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If you've read the thread I posted in the 'Introduce Yourself' forum, you already know that I'm working on a video game project (its working title is Elementia), and I'm at a stage where developing music for it would now be appropriate. At the time, I had absolutely no musical composition experience; now, I've composed my first piece (and since I am new to composing music, feedback would be greatly appreciated). Since there's no descriptions for these and I can't upload music onto DeviantArt (where I usually upload stuff related to my video game project), I thought I'd create a thread where I can post my musical compositions with descriptions. This is my very first piece:



This'll be the first piece you hear when you start the game, as your adventure begins in the capital city of the Jovisian Empire: Auguston. Imagine a steampunk London where the sun never rises, illuminated with nothing but artificial light; this is the sort of atmosphere I wanted to capture with this piece I call City of Enlightened Darkness. I got inspiration for this piece from Professor Layton's London Streets, and steampunk music in general. The only music theory I intentionally applied when creating this was triple metre (I wanted it to sound like a waltz), octaves and repetition; if I did anything else that was musically clever, it was unintentional or I don't know the technical term for what I did. 

I've listened to this piece loop over a hundred times by now, and it still sounds good to me, so hopefully it at least sounds decent to you as well. I'll be composing many more pieces for my rather ambitious video game project in the future, but I'll probably be posting them sporadically since I'll be busy doing other things for it, such as writing dialogue and making pixel art. I hope you enjoy the musical compositions I'll be posting in this thread; if you have any fair criticisms or suggestions for improvement, I'd like to hear them.
No criticisms or suggestions? My very first piece must be perfect despite the fact that I've had absolutely no prior musical composition experience, then. Hopefully, I'll have matched its flawless quality with my second piece:



This'll be the piece you hear after you board the Hermes Express, hence the name of this piece: L'Hermès Express. Obviously, it's inspired by the Orient Express; you ride the train across the Channel to get to the Continent, and although there's no murder, there is a theft. I got inspiration for this piece from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks's Troubled Realm; besides being appropriate for a steam locomotive-drawn train, the sort of atmosphere I wanted to capture with this piece was... well, I'd describe it as 'serious with an air of tranquillity'. It actually kind of reminds me of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon music... Or maybe I'm just imagining things: it's been a very long time since I last listened to any Pokémon Mystery Dungeon music.
I've admittedly been a little dissatisfied with Online Sequencer recently – especially with regard to the fact that there's no sustain, and there's a limited range of instruments – so I tried software that had previously been recommended to me on these forums. Now, I'm someone who doesn't easily give up when faced with a technical challenge – one of my proudest achievements is having installed RStudio on Jammy Jellyfish when it had recently been released, before anyone had published a solution to this online – but I just couldn't get Ardour to work for me. Specifically, I couldn't install any instruments, and I know that I'd have the same problem with the other software recommended on these forums. Why must digital online workstations be so unfriendly towards even an intermediate Linux-user such as myself...?

...But a digital audio workstation isn't the only alternative to Online Sequencer. Maybe I didn't search thoroughly enough online before...? ...No, I don't believe that I missed anything that I didn't find the first time. I tried signal, and although it does have more instruments and sustain for them, I found its user interface more difficult to use – and the quality of music produced sounded worse – than Online Sequencer's. midi.city looks like it has about the same diversity of instruments as signal, also does sustain, and the quality of music sounds better than Online Sequencer's... But as its creator said, 'I don't intend to do a full-on "grid editor" like you see in all other DAW’s and am experimenting around that', so it looks practically useless for actually making musical compositions. If only it had a grid editor like Online Sequencer's, it would be perfect (or good enough for me, at least)...

I'd heard of keyboard macros before, and I've used Audacity before, so why don't I use a keyboard macro program to play music on midi.city, record what plays with Audacity and compose music with that? The first problem was getting Audacity to record desktop audio, as opposed to microphone audio; it was harder than it should've been, just because I confused the playback device with the recording device (in the preferences, it's in this order, so I assumed that it would be the same outside of it, although the icons clearly show that it's in the opposite order). The second problem was the keyboard macro program; I installed AutoKey and wrote a Python script that worked... But the timing of delays and key presses and releases was so inaccurate (due to latency with fluctuating levels of delay, I guess), my own timing was a lot more accurate, so it was effectively useless.

