Guidelines for a Successful Compo Entry
3 MadTracker specific
4 Final production
5 Favourable software
The 'Guidelines for a Successful Compo Entry' tutorial was originally written after the first big competition at MadTracker.org. As a reviewer I kept stumbling upon the same mistakes and problems inside the tens of compositions. It therefore seemed wise to make an overview of everything that is important to keep in mind while participating in such an event. Now, at the dawn of the third big competition, I revised the original document and made it up-to-date. Ofcourse, my word isn't gospel. It might nevertheless help you further if your own gospel is still lacking, or it can function as an extension for your own compositional philosophy. It's goal is to help you composing a compo entry that shows the best of your skills.
Pay attention to the length of your track. Because you are entering in
a producer-compo, it is not favourable to produce a DJ-friendly version.
Be aware of the goal that you have in mind with your song, and think
well about your songlength; donít make it any longer or shorter than
necessary for your track. Triphop and deephouse are styles in which
longer song lengths are in general more than welcome, whereas commercial
house normally needs a relative short songlength.
Every good track has a certain emotion or emotional pulse. Although
hard to explain, everyone will know the feeling that certain songs
trigger you to feel a specific emotion. Examples for this are the drive
in techno, the aggression in hardcore, the overwhelming feeling in trance,
or the laidback feeling in triphop. Try to define as clear as possible
what the emotional goal of your track is, and do everything in your
compositional power to actually achieve that goal.
2 Samples & VST plugins
Use samples and VST plugins in an original way. Try not to use standard samples (such
as a piano for the lead instrument or the entire 909 kit for drums) or the fixed presets inside VST instruments. If you decide to use pre-fabbed material, then try to use them in a non-regular way. The best thing
you can do is to generate brand new samples with softsynths or
hardsynths, or tweak plugins to make them most fitting for your song. If you lack the knowledge or the equipment to perform this task, then try to look for sounds that arenít standard used in the style
that you produce. Innovate, don't immitate!
If your song sounds good, but if it lacks identity (the Ďa dime a
dození effect), try adding sounds that induce a more characteristic
sound and identity. Great sounds for this purpose are FX (try looking on
internet or generate them yourself with a soft- or hardsynth) or
an original speech sample.
With the ability of using VST plugins, some basic mastering is possible. Mastering can camouflage certain lacking components of
your song, or emphasize those which deserve attention. Nevertheless, mastering can never solve the problem of poor samples or compositions. A good song starts with good building blocks. Make sure both your ideas as your sounds are top-notch.
Check per sample what its function is in your track (such as the low and
driving characteristic of a bassline, the groove-inducing
characteristics of hi-hats etc etc), and - if necessary - adjust your
samples in a sample-editor to let them fulfil their Ďtaskí as good as
possible (such as adding white noise to a bassdrum to let it stand out
better in the mix or sharping up a lead sawsynth to give it more power).
3 MadTracker specific
Be aware of the possibilities that MadTracker offers you. Check for all
your samples if it is necessary to use the volume, panning, NNAís or its
filter / resonance settings to make it sound better. Furthermore, much
can be done with the applicable effects in your tracks. Donít simply use
MadTracker as a windows-based version of Fasttracker; much more can be
done, so apply these extra's with care and wisedom. Check other MadTracker-modules to see what
the different codes can do for you and your song.
Track effects can make all the difference, both for the good as for the
bad. As slick as it might sound, too much reverb will kill your track by making it sound muddy and unclear. On the other hand, a
tiny bit of reverb can make your melody sound much more warm and less
dry. The same goes for every track effect. Try to get clear for yourself
what the goal is of using a track effect, and achieve that goal. Nothing
more, nothing less.
Be friendly to your own CPU, to the judges and to the audience, and
route your track effects if possible. Donít adjust your effects in order
to make routing possible. If two tracks use exactly the same effect
with the same parameters, then route the first to the second.
If you are a registered user, disable the option Hi-Q filters and use the linear interpolation (edit -> configuration -> tab 'audio'). The judges will namely also disable it for
4 Final production
Take care while mixing your track once its rough version is finished.
Browse through your samples and check if any unwanted pops/clicks/bad
loop points still exist. Listen (if possible with decent headgear) to
the stereo field that your song has, and adjust the panning of samples
or parts of tracks if necessary. Evaluate the relative volume of all
components of your song. Best thing to do concerning a general song
check is to finish it and to wait a week before listening it again.
Youíll be much more objective at that point. Another good advice is to
ask others (fellow-producers or friends with a good sense for quality in
music) to evaluate your song in its final version. Try to be honoust to
yourself; the judges most certainly will be.
A truly good track is outstanding at every point of the total song.
Donít only take care of the good points of your track, but also be aware
of lesser components. A commonly made mistake is to make a great melody,
but to support it with average beats. This flaw can make the difference
between a good and a very good rating.
Once your song is finished, try to perform a frequency analysis with a
wave editor. Look carefully to the general analysis result of your song,
and check if certain frequency-regions have too much or too little input
in the song. Too much low can make your song sound muddy, whereas too
much high in your song can make it sound thin or irritating.
Louder isnít always better. The standard gain for MadTracker is 4, and
all judges (and all other audience that will download your track) will
listen the song with this gain. Listen your song with this gain, and
make sure that your song doesnít clip. This can easily be checked with
the yellow light above the master track in the MadTracker mixer. When it
becomes yellow during your track, it has been clipping. Try preventing
that; clipping may result in unwanted distortion.
Use the parameter box ('file' -> 'parameter' -> tab 'info') and tick
'display message when loaded' if you want to give additional information
to the listener that is revelant for the perception of your song. This
can be either instructions on how to listen (headphone usage or a
laidback environment with dimmed lights), why the song sounds as it
sounds (for instance justification of lo-fi samples to get a classic
lo-fi sound) or what your reason has been to make this song (such as an
important event in your life). Be aware of the fact that not every
listener will automatically read the information provided. Thus, don't
trust too much on this action; a really good song is one that stands out
no matter what prior knowledge influences the actual
perception. Furthermore, you can be too restricting in your description;
what you might describe as 'energetic uplifting hardhouse', a listener
might hear as 'minimalistic techno', and if the listener will force
himself to hear something different then his own perception, the final
appreciation might be lower. If you choose to use additional written
information, use it wisely.
5 Favourable software
The best-known free sample editor is Audacity. It's interface isn't exactly a classic in its genre, but it does the job quite well. It furthermore supports VST plugins once you've installed the VST Enabler. The most frequently used professional sample editors are Sony's Soundforge, Steinberg's Wavelab, and Adobe's Audition. It's up to you to decide which one suits you best, and which price tag is acceptable.
If, for whatever reason, your own archive of samples or the possibilities of the bundled VST Instruments do not suffice your needs, then Xlutop's Chainer might be your cup of tea. Chainer allows you to easily convert the sound of VST Instruments to wave. Limiting as that solution may be, it does generate the possibility to use the sound of every softsynth and virtual instrument imaginable.
Lots of tools are available to perform a frequency analysis. The above-mentioned wave editors are all capable for this task, and also some free VST plugins exist that can do this work for you.
Internet is one huge sample-cd. You just need to know where to search. Follow me, please?
Last: feel free to post any question or comment at the forum of MadTracker.org.
Dozens of people are more than willing to answer questions, clear up issues and reflect your thoughts.
Inge (with help from the other
reviewers how helped creating and revising this document), September 15th, 2005
|Copyright © 1998-2005 Yannick Delwiche|
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