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audio Looking for some feedback

Discussion in 'Fix This MIX!' started by ClarkJaman, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Hey guys!

    I posted a couple months ago looking for some feedback on a praise and worship album that I was just starting to mix. I am finishing up that same album now, and looking for some more feedback on a few of the songs:
    Rough Mixes | JungleHeart Productions

    1) I Am Yours- I just rendered this one yesterday, so it's still pretty fresh to my ears. Any constructive criticism would be helpful
    2) Majesty- I feel like this is the best recording I have ever done, so I wanna get the mix really good. Any ideas you guys have, even if it's subtle, finicky things, I would appreciate.
    3) Wonderful Are You- I'm pretty happy with how this one is sitting, but feel free to give me pointers for this one to.
    4) Symphony of Praise- This is the one I posted already.

    Here's the catch- 3 and 4 I mixed on my AKG121 headphones and iMac speakers, but since then I got a pair of KRK V4 monitors that I've been working with. 1 and 2 were mixed on the V4s. I find the songs I mixed on the headphones/iMac have a lot of bass and low mids to compensate for the tinniness of my iMac speakers, and the ones I mixed on the V4s have more balanced midranges. When I listen back to Symphony of Praise now, the first song I mixed, it seems too beefy and muddy, but when I listen to the songs mixed on the V4s through my iMac speakers, they sound tinny and hurt my ears. How do you professional guys get your mixes sounding good regardless of what you listen to them on?

    Pax Caritas et lol,
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I didn't listen to all of them entirely, just snippets, but based on what I heard...

    You've got a lot of gain reduction going on here. On vocals, on bass, on drums.... I have to ask, how new to this are you? It sounds like beginner mistakes in terms of reduction and EQ.

    For example,the piano in the first track is over compressed - and unless that's the sound you are looking for, which to my eras is thin, shallow and squashed, then you probably need to go back and give it another listen.

    The mixes across the board in general lack depth, they are very compressed, one dimensional, vocals are thin and in some cases upper mid heavy with very little substance, body or warmth.

    For the most part, there's not much space, depth, or air. You need to let these tracks breathe a little... actually, a lot.

    What mic and mic pre were you using? What was your gain reduction usage/stages - ratios, thresholds, attacks....? I can hear the compressor kicking in on a regular basis on the vocals.

    Unless you are VERY familiar and experienced with your headphones, it's probably not in your best interest to mix using them. You should stick to reference NF's as much as possible, and you should do that with every track. If you mix 3 tracks with headphones and 3 tracks with NF's, I guarantee you you'll be left chasing your tail in regard to tone.

    Here's what I think: I think perhaps you are too close to the mix, and that maybe it might benefit you having someone come in with fresh ears and fresh perspective - and if at all doable for you, you should pony up the cash and get a real engineer to take a listen, and perhaps remix these tracks for you.

    I'm not sure of the "sound" you are looking for, perhaps this is it, and if that's so, then that's fine... but it doesn't sound like a pro recording, at least not to my ears.

    I'm not trying to be offensive, that is not my intention. I'm simply telling you what I heard. Take it for what it's worth.

    Practice, practice, practice. ;)

  3. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    This is my second full length album, plus a few small projects and lots of messing around. I am definitely a beginner in the grand scheme of things. That's why I come here to learn from the more experienced engineers like yourself.

    I should have mentioned, for all the vocals I used a C414 through a Line6 UX8. I don't have a consistent vocal effect chain, especially because there's lots of different singers on this album, as you heard. But, I typically will run it fairly heavy through a compressor like the Waves H-Comp for example, with low attack and release time, but only at about 50% mix to get a parallel compression. Then I'll usually run it through an EQ, and from there some sort of reverb or delay and sometimes a limiter at the end of the chain just to bring the loudness up a tiny bit when necessary.

    Thanks for the feedback, I guess. It's a good reminder that I have a lot to learn, and a long ways to go. But that's not really what I was looking for. I already knew that I wasn't a professional, and hiring a professional to remix everything is not an option. I don't have the money for it, and that wouldn't help me learn and improve, which is kind of the whole point. The two useful pointers you gave me is that the piano is over compressed and the tracks don't breathe. Can you expand on that? What does that mean, and how can I counteract it?

