Well there it is. Here’s my first humble project for your ahem listening pleasure, and critique.
EDIT - updated mix:
I recorded this using my old Hohner TE Custom, a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, my newly acquired AKG C214 and Logic X. Other than vocals and guitar, all tracks are midi/software instruments/FX, incl. drums.
A few notes and observations on my experience so far:
- I’ve already learned a ton throughout the process and realized I made more mistakes than I can count. To name a few:
- Picked up static/active on the guitar and wasn’t able to fully get rid of it through denoiser plugins,
- Struggled to get a clean guitar sound, not sure if it’s the guitar or the player (probably both)
- Recorded vocals through different sessions without making note of the exact mic position/setup/level which gives them a “stitched together” feel I wasn’t able to fix entirely through editing/automation, etc.
- Still really struggling with the use compression. Knowing when more is needed, when you have just the right amount, avoiding (and hearing) any warping/pumping…
- There’s some basic EQing here but I can already tell this is going to take so much more practice.
- Last but not least, the whole process was very humbling in terms of ear training, as in, I have none! Finding out the hard way that having a musical ear doesn’t mean you can mix.
Very curious to hear your thoughts and particularly eager for suggestions on how to make this better.
Thanks for listening!
PS: neither are exact matches, but I had these two reference tracks in mind as I was going through this:
Very cool Greg. I’m really enjoying this. The song hooky enough to be appealing, yet harmonically adventurous enough to be interesting & inventive. I really like the “B” section of the song (eg 1:18) The way it “climbs” harmonically is a device that has been all but lost in most modern pop/rock productions.
You’ve got a really pleasing & expressive vocal tone. I’m certainly not noticing any “disconnect” between sections from my perspective.
Mix and production wise there are a few spots that could use some improvement.
- The vocal phrase at 28 secs needs some automation, as those two low pitched words get lost under the music
- The snare side-stick sound is a bit cutting and doesn’t mesh with the mellow tones of the verses as well as it could.
- There are a couple of notes that could benefit from some judicious vocal tuning. Overall your pitching is very good, though.
- The long term dynamics of the song are being compromised. For example, the song sounds like it needs to “take off” dynamically at around 1:17 with those two snare hits that introduce the “climbing” “B” section of the song. Unfortunately, rather than getting “bigger” at that point, the song just becomes more squashed and “contained” sounding. Possibly this is an issue with the master buss limiter which might be addressed by better gain staging and/or dynamic control of individual elements.
Overall, very good stuff!
Nice job. I have enjoyed the listening. I would second the vocal tuning, it is incredible that even though you are on most of the time there are a few off notes that effect the listener overall. I would say you have come a long way all ready and should be mighty pleased with what you have got going on there. I think that messing around with cutting some more here adding some there you will find that you can push that eq harder than you think.
Not bad at all! I think it’s great for a first try. I love your voice! And I like the song.
The stick sound is jarring to me. Seems a bit too loud or thin or something. I’d expect it to sound a little more laid back to fit in with the rest of the song better.
You already mentioned the static on the guitars. I think overall the tone on the guitars could be better. They are a little indistinct to me. Like kind of pushed back and fuzzy sounding. Can you re-record the parts that have the static? Are you going through your interface and using a plugin for the amp/fx?
The drums are cool. You’re using MIDI? One trick I did today was to use recorded percussive hits layered with virtual instruments. It adds an extra layer of realism while still having the nice polished tone from the virtual instrument. And if you’re not already, it’s good to slightly vary the velocities/timing/samples of the various hits. REAPER has a “humanize” function that makes this less tedious, and to me it’s worth it.
You also mentioned the EQ–it does sound to me like this mix could use some more clarity in the instruments. The vocal is great and up-front, but especially in the verses it covers up the instruments somewhat. It’s not bad, but I think it could be better.
That’s all I have for now. Nice work!
Listening on a laptop, so I can’t say too much about the mix, but DANG you have a great voice! And the song structure is great too! I’d say you have a lot you can teach us too. Killer job
Thank you all for lending me your ears, and thanks for the kind words.
A lot of great feedback in there. I agree with all of it. The tricky part for me at this stage is to find out how to fix. I’ll work on these and post an update if I manage to get the mix to a better place.
- I’ll start playing with the vocals automation, fine-tuning the rogue notes and wrangling this over-enthusiastic snare.
- The dynamics on the chorus (the “B section”) is the tricky part. I totally agree with you, I’m just not sure how to make it bigger without drowning the vocals. I tried boosting both but it sounded a bit weird (created a bit of a disconnect with the rest of the song). I’ll play with this some more.
