Life Is A Hard Road

Life Is A Hard Road
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I’m hoping to get some opinions of this song and recording. I wrote it in 2017 but I’ve made some additional vocal phrases and the ending in the last 2 months.

I’m interested in any thoughts and opinions on this. Thanks!

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Hi The guitars sound really good. Just a little processing there. Sounds like a 12 string? Your vox is spot on and convincing. Great vibe. The only nit is the length of the song. Lots of repetition? Nailed some high notes. Could have used that earlier in the song for interest. Yup, me likes, but shorter would be better IMHO :slight_smile:

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I’m using a really cheap, crappy 6 string acoustic guitar. There’s dead spots on the guitar, the strings are really old, and the high E string often gets caught in one of the frets. I bought the guitar used for $50 and I think they’re about $100 brand new. The brand is called Traditional.

The reason it sounds like a 12 string is because I doubled the guitars. I recorded 2 tracks playing the lower part and 2 tracks playing the octave. There’s also 2 tracks of strumming that are mixed in at a very low volume, and then there’s 4 tracks of the picking that you hear at the very beginning of the song (two of those tracks are playing in the open position and two of those are the octaves of those). Those 4 tracks are played throughout the song. There’s a total of 10 acoustic guitars.

There’s no EQ on any of the instruments or voice. In fact the only processing is the delay on my vocals. This song is still in demo form. Still lots to do in the mixing process. I’ll be adding some lead guitars in some spots too. Was even thinking about some small pieces of orchestration/ strings. Drums have to be modified too.

Thanks for the review!

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Hey @Wicked - Very cool melody and sound you have happening here. I especially like the “ooohhh” harmony textures. The song has a real, seventies-style, progressive rock feel to it, which I dig. Vocals and playing sound great. You have a very good voice.

I think I’m with @feaker Paul on the repetitiveness and length of the song. I think repetition can work really well in a production. Actually, I think in music in general, from classical to hip hop, some form of repetition is essential.

That said, I think it needs to be used selectively. Usually one or two elements in a song can bear fairly extensive repetition. Eg: A repetitive bassline can underpin a song fantastically. A chorus in and of itself by design is a form of repetition, and essential to the pop format.

However, what I’m hearing here is constant repetition at many levels: The guitar figure; the chord progression, the lyrical phrases and the actual lyrics themselves.

I get the parallelism of the repetition to the subject of the song, but I think that, just as the protagonist of the song is crying out for some variation and hope in his life, you need to give the listener some hope too!

As a listener, I was just dying for the heavy guitars and drums to crash in. I kept listening thinking “soon…no…maybe next round… no…” and by the time it finally came, it was kind of very brief and it didn’t really “pay off” for me. It was kind of a fire-cracker, rather than the nuclear explosion I was anticipating.

I really wanted the song to go somewhere else - to give me as a listener some hope that something changed for the poor guy… Because I’m thinking “If there is a story here, where is it taking me - Does he resolve it? Does he get angry and ‘go postal’? Does he jump off a building? Does he meet a wonderful woman and settle down to a happy life?”

…just my take - feel free to ignore! :grimacing:

In any case, for some reason the presentation of the song put me in mind of this - one of my favourite Led Zep tracks:

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Yes, I agree. This song needs more variation, especially considering how long it is.

I had a bunch of lyrics written down that I spliced together as I was recording it. I wasn’t sure which phrases I would use and which ones I would leave by the wayside. So during the recording, as I went along I tended to use the lyrics that were most familiar to me, which were the words that I most often used when I jam around with the song. I’ve got a lot more words for this song in a notepad document. Definitely have to rearrange and add lyrics. The plan for the vocals was to start low and to gradually build up in intensity and pitch. Part of the problem is that the build-up takes very long and there’s not much variation in the music. I can minimize this partly by cutting out some of the vocals, and as you said, I should not repeat lyrics, or at least reduce any repetition. So, either I need to chop a good chunk of time of the song or I need something to keep the listeners attention…A bit of both might be ideal.