    Pax Caritas et lol,
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    When large, heavy or drastic amounts of gain reduction are used - in any form, be it compression or limiting - it has the tendency to squash the "life" out of tracks. Things are so compacted that the tracks don't sound open or natural anymore, or, in other words, they don't "breathe".... heavy and drastic settings of gain reduction can build up, cascade and accumulate, particularly when you start using these settings and amounts of it on a track by track basis, and the instrumentation no longer exists in its own space dynamically or naturally, anymore.

    As a side note, if you are using a limiter plug on every track or on a track level basis, I would encourage you to not do so. Use compression as you need it, to tame transients and stop them from jumping out at you, but when you start to turn to limiting on every discreet track, you're asking for trouble sonically by the time you add all the tracks together.

    If a particular part is jumping out at you, you may want to consider using volume envelopes on just those sections that are out of hand... because if you are using heavy compression settings to accomplish this, you are also effecting the other sectons of audio around the peak that doesn't need it, so if you assign the gain reduction as a blanket across the entire track in heavy amounts, you may be compressing things that don't need compression.

    Gain reduction is generally used as a way to tame transients so that instruments can exist - or co exist - with the other parts around it. There are various ways to accomplish this, through EQ, panning and compression, but it's always best to consider the sound of the instrument on its own.... - for example, does the piano sound real to you? If you would reference another song that had piano in it, say a song by Elton John or Billy Joel, or even a commercial release within the genre of what you are working in, and then compare it to your own, does the piano sound the same to you? It doesn't even have to be a song that is heavily piano focused, but if there is a piano in the song, isn't it best to make it sound like a real player is playing a real piano?

    You could use the same theory on the vocals. And you need to be truthful with yourself, does the vocal tone on the song sound the same to you as it would if the vocalist was standing right in front of you and singing live?

    Now here's the disclaimer... if these tracks sound okay to you, and if the song on the whole is sounding the same to you as what you pictured it in your head, then you aren't doing anything wrong at all.

    Heavy amounts of compression, along with drastic sculpting of tone, can be used, and frequently are used as an effect.

    If this is what you were after, and you've accomplished what you set out to do, then it's nobody's place, particularly mine, to tell you what to do or how to do it.

    In short, if you don't think the track needs any sonic repair, then that's all that matters. If you were after a particular sound, maybe based on some other song you heard, and you feel you grabbed the essence of it, then you've succeeded.

    I'm not well versed with what is popular in contemporary Christian music these days in regard to production and engineering, Pax.

    You may very well be nailing the sound that is widely accepted in that genre right now, which is why I mentioned that if it sounds good to you, then that's all that matters.


  5. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Ok fair enough. One last thing I should mention is that although these tracks aren't "mastered" yet, I did run a compressor and limiter on the master out to get the effect of a mastered track for while I'm mixing. So at least I can assure you that the recordings won't breathe even less after they are mastered.

    I'm just trying to get a sense of your bias and where you're coming from before I go and make any drastic changes with the way that I use compression. Can you humour me and listen to a minute of two of this song:
    Kristian Stanfill - "Say Say" - YouTube

    To me, that song is over compressed and doesn't breathe at all. Yet it is mixed and mastered by top professionals. To my ears, my songs breathe much better. I would be interested to hear what you have to say comparing my songs and that one.

    Thanks again Donny.
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I think this is going to come as a shock to you all??

    I listen very carefully. Very very carefully, all the way through all four cuts. Really love the way you ended cut three LOL. I choked on my toke. LOL and I really think you are pulling our freakin' legs? I really enjoyed reading Donny's post because I really admire and respect him. He's a real pro like I am. I think I might also mention I have a Soul Train Music Award nomination, for best engineered Live Gospel. And... I'm an atheist Jew. However... I really love, really good contemporary Christian music and the recordings. I also worked with another guy that some of you contemporary Christian guys might remember from a generation ago, Don Moen? Your stuff Clark, is absolutely, positively, first rate. And what the heck Nashville studio did you do this in?

    Everything Donny said, was spot on. However, this is a beautiful example of fine, contemporary Christian music. There is nothing here for you to change or correct. It is correct. It's spot on! It is ready for the Mastering dude Guy to do his thing. So send it out to a nice Nashville Mastering House and be done with it! I mean I am perfectly serious here. This is a very highly stylistic quality to your engineering. You have a style here a moniker of mixing. Many engineers long for the day that their highly stylized technique of recording and mixing will be easily recognized by others. This is what I am hearing here. It's highly Pro tooled around with sounding but at the highest level of technique and expertise. So like I said, I really think you're pulling our leg?

