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Trailer composers, can you critique my mix?
Old 3rd May 2019
  #1
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Question Trailer composers, can you critique my mix?

Hi everyone! I think this is my first post since I opened the account in 2013. I am best at lurking.

I recently took an interest in trailer music. I composed a track and started a discussion with a library, in hopes that I could get it placed. The owner enjoyed the composition, but we went back and forth with different mixing requests.

First, he wanted heavier percussion, then it was too "pumpy", etc. Eventually, after 5 attempts we threw in the towel. I was still happy about my first composition being so close to finding a home, but I need to figure out what is going on here. I feel that the mix sounds hollow, but I don't know what I could have done to avoid it. I ended up putting it on a royalty-free library.

[DROPBOX]https://www.dropbox.com/s/nulik4invefnxt8/DROPBOX%20Collision%20Trailer.wav?dl=0[/DROPBOX]

Thanks for taking the time!
Old 6th May 2019
  #2
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Heya, here are some comments. Firstly you have good production etc - but I am going to be a bit picky and ruthless. You definitely have got a lot of the right elements, right feel for things etc, but there's a lot to work on, mostly in the writing/arranging side of things, so that's where my focus will be. I find that most of the time 'mixing issues' with trailer tracks tend to just be arrangement problems, and also that library supervisors/owners might blame the mix when in reality the problem is something else.

Don't be discouraged, honestly most trailer composers I know (and myself) had to write a LOT of trailer tracks before they got the idea. It's something that seems way, way easier to write and produce than it actually is. If this is your first trailer type track you are definitely doing really well.

IMO this is definitely closer to TV / drama / epic stuff.

1. Simplify - Trailer music is about three things mostly - authenticity, production, and simplicity (in a sense). What you really aim for is one really solid idea - be it an ostinato, 3-4 chords, or one sound design element/signature sound, and milk it to the climax. The mistake a lot of people trying to make trailer music do, is they keep introducing new ideas, new chords, and new melodies all over the place, vs starting with a very, very small version of the fully realised idea and growing it over time. Also "Epic Music" is a different beast to trailer music.

You definitely have a bit of that there, but you also have several ideas competing for the attention - that ostinato at the start kind of dies away after the intro - its not a tease for later, its kind of its own thing, then you have some different chords in the middle section before doing the rising thing in the climax. You can get away with doing that, but that's only if in the intro and buildup you have established the groundwork, you use the mid section as a break and then go back to it in the climax. Overall, the rising note melody thing is totally fine as a climax, but only if you have a strong ostinato or something else carrying the track through so it's not unclear what the main idea of the piece is. Ie - Redshift, used in the Venom Trailer. Has the rising note climax thing going on, but - really strong hook with the ostinato, definitive signature sounds and bassline that carries all the way through. So you just need some glue if thats going to be your melody.

2. Too much perc movement - most trailer music, even the hybrid percussion cues don't have the tiki/constant pulsing percussion stuff. It's kind of a dated thing for trailers now. You can use it, but you have to be careful because it very quickly goes into loop/TV mode. The drum kit / electronic snare & hi hats thing I wouldn't use. It can totally work in some tracks but again, hard to pull off in this context. It can make things a bit too much like sports / epic music and not really trailer music. Your hits and whooshes need to be more prominent. So - big hits /wooshes (Ava instinct, AudioImperia, keepforest packs etc), backed up by percussion playing "hit" stuff - a definite, trailer style pattern. Making the percussion "bigger" in the climax is hard if you already have hit it pretty hard early on, too.

You just have to watch a lot of trailers and listen to the really good tracks to get the feel for it.

3. Structure. For a hybrid / non Sound Designed based cue, you want the following:

Act1 - Pretty mellow, synth pads, textural, ambient - pings, etc. Teasing in the idea - maybe you stay on the tonic / very gentle introduction of any "thematic" material.

Buildup - Maybe you introduce your ostinato or pulsing element here. The essence of your track. This is the part of the trailer where they introduce characters, show the world a bit, see whats at stake. etc.

Climax 1 / Midpoint - stakes are raised, ostinato might be in full swing here, maybe basses, brass (although sometimes best to save brass for the climax 2). Sometimes this section works best as a pedal/tonic pump, giving the track a bit of a break before you go the main climax. Otherwise things can get pretty repetitive.

Main Climax - This is the juice of your track, the final 30-40sec of the trailer, all is on - shots of action, epic dialogue, etc. This is where you finally pay off that 3-4 note melody you've been teasing the whole time. Brass comes in, strings might be up the octave or doubled with the ostinato, etc. Braams, big hits, whatever suits your track. Again though - definite, deliberate patterns with the drums. (Bam bam bam ---- break -- Bam bam bam ---)Not action score stuff.

Climax Outro/Final Stinger - another 4-8 bars of mayhem maybe just on the tonic or whatever to really milk that final idea. This is for the final few seconds of the trailer. Also very useful for TV spots.

Anyway - you have a lot of the right ingredients. I would just keep writing if I were you, keep watching trailers, and keep trying to get your tracks up there. Use really good refs closely (from recent films - but find the full tracks on youtube etc.) and try and emulate them for structure, progressions etc, at least until you get the hang of it.

All the stuff that's not quite there for trailers in the meantime can be licensed for TV - so keep that in mind.
Old 6th May 2019
  #3
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

I'd be lying if I said you didn't have the right idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
I feel that the mix sounds hollow, but I don't know what I could have done to avoid it.
A good mix starts with good orchestration/arrangement. Yours is lacking here. If you really want to do this, and if your compositions are going to be orchestral based, learn how to orchestrate for an orchestra first.

Some other points of interest:

The opening string ostinato is VERY common. Ask yourself if you want to DTSSAEE, or separate yourself.

