Hello, T&C!

The post ahead will be somewhat lengthy, but I'd really appreciate anybody who listens to the piece to read this beforehand; it covers my compositional intentions and the piece's purpose. Also, there are some fun games in bold, too!

I began my first semester studying a Bachelor of Music at the University of Western Sydney this year, with my major Sound Technologies assessment (totaling 40% of our grade) requiring us to compose a two-and-a-half minute piece of film music on Pro Tools. Our submission had to include the .ptf files, general MIDI, back-up data, and all of such in a 15 second sting format, 30 second underscore (some layers omitted for the benefit of dialogue in film) and the whole two-and-a-half-minute piece. I won't leave my mark here so as to keep initial receptions neutral, but I'll drop it by if somebody asks.
Now, I won't say which sections I used for which, but which do you think I used? On a similar note, which sections do you think would serve each respective purpose most appropriately? Keep in mind that alterations such as re-arranging, re-orchestrating and cutting/extending is welcome!

I went a little overboard with this one (mostly because I hadn't read the criteria!), so here's the original five or six minute version.
My dream job would be to work for Pixar, or really any animation, film, of theater company - anything like that would be phenomenal. With that in mind, I decided to write an - albeit very simple - score to accompany the scene of mischievous ghosts congregating in a tavern, with a small variety of musical effects to imply their actions and mannerisms - can you spot them all?

Quartertones are employed here extensively, and a major pair of questions I have is: do they serve the piece well? Do they even serve the piece well without a context?
As a side note, most parts were notated in their respective clefs, though tab is readily available. I will apologize in advance for some sloppy notation though, as I wasn't too bothered with correcting accidentals for a purely audio assessment.

I think that covers just about everything, and as always, honest, concise feedback is the most welcome. Also as always - which I always say, although this time I'll be sure to only be as generous as I need - I'll return an equal amount of critique on one of your works (or two or three if you'd like it split!). The more detail and effort you put into yours, the more I'll give back, which I'd be happy to do! Even if your opinion is ''it's good'' or ''it's bad'', I'd very much appreciate something tagged along which is specific to the piece.

Thank you very much to everybody who listens, and very very much to those who drop a critique by (and very very very much to those who answer the bolded questions, too!). Finally, don't hesitate to spam my inbox if I'm late to a return critique.


EDIT: Wow! Thank you to everybody for what are, without any doubt, the most incredible critiques I could possibly have asked for. I really appreciate the listens and such detailed and in-depth, honest feedback, and I'll be sure to return the favour to each of you over the next few hours.
I've uploaded a slightly modified version for any new listeners, which has the exact same structure, but some subtle alterations to the piano's chord voicings - some of them were really irritating me, and while I'm still not 100% satisfied, I think they function better than the original choices.

Thanks again, everybody!
Ghost's Tavern a.zip
Ghost's Tavern a voicing alterations.zip
Last edited by juckfush at Jul 25, 2011,
Excellent, although that seems to be you're usual standard anyway. I'll get straight to your bold questions.

As far as sections that you used for the shortened version, well the captions on the real outro give that part away. I also felt that the intial two section were crucial to the piece (Even though the laughter doesn't make much sense being a synth in GP5 (The real thing would help in this situation)). The solo Bass hand also seems like it could be cut out but it does present a nice subtle change in timbre (This must of been the most difficult assignment, knowing you had to cut so much out). I imagine dialogue in the verse so you can't cut that out. The transition using the rallentando between C and E didn't seem quite as smooth so I'm guessing you cut C out. I wouldn't cut out the second C refrain, nor D. But the final Outro could get cut out. I'm pretty sure that's more than 2.5 minutes though.

