That's What They Said About 'Nam - need some tips please

That's What They Said About 'Nam - need some tips please
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EDIT: 2nd Version after feedback

So, I took on and worked on as much of the feedback as I could. Changelist:

  • Adjusted tone of the gritty end of the bass to have some accents cut through more in the chorus sections (that was something I wanted, as no-one could hear them to advise me to increase the vol :wink:)
  • Changed Tom samples - they are far more powerful and audible now with that change alone. In fact, I had to pull them down a touch too.
  • Added a new snare sample and adjusted blend of current ones
  • Pulled down vocals slightly, but the other changes made the vocals seem to balance better on their own anyway. Are they still too loud, too quiet now or Goldilocks?
  • Brought down the backing vocals at the end
  • Increased overheads and adjusted eq to bring out more high end splash
  • Actually edited the drums to better highlight the guitar accents before the first verse
  • Brought down the guitars a hair in the verses.

As a side note, it seems that whilst eMastered (the online mastering software that I actually really like) is taming my snare. Is it cutting through enough? I hope so but I can’t tell anymore.
Further feedback appreciated.


Hey folks. I’m working on a new project under the name Alien Lard and would love some feedback regarding some of the mixing elements.
This is the first finished song, called “That’s What They Said About 'Nam”.

The genre/style of the songs have the following features:

  • Mostly two guitars, bass and drums, minimal overdubs besides the odd extra guitar
  • A live, raw feel. I won’t be editing performances much nor clearing out buzzes and noise. Think garage rock.
  • Vocals are largely aggressive (I find this hard but I think I’m getting better… maybe) along the lines of Helmet and the references I have pasted below. You can see some are distorted which is what i went with in this song.
  • Lyrics are not overly important, it’s more about feel. I’m taking on more character/attitude than deep story telling as such.

I gave recorded the vocals to songs so far through my Golden Age PRe 73 and running it hot so it distorts, but also adding more saturation or drive through plugs as well.

Would love to hear your overall thoughts on the sounds and if it is at all fatiguing (and if so, which elements.) References are also below in case…

HERE’S THE ROUGH MIX:

References - Silver devil (vocal style sound)

Whores. (Musical Style and vocal aggressiveness)

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I think your sound fits right in with the styles of these other 2 bands. Your vocals seem much louder and forward in the mix. But those other bands seem to have the vocals a bit too low in their mixes…I’m not sure which I prefer.

Whore has by far the most aggressive vocals but your vocals get very aggressive on the scream at the 2:00 mark and the “and I’ll take it” at the end. I like the aggressive vocals. They create a nice juxtaposition with the more melodic, smooth vocal.

The low end that you’re getting is very similar to the other bands. At first I was thinking you need more cymbals and high end cutting through your drum mix but after listening to the other bands I think that their drums seem to lack that high end shimmer too, so I think you’re right on track.

I really like the sound you’re getting ! Nice work !

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Interesting band/project name. I like the song. The intro is a cool riff, and grabs you with the tone. Then that ‘trebly’ guitar fades in the back as the darker thudding rhythm guitars come in. The style reminds me a lot of Stoner Rock (genre) that I listened to a few years ago. The dark plodding rhythm guitars are appropriate to that style. Kind of like early Black Sabbath. Modern attitudes would probably say some low mids need to be cut, but that’s how it’s supposed to sound.

Keep in mind I’m just listening on cheap computer speakers at the moment. The vocals sound good to me, and contrast with the dark guitars. The bass is very cool too, it’s got some top end grind that cuts through the dark guitars. The drums seem pretty good, and may be appropriate, though the snare has an over-compressed “plak” sound to me, and the cymbals get a bit lost - especially in the chorus. The cymbals could actually benefit by not being too dark IMO.

Someone posted something awhile back about “unbalanced mixing”, with the idea being that something needs to feel a bit “off” to keep your interest. That can make it intriguing, exciting, or fatiguing - or all at the same time! :slightly_smiling_face: I liked Stoner Rock, but I did find it a bit fatiguing as well. But not so much that listening to a good song would make it a problem (the whole albums of Stoner Rock bands would sound the same IMO). I may have to give it a little time and listen again to see if I can figure out anything that truly feels fatiguing, so I’ll try to report back.