At least I can still use Audacity. As I've implied earlier, my primary concern is timing: if Online Sequencer cares about time signature, grid size and BMP, these things must be pretty important, right? So, I created a spreadsheet with BPMs of 40, 50, 60, 80, 100, 120, 150 and 200 (labelled as Largo, Larghetto, Adagio, Andante, Moderato, Allegro, Presto and Prestissimo respectively: I did my research); time signatures of 2⁄2, 2⁄4, 3⁄4, 3⁄8, 4⁄4, 5⁄4, 6⁄4, 6⁄8, 9⁄8 and 12⁄8 (the most common time signatures, apparently); the length (in seconds) of a maxima, longa, breve, semibreve, minim, crotchet, quaver, semiquaver, demisemiquaver and hemidemisemiquaver; and bar length (also in seconds), which I can use to calculate the total seconds of length from x bars, useful for maintaining a consistent time signature and BMP (and helpful for transcribing my musical compositions in the future, if I want to do that later).

I composed my very first piece last week, and before then, I had absolutely no musical experience, so remember that if I've said anything musically silly, I'm still very much a beginner with regard to musical composition. Let me know if you think I should stick around here, since instead of using Online Sequencer, I'll now be using midi.city in combination with Audacity to compose music (and I suppose that I'll upload them onto my YouTube channel, since I haven't been using it for anything else). Otherwise, I suppose that this'll be my last forum post; it'll have been brief, but it'll have been a pleasure, and I dare say that I gained much musical experience over the past week, even if it had a lot more to do with musical software than musical composition...
your first piece is decent, but not really creative. it's repetitive and static, like it isn't really going anywhere. also, the melody is a bit awkward, especially at the parts where it just switches back and forth between D and D# for a measure and a half

i noticed in the second piece you didnt stick to a key signature, which is fine if you know what youre doing. in your case though, it's hard to listen to the piece, because it sounds extremely dissonant and crunchy, while still suffering the same problem as the first piece

as for your final post, online sequencer is an excellent place for beginner musicians to start, as it's easy and intuitive to use at a basic level. once you get some experience under your belt, you might consider switching to Ardour or Reaper - both free DAWs, as long as you ignore the pop ups asking to pay

if you need some musical advice, i'd recommend heading to the chat to ask your questions. if you come at the right time, you will get them answered fairly quickly
(07-03-2022, 08:02 AM)pseudoname Wrote: [ -> ]your first piece is decent, but not really creative. it's repetitive and static, like it isn't really going anywhere. also, the melody is a bit awkward, especially at the parts where it just switches back and forth between D and D# for a measure and a half

i noticed in the second piece you didnt stick to a key signature, which is fine if you know what youre doing. in your case though, it's hard to listen to the piece, because it sounds extremely dissonant and crunchy, while still suffering the same problem as the first piece

as for your final post, online sequencer is an excellent place for beginner musicians to start, as it's easy and intuitive to use at a basic level. once you get some experience under your belt, you might consider switching to Ardour or Reaper - both free DAWs, as long as you ignore the pop ups asking to pay

if you need some musical advice, i'd recommend heading to the chat to ask your questions. if you come at the right time, you will get them answered fairly quickly

Thank you, this was the sort of feedback I was hoping for. So I learnt something new today: melody and the importance of key signatures. I did think that my first piece was perhaps a bit too repetitive, and could use some improvement, but was decent. I also thought that it was kind of hard to listen to my second piece at first, and although it grew on me over time, I liked my first piece a lot more. Sticking to a key signature for my first piece was entirely accidental, but I now understand why it's important to do this. As I've said before, I've had trouble installing instruments for digital audio workstations (specifically Ardour, but I'd have the same problem with Reaper), and not for lack of trying. Also, I just learnt that PulseAudio fails when the CPU usage is too high, so the audio quality when I record playing the violin on midi.city is horrible; I didn't see this before because I tested midi.city's cello, and the CPU usage is low enough with the cello to not be an issue. I spent a very long time trying to troubleshoot this issue, but I just couldn't fix it.