The intro I imagine being the ghosts waking up, trudging into the tavern/walking on the streets as the humans fall asleep. The rall marks the 'coast is clear' cue, which sets off the party. Because the chord progressions in B sound very 'show-tuney' or Broadway Musical style, I imagine them all dancing together, the Unison solo perhaps representing a solo dancer. C is like a 'take a moment to take in the moment' moment. The main ghost/male protagonist meets a very special lady (He's the shy quiet type). 'D' is where she dares him to go up dancing with her (She's the typical female bubbly character). 'E' - He stumbles while dancing but keeps going nonetheless, then she shows him her skills in B/E Superimposed (Really cool integration of the two BTW). She returns to the Bar where she chats with him. He realises he has fallen in love by the time the rallentando hits. Modulation is where he is no longer a shy ghost, because of her bubbly personality, he asks her out, the guitar solo is like her voice trailing off, and eventually saying yes (C''). Then they start dancing again. The contrabass represents them busting out all their best moves (The crowd goes wild). The real outro is basically where all the humans start waking up and they have to disappear into the shadows once more. That's how I see it, sort of reminded me of Casper the Ghost meets Toy Story.

As far as the use of quartertones (Would they be executed with a pitch shifter on a keyboard if performed live?), I thought they were really well used (The intro was brilliant) but obviously it doesn't reach its full impact unless within its actual context. I don't think you can do much about it without some sort of cue (Like you've given us here). Don't feel to bad about though, because there is nothing wrong with this tonally (Some purists will claim it's not diatonic but it is, just done to a more precise level of pitch differentiation).

Finally I thought I might say how much I appreciated this piece for its unique style, seamlessly blending Musical, Soundtrack, Blues, Traditional Swing Jazz and Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. One thing that really stood out to me was the decorative expression within all of the instruments (Trills, grace notes etc). Those really made the piece sound incredibly professional. You did really well (IMO).

I would be interested in your mark for this as I'm curious to know what standards the universities in Australia uphold (I don't imagine too much difference between Brisbane and Sydney but I'm sure it would help in my judgement for my own selection of courses). Feel free to PM me if you're shy, comments would be appreciated as well (Don't feel obliged by any means though).

Obviously you've already given me a fantastic critique on my latest piece so I have nothing for you unless you want to look back on my older stuff. Thanks for such an entertaining listen.
I'd give you a critique but you just blew my mind so I'm in no fit state to.
My songs are all located here .
Feel free to drop by and crit a song.
Leave a link and I'll return a crit

This is good.

A might be my favourite part. I love the laughter (as well as being a great melody and a great response to the piano, I love the idea of a choir imitating ghostly laughter). I'd say this section might kind of lose direction a bit towards the end, though. Starting at bar 14. I don't know what's happening here story-wise, but I'd prefer more of a buildup to B.

And B is fantastic. The main melody is great, I love the variations on it, and it sounds distinctively like your style.

I didn't like C as much. The dissonant chords toward the end didn't work as well as in the other parts, I think because it wasn't as quirky or energetic as B, or as creepy as A. I'd suggest changing the more blatantly dissonant chords to more tastefully dissonant jazzy chords. Or cutting this section.

D is awesome. I love the glockenspiel and marimba here. The ornamentation and background soundscapery is something you're really great at, in all your pieces I've heard.

A's reprise in the outro is great as well. It kind of reminds me of Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy I love those odd chords and the melody that works perfectly over them.

Also, you're clearly able to come up with memorable melodic ideas that work in chromatic, quarter-tonal or polytonal music. I can't come up with a decent melody without forcing everything into the fucking minor scale. I guess it's about identifying the notes that are more for movement than harmony, and making them the chromatic/quarter tonal ones? Or something.

And I love the use of quarter tones. A lot of quarter tone music that I've heard is full of big ascending chromatic runs, as if to say "LOOK AT ALL THE FUCKING NOTES I HAVE", but here they're done very tastefully. Since the overall mood isn't really creepy (except for A maybe) the quarter tones are really effective at turning the fun quirky swingy piece into something slightly more odd and ghost-y. And they make it more musically interesting. So yeah, they serve the piece well.

As for the action and the ghosts' mannerisms, I was expecting something like "this ghost is a bit nervous so the music behind his lines has 100 trills", I can't see anything that obvious.

I guess I'd imagine the bar scene starting at B, with the ghosts talking because of all the call and response-type phrasing. "B and E superimposed" might be an argument or contest of some kind. I'm imagining bar 43 to be a quieter, slightly sly ghost, and 49 to be the entrance of a big pompous bastard-ghost due to the volume and almost military snare drum. Or maybe the chromatic ascention in 52, 55, 35 is associated with one ghost. Or maybe that's them flying. I don't know. I'm shit at this game.

