Advice from the Volume 7 Judging Panel

- Posted May 29th, 2018 by

Hey folks! Today I’m happy to share with you our annual Volume related column featuring thoughts and advice from this year’s judging panel. Whether you’ve yet to begin composing or you’re making final tweaks to your Volume 7 entry, there’s something in here for you to benefit from. Dive into it all below the break!


Alex Soborov aka Purely Grey:

* Treat your submission seriously, but don’t stress about things too much. Don’t second-guess your choices (especially when it comes to mixing!).

* If things get stale, try something new. Learn some theory, watch videos on music production and sound design to kickstart new ideas.

* Embrace the randomness and use random generators! Our brains are kind of random anyway, so it’s nice to help them with it every once in a while. Not to mention that it’s very rewarding when you discover something that shouldn’t work but it does!

* Take breaks and take a good care of yourself in general. Our ears are liars, and they will deceive you if you are tired. Also the amount of time and work doesn’t always correspond to the quality of the end result. Sometimes you whip out a thing in a day and it’s way better than something that took you a couple weeks.

* Don’t be attached to the end result. It’s impossible to predict how it’s going to turn out. The truth is that you never lose because you always learn something along the way! So don’t be afraid of ending up with garbage or ruining something that had potential. Remember that losing is fun and enjoy the ride. :)

Tamara Yadao aka Corset Lore:

A first draft is rarely a finished piece, but just one step in a process you must love, especially if you want to grow as an artist. Take an interest in developing your ideas by milking them. See how far they can take you. And once you begin developing a composition, commit your ideas to paper (sequencer) as quickly as you can. In other words, chase the muse — leaving instrument tweaks, editing and refinement of sound design after the initial writing process. Cultivating an efficient workflow (like this example or one of your own) will save time and help you stay focused on finishing a fully realized piece — and many thereafter!

Jeffrey Roberts aka jmr:

The quickest way to win me over is with something fresh and interesting. I’m a sucker for prog rock and similar styles of music so any use of off-the-wall time signatures and song structures is bound to grab my attention. And once you have my attention, make sure you can hold on to it through the run-time of your song. I love album-length epic compositions, but whether your track is two or twenty minutes long, the song should be dynamic and varied enough to justify the length.Combining chip elements with live instrumentation can also score some points with me, but you have to earn them. Balancing the timbres of chip and live instrumentation can be tricky, and well, I’m picky.

Most importantly: make sure you are proud of and willing to stand by your track. If you don’t find it enjoyable, odds are us judges won’t either.

Good luck!

Chema Padilla aka Chema64:

Make the music that you want to hear but doesn’t exist yet. It’s ok to follow trends, but don’t mistake that as an artistic statement, because then you are just repeating what everyone else has already said. Look for inspiration in the real world and within yourself, not just in pop culture nostalgia or what is popular in the scene right now. Expand what chipmusic stands for.

Grant Henry aka Stemage:

Having mastered the ChipWIN releases for a few years now, I am always amazed at the variety in sonics, songwriting style, and song structure of submissions. You guys are way too talented.

A big part of putting finishing touches on a ChipWIN release is deciding track order and creating some sort of flow across what is many times a pretty lengthy album. Needless to say, I end up hearing the intros and outros a lot. Last year, one thing I noticed across a number of tracks was how thoughtful they would start compared to how they ended. Whether they ramped into gear slowly or came out swinging, there was always intent behind how you all started your songs.

However, it’s super important to decide where you want to leave your listener when the song is over. Way too many tracks just end out of nowhere. It’s like you ran out of budget or time – or ideas maybe? You must remember that first impressions are important, but deciding how you want to leave your listener feeling is perhaps even more important.

Every song is its own beast, but here are a few ideas of how you might approach ending a song if you don’t know where to go next.

– If the intro is unique, revisit a version of that for the outro.

– You are likely swimming in layers by the end of the song. Consider removing one layer at a time until you land on the most interesting one.

– Modulate the whole damn thing. Why not? It worked for Warrant.

– Do a fadeout, but with sonics instead of volume.

– Consider a “last hit”, but let that note ride out. It’s a great way to shake hands goodbye with your listener. Until next time.

– Introduce an entirely new section! If you want to leave your listener wanting more, one way is get them riled up at the end by bringing your most climatic moment yet. Leave them there. Pick people up one more time before you drop the mic.

There is an endless list of ways to end a track, but end it. Don’t just stop on that last refrain if it feels unfinished. Every sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with punctuation. So, which one is it? ! . ? !1… Just remember to use something.

Sam Mulligan aka Sammers:

My advice is to get psyched about the music you’re working on, because if you aren’t psyched about it we probably won’t be either. Put in the work, cut what you don’t think is great, keep the good stuff, and don’t be afraid to re-write, edit, trash, or start over until you create something SUPER DOPE.

James York aka cheapshot:

I’m a bit of a purist. Yep. It’s true. I know it’s a controversial position in the world of chiptune, but I am. I realise that makes me somewhat of a hypocrite (maybe…?), but anyway, that has very direct results on my appreciation of what is a ‘quality’ submission. If a tune is written on authentic hardware and makes me go ‘Jeez! How the hell did they do that?’ or ‘Hell yes, that is a really good use of [insert technology here]’ then you’ve already got half my attention. The other half is related to craftsmanship. If you’re going for a cute melodic song, it had better be saccharine sweet with oodles of melody that stays in my head for days. Alternatively, if you’re going for a banger, it had better be a face-melting, ass-shaking romp that even my non-chip loving grandma can get down to. So, to summarise: use authentic hardware and build the best vibe you can!

Good luck everyone. ちーぷ

Brandon L Hood aka President Hoodie:

IMPRESS ME. ಠ‿↼ 

But seriously, I do consistently listen to a lot of chipmusic, both in and out of this competition, so my interest wanes rather quickly, especially if I detect a lazy, bored or thoughtless entry. Put your entire heart, vision, and self into your artistry; regardless of your experience or skill level, this will always shine through. I’ve been bored by many a technically impressive feat of songwriting and/or production that lacked identity or heart. Always serve the song. Whether it’s an overly complicated, yet well arranged concept piece or a straightforward dance banger, make it badass. I want to be entertained, impressed, but most importantly, engaged by your music. If you can do that alone, you’ll stand a damn good chance of making the cut. (b^_^)b

And that wraps up the Volume 7 advice column! Hopefully y’all find it helpful to some degree. For more useful constructive criticism feel free to check out last year’s advice column as well. And, once again, the very best of luck to everyone participating in the V.7 competition!

Much \m|♥|m/,
Brandon L. H. aka “President Hoodie”
Founder & Project Manager of Chiptunes = WIN

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