Bash this indie folk song: Witness

Bash this indie folk song: Witness
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#1

I’m getting close to finishing with this song, and would love some feedback. Feel free to critique anything from the songwriting to the mix, though at this point I can mostly just make changes to the mix. It could help with future songs though.

This song is based on a Netflix show I watched recently called 13 Reasons Why. The premise of the show is that a teenage girl commits suicide, and has left cassette tapes behind describing how her life got so off track. The premise of the song is sort of what I would say to her. It’s meant to validate how a depressed person is feeling and experiencing life. It’s meant to be soothing. I also wanted it to be sort of catchy, something that would appeal to young people who enjoyed the show. I made a video to go along with the song, and will post it to YouTube when I’m all finished.

Thank you for listening! Also, if you think I got the genre wrong, please tell me. I have spent a lot of time investigating what genre I am, and am still not convinced. Something like “art indie folk” I think is what I landed on, lol.

Update: Here’s the video I ended up with. I made some changes based on feedback which I think improved the mix, though it could still be better.


#2

This.is.amazing.

I love everything about this song right now. I can hear some things that could be addressed mix-wise, but the song itself is f’n awesome.
I want to hear this song getting produced and polished to its full potential!

I’ll try to actually contribute my thoughts on it once I’m done fanboying over the song a bit. Lol


#3

Awesome stuff. Love the melodies and performances - It’s a very mature & fully realised vision.

I’m only listening on cheap speakers at the moment, so I haven’t got much to offer on the mix side apart from the most basic thing… and that is that the vocals are not clear enough. Even in this noisy work environment, I can pick up on the emotion loud and clear, but I can’t follow the story of the lyrics, and that’s what I want to hear…

There is a thing colloquially known as the “whisper test”, where you turn down your mix until you can only just barely above the level of the noise floor of whatever your environment is… Then listen to the vocals and note down all the places where phrases, words, and syllables duck below the level of the music into inaudibility. Take those notes then adjust using automation. Rinse and repeat. Sometimes multiple-stage compression can help, depending on the style of music, but with this very acoustic style, detailed automation is your friend.

Good stuff! :thumbsup: I’ll take another listen on my studio speakers when I get an opportunity.


#4

Gorgeous song Cristina with some fabulous ‘chill’ moments… love it…
especially the ghostly haunting echo voices that eerily creep melodically right underneath my skin. Great instrumentation…
Funny, that show has been quite hot in the news here for the past few days so the content resonated even more for me.

In terms of bash, I’m listening on earbuds which do tend to emphasise the higher freqs and I am finding the guitar fret squeaks just a touch distracting… at times the guitar feels louder than the lead vox voice but it is a delicate tweakery…

O this is really very powerful… so well done… the heart is truly coming through and connecting with magical musical power. So great to hear this here… yay!!


#5

Yep, this has a big wow factor. Can’t hear your main vocal quite good enough in many places, however the bgv are unbelievable:) Now after the two minute mark, I hear your voice so much better. Some of the guitar spikes that land on top the vox could be tamed. The guitar work is really good and very clear. I am a fan:)

Sincerely

Paul


#6

Well done Cristina, very good song and well recorded.

The main problem with the mix is that it’s swimming in mud. It needs a big, big scoop at a Q of about 100hz - 250Hz, and another one almost as big at 350Hz - 600Hz. This will make it more pleasant to listen to and it will also bring those vocals out. Once the vocals are clearer I think you will find that a de-esser may be required - you could even try it on the guitar too, to calm down those fret squeaks.

On the performance, you have done well. If you want to improve, focus on the diction, the lyrics of this song are important and they’re not always clear. For example, the two d’s in ‘mindreader’ aren’t cearly pronounced, which makes the rest of the line difficult to understand.

Well done, nice job!


#7

Thank you for the feedback! It sounds like I need to make sure the vocals are sitting out in front more consistently. And yeah I’ve had a hard time with those guitar squeaks! Listening again, it does sound like the fingerpicking guitar is a bit loud overall. I wanted to keep the dynamics of it, but maybe more compression would be useful.

I will give the whisper test a try–I hadn’t heard of it before but it sounds like a great idea.

And yeah I sort of had a feeling about the mud. I struggle with trying to make things sound wide and full, so I may have added too much there. I’ll see what I can cut out. And I will keep diction more in mind for next time! I sang this song differently than I normally do, and had an idea that the vocals would be a little bit more in the direction of Bon Iver, (one of my favorite artists.) And I can never understand a word he’s saying, lol.


