This is a new mix of a song by John Scuderi, called Wings For You. It’s from a monthly mix competition of sorts over at AMC.
@miked and I both mixed this, and we are dueling over there, and he’s killing me! Whoopin’ me badly.
On this mix I added acoustic guitars (original mix only had some MIDI guitars that didn’t sound natural). I’ve already gotten my hands smacked cuz my timing was not tight enough on the two guitar parts I added. Re-worked it and am feeling they’re pretty tight now (turns out there were some timing issues on the original track also, and my timing problems made it worse).
That acoustic timing seems good. I am not sure that I like the sound of it, it is a bit jangly like it needs some highmids pulled down. I also find the kick to be too point I want it to go down in level and have a more round sustain which I would suggest doing with boz’s transgressor 2, but there may be some eq going on there where you have pulled out too much of the low end on the kick. I also feel like the snare is cutting through too much and needs more body. Other than that it is sounding good. The vocal treatment is golden, strings feel good, piano is sounding good and your overall dynamic changes are really good.
I liked the overall vibe. The vocals are pretty good. The low strings are a bit bright 0:51 and a wee bit loud. The piano 0:17 is a bit bright and noisy as well unless it was intended that way. I think it could be low passed a bit to soften it up. I liked the chorus and the way it is executed at 1:26 . Nice work
Overall the balance is good, but there seems to be too much going on in the upper mids in all the instruments. The kick drum is really snappy, which isn’t nessicarily bad, but it sounds more like a metal kick instead of something for a soft ballad like this. I think the piano and guitar also have a similar thing going on. I think it sound pretty good overall, but it just needs a little polish. Perhaps some more delay on the vocals or other effects could help too. I like the song and the added guitars though, it adds a nice vibe.
Hah! You should have heard my kick in the previous draft of this. I actually added a lot of low end to this version. I have a lot of difficulty with my low end. My room is not treated (yet) so I can’t go by that (the low end just rolls around my room and makes everything feel so bassy). So I mix on Sennheiser HD600s, which help a ton, but they are (purposefully) very flat; to my ear, they make things sound so bassy. That’s not a problem with the headphones; it’s my issue. I do reference, but need to learn that I have to be more generous down there. I actually did cut out a good bit of the kick with my HPF. Clearly I need to bring it back. I’ll fix this and will be eager to hear what you think.
I’ll see what I can do with the mids overall, and the vox. Again, thanks for taking the time to listen. Much, much valued.
Dbl bass and cello yes. Double basses are notoriously hard to mix in. They are known to add noise and make your low end harsh. You may have to eq it and narrow its spread down. In your case, you might be able to get away by turning it down a notch. For the piano, you may be able to push it back a bit with a well placed low pass.
Hi! I’m writing as I listen to your mix and discover the song without having read the other comments yet.
The guitar and piano sounds have a lot of character, which is promising for the rest of the song. When the vocals start, I feel like they’re not jumping at you enough, and I think that this is because the guitar has a lot of gritty hi-mids (maybe too much pick noise?) which are drawing my attention away from the vocals.
When the strings come in it’s even more pronounced: between the guitar, piano and strings there’s is a lot of medium range content that competes with the vocals and some syllables are getting buried in the mix.
When the drums and the bass come in, I’m hearing a slight frequency imbalance, with not much going on in the highs while the hi-mids are being a little harsh at times. Also, even though the dynamic range is clearly good, your mix seems very loud with possibly some distorsion on some transients.
On “you take your time”, something is vanishing for a brief moment, I think it’s the bass. What is happening here?
Later when the snare is replaced by rimshots I’m hearing some inconsistency in the vocals again, both in dynamics control and coherence between sides. Specifically at 2:42 on “with all your mind”, one of the layers is disappearing and the end of that sentence can only be heard on the left side.
Around 3:40 there is some vanishing going on again on several instruments, the most obvious being the kick with some of the hits almost inaudible while they’re really prominent throughout the rest of the song.