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Question on the bass guitar: Do you have two separate parts in there? It seems like a very low end and less distinct bass is meshing nicely with the dark guitars, and then that higher end sounding grinding bass that I hear doing some ‘noodling’ seems like an extra part. Almost a “lead bass” fill or something.

Also, since the song is just under 3 minutes, that helps keep it from being fatiguing IMO. The Stoner Rock songs would be 5-6 minutes sometimes, and that tended to emphasize the fatiguing elements.

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Hi! nice work on the song. Catchy.
Any particular reason for those references in general? I personally like the garage rock style but both references have some balance issues in general , Silver devil is pretty squashed, most drum related transients are suffering, same thing is noticeable in your mix as well. Not sure if its an intended thing or not but drums could use a bit of tlc in general. Kick has some bleed that is coming through fairly audible. Ghost notes are pushed pretty far up likely from compression/limiting that is masking the overall kick and snare groove in general. I think a bit of editing and balancing the track is a good practice even for garage rock. I have heard some pretty slick sounding garage bands. Great song, guitar sounds are great!

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I’m all about the loud garage rock bands!! This was the music that lost me friends in the 90’s and early 00’s! But your mix is aggressive - which is good. I listened to all 3 tracks in your post on my lovely computer speakers with an over-enthusiastic subwoofer. The 2 reference tracks were full on. Heck the first reference track - Silver Devil may have damaged the foundations of my house. Was not expecting it to be that loud. Those two references actually use “muddiness” - for want of a better word as their main feature. Your track has far more clarity across the board - which if you’re going for - good job!

Your track actually reminded me of my favourite Polish Progressive Rock band, Riverside. I used to hate the distortion on the singers vocals, but over the years I’ve come to fall in love with such aggressive vocal treatment:

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Yeah I agree. I felt they were too upfront too, so I will likely pull them back a touch, especially as they are quite bright with the distortion element.

I have no experience in aggressive vocals but watched a few vids that I believe Andrew recommended (I think) which helped me and saved my voice. I only want to have the full on stuff every now and then but I am glad they worked ok thus far.

Thanks. Yeah, I’m not sure on that level either yet. They are close to the references, but I’m still not sold. The issue with that song is that the hi-hat is literally not played once, it is all crashes which is what I wanted for that song. I was conscious of the harshness being fatiguing.

Thanks Stan. Yeah, I have had that name floating around for a LONG time. It was a based on an idea of taking the word Adrenalin (which would be the premise for the style of music) and rearranging the letters, yet I quickly realised that I skipped an N and added an extra L. Still, I liked the name so it’s been sitting in the memory bank until now.

Yeah, it and the other songs will have that element of stoner rock for sure. I don’t think I want the songs to be as thick as those references, but I want it to have a decent amount of power in the low end.

Great stuff. Glad the bass cut through ok. I have a preset that I made ages ago that is my go to for bass on anything rock, so it is just a slight variant on that and often get positive remarks on the tone.
I’m really struggling with the drums, which is odd, as they are Steven Slate Drum samples and I have built and rebuilt the kits several times to try and make them fit better. Looks like they need more work!

As mentioned above, it’s one track. I sometimes make a send and strip back all the mid and high end stuff and then compress just the lows and adjust to taste, but I didn’t this time.
I want all these songs to be around the 3 min mark. This project is designed to be almost the antithesis of my previous project (Giggons) which was longer, layered and more intricate. Alien Lard is designed to be made quickly. Each of the five songs have been musically written in one sitting because there’s no frill and I’m not overthinking anything. This one is about having fun and getting it done.

Thanks Michelle. Yes, Silver Devil was more about the vocal sound as I am not a naturally aggressive singer and so I felt I needed that layer of saturation/distortion to assist me in that department. Whores was more of a stylistic reference of the general song style and structure more so than sonically.

AS I mentioned previously, I am really struggling with the drums, so I am glad you mentioned it. I am using Steven Slate Drum samples and have done very little processing to the drums at all - which makes me think that there are just general issues with them clashing with the other instruments, but they are getting more positive statements so I kinda don’t want to touch them as much. I will investigate further and see what I can do.

That is likely just a touch of reverb on the kick as there should be no other bleed being samples. I’m pretty certain there is no bleed in the plug in form the kick to any other sample track.

Thank you. I really wasn’t sure about the guitars so that’s great to hear. I mean, I liked them when tracking, but once I finished the rough mix, I thought they may be too bright and harsh. Glad that doesn’t seem to be the case!