Overall it's brilliant and I loved it and that is the end of my crit.
Last edited by whalepudding at Jul 12, 2011,
holy shit.... best thing that has ever been posted on these forums......
From the start, it has this tavern-y feeling with hints of ghost, I think it reminds me a bit of how the music in the ghost castles of Super Mario sounds, spooky indeed! To me, it sounds like the kind of music I'd hear in the movie Casper, I am truly amazed by your production, I could very much hear this in a Pixar movie, it has that feeling you rarely find in other movies than Pixar ones, happy-spooky-sad-fun. I'm sure you know what I mean though

It's just.. I have no words, haha, how you pan things to the left and the right, turn the volume up an down, it's perfect! If Pixar is making a ghost movie, I think this song would be perfect for it

One thing I did notice is at bar 128, the cymbal roll-thing, I kind of expect it to end there when listening to it so it kind of throws me off when it doesn't, not sure if it's a good or a bad thing though :p
All the other transitions however, are amazingly smooth as far as I can tell

About the quartertones, I believe it helps create the whole spookiness, because it makes it sound less "nice", I guess :p

The visual image I get is that someone (a human) walks into a tavern filled with ghosts, I can picture a ghost playing that piano-interlude, I don't think I have much more to say, sorry :p

Wish I could give you a better crit :<
Last edited by Erra93 at Jul 12, 2011,
Aha, you're back! I always am excited to see your forays into this forum, and they are always of excellent quality. This one is no exception, with your usual influences, whatever they came from, present in glowing abundance.

Your bluesy phrasing and backings are rampant here, and are what I would say give the most backbone to the piece. I think it especially stands out in section E, which was the highlight of the song for me. However, I'm starting from the wrong point in the song, so I'll just go from beginning to end.

I'll admit I was a tad unsure about the "ghost noises" in the intro, (also, the quarter tones in the piano sound fine and you shouldn't worry about their inclusion) but I realized that it's most likely the fault of GM and not your compositional ability, and any genuine recorded version would have a far wider array of sounds to experiment with and a proper effect could be achieved far more easily than with GM sounds. As for the intro itself, it's interesting and is spastic and interesting without being meandering. Good start.

I must say B was unexpected. In a good way. I definitely didn't expect to be blindsided with such an upbeat sound like that after that intro, but it works extremely well. It really has a haunted, ghostlike sound and could fit in one of those old 30's cartoons with a mischievous ghost who's not necessarily evil, but likes to pull all sorts of dastardly tricks. I can't quite place my finger on what it is that gives it that quality, and it could just be my brain that's justifying the sound for the title, but since it's a purely subjective phenomenon and there is no actual definition you can give to the "sound" of a piece of music without using subjective terms, it doesn't really matter what the means are as long as the end is the mind assigning the music the proper setting, which it does. Yeah, I'm rambling.

I really like how it all progresses into C which provides a sort of half-release to the tension with the mystical beauty of the major 7 chords you're outlining there, and then how it bets right back to the snappy blues phrasing without missing a beat.

I don't have too much to say about the rest of the song that I haven't already said about the previous sections since at this point they're mostly rehashes of material that's already been reintroduced, but I'll say it always sounds fresh with all of the additional variations you include. The transitions and structure are all fantastic and there are no real holes, except for the end, which I have a bit of a problem with.

The cadence leading up to the "false" end at 185 is a perfect ending for me, with that flute trill being a great way to add a sort of inexplicable finality, and it should just end right there where you stopped it. I realize it doesn't come quite full circle without that reprisal of the intro, but it really sound a bit slapped on to my ear. I think the problem might be you made the fake outro a bit too strong,, and it leaves the listener's ear bellies full and satisfied. The addition of the part at the end was like too much dessert.

Overall, though, fantastic as usual and a very unique and interesting listen. I look forward to hearing your next piece, and wish you luck in the world of composing professionally, which I seem to be considering less and less, but hey, I'll never stop doing it as a hobby.