    Should you do anything different? I don't think so. Should you change anything, anything at all? I don't think so. What I've heard here, whatever technical engineering minutia may have been overlooked, it's right. And some of these small minutia sized changes are what that mastering dude Guy is GUNNA' do.

    Preamps, interfaces, compression and limiting, gating, EQ, is all fully and expertly in play here. It's killer sounding! Or maybe I should say it's Inspirational sounding? It's both. Your stuff rocked my socks off! This is going to get some great broadcast on-air contemporary Christian airplay! You're going to win some kind of freakin' award and be in heaven while you're still freakin' God damned alive!... Maybe that didn't come out exactly right but this hedonistic cod damned crazy atheistic Jew love the God damned crap out of it! Sorry... there I go again. I'd buy your freakin' God damned record... sorry... somebody please stop me... I think I'm possessed?

    This is all perfectly right. Because it came from your inner magic. It came from creator.

    Sorry I agreed with you Donny. You're perfectly right in and oh so wrong way.

    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Well, I was going to comment on these tracks after Donny but waited. I'm in the middle on these all. I think they sound pretty darn good ( for what they are), so I'm surprisingly agreeing with you on this one Remy! But they could sound a lot better so I agree with Donny too. It depends what level we are talking. A ME could definitely improve them but its still not going to improve the over processed feel or lack of punch, over compressed and space missing. They are mixed nice, I like the balance and blend but are crammed and tame. Donny nailed it on the last response.

    I think you need better monitors Remy.

    Not that I'm any genius, but out of my own curiosity It would be interesting to see what I could do with one track. I think I'll try.
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    PS, just loading in Your Majesty and actually listening to it more seriously now. It is so phased out, nothing is right. Except I like the balance of the Vox. Its pop right in that regard.
    I know you need better monitors Remy hehe. All in fun. :wink: But I'm serious.
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Well, I can't do much with it other than give an example of more energy. This track is compressed wrong , crammed together and distorted for certain but , I spread it out to hear more of it, recklessly whacked a comp on it just to give it some thwack, added subs, low mids (where the money is!) and some top end around 12k and it does sound better in regards to giving it better energy, but the track really needs to be redone IMHO to get it to a pro level. Donny's correct from this POV.
    There is no punch, headroom left anywhere. Sounds like this song was recorded too hot and the converters sound very low end to me. It all sounds like a glass salad bowl is in front of me, or behind my head. Swirly and washed together.

    This is my idea of, more of what you want ClarkJaman.

    1. Majesty Mix5 | JungleHeart Productions
    2. https://soundcloud.com/audiokid/yourmajesty

    I added a few notes in the SC timeline. Hope that helps. Sorry for being hard and for taking the wind out of Remy's epic moment but. Your music is excellent, you just need some help like we are giving you and you will be sailing!

    First thing to always be sure of, unless you have stellar gear, and even then its a bad thing, record in the green, not yellow or ever in red. Never normalize your individual tracks in a full project. It sounds like you've done this? Avoid compression until you really understand sound. Its way better to learn how to make music sit well with out them until you know what you are doing. This comes with time. But you need the basics embedded first.

    In a digital world, people seem to think, if you can't see it, there is nothing there. In an analog world, that's where all the magic lives. When you undertand that, it all starts to makes more sense and this is when you can make cheap gear sound expensive.
  10. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Wow, now I am just confused and lost. I don't know what to think. :/ If you guys are all pros, how can you have such differing opinions?
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    About what?
  12. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    I would still be interested in what you guys think of a comparative analysis between my songs and this one, in terms of compression and breathing:
    Kristian Stanfill - "Say Say" - YouTube
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Someone needs better monitors or to stop sipping on the Christmas Spirit lol. Its really obvious.
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    For starter, that song is far more punchy. You can at least hear the kick. Buts its pretty poorly mastered too. Its really cluttered and poorly processed for online audio.
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Re Breathing:

    Your song is breathing in an untimely and poorly compressed way. The track you are referencing to, isn't suffering from the same thing. If you listen to my example of your track, I spread it out more so you can hear what breathing sounds like. Do you know what compression breathing sounds like?

    A trained engineer can hear this and this is what Donny heard right away.
    You can make breathing interesting in dubstep or dance music as a few examples but the way you've attempted to use compression, its not helping. The release timing isn't right plus its just not right. Plus, it sounds like you've used compression on all the tracks. The energy of the music is suppressed.