I know what you mean about the heavy ending being brief. I was thinking it was a bit to short and needed something else to really ramp it up…I was thinking of some soaring lead guitar and screaming vocals and maybe some kind of instrumental twist (key change maybe?) The heavy ending is also very cluttered sounding to me. There’s 10 acoustic guitars buried under the drums, 2 electric guitars, 2 bass guitars (1 bass is holding the bottom end and the other is following the acoustic guitar melody). So there’s a hole mess of instruments that I have to create space for. Might have to drop a few acoustic guitar in that part, and I definitely have to get those acoustic to somehow cut through the mess of the electric instruments. I’m kind of dreading that! Haha!

I was thinking about the thread where you and another forum member were talking about how to get the acoustic guitar to cut through the mix when it’s competing with the bass, electric guitar and other instruments. You guys mentioned how the transients were the primary part of the notes that would cut through the mix in certain situations. I’ve had the same experience with acoustic guitars when combining them with over-driven electric guitars and a heavy mix. First thing I’ll try is clearing out some of the lower mids in many of the instruments and even more importantly I need to get rid of between 4 and 6 of those acoustics when the heavy part kicks in. I’ll have to re-read that thread where you guys were discussing this topic.

Thanks for your help Andrew!
Lots of good info from you, as always.

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Hi Wicked,
Ooh I enjoyed this! And yep, does have a folkie sort of vibe to it and an underlying lovely melancholy.
First impression was that the vocal feels too far back, behind the guitar. As a singer, I’m always biased on this, but felt that the voice was hiding a little behind the guitar and would love to hear more. I also felt the delay on the opening vox felt more than I expected with such an acoustic sound picture. Cool background voices, really nice!

I mostly enjoyed the repetition, it creates a sense of relentlessness, a driving imagery that worked with the lyrics and gives a certain power to the song. I would like it to build a little earlier, loved it when things opened up at around 6’19" 'In the evening"… there had been a cool sense of growing build up to that point but I wondered about fleshing that out a little more… By the time you are ‘walking wounded’ I keep hearing all sorts of backing vocals… LOVE the sense of imagery that your voice and words create here, there is a real epic sense.
mmm, very cool… would love to hear more!

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So glad you liked this, Emma!

I find it to be very folk sounding too. I’m glad you mentioned that. I don’t typically write in this kind of folk style, so I kept asking myself “is it my imagination or does this sound like dark folk music?” I’m happy that I could elicit that kind of vibe since I don’t have many songs that have that same exact sound. I really like to have a lot of variety in my songwriting.

I totally get where you’re coming from regarding the amount of delay on the vocals (particularly on the lower vocals, in the first half of the song). I too was thinking that there might be a bit to much delay happening there…maybe even too much vocal delay throughout the song. The delay does seem to work better with the higher vocals though.

These are very good points! I was thinking of adding some backing vocals/ harmonies during the high singing, later in the song. I agree that I should work on fleshing the song out more as it’s building to a crescendo.

Thank you for your help. I really appreciate your point of view! This really helps me to clarify the thoughts I’ve had about this song. You and the gang here are so helpful !

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Hey Wicked, this is a great listen! I totally love the vibe! I agree with much of the comments, not necessarily about the length, but the way you could build and add interest.

I’m trying to put my finger on the Pink Floyd song this sort of reminds me of… (Shoot, hang on a sec.)

OK, just back from reminiscing with Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Not sure this is “the one”, but still, Pink Floyd were masterful at taking a repetitive theme and building and adding elements and mixing things up so it always kept the song moving. i.e. Mother, Hey You and Goodbye Blue Sky…

All good! But maybe you can borrow some ideas for other elements or arrangements that might work with your piece?

Thanks for sharing!

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I like your idea, Mike!