The ending delay “fly away with me” is a cool trick but I think it’s lingering for too long.
For what it’s worth, I think the production isn’t great on this song with a lot of programmed instruments sounding very rigid, a questionable choice of kick sample and a few other issues that just can’t be fixed in the mix. That’s a shame because the songwriting is great and the vocals are great too! The vocal tone reminds me of Phil Collins.
Wow, THANK YOU for this. For the detailed listen and critique. Giving me a lot to work on here.
Some of the data I had to work with was tough. The original had two MIDI guitar parts that I really did not care for cuz it wasn’t played in a way that you’d play a guitar. I replaced the two guitar parts. I do agree, the guitar treatment – esp the EQ – just doesn’t sound right.
The bass was tough: it was a MIDI bass part, but only the audio was presented, and unfortunately on a number of phrases there was no sustain at the end of the note and it just abruptly cut off. Very difficult to fix. I suspect that might have been what you were hearing with the bass?
Your ears are better than mine: my meters to suggest some clipping on the drums, though (unlike you) I can’t hear it. Will work on that too.
Love your explanation of the mids competing with the vox. I can see that.
Good call on the kick at 3:40. I missed that.
Yeah, this is really helpful. Got some good stuff earlier as well. A lot of changes to make here. Will work on it and repost.
I’m gonna embarrass myself with a question that shows how little I know! But here goes…
Could you talk more about what you mean by production? I’m taking you to be contrasting that with the mix, per se. Just curious cuz I’m thinking I probably have took production to mean “everything” from start to finish (arranging, tracking, instumentation, editing, mixing, mastering).
Is production different than mixing?
So, you pointed out a lot of issues with the mix; when you talk about production, I’m taking that to refer to the raw material I have to work with? The instrumentation, the tracking, etc?
Nothing embarrassing at all, and someone else’s answer might be different from mine here so don’t take this as gospel truth! Actually my comment was prone to confusion indeed, because production can have different meanings in different contexts. And you’re totally right, in general production encompasses everything from songwriting to mastering.
The thing is, for a lot of artists, some of the intermediate steps tend to be overlooked quite often, sometimes skipped altogether. If we’re considering this simple, chronological way to break it down:
Songwriting (melody/chord progression/lyrics)
Arrangement (song structure, orchestration)
Pre production (deciding who will perform what, where and how the final song will be recorded and other things like that)
In my experience, a lot of non-signed artists are skipping steps or mixing them together, most of the times they are going through 2 steps which are:
Recording, arranging, mixing (simultaneously)
This results in a less than perfect production, with things that could have been easily improved with not much more than a little time or perspective. A producer can help improve the final product tremendously, but it’s hard for people to let go of some of the control they have on their own music (not even considering financial matters).
In the present situation, I was referring to the fact that a good production job would have included selecting drum kit samples that fit the song genre perfectly, a proper drummer and a proper keyboardist to perform these parts and other things that would have brought this song to its full potential (which I believe is far greater than what has been achieved in terms of recording).
Some producers specialise in some of the process only, but in general the producer is the driving force that makes it happen and delivers a pro final product. There is a great thread here on this topic.
I’m sure you knew all of that already, it’s just a matter of clarifying something I had poorly phrased in the first place.
Production is the whole process. From what you said earlier, this is someone else’s mix and production and you added some new creative elements? That is normally referred to as an extension of the production.
Hey Tes, back for another listen again. Good idea to get the excellent ears here on your version! Lots of great input.
I had a thought with your arrangement. Maybe you could pause your guitar part when the singing starts so we can focus on the vocal more. Then you could bring it back for the build or the chorus? Just an idea…
The one thing that is really poking out to me is the kick. It feels too aggressive for this song. Maybe turning it down or softening the attack might help it blend better?
You’ve also got a lot of time on the ending there. You may want to fade out quicker.
