Bash this: Arthur's Song

Continuing the trend of me spending ridiculously long on one song at a time, here’s my latest. This one is based on the video game Red Dead Redemption 2. I didn’t actually play it, but my wife did and I ended up watching a lot of the story. This song is about finding out that you’re going to die pretty soon. I think that the key lyrics are basically:

Yes, I’m afraid now
But not because death is near
No it’s this new beautiful view
And this sinking feeling that it was always here…
And I’ve been looking over there

I hope it comes across well in the song. It’s really about regret, I guess.

Here’s what I’m proud of in this song:

  • I think that the main guitar part turned out pretty cool. It set the general groove for me, and I think it’s fitting for a western. It has kind of a “I’m riding a horse” cadence to it.
  • I like how the drums/bass turned out, and how they work with the guitar to create the groove. Seriously this is something totally new to me. I haven’t thought much about rhythm until the past… 4 months or so? I feel that I have so much more to explore in this space, but just starting to pay attention to it has elevated my music, I think.
  • I like the way the song builds from verse -> pre-chorus -> chorus/hook. It’s kind of an interesting progression I think. I also especially like the energy that I created in the second chorus section. I might still have a ways to go, but this is a lot of energy for me! :slight_smile:

And things I’m not as happy with:

  • The vocal. This song is hard for me to sing. Some parts are right at the bottom of my range and I think it showed.
  • Even though I really tried, the song could be tighter. I want to keep practicing guitar to get better timing.
  • I’m not sure it’s that great of a song. I spent a lot of time on it because I’m working on improving other skills along the way. I think it’ll work pretty well with a video I have in mind, using clips from the game, but to me it’s not a gem. A lot of my songs have been like this lately… just vehicles for improving my performance and production skills. And that’s fine by me because that’s my jam right now.

Anyway, I wanted to write that all out because this continues to be a huge learning experience for me and I wanted to share my progress for anyone who’s interested.

This is actually not the whole song… the end is long, with an a-capella choral part and then a meandering guitar outro. It’s artsy and doesn’t really need critique haha, and it’s not totally done anyway. I wanted to focus on the part of the song that has a lot of moving parts and could really use some bashing! I’ll post the whole thing when it’s all done for kicks.

Version 2:

Version 3: Started from scratch with the unprocessed tracks. Spent about 2-3 hours mixing it in mono with ear buds, then 30 minutes or so making some adjustments on my 2.1 computer speakers.

Update: I’ve decided to get this professionally mastered. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I think it’s kind of a sweet spot from a cost/value perspective, especially when they offer free mixing advice before doing the master. Having my EP professionally mixed/mastered was a nightmare, but I want to try just having someone else do the mastering part. Anyway I’ll post back with whatever that result is!

Here’s the final result. Is it good? I don’t know. Is it done? Yes. :slight_smile:


This is a great song, I like it and I like the low vocals especially. The groove works well too. The lead guitar riffs aren’t laying in the groove as well as they might. Maybe that’s ok, but I’d probably go with something simpler and darker, rising up out of no where almost ghostlike, kind of moody like the rest of the tune?

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I am really digging this whole thing. As far as tightening up sections have you done any work with audio bending/moving transients? I am not sure which DAW you are using but both Sonar and Studio one have the tools to do this. It is very helpful when you have captured the sound and emotion you are looking for but have a few areas that could be tighter timing wise. Just make sure that you bounce the audio once you have done all of the moving of transients so that it can apply the changes.

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Ooh yay, this was a cool listen!
Lovely opening guitar tones that drew me in from the start… I’ve made a few notes as I listened through.

With the crisp resonant entry guitar sounds, I found the opening vocal just slightly ‘muffled’ . Really nice production build at around 1.08, love how that unfolds. Listening through my infinity stereo speakers, the lead guitar felt just a touch too loud. Lovely production actually, great backing vox and things fit together in the overall song development really nicely.

As the song built and grew, at 2.50, it felt as though the vox slipped back in the mix rather than forward… not sure if the volume reduced or it needed more eq space to pop further forward? I had the sense that the guitar tones were sweeter and more dominant than the vocal, I don’t think it’s the performance, which sounded cool, but now I’m reading your notes again, I see it’s a lower range of notes for you to sing and am wondering about playing with the eq on this some more? Both with the vocal and the other sounds at the time, possibly needing to carve out a little more space in the mix? I’m always so vocal focused, it is the key thing I listen to so I tend to be a bit obsessive, ignore me at will!

Cool song and am really liking the shaping of it…

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I made those a little late because I thought it sounded groovy. Maybe it’s a little too loose though; I’ll take another look. And yeah the tones–especially the one in the second verse–weren’t that great to me. I should probably even re-record that lead guitar in the verse.

I use REAPER. That has these time-stretch marker things which might be similar to what you’re describing. I’ve used them before and they can be handy. There might be a few spots I can easily notice for improvement here, but I don’t want to get too nit-picky about it because it drives me nuts in no time haha.