I’ll listen to that song. Maybe I should check out other Pink Floyd songs too. I like the idea of building the song more. I definitely want to add more arrangements and change some things so that the song becomes a better listen.

Thanks for the comments, Mike!
Glad you like the tune!

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I always loved Time/ Breathe from Pink Floyd. It’s a song that’s haunted me since I was a kid, even though I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time…It seemed to linger in my subconscious. Those lyrics and the vibe are epic. Most other Pink Floyd song seem pale in comparison. I’ve been very familiar with Wish You Were Here since I was a young kid but it’s only starting to grab me now. It’s not my favourite but I do understand the appeal.

Does anyone else here equate Pink Floyd and Supertramp? For some reason I do. I’m a much bigger fan of Supertramp though. They have so many great songs!

Does anyone else equate certain bands with another?

The Beatles - The Rolling Stones
Led Zeppelin - Deep Purple
KISS - Aerosmith
Judas Priest - Iron Maiden
Metallica - Megadeth - Anthrax - Slayer
Boston - Foreigner

Might be a fun topic for another thread.

Really nice song. I loved the vocal harmonies, they sounded really nice. The only thing that bothered me was one of the guitars had something going on in the treble/upper mids that sounded almost like static. If you could EQ that out I think the guitars would be perfect. The overall vibe is really nice and the guitar parts sound very clear without being overbearing.

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Thanks for the listen and comments, Chandler!

I didn’t notice any static sound, but I’ll solo each guitar individually to try to find it. You might be hearing a dominant frequency, possibly. Hopefully I can find the offending noise you’re talking about.

The acoustic guitars haven’t been processed at all. No EQ, compression, or reverb. Totally dry. I’ll probably keep them completely dry since nobody has complained about the lack of effect on them.

I appreciate your comments!

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Hey, I love that project! There is a lot of very good material in there to make a great song. It reminds me of so many great progressive rock bands of the 70s, yet it is hard to pinpoint one in particular so it doesn’t sound like you’re copying someone.

A lot of great advice has been given so I don’t really have anything meaningful to add. I’ll just say that I love the layered guitars, and to foster the illusion of a 12-strings further, I would do some light editing on the timing so that the important transients on both sides are more in sync.

Definitely, yes. They were my 2 favorite bands when I was a teenager, I’ve listened to every single album countless times and there is a lot in common (many things set them clearly apart too!).

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I’m trying to figure out which band or artist it sounds like too. I agree that there’s definitely a 70’s vibe to this song. My favourite era in music! It kind of sounds like classic rock and folk mixed together. Then again, there probably are some bands that mixed the two styles back in the 70’s. Bands like Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, Zeppelin, etc.

That could be a good idea!

I had the guitars mixed a bit differently while I was laying down the vocals and they sounded even more like a 12-string than they do in the mix I posted. I think it was because I had the guitar with the high arpeggios turned up louder. I’ll have to try that again and maybe do a remix.

Thanks so much for taking the time and effort to listen to the song and sharing your ideas! Really glad you liked it!

A few names come to mind: Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Led Zeppelin…

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I agree, it sounds similar to a few. But listen to the "oooo oooo"s and the guitar part at about 30 seconds in the following video of “Goodbye Blue Sky”, one of the Pink Floyd songs I mentioned above. :wink:

I like the “dark folk” description…

Just spitballing:

  • I was thinking maybe one thing you could do for some variation is the mixing of the guitar parts you already have. i.e. You could start with one simple, plain riff, then add the other parts at various times with various FX. Maybe wen it’s sounding like a 12 string, you could use that sound for the chorus or the verse sections? Then change it up for the others.
  • You could also start with the guitar part stripped down and simple, then keep adding more of the doubles and/or FX or what have you and use that as part of the build?
  • Same idea with the vocals. You could maybe build up with those too. (?)

:slight_smile:

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That Floyd song is pretty interesting. I’m not very familiar with it but I’ve heard it before. I can kind of see/ hear why Pink Floyd is so iconic. Good stuff there!