    Does this make sense?

    Did you normalize your tracks and use compression on them?
  16. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Yeah, but Remy's posts are always the most fun to read! :p

    I thought I did, but I don't know anything about how to time the breathing. Are "pumping" and "breathing" the same thing?

    Normalize, no. Compression, yeah, just about every track, and sometimes on the group channel tracks too, and on the master bus.
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Clark, I find everybody's comments quite valid. While at the same time, what we do is so 100% subjective, we would all approach your production from different angles. And then things get even more interesting when quite frequently, different people will do things completely differently and the end results still sound remarkably nearly identical. This is because we have all established our own highly refined techniques. Which doesn't mean that we all do things the same way. That's what they teach in school to do. And so I hear a lot of guys like yourself coming out of these recording schools all sounding like McDonald hamburgers. None of them have a unique or identifiable style at least not yet.

    I certainly marvel over good jacked up sounding engineering. Again, one of percent subjective but I like it. In fact, not to clash with Chris's concept, I didn't quite care for what he did. And I usually love everything I've heard from him. Same with Donny. So, one out of three ain't bad. Besides... I think I'm right.

    Now Chris was joking with me about the monitors. He doesn't know how right he was. I got two control rooms in my truck. Both with different monitor systems. One the largest. The other, about half the size. Then there is the 30 foot RV. That's currently got a pair of KRK Rock-It's been the coach. And a pair of FOSTEX 6301's in the rear post video suite a.k.a. the bedroom. And it was the 6301's that I was listening to this on and quite purposefully. I didn't listen to it on the larger JBL's. This was in a small room that is only 8 x 6 and being played out on a pair of monitors that are appropriate for a room the size that I think, most other people, will generally be listening to. This is not necessarily going to be normally listened to in control rooms or even on high quality playback systems. Most people don't have anything like that. And who will be buying this? Most people that's who. So, Chris was absolutely correct.

    Of course if I were to have done your mix, I'm not sure that I would have done it all that much differently? Yes, some of what Chris and Donny have expressed, I kind of coincide with, in places. But not across the board or so to speak LOL. And that's why I actually think it's ready for the Mastering Engineer. If the low end goes woof in a couple of places, he'll fix that. If the high end gets a little funky or brittle in places, he'll fix that. But the rest of it will still be your stylistic stamp which I think is superb. Sure, it's a little over the top in places but I think it gives it a great overly engineered feel to it. And that's your moniker. It's your sound. You have a sound. The rest of these guys are just jealous as they can't believe what they're hearing. So they're telling you what's wrong with it. And while I might agree with them, I think it sounds cool, I think it sounds ready to go. And yeah, I'm listening to it on small 4 inch monitors. The same that everybody else is going to be listening to it on. That and earbuds. And then 2% of them might be audiophiles that might feel the way Chris and Donny do? But hey, that's only 2%. I mean it absolutely rocked. And they all agreed with me on that. So what else is there? It's a performance. It is what it is and it's good. Sometimes people can ruin things with improvements. We've all done that. I can't tell you how many times and how many other stories just like the one I'm going to tell you I've heard through the years. So ya take this mix and you mix it again and again and again. 92 mixes later you go back and listen to your original mix. And what you end up picking out? The original mix.

    I've got many recordings that I have done over the past 20 years. Many of these recordings were for live broadcast purposes. So, no second chances. No second takes. No remixing. All live to stereo. Compressors going. Equalizers equalizing. Gates, gating the job done LOL. And at the same time, I was rolling to 24 track. Early on it was analog. Later on it was digital. Either way, I'd go back later to remix those 24 track recordings. And a good chunk of the time, I ended up going back to my original live stereo mix for broadcast. And that's because when it was engineered originally, there was a certain kind of spontaneity in the engineering, certain kind of performance in the engineering. You can't always re-create that which has already passed. And it's because of the way the recorders work. It's the way that the console sounds. It's how many times the signal has been summed together. All those variables make for nuance differences that actually make all the difference in the performance and listening value. At least that's the way I feel? Score one for 100% subjectivity. And so in the end, I feel that Chris made it worse? Because... I've got a feeling... a feeling deep inside... oh yeah... so it's not quite in the style of the Beatles. It's in your style.

    You got style kid.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I never for a moment disliked your music. There were more than a few very cool musical things happening on your tracks.