#8

Great song Christina ! I love it. Has a very nice atmosphere/vibe. Mix wise there isn’t much more to say then already has been done. There are thousands of recordings where the voice is WAY harder to hear clearly. On my headphone’s (sennheiser HD650) it sounds awesome !

Good job !


#9

I really like it Cristina - and I’ve seen the show too, very fitting.

Have to mention the fret noise - don’t know if it’s an issue for you. The mere mention obviously highlights it of course (sorry)

Personally I never usually mind this, it can add humanity but it can be an issue for both performer and listener sometimes. Some stick out more than others - around 0:23 to 0:25 it’s a bit proud and at 3:17, 3:55 & 4:01. Automation can be a pain but careful use might address these - if you want/care.

Art indie folk is fine by me by the way!

Great playing, lovely voice and of course, arrangement.


#10

I think it sounds great. The only thing that poked out to me as seeming “off” is that the vocals have a bit of a harshness to them that doesn’t need to be there. It sounds like you boosted the high end of the vocals to get them to pop out in the mix a bit, but you could have boosted the vocals across the board and been fine.


#11

Absolutely beautiful!

Of course there’s always room for improvement somewhere in any mix, but there’s also a degree of subjectivity regarding what makes a mix “good”. What sounds “muddy” to one might sound “ethereal” to another, for example.

I confess I’m a relative amateur compared to some of the guys on here, but for what my opinion is worth I think it sounds perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. You should be proud.


#12

@Firedance Thanks for pointing out where the fret noise bothered you. I did use some automation to reduce the volume, but the squeaks are so loud and cover such a large frequency range, it was hard to reduce it and still have it sound natural. I’ll go back over the areas you mentioned though.

@bozmillar You’re right that I boosted the highs on the vocals, specifically so it would cut through the mix without having to raise the volume. :slight_smile: I have a tendency to make vocals too loud, so maybe I was overcompensating there.


#13

Like the others I enjoyed listening to your song. I personally think that you have taken a very sensitive subject and composed a beautiful reflective number that makes you think of those loved ones that you might have lost through similar tragic circumstances.

I tend to agree with AJ here, and I’m glad he was able to give you some good technical advice, as I don’t really possess such skills. I’m a mere bassist, earning more from this site as I go along!

Yep, I go along with this too… I did struggle to hear the backing vocals, so perhaps they could be enhanced and brought up a bit, but I did admire the way in which they were kind of following your lead. Tasty!

… and finally, yes, you have found the right genre here.

Overall, a brilliant song :grinning:


#14

Hi Cristina - just to reiterate, I personally don’t think the fret squeaks are a problem really. I was just pointing out where I felt they could be interpreted by a listener as being more intrusive than average. If you have already looked at this there may not be much left to do anyway that isn’t verging on the destructive. I wouldn’t worry about it.


#15

This is the first piece I’ve heard from you after chiming in on some of your threads, and it is very obvious you’re much more accomplished than your questions seemed to imply, so I’ll tread lightly from now on.
Great composition, great feel and performance. The tweaks that have been suggested are all valid for minor improvements. For fret noise you might be able to use a de-esser, or possibly a sidechain compressor with a very fast attack and release to tame them a bit. Lots of folks on here can do a better job of explaining that than me. The voice is dead on, so don’t worry about getting it out front first, then eq it if needed. Nice job, put some more stuff on here!


#16

Hi Christina
After all these relatively pro replies who am I to comment? Well I’m guessing my laptop speakers are revealing something others have missed maybe. First off I should join the chorus: Your song writing really seems to have something to contribute, and I haven’t even taken the time to listen closely to the lyrics so far. I should and I will. Maybe providing us with the lyrics might make it just a little bit easier? (I know: I’m lazy). Your songs really seem to be worth it getting out here to a bigger public. But - to my ears - maybe not this mix…
The problem has already been named: the vocals are not to clear in the mix. What I missed so far is that the guitar is very up front (no delay or reverb?) while there’s quite a lot of both on the vocal, strengthened by a second voice which is somehow tied to the delay / reverb. Don’t get me wrong: in itself quite an interesting effect, but in relation to the up front guitar not quite in balance. You get the guitar riff and a sort of ethereal answer from somewhere behind |(or above?). If this is intentional (again, I haven’t analysed the lyrics) then you’ve done a great job. But I’m guessing its not intentional.
I hope others comment on my point of view, if only to check if I’m talking bullshit or if I have a valid point::slight_smile:


#17

I did think to myself that the acoustic guitar should have reverb on it, but I didn’t like the sound when I tried. I think it’s because there’s already too much noise from the room, (totally unintentional,) and it just sounded kind of shitty with additional reverb added. But yeah I get your point on that. It’s probably confusing if you try to picture where the players are.

