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An Example Review

Starting out


This mod was picked rather at random to perform this case study on. Although I downloaded other candidates, this was the first one I downloaded which I felt I could comment on appropriately.

Firstly, I set the mod on infinite repeat in ModPlug, sat back and listened to the music. It was quite a nice piece of music, a little dark and atmospheric, complex in places, simpler in others, but good to listen to, especially if you like the style. I classified it as "Ambient Breakbeat", due to the atmospheric sound created throughout the mod combined with the drum loops thrown in over the top.

Once I had done with the classification, I started to write short passages on parts of the song. At the time, the song was about three-quarters of the way through, at a part that was quite well created, adding a little variety to the atmospheric background, which stays the same for most of the track. This was around pattern 23, and I wrote a comment on it thusly:

There is a good section later in the tune where a little more variety is added, with the strings changing from the two chords that continue for most of the tune. With the drums continuing from this point, a build up is created, adding some more interest.

By now the song had continued to near the end, and I wrote a comment on the ending:

This song loops, so there is not much of an ending to speak of, but the connection between the end of the song and the part to which it loops back is well created.

Now I went back to writing comments on the introduction:

The scene is set from early in the piece, with the dark, atmospheric sound coming through, created by slow-moving strings and ambient beeps.

Now that I had what I considered enough comments on specific parts to put together a review on the music, I wrote some parts concerning the piece as a whole:

The music gets rather repetitive after a while, so despite the fact that there are many good things to be seen here, overall, some different, more diverse sections could perhaps have added interest.

This piece is structured quite well, and all the sections fit together nicely. Some better blending of samples could perhaps have helped, especially the drums in the latter half, which seem to stand out a little too much.

Now, I looked at the technical side. I opened up the mod in Impulse Tracker, the tracker which I use, and so know best. I presumed already that much of the complexity of this piece was due to looped drums, and this was seen to be the case. I wrote a comment to this effect:

Much of the complexity of this piece comes from the looped drums, and although they are used well in the piece, it is disappointing to see that the artist couldn't come up with something more creative that could be more easily modified. As it is, the artist relies heavily on one type of drum-fill throughout the piece, when more variety would have added a little more interest.

Another thing I noticed when listening to the piece, was that there was very little panning used. In fact, the only panning that changes from the centre is the drum loop, which simply has two channels playing at the left and right panning position respectively:

Some better use of panning would have added to the atmospheric feel to this piece; most of the panning stays in the centre position. For example, the beeps echoing away could have perhaps reverberated around the left and right channels, "surrounding" the listener a little more, and therefore drawing them into the music.

The blend of the samples was quite good, however, so I wrote a comment to this effect:

The samples blend well in general, perhaps with the exception of the drums later in the piece, with the sample volumes nicely tweaked so that no samples stand out too much.

These comments may seem a little disjointed on their own, and the order in which they were written may seem strange, but now they can be edited as needs be as they are combined together.

Next, I wrote an introduction, something short and sharp which sums up the piece.

This is a good atmospheric piece, made with simple techniques used effectively.

Finishing the review: Musical Rating__


Now it was all down to putting it together...

This is a good atmospheric piece, made with simple techniques used effectively. The scene is set from early in the piece, with the dark, atmospheric sound coming through, created by slow-moving strings and ambient beeps.

There is a good section later in the tune where a little more variety is added, with the strings changing from the two chords that continue for most of the tune. With the drums continuing from this point, a build up is created, adding some more interest.

This piece is structured quite well, and all the sections fit together nicely. Some better blending of samples could perhaps have helped, especially the drums in the latter half, which seem to stand out a little too much.

However, after a little while the music gets rather repetitive, so despite the fact that there are many good things to be seen here, overall, some different, more diverse sections could perhaps have added interest.

This would form the comment to the song under the Music Rating section of the review. I decided that these comments were long enough as they were, so I did not use the comments I had made about the ending in the review.

Finishing the review: Technical Rating


Next I moved onto my comments on the technical side of the piece:

The technical side of this piece was perhaps not as complex as it might have been, although this did not significantly detract from the music. Much of the complexity of this piece comes from the looped drums, and although they are used well in the piece, it is disappointing to see that the artist couldn't come up with something more creative that could be more easily modified.

As it is, the artist relies heavily on one type of drum-fill throughout the piece, when more variety would have added a little more interest. Some better use of panning would have added to the atmospheric feel to this piece; most of the panning stays in the centre position. For example, the beeps echoing away could have perhaps reverberated around the left and right channels, "surrounding" the listener a little more, and therefore drawing them into the music.

However, despite these small flaws and the simplicity of the technical side overall, the piece is created effectively.

Here, I edited out the comments I made about the blending of the samples, as I felt they conflicted a little with the comments I had made earlier, on how the piece needing to meld more.

After this, I finished off with a conclusion to the whole review. I wrote:

This is a simple but effective piece. Some variety might have definitely helped add interest, but overall, a good sound it created.

And that was that for the written part. All that remained now was the rating. As I said, this can be the most difficult part. In this case, I looked at the piece as a whole, and decided that although it was effective, there were just too many sections lacking in interest to deserve a really high rating. I settled on a rating of 6.5. The piece didn't do anything really impressive, but it was above average, having been created well, and creating quite a good atmosphere.

Article by: Lacquered Mouse (2002)