Ha! Glad you enjoyed the experience.

I reckon that I am going for the less muddy sound but I still want some thickness there to give it some power.

I will most definitely check them out! Thanks for the tip!

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Now listening on my studio monitors, I’d say that the drums need the most differentiation in elements. At least to minimize the fatigue. Perhaps I’m saying “sameness = fatigue” in terms of tone. Perhaps the lead vocal and backing vocals could be pulled back a touch, but that’s relative IMO. I’d probably hold on the snare, it doesn’t sound as problematic now, but making the cymbals more high-end splashy + getting the toms to stand out more from the snare might make a big difference. In other words, leave the snare and make the toms a bit more midrangey/pokey and the cymbals even more high-end splashy. Give each element some differentiation.

I think your overall treatment of the vocals, including reverb, are quite good, so I hesitate to see anything change there. They are bold, no doubt, but it drives the song so it seems like the essential element.

The kick seems good to me, never stood out as odd at all. Perhaps the most flawless element of the whole mix.

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I am digging it. I do find that that the guitars are overpowering the drums and the bass. They sound great but I think that the main guitar could come back a few notches. Interestingly enough I wonder if this little piece by Andrew might be helpful. Controlling Transients for a Punchy, Loud Mix (without excessive final limiting) . I am really looking forward to where this project.

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Agree on both fronts. Will be pulling back the vocals a touch, more so the backing ones but also leads.
I’m really surprised that the drums are proving difficult given they are already treated etc via Slate Samples, but I have swapped a bunch in and out trying to find the right combo of sound and clarity. I’ll keep plugging away as I am not married to any specific sound for this project as of yet, but I’d like to maintain the consistency once I do find one that sounds good and works.

Will give it a shot. I had heaps of trouble getting those toms to even be heard without it being all out attack. The lows of the bass is likely masking it but I want that thickness there from the bass so I’ll have to find another way.

Thanks mate. Boosted a tonne of lows there for that powerful kick. For once, I just used ol EQ and not Sasquatch which is my go to every time.

I heart ya. I think just a slight re balancing may be needed but I’m ok with the guitars being a little more prominent so long as they don’t do what you are saying and undoing the bass and drums which are the drivers.

Thanks Eric. I saw that post and had a quick read but will revisit it shortly in more depth. I did wonder that very thing when it came up.

Hopefully the project won’t take long to put together. The 5 songs have pretty well been recorded musically, but I have only lyrics/vocals for 2.5 songs and the aggressive stuff has to be recorded at opportune times, especially taking into consideration if I need my voice at all later that day. I think I am doing it well enough (technique wise) that I am not damaging my throat, but it is physically difficult for the untrained and I felt pretty spent after doing each of the first two songs!

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I hear you. I am looking forward to hearing this. Pretty pumped.

I might know since you told me this is not technically live from your garage, Dan, but you have done a superlative job conveying that vibe! I haven’t read anybody’s suggestions or criticisms, and I’m not big on the technical points, but for me as a rock aficionado this is pretty satisfying on many levels. I like how the guitars come in and the bass, so they stand out briefly before becoming the onslaught of sound of a song like this. Drums sound pretty darn good to me, not overly complex but full of energy.

As far as your vocals, they fit the punk power of the music well. It is only a Ramones length song, so I didn’t have time to get too fatigued. I am guessing as part of a set of 5 songs it has some distinctive character, melody, mood, lyric, to keep it moving, even if you nearly blow out your voice on every cut.

You imply lyrics are not so important, and I can see that here. That being said, I thought the spoken chorus with the title line was pretty clever and a top feature of the song’s concept. Cynical enough for serious rock that is anti-war anti-industrial/military complex without getting political, and on a first listen that stuck in my mind while the rest of the words did not. To me, that’s an accomplishment not to be discounted.

Concept is key to any project, and if you come off as feeling inspired and emotionally invested, well, you might be on to something extra special, dude. This is a strong start.