It is hard to follow the rhythm of that opening ostinato. Just b/c YOU know understand it, does not mean the audience will. So here I am, trying to follow it, and as soon as I think I had it, that hi-hat type thing (frame drum/brushed drum?) comes in, and I am like, "oh, I guess I don't have it."

Buy a woodwind library

Cheers.
Old 6th May 2019
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heckadactyl View Post
Heya, here are some comments. Firstly you have good production etc - but I am going to be a bit picky and ruthless. You definitely have got a lot of the right elements, right feel for things etc, but there's a lot to work on, mostly in the writing/arranging side of things, so that's where my focus will be. I find that most of the time 'mixing issues' with trailer tracks tend to just be arrangement problems, and also that library supervisors/owners might blame the mix when in reality the problem is something else.

Don't be discouraged, honestly most trailer composers I know (and myself) had to write a LOT of trailer tracks before they got the idea. It's something that seems way, way easier to write and produce than it actually is. If this is your first trailer type track you are definitely doing really well.
Don’t worry, I feel nothing but encouragement from this. In fact, I feel like I should have paid you for all of the information you’ve given me over the past few days. You probably just gave me the kind of understanding it would’ve taken me a year to achieve on my own. I don’t even know how to repay that.

I’m going to be rereading this for a while and practicing. I agree that the best thing I can do is just get a lot of tracks under my belt. The last thing I have trouble understanding is the authenticity part. I thought you might be referring to quality samples, but it seems like you’re referring to more than that.

Again, thank you. You’ve helped me understand what my plans should be for the next year. I would have gone on making epic trailer music unsuitable for anything but tv at best, thinking I was just putting my own spin on it.
Old 6th May 2019
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
I'd be lying if I said you didn't have the right idea.



A good mix starts with good orchestration/arrangement. Yours is lacking here. If you really want to do this, and if your compositions are going to be orchestral based, learn how to orchestrate for an orchestra first.

Some other points of interest:

The opening string ostinato is VERY common. Ask yourself if you want to DTSSAEE, or separate yourself.

It is hard to follow the rhythm of that opening ostinato. Just b/c YOU know understand it, does not mean the audience will. So here I am, trying to follow it, and as soon as I think I had it, that hi-hat type thing (frame drum/brushed drum?) comes in, and I am like, "oh, I guess I don't have it."

Buy a woodwind library

Cheers.
Thank you for taking the time to critique this. I’m sure you can tell I came from another genre, so my midi choices for all the different sections are completely by ear lol

I made this without the kind of ambition I’m feeling now for trailer music, it was kind of an impulse to try it out.

I have known I would need to start researching orchestration before making anymore library moves, but as for woodwinds, what benefit do you think they would have given the track?
Old 6th May 2019
  #6
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
Don’t worry, I feel nothing but encouragement from this. In fact, I feel like I should have paid you for all of the information you’ve given me over the past few days. You probably just gave me the kind of understanding it would’ve taken me a year to achieve on my own. I don’t even know how to repay that.

I’m going to be rereading this for a while and practicing. I agree that the best thing I can do is just get a lot of tracks under my belt. The last thing I have trouble understanding is the authenticity part. I thought you might be referring to quality samples, but it seems like you’re referring to more than that.

Again, thank you. You’ve helped me understand what my plans should be for the next year. I would have gone on making epic trailer music unsuitable for anything but tv at best, thinking I was just putting my own spin on it.
Cool that's great to hear. Yup - a lot of tracks, whilst also referring back to some quality refs from recent placed tracks, rinse and repeat. You'll definitely get there!

For authenticity - it's a mixture of both the right sounds (staying up to date with them/the latest packs and trends, and also trying to design your own if possible), but also in the writing - trailer music is very minimalistic for the most part, and every element is 'just so', polished, highly deliberate. It's a bit like pop music in that regard. So it's about very careful melody, chord choice - certain things can very quickly lean into TV or even film score mode. Really the only/best way to discover this part of it is just to write a lot of cues and keep comparing them to refs while also watching a lot of spots. Stuff that seems obvious to me now definitely did not when I was starting - lots of little details that add up.

You definitely want to put your own spin on things, but at the same time, you want to learn the conventions first. Inventiveness in trailer music comes from the way you progress the track, the signature sounds, certain chord choices or ostinatos etc, but not so much that it takes it out of trailer mode and into something else. When you're starting out, just try and get the format and sounds down. You can worry about bending the style later.

As for the comment on wwinds - it's very rare to hear them in a hybrid track for trailers nowadays. They are used for fantasy stuff, custom spots that require them etc - but in general, the name of the game with high end trailer licenses is to make a track that is licensable to as many things as possible. Also they're just kinda cheese in trailer tracks unless in a fantasy track etc. Super hybrid tracks can be licensed from anything from action, horror, to full on disney fantasy. Sure, they can mute those stems, but also it's more about how you've built up the track - in trailers, synths and pulses, signature sounds etc tend to fill up the space of where woods would go.

I do agree that learning traditional orchestration can only help - of course! When you don't use woodwinds, or use an extra huge string or brass ensemble, it helps to know why and how you're compensating for the lack of those colors (or vice versa).
Old 7th May 2019
  #7
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
as for woodwinds, what benefit do you think they would have given the track?
Depth. Reinforcement. Different colors and textures. Movement.
Old 8th May 2019
  #8
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hmm, orchestration seems just fine to me, and i do quite of a bit of work like this. In my opinion, what makes it sound "Hollow" is you're taking out way too much 200hz through 800hz.

This is the area that seperates the men from the boys. Initially, it sounds good to suck all that stuff out, but then you soon realize things sound
hollow and weak. Its not easy to get just the right amount. I'm also hearing the pumping you mentioned.
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