@Emma Thanks for the feedback. I hear what you’re saying about the vocal. I’m usually really focused on making the vocal shine too, but I guess it was because I didn’t think I sang it very well in this song that I was okay with it folding more into the song. I definitely need to do some more detailed automation and such though so that the volume feels consistent. Maybe I can give it a little more of the mid-high frequencies or harmonics or something to help it stand out more too.

I’m gonna work on this some more and post another version later this week… it’s so easy to get burnt out on a song and it really helps re-invigorate me to share it and get some feedback. :weight_lifting_woman:

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yeah i hear you. although i am working on a project right now and they were pretty tight but just enough off in places that it is noticeable because of how tight they are in other places. So anyway i am learning to remove some of the markers and align others and like anything the more songs i do the easier it gets and I am starting to be able catch the swings and vibe stuff. All that to say it takes some practice but i think it is worth a lot because it allows you to take the more emotional takes and tighten them up.

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This is a critical issue that we are hearing a lot about. We can now align and stretch any track to any grid setting we choose. Professional musicians learn very early the importance of timing and spend many hours developing control over timing and often also a preferred style which may or may not rely on a strict grid alignment. Listening to jazz, blues or classical you’ll hear off the grid playing as you know.

So this is a valuable skill and I’m glad to be learning to line things up but please don’t kill the groove!


Hi I don’t have the ears to dissect like others. I am a big fan however. Like everything about this. Some of the guitar licks are excellent ear candy. I might consider no percussion until 40 seconds to start out intimate?? very catchy congrats again

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I listened to this quickly the other day and was waiting until I had a chance to listen more closely.

  • The initial guitar lick is gold! I absolutely love it. Beautiful tone too.
  • You nailed it on the groove. Very cool and memorable.
  • Vocals. Your low register doesn’t “bother” me in the slightest. It actually really works for the song.
  • Cool little answer-back guitar bit @1:40! I like the tone of that one too.


  • The guitar line playing over the vocal on “I was looking over there” fights with the lead vocal. Would work better as an answer-back thing. (?)


  • Maybe hold off the harmonies/bg vox in the first verse to give more of a sense of solitude and allow the song to build more as it progresses.
  • I would like to hear “something” happen in the pre-chorus section to build/set it apart a little more and get us ready for the chorus.
  • A sustaining pad/swelling guitar part underneath the chorus could be really cool and make that section “bloom” if you will.

Great song! Looking forward to the long version. :beerbanger:


Such a dramatic developing arrangement, @Cristina! IMVHO, it is a pretty great song. Nothing is overkilled, and the guitar parts stand out strong in classic stereo grandness. I think you should hang on to most every minor timing flaws and only fix the problem offenders. Your singing is spot on and exuding notable and an appropriate level of angst. As is, I would consider this finished. I suppose, once the entire version is put together, you might do something more somewhere, but I can’t see doing that much.

Your western vibe is sounding good, and if good practice as well, you can’t hardly beat that! And I’d say it’s been paying off for you!


Okay, Cristina. What a beautiful song and mix. I love this. So, let me now make it official: I am officially a fan. I love your stuff!

So …

I disagree with you about your concerns about your vocal. I think this is actually quite a nice register for you. It really works with this song. Fits with the gentle, reflective style.

I could go either way in holding off the harmony, or not; but I really like the BGV. Did you sing those as well? I really like how quiet and subtle it is. Very nice.

So, the drums really work. Are these MIDI loops? AD2 maybe? I could stand for a few more fills maybe? Not a lot, but something to make it seem a little less mechanical?

I also like the way you built momentum at 2:22 or so. Very subtle. That’s what I’m trying to learn to do, and I never know how exactly to do it.

So, last question: what did you use for your string pad in the background?
Really like it. Smooth, subtle, moves nicely.

Nice job, Cristina.

Oh, "and another thing … "


Yeah, Vaughan just pointed those out to me in another post. See my reply there

Cristina, your comments on the importance of timing:

So, I think (to my ears, anyway), your timing is good. I am with you, though, in that I never appreciated how important this timing thing is. I’ve always heard how important it is to practice with a metronome, but (very arrogantly) I never thought it applied to me! I thought that was for everyone else. I never had issues with timing. :slight_smile:

I didn’t realize how huge this was until you bashed my song with your comments, and others as well, on my sloppy timing. :slightly_frowning_face:

Still working on that song, and will repost soon. Jonathon suggested I spend some serious time practicing to a metronome and getting my timing tighter. I’ve been doing it. It is now abundantly clear how important this is … and how difficult it is to play that tight with the drums, with the metronome. But golly, that makes a difference. It creates so much more space.

Again, thanks for that tip. I’m embarrassed to say it, but no question, this is a new horizon for me and will elevate my music to another level.

Yeah I sang the BGV as well. I think I’m going to leave them in the first part, and maybe add some new background element to the second verse to help the song build more.