Think you could give me a crit on Standing before the Precipice? I did that one with RedDeath9, and we'd both love to hear your opinion on it, you always give amazingly detailed crits and I'd love to see what you think of it.
Last edited by Tarbosh at Jul 12, 2011,
I will offer you the simplest of crits; my vision!

'A' feels like someone, a traveler, is stumbling through a bar in an old western ghost town. It's filled with ghosts, some playing cards, others drinking, alot of smoke etc etc. The ghosts may even be pushing him around a bit.

And when 'B' comes in, I get really strong flashbacks from Corpse Bride's Remains of the Day section (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1qgmdVgN70). 'A' also makes me think of this, but not as strong as 'B'.

The others doesn't really give me a visual, uhm, feeling. It just feels like the first two are the strongest in doing this, but the others are none the less, very good.

This song is quite phenomenal though, and I really like the use of laughter. The quarter notes too adds to the feeling, since they are a bit 'undead'-ish sounding. (the dead can't afford proper notes)

Well, that's my two cents.
Intro sets the mood well, and the first theme is great. Those first three piano chords and the bass pickup on the 4th beat are completely awesome to me.

The choir in bar 5 sounds a bit like some Gospel singers, and it changed the feel completely for me after I heard it. I removed it and it retained the previous feel much better, which was a darker feel. I understand its supposed to be a ghost laugh, and its the best you could do in MIDI format to express it, but that aside, an actual version with recorded voice/instruments/effects should be amazing.

But all that aside, great section, and I really like the use of chromatics. B was also great with the upbeat jazzy swing feel. It incorporates all the elements already set and embellishes it well.

C is an awesome slow down, great chords and feel in general, and I like it even more when its almost exclusively the chords later on. I like D with the upbeat swing rock. Really great sound.

E is great, Once again, some really awesome chord progressions, and I loved the modulation in bars 130-131. And now its going to seem like I'm only saying that because of the section titled "E - Modulation".

C Refrain is great, and I like the mood change from the prior Cs introduced. This is alot brighter than the others, and the soloing over it is great.

And the actual outro is perfect way to end the piece, and is almost tugging at my heartstrings when I hear it. I'm also not sure if I want it to resolve or not, as its obvious that you would be able to make it.

Any other parts I didn't mention were merely because they were variations with piano soloing or other material that was still awesome but didn't need mentioning.

Extremely awesome and professional piece, that could be definitely used for a Pixar movie soundtrack, although some arranging would be needed.

Hmm... I'm wondering if I want your opinion on Fugue State, or Avidity... Take your pick, or do both but with short crits. They're both in my sig.
Last edited by Life Is Brutal at Jul 12, 2011,
The new version sounds a lot cleaner in the chords and whatnot, but what happened to the swing?
Bloody hell, thanks for pointing that out, and I appreciate the relative enthusiasm! It turns out swing notation disappears when a GP5 file is exported as GP4.

@HaydenHohns - Thanks for the great critique and imaginative storyline! I was smiling from ear-to-ear as I listened back and pictured these scenes taking place, which totally verified the career that I'd love to have; cheers!
I actually ended up using C' as my 30-second underscore, B' and the first portion of the Unison Solo for my 15-second sting, and regretfully... cut everything after bar 92, moving bar 185 to become bar 93 and thus the new end.
I really appreciate you mention of the genre fusion happening, as that's one of my favourite things to do - I love taking bits and pieces from everywhere I can to make the piece as interesting and colourful as possible.

@whalepudding - I always love reading your critiques, champ - they're always so informative but colourful and humourous the whole way. I definitely got some lulz out of your interpretation of the 'pompous bastard-ghost' and the common usage of quarter-tones.
That said, I really like the idea of particular sections representing individual ghosts! The mannerisms I'd intentionally put probably aren't as obvious as what they could have been, but the Bass Drop's marimba is supposed to be imitative of glasses of beer being cheered together, A's drum track imitative of white-noise or crackling in playback, and the ending choir being all the ghosts rejoicing and singing (the actual lame/cheesy lyrics that popped into mind when I wrote C were ''All of us ghosts are singing'', to line up with the glockenspiel's melody, so that's that, haha).
As a final note, I actually drew a LOT of inspiration for the writing of this from your work, so I owe an extraordinary thanks to you. The polytonality and chromatic movement is lifted straight from what I thought you'd do in this context, so again, a huge thanks to you!

