also, nubbinownz uses reason so that might be a problem, but its worth a shot!

Nubbin is fine with the idea. He uses Reason indeed, while you and I use FL. Any ideas on how we could work it out?

i believe there's ways to rewire reason into FL...i dont know how to do it tho.

Hey, just responded to your post on my blog, thanks for the long reply, I hope what I wrote you will help you out.

cheers dude :D

Fuck man, your too good.

lol, well thanks, i try >_>

Ok man, don't go all dissin' mah homie FPC bruv.

Jk jk. FPC is actually a nice plugin, once you get it working. It has level-triggered sampling, many &quot;pads&quot; or simply samplers, ASDR envelopes for each pad, and lots of control. You can even assign each pad a separate mixer channel! Its a really nice program for sampling individual hits in one compact plugin. Its also really nice if using live, triggered, velocity-sensitive drum pads.

Also, you can download some new packs of FPC samples off of the IL Downloader, and those are high quality, and NOT overused! Its great. So don't diss on FPC, diss on FL Pre-packaged FPC drums!

woah, hold on, I was not dissing the plugin at all, just the stock samples that come in it. they are way overused but that's not really the creator's fault. Please read more carefully next time :), I know it's a great plugin :)

I agree with everything you said except for the &quot;abrupt endings&quot; section. Music theory is called theory for a reason. You know this, I know this, a lot of people know this. I'm just a little tired of people thinking they need music theory to learn how to write music; it's just not true. I mean, look at Allan Holdsworth-the dude developed his own music theory!. IMO, it's better to think of music theory as a guideline for writing music. Don't think I'm trying to come off as hostile or anything, because I'm not. However, I will say most abrupt endings are kind of annoying. :P

You are an exceptionally great reviewer and I'm going to check out some of your music right now.


Well if you were to by chance browse through my posts on the forums, you would see that I argue similar points, and that I would most certainly concur with what you just said! :) "Music theory is called music theory for a reason" - I said those exact words I believe a couple months back. While I would always encourage people to learn it, I certainly agree with you on it not being entirely necessary to create music. But it can help to know the rules of tonality so you know what chords are effective to end on- which you can also just develop by ear/mind/voice whatever you wanna call it. It's all in taste. What matters is the finishing product; how you create your stuff doesn't.

And thanks for the compliment, I like writing reviews ;) Thanks for checking my stuff out and favoriteing too! Later man.

Woah, never thought of doing something like this. :O I've got to give it a shot sometime. I'm getting ideas already. &gt;:}

Great job with this! :D

Thanks! Hehe, go for it man :)

I checked out those soundfonts and they're great. I've never used sound fonts before, but I can definitely see myself using them (along with the samples from blackhole12). I can't access the chiors though... both links won't work for me. The male choir has a problem with the link, whereas the female choir has a problem with the site (it comes up with a french 404 error. Do you know where else to get them?

Very nice. Just from looking at Blackhole's stuff, it seems like those samples will be better quality and have more variety. in turn these soundfonts will take up less space tho, just matters how much your HD can hold.

Hmm, I'll check out to see if there's more links (I should have tested them) and if I can't find any I'll just host them somewhere. I'll get back to you on that, thanks for letting me know WB.

Turns out I've been very busy lately (quarter exams) but I'm done with school for now, spring break for the win. Still up for that collab?

yes, I'm still up for the collab!! hit me up with a PM or something, so we can discuss this more.

First off, i think youve done a great job writing all of that, as well as making good sense with a fair amount of it. i also thought you were fair with how well you know what youre talking about.

I would advise people not to read my &quot;ramblings&quot; but to go to a library and pick up a theory book called, &quot;the complete idiots guide to music theory&quot;. do the tests but no matter what know that, which they say, is the lest you need to know... get the book youll understand...

i mean no offense and understand exactly how powerful the the ear is as a tool. however, there are too many things that you said that are of complete opinion, as well as topics you yourself claim you know nothing about.