The drums are NI Abbey Road drums. I can’t recall which kit. I could add a few more fills; it’s so tedious though haha. I’ve already done a lot of tweaking to try and make it sound natural. I don’t use loops–I just draw in the MIDI by hand or maybe play it in via my MIDI keyboard. Sometimes I’ll use my acoustic kit to help me write the part first, but I’m not a very good drummer so I can’t write anything fancy that way.

The pad is NI Reaktor Prism. I don’t recall what the patch is though. I love that synth. I’m not one of those people who are super into synths and can program their own patches and understand what all the various knobs do, but the presets in that one have been something that I keep going back to.

Yeah I’ve been paying a lot of attention to timing and spending more time practicing with a metronome! I think that you’ll be really pleased with the results as you start to pay more attention to timing as well. You can’t appreciate the difference that it makes until you see how much it improves your music.

I just posted a version 2. I messed around with a bunch of stuff and long story short is that I hope I didn’t make it worse. :confused: My wife was just telling me that it wasn’t pleasant to listen to anymore which was a real bummer to hear, so as a result I took off a lot of the crispness… that’s the biggest difference I hear between the two right now. I’m so burnt out on this.

Hi Cristina,
I really wanted to say that I prefer the new version but I’ve listened and compared them a few times now and I definitely prefer the vitality and sparkle of version 1. The instrumentation feels a little more cohesive in the second mix but the lead vox just sounds a little strange to me, it has lost a lot of the magical transients that capture my listening heart. Every now and then an ‘ss’ is cut off a little unexpectedly and it seems overall a little further back in the mix. I don’t find the first mix particularly crisp. Bummer about your best home-grown captive audience… I’ve learnt to temper mine… minimise the number of times I say ‘check this out’… it’s like a sort of dance… wanting to hear their opinion and yet not burn them out too especially when they are usually relatively non-discerning.

You seem to be at that ‘Step Away from the Mix’ phase where a separation from the song is needed. Sometimes I find it helpful to burn a cd at this stage and play it in the car, or an mp3 - just any way of listening to it differently and hmmm, yeah, just thinking of Andrew’s comments on the other thread - pretending to be someone else listening to it. There have been a few quite sharp commentators on my work over the years and I always seem to hear their comments in the background when I am coming to the ‘end’ of a piece… hah… well, that can be helpful or unhelpful obviously… sigh

It really is a cool song and you are all-but-there… have a break gal!


Very cool, Very cool indeed. I like how it starts off and how it grows bigger as it moves along. For me, the drums seem lacking, dry and simple. I hear something a little unique maybe, more bass sounding. It seems like the drums throw the whole song into a simpler box than the song should be in, it limits it in a way. But this song is really a great tune, it keeps you hooked in and wondering what is coming next with the vocals, it’s not predictable and I love that.

listening to the second version. I am really liking it. If i was mixing it I think the first thing i might try taking some reverb off the vocals

and then add some delay on a send. Other than that you have good balance, clarity, movement and emotion. Nicely done

I disagree. I think that the contrast of the two makes the song better. This of course is personal taste.

get rid of the harmony vocals in the first verse and first bridge, after that its brilliant (the answerbacks etc. are great). Did MikeD already tell you that? I only listened to V2. One time. Awesome job.

Thanks guys. I took Emma’s advice and took a long break. I’ve had an upheaval of some of my long-held beliefs since the start of 2019 and I’m really taking my time in approaching music in a new way.

Unrelated to that, I’ve been trying something new with producing and mixing. That being that I’m listening in mono, and using these for monitoring:


And look this isn’t totally random, I got this advice from Recording Revolution recently and decided to run with it. It’s actually… really cool. I’ve been working on a weird (for me) new song lately with just these earbuds, and when I listened back it on my nice headphones I was like “whoa…” I’m making mixing decisions that I would never have made if I’d used those headphones to begin with, but they were decisions that I really liked.

And so my project for today is to take the unprocessed tracks from this song and mix it from the ground up, listening in mono with just these earbuds. Then I’ll go back in with my nice headphones and my computer speakers to make a few adjustments and panning decisions and whatnot. I’ll post the results later today. Go team!

EDIT: Okay I’m done and I posted it. I really like how it turned out. It sounds cleaner to me or something. It’s pleasant to listen to. I have been switching back and forth between the versions and that’s the one I keep wanting to leave playing. I deem this experiment a great success. Plus it only took a few hours and I had fun doing it. :tada:

Oh and if anyone wants the tracks to mix for themselves for fun, let me know. I already have them bounced so it would be pretty easy to zip and upload them.

Hi Christina,
Missed this one first time around. Lovely song as always! I listened to version 2 and 3 through headphones. I like both to be honest and for different reasons. I find it hard to choose. Version 2 sounds modern, clear, well defined, well mixed. Version 3 makes me think of a seventies recording somehow. Maybe its nostalgia (after all the best music period for someone of my age ;)). It’s like it has a bit of a blanket over it, but in a comfortable way. Is there some sort of mastering glue going on?