I think that messing around with cutting some more here adding some there you will find that you can push that eq harder than you think
For sure! This is where I just need to keep practicing to train my ear and familiarize myself with EQing better…
- I’ll try recording the faulty guitar parts again. This is all going directly to my interface then into an amp plugin. I’ll also play with more patches/amp combos to get a cleaner sound. Those guitar tones are truly my biggest disappointment in this whole process so far.
- Drums are from a Logic drum kit (this is a “Portland” producer kit) so I believe they’re recorded percussions. I generated then modified a few beats I liked after converting them to MIDI.
- EQing on the verses is the tricky part. I’ll have to play with it to find out what I can cut/boost to fix this. I was mostly worried about synths and guitars cannibalizing each other but perhaps I didn’t pay as much attention about vocals covering the rest…
For sure, a lot of virtual instruments are recordings of actual instruments. They still don’t always sound “real” in the context of a song. You don’t get the small variations that would exist if you’re recording someone play live. Some instruments have “round robin” which has a few different samples per note that helps, but there’s an art to making a virtual instrument sound more real. Mostly just an FYI in case you haven’t worked with it much before.
Gotcha! That’s very good to know. I already started adding variation in the velocity of the snare to help as per your suggestion. By the way, it seems like excessive velocity was one reason for that cutting snare sound.
This is a cool song, both in writing and performance. Aside from the abrasive snare/sidestick sound that other mentioned, I think I’d also put a little more work into the guitar sound. It’s not bad, I think it just has too much low end, which is making it sound muffled. It doesn’t need to be super bright, just needs a little bit of the low end taken out.
Other than that, I can’t think of anything I’d change. The vocals sound great and me.
Thanks @bozmillar. Totally agree with you on the guitars. Working on finding different amp combos and better tuning the EQ.
I read your introduction on another thread. Not loads of French people on the forums I frequent, so curious how you sound. You are a very good singer, so not much reason to be nervous about going public with your music. Instrumentally, it reminds me of the French group Air, and Chris Isaak (because of the guitar). The chorus is OK, but I like the verse better. The audio quality is quite good. I like the keyboards. Good job! I lived near San Francisco (Daly City) when I was a baby; don’t remember that at all. Though I have been there for business and vacation once. I plan on going public with a new song in a couple of days (lately I post songs on the 23rd of the month); perhaps you can return the favor. I live near Los Angeles, but I got played on the Radio BBC, which plays in Northern France according to my research. I’ve been in France once (only a day; on a cruise): in July 2017. Paris is amazing!
Nice to meet you @aaron_aardvark and thanks for listening.
I have just as few memories of Daly City as you do then!
I just checked out some of your recent songs and really liked how free-flowing they are. As some others have comments, I’m personally not a big proponent of heavy effects on vocals (with exceptions). But overall, there’s a lot of unbridled creativity there and overall, gives out a very natural, spontaneous and refreshing feel. I particularly like the blend of East/West influences on some songs (“Such a Vow”). Congrats! I’ll do my best to listen to your new stuff when it comes out.
That’s a hard one for me to mate I Can’t be any real use in technical advice though, I have to do my first complete homestudio project still, so. Soon though
But its a pretty chill song mate ! On that part you did a great job !
That was nice of you to already listen to some of my music. Thank you for commenting. I think you will fit in well on this forum. Yeah, my use of effects on my vocals has long been controversial. I feel my vocals sound weak without the effects. If it is something you wish to talk about, did business bring you to San Francisco, or something else?
Yup, came here for work!
My personal philosophy - as a music lover, more than music producer since I have so little experience with the latter - is that vocal effects shouldn’t be used to mask, but to make a point. They can be a great way to enhance your vocals or make them more expressive. I’m curious if you’ve tried reducing them and letting more of your natural voice come through? What has your experience been?
I’ve had many people through the years tell me to use less effects on my vocals. I try it with less effects, and it sounds worse to me. I do know for a fact though, that the song (“Black and White”) of mine that got played on the Radio BBC was partially because of my vocal effects. The radio DJ was Tom Robinson, and he (with the Tom Robinson Band) had a song “2-4-6-8 Motorway” that had a lot of video play on M-TV and/or VH1 in the 80’s. He co-wrote an English hit song with Elton John, and has collaborated with Peter Gabriel and Brian May (from Queen). An English guy I met on the Line 6 forums was a big fan of my vocal effects, and he suggested my song to Tom Robinson to play on the radio.