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Thanks Steve,

I really appreciate those comments. This was designed to be a project that I could smash out pretty quickly and have fun doing it, not overthinking much, rocking out. The music came together really fast, as did some lyrics, but after the first couple of songs, I hit a wall vocally.
Turns out, these comments are what I needed - I was reticent to post this one initially as I am not a confident singer at the best of times, let alone doing something like this. I’m glad the reception has been positive overall!
And with that, I have now fully recorded 4 songs of the 5, with me knocking out 2 and a half vocally today. Turns out I am starting to develop a bit of a technique which is meaning my voice is relatively intact (considering the amount I did today) and I think I’m getting somewhere.

I will be posting an edited mix of 'Nam up shortly, to see if I have improved it or made it worse!
Lastly, the title is a based on a line I heard (misheard actually) on the radio (they were talking about banks, but that’s another story) and I liked my misheard version, so I built a story around that. It actually has zero to do with Vietnam at all, but the line is used as from the perspective of a paranoid guy who sees signs and indications in everything, ranging from minuscule relationship habits to world events to reaffirm his standpoint. Not sure if that makes sense but it’s not too in-depth anyway.

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Hi Dan, great to hear you putting out some new stuff! Sounding pretty ferocious! I had a listen to the new mix and these are my thoughts after comparing with the references.:

  • Frequency wise, the mix is a bit “lumpy-sounding”. It is very prominent in the low mids , centred around the180hz mark extending down to 80hz and up to about 400hz. My guess is that there is a lot of energy from the drums in that area, as that is what gets softer when I cut some of that out.

  • There is another big “lump” in the high mids, extending from around the 2.6k area up to about 4k.

  • I think if you could craft the individual elements for a more “even” frequency response when combined together, the mix would sound both tighter in the low end and less abrasive at the top.

  • The vocals still don’t “nest” well in the mix for me. I think that “lump” in the high mids is causing you to have to set the vocal level too loud for it to feel like it sits down “in” the music, rather than “on top of” it. (The frequency “lump” in the high mids is there before the vocals come in).

This is a really difficult style to mix, because it is such a “wall of sound”. Very difficult to find the balance between definition and that sense of power and weight. It’s also very easy for your ears to get tired, so I’d recommend lots of ear breaks and aural “palette-cleansers”.

Kudos on your productivity and creativity!

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Thanks Andrew,
Agree regarding the wall of sound. It’s a little odd, as while I’m ok with that feel, it’s crazy how it has occured given it is 3 guitars, bass, drums and vocals. The melodic (if we can call it that) guitar in the choruses is a stereo setup which will definitely be adding to that!
I will fiddle more and see what I can do.

Those references are more for vocal tone (silver devil) and genre/style (Whores) rather than mix per se.
Curiously, would you be looking at a frequency analyser and pulling out low/high mids in the areas you suggested from those instruments where they are most prominent? How would you go about what you mentioned above?

I definitely don’t recommend mixing via frequency analyser, but it sure is handy when you sense that something is a little off, but you can’t really put your finger on it… I usually pull it up to just to see if what I’m hearing is confirmed by what it indicates.

That said, things like room mics on drums and low end in guitars can really clog up the low mids, as well as bass. Sometimes compression on drums can really get the low mid frequencies “ringing”, which can contribute as well. It’s really hard to say without hearing the parts in solo.

If you have a reference of a similar style that you are using for the mix, it can sometimes be instructive to compare the overall frequency response of your mix with it. Also, soloing, say kick and bass together, and then bass and guitars together, and then comparing their frequency response can also help identify where there might be frequency overlaps causing a build-up.

I hope that answers your question.

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offtopic but I am curious what do you use? bird sounds? fresh air? wheatgrass shots? bergamot tea?? contraband stuff??? big box of dark chocolates???
nothing works for me the way I want it to ( not that I am admitting to consuming anything John Williams wont :see_no_evil:)
but I am open to ideas!

I had a good think of what sonic similarities a referemce may have @ColdRoomStudio and figured the song below has the most similar feel that I’d be after in regards to instrumentation, with the Silver Devil styled vocals. I haven’t imported into the session to directly cross reference but I can already hear the difference on my PC speakers. That said, I probably do want a little more mud (for lack of better terms) in this project, but a happy balance may be what I am after.

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Kick ass. congrats

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Very jarring with great energy. I can feel the anger. The only comment I have is the tails on the vocal might be a touch prominent compared to the other instruments. To me it makes it sound a little odd with the forward nature of everything else. Maybe bringing down the effect level a touch would be all you need.
Everything else slaps you in the face like it should. Great job.

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