The Hornet Archive





Changes since MC5




So you want to be a Music Contest entrant?

And why not? Entering in MC6 will get you reviews from professionals and novices alike. Their reviews will be honest and objective, since they have no idea who you are. Your music will be released at the end of the contest, and you even have a chance of qualifying for the second round and getting some fame and fortune out of it!

If you really want to get the most out of your MC6 entry, here are a few hints and tips to help raise your score. Some of these 'hints' are really rules--if you break them, you will be disqualified. Other ideas are just that: ideas. Don't take them too seriously. However, Music Contest has shown in the past that these things are the stuff of good music, and if you ignore them, you risk being marked down for it. But it's you're choice, in the end. Better to ignore a suggestion than to never have read it in the first place.

We hope you find this document useful. And we hope your music will be the better for it! Good luck, Music Contest entrant!

 Follow the Rules

Acquaint yourself with the rules. Breaking any of them may disqualify your song (read: "will disqualify your song").

Some things need to be clarified, however:

  • Stay anonymous. Don't tell anyone which song you entered.
  • Don't steal your music from anywhere. This includes other modules, songs you've written, MIDI files, demo songs, "real" music, and any other source.
  • Only enter one song.
  • Try to keep it well under the 1,000,000 byte limit. There is no penalty for having a large file, but smaller files usually receive higher ratings in technique.
  • You only get one chance. Don't upload your song until it's finished. Uploading "fixes" to entries is not allowed.
  •  Write for All the Judges

    While these next few things are not rules, they are highly recommended. Judges are not required to have super machines with lots of memory. Thus, the following suggestions will help your song appeal to more judges. You'll get more reviews, and the reviews you get will be more accurate.

  • Try to end your song before the 4:00 mark, since the judges aren't required to listen to anything past that time. The ending is an important part of your song, and you want the judges to hear it.
  • Don't open more than 32 channels (in fact, try not to use more than 30. The AWE32 can only mix 30 channels. See the IT.TXT link below for details.)
  • Don't use surround sound. Some soundcards have trouble playing surround sound, and your song might not play correctly.
  • Don't use filters (MMX machines). Judges aren't required to own an MMX. (This is also explained in the IT.TXT link below.)
  • Be aware of the other limitations of soundcards. If you want your song to have the widest audience possible (which you do), then read the IT documentation (IT.TXT). Section 2.8 addresses most of these issues. The other .TXT files in Impulse Tracker also have some useful information. Be aware that most of these problems (if not all of them) are also true for FastTracker, so read these files even if you're subitting an XM. Careful! The link above is 112k, which will take a long time to open on slow internet connections. If you have a local copy of Impulse Tracker, look there instead.
  •  Make Your Song Enjoyable

    The rest of this document is nothing but suggestions. They're just observations of what makes a song more popular, and nothing more. They are not rules, and you don't have to do any of these things.

     Some Light Reading

  • Read through the Judging Section. You need to know what the judges are looking for in a song.
  •  Be Creative
  • Give your song an interesting title. "Visions", as an example, was used in all three categories last year. Try to be more original than that.
  • Be unique, but not weird. Confusing the listener won't get you points.
  • Try to pick an interesting genre. This doesn't mean you can't write ambient or country or rock and roll, but it's harder to place high with songs of that style, since the judges are looking for a show of talent. Styles like that make it more difficult to score well.
  • Start your song with something striking, and not strings. About 80% of MC5's entries started with nothing but strings in a simple chord progression. It gets old!
  • Set a mood. Truly excellent music takes the listener somewhere. It's not just music for music's sake.
  • Go somewhere with your song. Don't just replay the same themes with slight variations. Try and come to some sort of climax by the end of your song.
  • If anything is used from start to finish in your song, break it up. This includes hihats, bassdrums, drumloops, chord progressions, strings, and anything else that might annoy the judges.
  •  Use Proper Technique
  • Pay attention to the volumes of your instruments. Hihats should be at a very low volume. Bass samples should be at a higher volume than others. The lead should be the loudest instrument, but shouldn't hurt the listener's ears. Strings should be somewhere in between. Also, try to vary your volumes with the mood of your piece. A lead that always plays at full volume is dry and obnoxious: use lower volumes when you're off the beat, and higher volumes when you're on it, for example.
  • Use panning. A song with no panning at all will be hurt in the technique section. But remember that wide pans (lower than 0x60 and higher than 0xA0) are even worse then no pans.
  • Be generous in using effects, but try to be subtle with them. The purpose here is to show off what the tracker can do, but not to ruin the music in the process. As an example, use vibrato, but don't go over a depth of 4 or 5. (Unless you really, really know what you're doing.)
  • Say something with the end of your song. Don't fade out.
  • Aim for a minimum of 9 original patterns for every 10 patterns in your order list (or thereabouts). Don't repeat a pattern more than once.
  • PITCH! Check every sample to make sure it's on-pitch! The best way to do this is to find a nice sinewave sample, and load it into your song. Set it on a loop, and then play it at a relatively high pitch. Now change channels (this is automatic in FT2, but you have to hit the '>' key in IT), and play each sample in your song. Change the pitch of your sample until it matches, exactly, the pitch of the sinewave. This takes some practice but bad pitch will really hurt your score.
  •  Samples
  • Try to keep your samples interesting. Use your own samples whenever possible. Don't rip trademark samples, that will really hurt your score.
  • If you must use vocals, keep the volume low, and make sure they're high-quality and on-pitch. Try to avoid using them as leads.
  • Use samples that don't have any noise in them. Avoid hissing, clicks, and periods of silence.
  • Don't change volume envelopes too quickly in your instruments (it causes clicks).
  • Break up large samples, like long drumloops, riffs, or samples from CDs. 16-bit samples over 128k do not play on GUS cards, for example, and large samples have this bizarre tendency to increase your filesize (I wonder why). Almost any extended sample is more powerful when you break it up, anyway.
  •  Timing Is Everything
  • Spend as much time as you can on your song, but...
  • Try to upload your song well before the deadline. Leaving it to the last day or two is very dangerous. If something goes wrong, you will not be given a second chance.
  • Remember that you are only allowed to enter your song once. Do not upload your entry until you're positive it's in its final form. You may not write over your entry in the upload directory (for security reasons).
  • Listen to all of the other entries in your division, at least until you submit your song. This will help you decide if you're in the right division or not, as well as letting you know what music your peers are writing these days. It also lets you know when a certain trick or style is being over-used, like opening with strings (in MC5). You might even get a good idea out of it.
  • Listen to your song all the time. Eat, sleep, and drive with your music playing in the background. Be one with your song.
  • Every time you listen to your song, tweak something. A volume here, a sampleloop there, the pitch of a sample, a hihat in one pattern. Really work your song, so that it becomes a piece of art.
  • The amount of effort you put into your entry is one of the most important factors. It's quite obvious to a reviewer if a song was thrown together, or if a pattern or section of a song was written and not refined. The more work you put into your module, the higher your score. Very simple.
  • Move on to the registration page.