Long story short, my idea to combine using Audacity and midi.city to compose music was a failure due to technical limitations, so I'm back to square one. Being unable to think of any other solutions, I considered giving up on composing music – perhaps even my video game project in its entirety, since one can't make a good video game without music – but your reply has given me hope: considering how fast people replied to my very first forum post, I assumed that no-one here was willing to give – if capable of giving – me any criticisms or suggestions. I hope that you and others will continue to do this; I've decided that for now, I'll use Online Sequencer to compose chiptunes for my video game project. It won't be as nice to listen to as if they sounded like non-electronic instruments, but it'll be good enough, and as Linux becomes a more popular family of operating systems, I'm sure that digital audio workstations will become easier to use for people like me in the future.
Repetition is not just repeating the same part over and over by the way Wink its also when each section sounds too similar so the song feels like its in one spot for too long
Alright, here's my second attempt at composing my first piece:



I dare say that it's now much less repetitive, and the melody is less awkward. I do believe that there's still room for improvement, and I want to remake my second piece as soon as possible, but I'm going to take a break from musical composition for a few weeks: for over a week now, I've done nothing for my video game project that wasn't music-related, so it'd be nice to do something else for a while.
Okay honestly, don't listen to me because I'm not all that great at composing either. But.

I get the feeling that you are trying to convey in the song. To be honest though, it kinda just feels like it might be lacking something. You are right, part of the issue is just that you are using Online Sequencer (which is more of an online music sequencer and MIDI creator) rather than using a more professional music making software or DAW.

There are a few things you could improve on musically as well, but it's hard to say specifically what to add or improve, especially since this is your creation heh. I think this version is definitely an improvement, but there's always more that can be done. I personally think you could have more harmonics like chords layered on top of the main section because it kind of feels "thin" (as in the musical texture is thin, or there isn't much layering or anything going on) - but if you go to add more layers of notes, beware that while a thin texture can be bland and boring, it is also possible to create something that has too much going on or too much layering.

I guess the other thing is the melody is a little random and doesn't feel quite right. Not sure how to help out there. Maybe it's just because it's too repetitive. Maybe try thinking of making another melody and adding it on. Musical form comes in different shapes, and oftentimes goes in sections like A, A, B, A. But since this is going to be for a video game, there's probably less importance of musical form - maybe A, B would be fine.

(Think of your favorite movie. Most of the time there is a theme that comes to mind, especially with films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, or The Avengers, or with games like Mario, Zelda, or Halo. In Star Wars, John Williams created one main theme and many other smaller themes that were associated with settings or characters and relationships between characters. Every now and then these themes can be heard as the characters or settings are shown in the film. In Mario, an original theme was created for the overworld and was re-used most times during the grassy overworld phase. The themes changed as the character entered the underground or underwater, but the main theme would return when the character returned to the overworld. And these themes were reused and remastered in future Mario games, making the themes even more iconic. There is something about these themes, something melodic about them, they are songs you can think about and hum, songs that have a certain emotion. Anyway, that's my take on the matter.)

(anyways sorry, don't take any of this too seriously. i don't really know that much about music i just try to make it look like i do :/ )

The song still has a lot of potential. Maybe some good composer on OS could make some edits to it and save it at another link. If someone could get the right feel going, maybe that would be enough to keep it going or inspire you. Anyway, just some ideas, hope this helps :/
Tips for melody making: hum the melody before trying to put it in the OS. Also, to get better structure, try making the sections in groups of 4
Matters of personal concern hindered my ability to work on my video game project in general for a while, but I'm now eager to get back to composing music.

(07-04-2022, 09:38 AM)Firebolt391d Wrote: [ -> ]Okay honestly, don't listen to me because I'm not all that great at composing either. But.

I get the feeling that you are trying to convey in the song. To be honest though, it kinda just feels like it might be lacking something. You are right, part of the issue is just that you are using Online Sequencer (which is more of an online music sequencer and MIDI creator) rather than using a more professional music making software or DAW.

There are a few things you could improve on musically as well, but it's hard to say specifically what to add or improve, especially since this is your creation heh. I think this version is definitely an improvement, but there's always more that can be done. I personally think you could have more harmonics like chords layered on top of the main section because it kind of feels "thin" (as in the musical texture is thin, or there isn't much layering or anything going on) - but if you go to add more layers of notes, beware that while a thin texture can be bland and boring, it is also possible to create something that has too much going on or too much layering.

I guess the other thing is the melody is a little random and doesn't feel quite right. Not sure how to help out there. Maybe it's just because it's too repetitive. Maybe try thinking of making another melody and adding it on. Musical form comes in different shapes, and oftentimes goes in sections like A, A, B, A. But since this is going to be for a video game, there's probably less importance of musical form - maybe A, B would be fine. 

(Think of your favorite movie. Most of the time there is a theme that comes to mind, especially with films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, or The Avengers, or with games like Mario, Zelda, or Halo. In Star Wars, John Williams created one main theme and many other smaller themes that were associated with settings or characters and relationships between characters. Every now and then these themes can be heard as the characters or settings are shown in the film. In Mario, an original theme was created for the overworld and was re-used most times during the grassy overworld phase. The themes changed as the character entered the underground or underwater, but the main theme would return when the character returned to the overworld. And these themes were reused and remastered in future Mario games, making the themes even more iconic. There is something about these themes, something melodic about them, they are songs you can think about and hum, songs that have a certain emotion. Anyway, that's my take on the matter.)

(anyways sorry, don't take any of this too seriously. i don't really know that much about music i just try to make it look like i do :/ )

The song still has a lot of potential. Maybe some good composer on OS could make some edits to it and save it at another link. If someone could get the right feel going, maybe that would be enough to keep it going or inspire you. Anyway, just some ideas, hope this helps :/

There's no need to apologise, I believe that your feedback is excellent. I was hoping that I could just wing it (like I successfully do with visual arts, and hopefully do with literary arts, although English was my worst subject in my final years of high school; I'll need to find feedback for the literary component of my video game later), but I clearly need to learn more about music, and I'm okay with doing that. So, I'll spend some time learning more about music; then, I should be better at musical composition.

(07-04-2022, 09:10 PM)Lopyt Wrote: [ -> ]Tips for melody making: hum the melody before trying to put it in the OS. Also, to get better structure, try making the sections in groups of 4

Thank you, I'll try that.

My plan for now will be learning more about music, then I'll remake my first piece again. I don't know how I missed this before, but Casey Rule is a very good alternative to midi.city: I can combine using Audacity and Casey Rule to compose music, with negligible technical difficulties unlike when I combined using Audacity and midi.city. I'll still use Online Sequencer, of course: the feedback I've been receiving here has been very helpful. I think I'll compose music using Audacity and Casey Rule; replicate it in Online Sequencer as a chiptune; upload the original on my Google Drive; and share a link to that – as well as the OS sequence – in this thread, so you can both see its structure and hear how I intended it to sound like with classic instruments.

Edit #1:

So, I ended up being able to use MuseScore. In hindsight, it's stupidly simple to use and so much better than everything else I've tried so far, but when I first tried using it, I had practically no experience with musical composition and software – I'd never composed a piece before – and my musical knowledge was extremely limited, so I was intimidated by musical notation. Now that I have more musical experience and knowledge, I can easily use and appreciate MuseScore (especially as it comes with over a hundred decent-sounding instruments, so I don't need to worry about installing soundfonts and such). So, I won't be using Audacity in combination with Casey Rule to compose music; instead, I'll be using MuseScore. I know that I can export MuseScore projects as .mid files, so I should easily be able to upload my work as chiptunes on Online Sequencer. I still want to learn more about music before remaking my first piece for the second time, though: I now know enough to be able to write and read sheet music and play something simple on a piano, but I still have much to learn...

Edit #2:

The online textbook here has been most helpful for learning more about music; at the time of writing this, I've just finished learning about musical textures. In hindsight, I was stupid trying to compose music without trying to learn anything about music theory, but what's done is done... I should be finished with my research before the end of this week, and I'll hopefully finish re-remaking my first piece next week.

Edit #3:

So, I pretty much just skim-read everything related to chord progression, but I think that's okay: I have a much better understanding of music now. Having started re-remaking my first piece, I've decided that I won't export my MuseScore projects as .mid files and upload my work as chiptunes on Online Sequencer, because I just can't do that. The lowest playable note on Online Sequencer is C2; the lowest playable note in my first piece will probably be E♭1, as played by the double bass. I also plan on using the cello and the bass trumpet; I know, it's a lot of bass (I've only done 12 bars so far, though; I might change it later, if I think that something else would work better). A quick Google search shows me that people upload sheet music on DeviantArt, so I think I'll do that and redirect people to music I'll have uploaded on my Google Drive from there, rather than to this thread. I'd still greatly appreciate feedback from anyone willing to give it, so I'll continue to post in this thread as long as I continue receiving feedback for my musical compositions.

Edit #4:

Something I'm going to try doing is re-remaking my first piece using just a piano, then I'll remake that using various instruments. Also, unless I give up on composing music, this should be my last edit for this message: I can't think of any other ways I could try improving my music.