    I'd just like to hear them with more life, depth and space, is all.
  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I agree with you, and truth be told, from a musical perspective, I prefer your stuff much more over that which I just listened to. Yours has much more feeling, and if gain reduction was tamed and used correctly, you could have some very nice dynamics happening to support these nice songs as well.

    To my ears, this "commercial" release didn't sound like a pro recording to me, either. It's highly over compressed, badly EQ'd, and limited to the point where the life of the tracks and whatever dynamics there may have been there originally are now gone.

    This may just be the current trend in CC music. If it is, then it's certainly no different than any of the other popular secular recordings out there right now; pop, rock, and even country have all fallen into the trap of smooth and pleasant sonics being sacrificed to that of just LOUD.

    Your material doesn't suffer quite as badly as the pro release I just heard does...at least not yet.

    Your music is good, Pax.. I never once thought that it wasn't. You've got some very nice parts and changeups, it's hooky and memorable, and from a musician's standpoint I find your stuff to be very pleasant to listen to.

    Which is why I think it's important enough to go back and remix the tracks -(Remy and I will simply have to agree to disagree on this one... although that doesn't have anything to do with the tremendous amount of respect I have for her as one bad-assed, experienced, seasoned, and highly intelligent audio professional. Professionals can and do disagree from time to time... it's happened before and it will happen again. :wink: )...

    If the performances had been bad, out of tune, out of time, or just badly played, I'd tell you to send it off for mastering and be done with it, because no amount of engineering chops can substitute for musical skill.

    But I believe your stuff is good enough... and matters enough to have it released as good as it can be sonically.

    Give the instruments and those vocals some life, some warmth.

    Listen with a critical ear to the tone of the vocal, and I mean really listen. Now, put a CD on of something that you love. I don't care who or what it is, it doesn't matter. Now, see if you can hear what I'm referring to in regard to the vocal on your tracks being thin, squashed and lacking body and warmth. I'm NOT saying the performance was bad, to the contrary, I thought it was well done... but because it's lacking in body and warmth, it's tough to listen to.

    I feel the same way about the piano. It just sounds so squashed and one dimensional to me. It doesn't have that "warmth" and open-ness that you hear when you listen to someone playing a piano live. Go to Youtube and listen to a song by someone like Bruce Hornsby, or Elton John. Take a good listen to the piano. Now, go to your recording program, open up I Am Yours, and, solo up the piano track. You will absolutely hear what I am talking about, I guarantee it. Now, bypass all effects, all processors on the piano track. If the original piano patch/sample was decent to begin with, you should hear warmth, clarity, and silky top end emerge, and it will be full and open sounding.

    Now...a few good things....The acoustic guitar tracks were pretty good sonically... not bad, nice placement in the stereo field, nice silk on the top end. You've done well in eliminating the common "mud" that can so often occur with recording of acoustic guitar. I didn't hear any "boominess" or "muddy" lo mid end that would result in a lack of definition. Whether that was accomplished by mic technique or mix technique, or a combination of both, you've done well there.

    I like your stuff, Pax. Which is why, if I were producing the tracks after the fact, I would insist on a remix. If you choose to go that route, feel free to continue posting along the way if you desire more advice or help. And if not, and you decide to send it out for mastering now and be done with it, then that's fine too, although I think it would be a mistake because the dicey sonics will overshadow the nice music you have happening.

    In My Humble Opinion, of course.

  20. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    +1 for Donny on all counts including the well deserved comments on Remy. She is a legend around here to say the least.

    But remix them! The "over use" of compression killed it all. Its very obvious. You can do better and will the next round. Don't compare your music to that youtube example. It sounds terrible! Shoot higher my Canadian friend and DO NOT listen to youtube music for mastering reference examples.

    Remy, the extreme example of what I did was to open eyes (ears), not to impress you. It was by no means an example of better sound, you should know that? You are scaring me. :confused:
    That was an example of expanding over-compressed tracks, and increasing energy in the area's that count, for the OP!

    IMHO, NO ( qualified) self respecting Mastering Engineer can or would attempt to improve these tracks over a Remix first, they are what they are. I wouldn't touch this. Look at how you interpreted what I did on a small scale! I'd have to add a memo all over the web stating that I know these tracks are over-compressed and distorted but I took the money anyway . lol. geez...

    IMHO, even the best M.E. on the planet cannot fix smash and burn.




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