When it came to the quarter tone usage, you're spot on - it's more for creating movement and leading into strong scale-tones rather than blatantly throwing them about, and most of the phrases are actually just simpler blues licks with a flurry of chromatics and quarter-tones for ornamentation and to maintain the pulse.

@Erra93 - You've picked up the second major influence! I had Boo in mind the whole time I was writing this, as he seemed perfect for the playful, rather than menacing atmosphere I wanted to develop. He never seemed so dangerous in the games, except for when he'd chase me up a pipe in #3's Desert World's mini-castle.
I'll definitely be experimenting with alternatives to the cymbal roll at 128 like you've mentioned, and thank you for pointing that out; the more I have to work on, the better!
A huge thanks for the fast reply, and I'm really appreciate of your likening of this piece to Pixar. Thank you.

@Tarbosh - I'm glad I could have surprised a writer who's always got me on the edge of my seat! You did catch me though; I'd directly copied and pasted A to form the ending, more as a cheap way to extend the length than anything, haha.
I can absolutely see where you're coming from with omitting it and having D' serve as the real ending, and I'm also considering taking A' and including it within an interlude if this were to develop into a larger conceptual album or collection of songs - it would be low in the mix, slowly fading in and out, with themes from other songs superimposed to create a more complex soundscape.
Thank you very much for the fast and detailed critique; it's very much appreciated and given me much more to consider when writing more pieces.

@CheesyMozarella - I'm loving (and by that I mean I'm totally honoured by) the comparison to Tim Burton - thank you! I remember watching the Corpse Bride with my sister last year, but I wasn't very into it at the time (don't ask - I'm embarrassed by this, haha). Luckily, I've still got a copy, so part of my day's occupied!
I really appreciate the fact that you, like other posters have written out the visual images you get from this piece, as the openness to thematic interpretation something I always try to take into consideration when writing.
I'll happily take those 2 cents on board, and hey - maybe I can afford some extra notes for the next composition.

@Life Is Brutal - I'll be doing my very best to have this recorded in second year, once the composition's refined (some of the piano chords and bass lines still don't sit completely right with me) and vocalists are on board; a PM with the MP3 will be headed your way!
And don't worry about any sort of modulation kerfuffle, haha - you're one of the most efficient writers on these boards with this technique, and like a couple of other users, I'd tried to adopt some aspects of your writing when punching this in.
Again, I really appreciate the fast reply and honest review, and I'll be sure to get to both of your pieces right after I critique the posters before you. Thanks again!

@frankibo and dylann - I really enjoyed seeing your comments too! If there's anything I can critique of yours to entice you to put your minds back together (I must sound pretentious saying that to anyone who hasn't seen frankibo's comment...), I'd be more than happy to give them a listen and review!

Cheers guys!


Well, I can't compete with that.

Will leave a proper crit tomorrow hopefully.
Quote by RhyseOrtiz
Banned because.. that was brilliant, champayne

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Quote by juckfush

@Erra93 - You've picked up the second major influence! I had Boo in mind the whole time I was writing this, as he seemed perfect for the playful, rather than menacing atmosphere I wanted to develop. He never seemed so dangerous in the games, except for when he'd chase me up a pipe in #3's Desert World's mini-castle.
I'll definitely be experimenting with alternatives to the cymbal roll at 128 like you've mentioned, and thank you for pointing that out; the more I have to work on, the better!
A huge thanks for the fast reply, and I'm really appreciate of your likening of this piece to Pixar. Thank you.

Haha, indeed he does :p
Ah yeah, super mario 3.. that and super mario 64 are the best mario games I've played to date
It's always good to try, you may end up with what you had from the beginning though, it wasn't bad
Haha, no problem, it's a true work of art!