I’ve gotten so much excellent crit on this thread (thanks all!) but have been SWAMPED with work and haven’t had a chance to do much with it. Working on it, and already have incorporated much of this feedback, to good effect.
Feel like a poop cuz it’s been almost a week since you guys commented and I haven’t been able to get to it! UGH! I want the world to slow down.
Yeah, I agree. I really love this song. And the guy’s voice – John Scuderi – is a knock-it-out-of-the-park clone of Cat Steven’s. Gorgeous, and works on this song in a big way.
However, that said, I guess I really did not care at all for the production, as you guys have pointed out. The drums sounded not very nice to me. There was no “real” guitar, but only two MIDI guitars that sounded so “MIDI”. Not played in a way that you’d really play guitar. The bass was “nice” but was cut off at the end of phrases. The strings were harsh.
So I did a ton of editing. Resampled the drums (so any mismatch there is on me!) and replaced the drums altogether on the choruses and bridge. Recorded two totally new guitar parts.
In this re-mix I tried to incorporate as much of the feedback I got here as I could. Michelle, your comments on the strings were awesome. I’m hoping I moved in the right direction?
Totally remixed the drums and edited the bass heavily. @redworks, thanks for the crit on the drums. Yup on the metal sound of the kick. How’s this?
Also, made changes to the piano/guitar competition: I did a lot or remixing of the piano per Michelle; also I actually got a comment from the guy that took 2nd place in the iZotope mix contest at AMC, who suggested he’d like to hear a version with only guitar and no piano. I just didn’t have the courage to do it – plus really liked the keys, esp in the intro – so I used them prominently in the intro – just thought it was so pretty – and then scaled them back a LOT. Still there, but definitely this production became predominantly guitars.
I’m really eager for feedback, cuz this is a bit of stepping out there for me. And it’s new for me doing production/changes/additions to a mix.
My biggest question is about my low end. When I err I almost always err by not having enough. I referenced heavily. I’m thinking I can probably scale it back.
I would love input on the bass: I really tried to get a tighter “thump” with the bass; I feel like I’m close, but just DK how to quite get it there.
Anyway, here’s my first mix for bashing. Hope I’m moving in a better direction.
I actually thought so as well. Also resembles Phil Collins which is also one of my all time favorite voices. Anyway getting to the 2nd mix. I definitely hear a lot of improvements. The the ambience on the piano seems great. The guitar is also a lot less “tinny” sounding. Drums are tamed and accent the mix.
among some nitpicks, some high sibilance is still interfering with the mix. Could be the reverb tails fighting. Might want to eq the reverb envelope. High strings could also use a bit more low pass.
When the bass guitar comes in at 2:03, its beautiful but its not having the impact it likely should. I would automate the string tail and reverb tail right to die out slightly before the bass impacts so its clearer. Among other things, the noise level might be a bit higher for the tempo of the song. I like a good analog crackle but at times it can get in the way if its too loud.
This is good stuff, Michelle. Thank you for this. Could you clarify a few things for me? I’m realizing there’s so much for me to learn here…
New concept for me? What does that mean to say the tails are fighting? I “think” it means that I need to LPF the verb cuz it’s accentuating the sibilance on the voc? Am I close? So, assuming sibilance is in the 5K to 3K range – maybe even 3-4K? – a LPF down to 1-2K?
And when you LPF the high strings, any thoughts on how low that might go. For sure I’ll do it by ear, but it’d be helpful to have a frame of reference, cuz I am not well-grounded in what strings should sound like (man, that sounds awful! Such a neophyte!).
Nice. Love this. Consider it done. Good call.
So, I’m thinking something like Izotope’s Vinyl? Is that what you mean? Or are you talking more like tape noise?
But also, could you explain your comment about the connection between noise level and song tempo? This is foreign to me.
Also (if I may) I got a few comments over on AMC that they didn’t like the “groove” of the drums on the choruses. I actually really like it and strongly prefer it over the original, which was very simple. Would love yours – and anyone’s – thoughts on that.