And here are the lyrics. I don’t think it’s lazy to want to read them–I can never understand lyrics in songs, and always need to see them written out to follow along! And I love lyrics so I do that a lot, haha.

Come, rest a while.
You don’t have to smile.
I promise I’m as hideous as you on the inside.

Chorus:
I see you trying
As the color fades away
And you grasp as who you used to be
Until you feel fake
I see you trying
To swim back to the shore
All the while, second guessing
If it matters anymore, matters anymore

Tongue like a rock
You don’t have to talk
I understand if life’s become a feeling you forgot

Chorus

Nobody taught you the words for this.
(So call a mind reader. Call a mind reader.)
And you’d deny it even if they did.
(So call a mind reader. Call a mind reader.)

I see you trying
I see you trying

I saw you stealing razor blades
I heard the reasons why


#18

That is a sad, but true, indictment of the industry as a whole. When I am working as a producer with a vocalist, I make sure they don’t write the lyrics down anywhere, so that I don’t actually know what they are. Then as the vocals are recorded, any lyrics that I can’t understand, we work on together, either by improving the diction or by changing the wording.

I don’t think lyrics are as important as some people make out in terms of a recording in its entirety, but having said that, what is the point of having lyrics if people can’t understand them? It’s always worth the effort to deliver clear, comprehensible lyrics.


#19

Just to say Cristina, listening again, this is fucking amazing.

It’s a great song and performance. I especially love the acoustic motif in the verses. My wife has just listened and wants me to download for the car - she loves it.

The whole vibe reminds me a bit of early Suzanne Vega - which is a great thing in my book by the way.

Look forward to hearing more from you, what a great start to the forum.


#20

@Cristina - I finally got around to having a detailed listen to this on my studio system. As @AJ113 has pointed out, there are some issues with the low mids clouding the mix. “Swimming in mud” may be a slight overstatement :wink:, but it certainly does describe the area of concern… put it this way, I’ve heard far, far, far worse on forums like this!..

In any case, I took a little time to download the track to try to identify where the problems are stemming from. I broke the track into its Mid & Side signals, as I find this is a great way work when you don’t have the original raw tracks to analyse.

What I found was that, while the lead vocal does have a LOT of low mid mud around 200-400hz, & could do with cleaning up in the low end as well, probably the biggest single culprit is the backing vocals, which are really creating a buildup in the 200-400, as well as 600-800hz regions.

Another thing that is contributing to that buildup is the reverb. High passing the reverb only quite aggressively can really help clear up the mix without taking any weight and warmth away from the lead vocal.

Some other mixing issues I noticed:

  • As has already been pointed out - the guitar squeaks can be helped by a de-esser, but you can also address them at the source by using some string lubricant like this: http://www.ghsstrings.com/products/11464-fast-fret?category_id=1964826-lubricants-cleaners

  • With this style of stacked vocals, sibilants always generally become an issue in the mix phase, particularly when you compress. One very effective way to deal with this is to over-de-ess the stacked vocals and leave the main vocal to carry the weight of the sibilants. This means the vocal stacks might sound lispy in solo, but it’s particularly effective in stopping sibilant “S” sounds poking out from the sides of the mix.

  • Toward the end of the song, the lead vocal becomes overly loud, especially combined with the added intensity of the backing vocals at that point. Here is where “sectional” automation becomes important - just dropping the level of the lead vocal over that section overall will help it sit back in the mix better. I like the idea of the added intensity there, but the vocal does really seem to overwhelm the mix there, especially when compared to the very soft levels at the beginning.

I hope you don’t mind, but I took the liberty of doing a bit of processing of the master track…

This was as much to help me to work out what was going on with the mix, in an attempt to make my explanation more clear as anything. In any case, I did some separate processing to both the mid and sides of the stereo track, in an attempt to address the issues I pointed out as best I could. I also did some further processing on the stereo mix as a whole. This is pretty much exclusively involved cutting frequencies. I did make some very minor boosts, but by and large, cutting frequencies did the bulk of the heavy lifting.

Apart from eq, the only other processors I used were de-essing for the vocals, a little tape emulation to add some warmth and smoothness, and a final limiter to restore some level that was lost because of the eq cuts.

While most of these issues would definitely better be dealt with in the mx stage, I think it makes a definite improvement in overall clarity. Here is the result: