Opus 2

I’ve been making a shopping list. There are so many things I have to buy, and as usual, my problems have decided to trouble me all at once.

The thing is, I want to put lots of instruments and sound effects in ‘Into Winter’. Most of the sound effects can be found online for free, but a library of bells is proving difficult to find. I’m not looking for small bells; I want the big kind that churches have. I thought EastWest’s Composer Cloud would have them, but I don’t think it does.

So I went looking for a free bell VST and didn’t find one—but I found a wonderful VST named ‘Toll’ which is available for about 50 euros, or 60000 won. I know I’m going to buy it because the demos sound wonderful, and I adore the sound of bells; I can definitely see myself using this VST again after I finish my second piece.

Meanwhile, my free trial of Reaper is running out. I know that Reaper allows users without a license to continue using the program after the 60-day trial, but I’d really like to buy a license to support the developers. Ideally, I’d buy the license before my trial runs out, so my conscience will be clear. The discounted license for Reaper is priced at 60 USD, which is about 67000 won.

But that’s not all. I’m getting fed up with Reaper freezing often. Of course, it’s not Reaper that’s the problem; my VST of choice is Hollywood Orchestra which is a massive library. I didn’t meet the minimum hardware requirements for my VST, so the regular freezing comes as no surprise, but it’s still unwelcome.

It’s time for a RAM upgrade. I’m not the most tech-savvy woman in the world, so it’ll require some research and planning, but it should be possible. I don’t know how much RAM I’ll buy, but the specifications page for Hollywood Orchestra states that I should have at least 8 GB. 8 GB of RAM is about 70000 won, and 4 GB is about 35000 won. And people told me that RAM was cheap!

I can’t buy all three things at once, so I’ll have to prioritise. I’ll probably end up buying either Toll or more RAM first. It’s probably wiser to buy the RAM before buying Toll. It would make running Toll easier.

Opus 2

I’ve realised that expecting a good VST to do all the work in making my music sound good is like buying a fine instrument and waiting for it to play itself. Hollywood Orchestra is a high-quality VST, but an excellent VST is just a VST with potential. In the end, the sound I get from it will depend on how much time I put in to understanding it.

I think an important part of using a VST orchestra is remembering that it’s not a real orchestra. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s something I missed while I was making ‘Onwards‘. I looked at pictures of orchestras to make panning decisions. I only used realistic combinations of instruments. And then I got frustrated when my adherence to orchestral norms didn’t pay off.

A VST orchestra isn’t an orchestra; it’s software. So far, the only rule I’ve found in my VST orchestra is that the rules don’t match those of a real orchestra.

I found a tutorial while I was looking for a way to improve the sound of my strings. A good chunk of it was jargon to me, but one sentence stood out: ‘All that matters is what sounds good.’

It really is. I need to stop thinking about real orchestras and spend more time learning from musicians who have experience in using VSTs. I’ve heard their VST-composed orchestral music, and it sounds incredible. I know it can be done—I’ll get there eventually.

Opus 2

It’s strange how the more time I spend on my second composition, the less I like my first. When I’d just finished my first piece, I was ecstatic about it. But less than a week into writing my second piece, ‘Into Winter’, I’ve lost about 20% of my enthusiasm for the melody of ‘Onwards‘ and more than 70% of what I had for its arrangement. I don’t know if that means that I’ve progressed as a composer or that I’m just insecure.

Conversely, I’ve been falling in love with ‘Into Winter’ so swiftly that it’s overwhelming. I think it’s going to turn out to become my best work so far, which isn’t saying much (out of a total of two pieces), but I feel thrilled every time I listen to it. I think it might even be, um, professional. (I feel embarrassed for having written that.) I love the melodies I’ve come up with, and I like the images that they conjure up in my head. I also took Crystal‘s advice and set up strong reverb and delay, and it’s done wonders for making the MIDI items sound like real music.

No ideas for a deadline yet, though. I’d hazard a guess at sometime after mid-April, but I’m genuinely busy at the moment, and it’s too soon to tell.

After buying a ticket to Ludovico Einaudi’s first concert in Korea, I was hungry for more concerts, and I spent some time browsing the internet and came up with a game-music concert which will be held in May. I’m looking forward to it because I like game music, but I’m not as excited as I could be because the main focus of the concert appears to be Korean game-music, whereas nearly all of my most beloved game-music pieces are from Japan. I’ll take what I can get, though, and at just 60000 won per ticket for the best seats, the prices aren’t half bad. I’m definitely going.

Opus 2

On to my second composition! Its title is ‘Into Winter’, and it will be orchestral and epic music. As its name implies, it will be winter-themed, and since mood is important in thematic music, I expect it to be challenging for a composer who has only a day’s worth of mixing experience. I have no idea how to achieve the kind of ambience I’ll need in a track like this. My second composition calls for some hefty learning.

I’ll need to find free samples of winter sounds, such as sleigh bells and the crunching of snow. Another major problem is the choir; I want to put one in ‘Into Winter’, as I did previously in ‘Onwards’, but as Crystal pointed out, the choir keeps getting drowned out by everything else. I still haven’t mastered the trick of making an instrument sound loud without distorting it.

I know it might be wiser to work on easier pieces until I have more experience (and confidence), but I chose to throw caution to the winds instead. I really want to work on ‘Into Winter’; it’s been bouncing around in my head for months, driving me mad.

So how do I plan to solve my problems? Well, my first composition has taught me the importance of taking advice from other musicians; they know more, and they have done more. So far, I’ve only googled tips and guides, but I think talking directly to real people is likely the most efficient way of getting relevant advice.

I went looking for music forums where I can post questions (and maybe even reply to some later), and I found Future Producers and OverClocked ReMix. I’ve joined both of them, and hopefully the people there won’t find me too bothersome when I ask them for help on virtually everything.

Opus 1

My first piece, ‘Onwards‘, is finally complete. Two days ago, I spent hours rushing to get it finished before my self-imposed deadline. The end result is a long way off from perfect, but for a first attempt, it’s close enough to what I wanted to express.

If I learnt something in the last few hours of working on ‘Onwards’, it’s that you should always listen to your music with every device you own before you declare it finished. I wasted about 2 hours nitpicking my mix on my computer. Once I rendered it and sent it to my phone, I realised that it sounded terrible.

I panicked. Since I have no way of running Reaper on my phone, I had to go back and forth between devices; I’d listen to a rendered file on my phone, go back to my computer and make changes, then render it and move the new file to my phone. It was a time-consuming, tedious process.

But there are still plenty of changes I need to make to the mix, as Crystal commented. I think I’ll work on those sporadically. I really want to start working on my second composition—not just because I want to immerse myself in a fresh project, but also because I suspect that I can learn most about composing by writing lots of different pieces.

My music may not be objectively good right now, but I’m still glad I decided to compose when I did. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can progress and succeed (or so I hope).

Opus 1 ‘Onwards’

Title

Onwards

Date of completion

15th March 2017, KST

Behind the title

The piece was originally titled ‘Have Faith’ because I thought it sounded like a team working together to achieve a goal. But then I realised that if I titled it that way, it might be mistaken for religious music, so I changed it to the less-emotional ‘Onwards’.

Influences

Thomas Bergersen and John Powell, although I did not do them justice.

What I learnt from composing it

  • Composing is hard work.

  • No matter how concrete the musical ideas in my head are, the real composing will always begin once I start using my DAW.

  • It’s the tiny edits and changes that add up to make VST music sound better.

  • I can create melodies that I enjoy listening to!

What I’m most proud of

  • The 8 bars from 2:03 to 2:20. I composed them while I was on my DAW, trying to think of a better transition to the climax, and I like the melody I came up with.

  • I completed an original work! Critics will sneer at it, professionals will laugh at it, it’s clumsy and amateurish, but it’s all mine. I like it, and right now, that’s good enough for me.

What I wish I could have done better

  • I was trying to make music in the epic genre, but I think I ended up creating something in the enthusiastic genre instead. ‘Onwards’ doesn’t sound commanding, mysterious, or majestic—basically, it’s not very epic. I might’ve lost control of the arrangement.

  • I hate how unpolished it sounds mix-wise. I can imagine listeners wincing (for that, it makes me wince, too). I don’t know what to do about it. With my utter lack of mixing experience, this is as good as it gets for now.

If, for some reason, you’d like to read about the whole sordid journey behind this composition, please use the following links (ordered chronologically):

https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/01/11/opus-1/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/01/14/opus-1-2/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/01/14/opus-1-3/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/01/16/opus-1-4/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/01/31/opus-1-5/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/02/01/opus-1-6/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/02/02/opus-1-7/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/02/02/opus-1-8/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/02/03/opus-1-9/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/02/05/opus-1-10/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/02/08/opus-1-11/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/02/11/opus-1-12/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/02/16/opus-1-13/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/02/22/opus-1-14/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/03/07/opus-1-15/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/03/15/opus-1-16/
https://mirinaemusic.com/2017/03/17/opus-1-17/


© 2017 Mirinae.
All rights reserved.

Opus 1

Today is D-Day. I expect to upload an audio file of my first composition within 12 hours. All I have left to do is to fiddle with the volume controls in the mixer and click render.

The title of my piece is ‘Onwards’, if anyone’s interested. It’s orchestral music. It’s also intended to be epic music, and it’s just under 4 minutes long.

I’m definitely uploading to SoundCloud today, but YouTube might have to wait. I don’t know how to make videos—I’m not sure if I even have any video-editing software installed on my computer. Besides which, I don’t think I want to upload to YouTube just yet. I know that YouTube doesn’t allow users to replace a previous upload while keeping the views and comments. I might make a few more edits to ‘Onwards’ in the next few days, so I don’t want to upload prematurely.

In other news, I bought a ticket to Ludovico Einaudi’s concert which will be held next month in Seoul. It’s his first performance in Korea, so I’m thrilled to be going. The set list hasn’t been revealed yet, but I’m hoping it’ll include all of my favourite pieces.

Until tonight, then!

Opus 1

I’m beginning to realise how hard it is to compose consistently. I’ve been busy and stressed for the past fortnight. Consequently, I’ve neglected my composing.

It’s not that I didn’t have time to compose; I did. But when I’m frustrated with my life, I automatically seek out low-effort activities, such as reading mystery novels. Over the past two weeks, I’ve consumed about ten.

I know that if I’m going to become a good composer, I can’t keep dropping composing every time my life gets difficult. I read a lot of quotes by writers, and many of them stress the importance of creative commitment. Talent is important, but in the end, it’s the artist who perseveres who achieves the most.

As a way of bringing myself back on track, I’ve decided to set a time limit. I thought the best thing about being a hobbyist, as opposed to a respected professional with steady income, was the absence of deadlines. But I can’t be trusted to work without a schedule. If I’m going to get anything done, it’s going to be under pressure.

I’ll finish my first composition by 15th March, Korea Standard Time. That means I’ll upload an audio file to my SoundCloud account. I have just over a week until then, so I’d better not waste any time.