Black Marsh Explorations - A Skyrim Inspired Piece

Genre/Style: Orchestral/Hybrid Video Game Music

Creative Vision for the Track:
I’m composing some music for the Argonia/Black Marsh province of the Beyond Skyrim mod. While I’m writing I end up recording extra stuff to try out different themes, ideas, and instrument combinations. This is one of those pieces that wasn’t intended to actually be used in the game mod, but just to help me find ideas for the music that will make the mod. But I really like the way this one turned out so I put a video together for it. The images are screenshots from the Argonia mod with an oil paint filter and some Final Cut water effects.

Composition Details (Tempo, Key, Main Chords etc):
It’s a slow tempo throughout. I tried to go really atmospheric for this one. Trying to convey the ethereal and slightly unsettling quality of the Marsh.

Main Instruments used:

  • The plucked instrument is a layering of a harp, zither, bouzouki, and my own sample of an acoustic guitar played with a dried yucca leaf instead of a pick.

  • There’s a lot of pads which are mostly from Spitfire LABS.

  • The strings are mostly from Spitfire BBCSO, mostly played in flautando.

  • I also have Tina Guo solo cello and a solo baritone violin from EastWest Ra.

  • No brass.

  • Woodwinds include oboe, bassoon, english horn, bass recorder, and a didgeridoo.

  • Percussion has a rainstick, chimes, and some big deep drums played softly.

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Well done again Mike. Great mix. Were the woodwinds from BBCSO as well or did you get them from EastWest?

How do you get your mixes done? I mean all those different instruments from different libraries etc, how do you get them to sit in the mix like they’re all from the same lib? Just really curious since I’m a bit frustrated that nothing I do gets these results–I’ve taken all the pro mixing courses, use all the same libraries, with the same EQ/mixing plugins with the EXACT same settings and I still don’t get these results.

Just bought a new $3000 Studio Mac since my old machine couldn’t handle the processing anymore, and I can hear the difference, but the mixes still don’t sit right. :worried:

Anyway, great piece. Ever think about doing a whole album? Instead of just random pieces here and there, I’ve decided to do a couple of albums, setting some story/art series to music, so all the tracks are related and fit together like a game or film soundtrack.

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Thanks Matt! I usually use the woodwinds from BBCSO and most of these are. But in this one the english horn comes from Alpine Project, the bass recorder comes from one of the EastWest libraries, I think there’s an 8dio bass clarinet in there. And I don’t even remember where I got the didgeridoo, it’s an individual Kontakt sample.

For mixing I’m not really sure. This is all in Logic. I have a big template that I set up a while back that has each section grouped so I can submix if needed. But most of the time I just find a good average level for each track and apply track automation as needed to raise and lower parts. But I try to do most of that with the expression controls on the instrument itself. My thought is, if I can record it in with the right expression control, the level mixing I’ll have to do will be minimal. But different samples have different levels and handle the expression controls differently, so that’s when I need to do volume automation.

I’m using per-section reverb busses, so all the strings go to the same reverb bus, all the brass go to the same bus, and so on. Since BBCSO is the foundation that I’ve picked, and it’s kind of naturally wet, I try to match the other libraries to that. So my BBCSO tracks rarely have anything sent to the reverb busses, while my EastWest tracks have a good amount sent to the bus. My thought here is to adjust the reverb send levels to put them into the same room, and since I can’t change BBCSO, then that’s the room I go with. I was using EastWest Spaces II for all of my reverb, but I recently switched to using Valhalla Room for my busses and still using Spaces on the main mix to pull everything together.

I rarely EQ anything. Only if I’m going for a certain effect or if it’s an audio recording that I’ve recorded myself. I don’t believe what a lot of people say about frequency build-up when stacking samples. In general, I don’t think good quality samples need to be fixed by EQ. Now, that works for me using a wet library for a foundation and going for something that sounds like I’m in the audience at an orchestra performance. If I were going for a more in-your-face trailer type sound, I might need to use more EQ or even not use BBCSO at all.

I’ve got a couple of albums in the works. This piece is a byproduct of one of them. I’m doing one called “Song of Argonia” which is a suite of music inspired by Black Marsh in Skyrim/Elder Scrolls. It will have 5 movements with 3 separate tracks in each movement and it musically tells the history of Argonia. I’ve got the first 2 tracks done for that. The other album is a reorchestration/upgrade of the score to a short film I did a long time ago called Blood Runs Cold. I’ve got the first couple of tracks finished for that too.

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Nice! Look forward to hearing your suite. Really like what you’ve been doing of late.

Thanks for the inside on your mixing process. It’s not to dissimilar to what I do. I’ve been using Orchestral Tools (mainly Berlin Strings and the Metropolis Ark series) for most of my orchestral instruments, as I like the sound of the Teldex studio they record in–nice Golden Age sound to it, but I run extra reverb using Seventh Heaven by LiquidSonics through a couple of busses to try and glue it together, then EQ out the low end rumble on all instruments. Just don’t seem to get the same results as everyone else. Maybe my ears are playing tricks on me? :thinking:

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