Lots of good ideas that you mentioned, Mike.

The first acoustic arpeggio pattern that starts the song is pretty sparse and simple, but I could definitely mute some of the acoustic doubles and bring them in a bit later in the song. Then further along in the song I could bring in the second, melodic acoustic arpeggios to shift gears a bit.

Really there are only 2 distinctly different acoustic guitar patterns, excluding the octaves/ doubles and inversions. But these patterns can be built like you suggested.

That’s the exact reason the song is so long already. Haha. I was trying to fit all my vocal melodies and patterns (and testing the feel of some lyrics) into the song…,and as I kept adding them, I found myself at about 7 minutes into the song. In the beginning of the song I started singing in a lower register and I slowly kept going higher, while changing the melodies and the pattern/ phrasing of the vocal. I was thinking of going even higher when the whole band kicks in, at the end. Maybe some screaming melodies…Or just higher melodies. I’ve been casually mulling it over for a few days. I was also intending to throw in some soaring (melodic) lead guitar licks or a guitar solo near the end, when the music gets heavy. I’m getting the feeling that this song is not going to get shorter! It might end up being 12 minutes long. :rofl: :scream: :rofl: I’ll have to feel it out. I don’t think this one is going to be complete if I cut it down to 5 minutes. I could cut a lot of stuff out and make it shorter but I don’t think I’ll be able to fully realize the song and the expression that I’m trying to display.

Yep, that’s all I was driving at is mixing things up to keep it moving and changing, even if it’s subtle. And if you think it needs to be 12 minutes long, then make it 12 minutes long, it’s your song. :wink:

The Wall was on endless repeat when I was in 11th grade. Before that, Dark Side Of The Moon. Listening again now to Us And Them, it’s every bit as relevant now as when it was written. Same with Time. So many really great songs by these guys! Anyway…

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I really like this song and the vibe it is giving. Having read what many people have said, I sit in the middle of the length debate. I actually don’t mind that the song is as long as it is even though it is repetitive. There are just enough elements that come and go to keep in interesting enough for me. That said, I would personally add more subtle things that appear just in the one section once and never again.
Eg: A phasing lowish synth that swirls around during a verse to make it a little darker, or a low rumbling drum (like a kettle drum smothered in reverb, or maybe JUST the reverb effect and moved in time with the song) or just little effects and harmonies, little guitar licks… just little signatures that make cameos and are not seen/heard again.

Wasn’t sure on the end at first, just after the first chord as I was not expecting it but I adjusted quickly and really liked it. I think the balance of some of the elements could use some evening out as some notes (particularly the bass) are inconsistent. Likely to be the instrument rather than the playing, but listen to the bass notes at 6:55 compared to the notes at 7:03ish and the latter notes are way louder.

But other than that, I really liked it. I would buy an album/EP of this style!

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I think this is exactly what is needed for the song. I was thinking of having some little bits of orchestration weaving in and out in certain sections of the song. Since I don’t have any have any cellos/ violins/ etc., I was thinking I could use my keyboard to add those kinds of elements. I might try out some piano sounds too. I’ll also be trying some guitar swells (maybe harmonize them, or maybe not).

I really like your idea about using swirling synths and the low kettle drum! I had tried adding some subtle midi bongos (similar to the bongo percussion in Zep’s Ramble On) and tried to add a gong at one point, but it was a total disaster. The midi bongos didn’t even sound like bongos (they were actually tom toms) and the gong was just a big cracking crash cymbal. Haha. But now that you bring up the idea of the kettle drum/s, I’m curious to see if something like that would work. If I had a real set of bongos, I suspect that might work too.

I’ll check the bass out to see what’s happening there. I haven’t noticed anything but it’s very possible that I missed it. :+1:

Thanks so much for taking the time to listen and comment! I know it can be time and energy consuming (especially taking the time to listen to an 8 minute + song!). I really appreciate your help!

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