By the way, there is NO chord called a &quot;suspended 3rd&quot;. there is no interval refered to as a &quot;suspended third&quot;. what you are trying to say you cant just spit out like that, if you like music so damn much that you leave huge blogs and reviews, why dont you go learn more than which chord in your key of &quot;C&quot; is home or vi...

for an explanation of the key of &quot;C&quot; here goes...:

C MAJOR= 2,2,1,2,2,2,1

I ii iii IV V vi vii_dim

A minor= 2,1,2,2,1,2,2

i ii_dim III iv v VI VII

2,2,1,2,2,2,1 and 2,1,2,2,1,2,2 &quot;scale degrees&quot; the first one is major, the second &quot;natural&quot; minor or aeolian mode. (by the way a mode is nothing more than the scale degrees of a major key starting at a degree other than the first &quot;2&quot; in the afore mentioned series. complete shite.) these degrees tell you how many half steps to the next note of the scale. so in otherwords, grab your keyboard sit at a piano or look one up... you star on the &quot;C&quot; key which is the white key on the LEFT of the LEFT black key of the pair of two black keys. not the set of three but the pair of two black keys. now starting on that key and counting it as one, count the degrees of the major scale. you will come up with CDEFGAB and then the octave (the same note up 8 notes) C again. now do the same thing but starting on different notes and/or keys.

now, the reason for the A minor up there with C MAJOR. A minor (Am) is the relative minor of C MAJOR (CM) which means the scale degrees of the major and the minor form a &quot;circle&quot; . when looking at CM we see that the note &quot;A&quot; is the sixth in succesion. the sixth degree will always be your relative minor of you major key. the same thing happens when your looking for the relative major of the minor key except this time it is not the sixth but the third.!!!!! great huh.

now for the &quot;roman numerals&quot;. notice the uppercase/ lowercase difference within the numerals. I ii iii IV V vi vii_dim. that means the uppercase chords will be major chords and the lowercase means they will be minor. now when it says _dim after Vii or ii, that means your chord will be diminished which means you flat the third and the fifth. but dont worry about the actual names and spellings. just make sure your stayin in key for now. your home chord is I. in CM this chord is CM... notice the similarity? yeah so you said finish in C or A... well that means that you can really actually i from the key of Am because being the relative minor of C, they are both the same thing just starting at different points which leads into more in depth explaination of chord progressions which im not up for right now.

long story short i know all that now because i went to the library and got the book, among others... i recomend this specific book first only because it goes in somewhat of an order and is very easy to understand.

k so with all that said, no offense dude but before i learned my theory i thought i knew enough to talk about it. truth is i would have read your thing here and possibly not been as good as i am today. do you know how many classical songs and jazz songs end abruptly? tons. its just like a space chord, you might not want to use it often but it has its place. everything is fair game in music truely but music itself and creating and/or performing music are 2 totally separate things. and then far far far off from that is mixing and editing, bus control and pan, all those things. creating music is harnessing sound itself and using those sounds to convey feelings. its a language not a computer screen. for you to say such things and then claim you know nothing about it your only adding to the pile of crap that some people call &quot;mainstream&quot;. unless you can say, &quot;yes, i am willing to say this because i know it to be true!&quot; shut up.

First off, while I won't try to state that I am musical genius at all, because I know I'm FAR from it, I do know what I'm talking about here, because it's mostly beginner material. I've been playing guitar for 3 and half years. Been composing for about one year and a half. I took an AP theory music class in high school, was the only class i recieved an A in. I know these classes don't teach you enough in the grand world of theory, but again, I believe I have enough experience to discuss the content matter that I wrote here.

the "suspended 3rd chord" in my screename, is a complete (lame) joke, someone's even asked me in a PM what it meant, and I told them pretty much what you said. Suspended chords have no thirds, and that's were my joke comes in. You're the first person to ask me that besides the person that PMed me, btw. (Glad someone finally catched on)

I don't know what the entire purpose of you posting the formulas for scales/modes because that's really not what this blog is about. Or if you're just trying to point me out like what I'm giving off completely false information. I decided not to discuss that because that's not really what this blog is aiming for. Point 4 maybe, but that is subjective. But I was referencing mainly to beginner flaws while mixing tracks. That is all, nothing really music theory related. again, POINT 4 IS COMPLETELY SUBJECTIVE. I'm giving my advice, and like I said, you don't have to agree with it, just consider it.

I find some offense by this post, as I'm merely trying to help people out. That is all.

Oh, and there is no "truthfulness" in music. So I can say whatever I want. thanks for the response tho.

I can't believe what I just read, lmao.

well, whadya think!? his opinion is not the final authority.


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