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audio Sentinel (Mike Oldfield cover)

Discussion in 'Fix This MIX!' started by Kogwonton, Sep 12, 2015.


How to improve the dynamic range of this mix?

  1. Less compression?

    1 vote(s)
  2. No compression?

    0 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Kogwonton

    Kogwonton Active Member

    I've recently become a founding member of a group partly formed by Mike Oldfield's own brother, Terry Oldfield. The owner of the group (maybe Mike himself, for all I know) gave me some criticism of my cover of Mike Oldfield's song 'Sentinel' from the Tubular Bells II album. I was told that this recording has virtually no dynamic range. It is quite possible that I've run it through too much compression, and in all honesty I don't really know what I'm doing with a lot of audio tools. I use them, but for the most part I turn knobs and change variables until it sounds good to me. And over time I lose objectivity, and wind up having to take a break for a day or two, and come back with fresh ears. This cover has always sounded ok to me. I would like to get some useful criticism and maybe some tips on how to improve this mix.

  2. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    What people sometime forgets is that Dynamics need to be implemented while playing the instrument first if you want a dynamic song.
    Also you have Short term dynamics and song dynamics (that would be volume changes in different section of the song)
    A drummer banging his heart out the entire song won't allow for much dynamics.
    Short term Dynamics could be faked or enhanced with volume automation or compressor adjustments (if you put a slow attack and long release)
    I suggest you check this video :
    Kogwonton likes this.
  4. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    What you seem to have done is overdone the compression so the sustain on the piano doesn't fade away - the sustained notes stay at the same volume, as the compressor releases. When the first drone comes in at 38 secs or so, it is too loud, and wipes out the piano. The bass is quite heavy 1:20 onwards. The way guitars lurch in - it's like the sound field is full, and every time something new appears the rest lurch down to make room for it. There's little light and shade, everything is loud. At 2:50 when the guitar comes in it soon gets wiped out by everything else. I actually like the tonal choices and playing - it's just squashed to hell. It doesn't have much dynamic range at all. It goes quiet - loud - louder. 5:30 the start of the end - the bass is kind of wow! At 6:56 I expected it to thin out with just bass piano and guitar, but it's still LOUD. Those string noises are a bit off-putting too. The end kind of clicks quiet - an abrupt change?

    It sounds like everything was ultra limited and just attempted to make it through by being forced on the faders. I'd love to hear a version with little or no compression at all. Not sure why it needed so much?
    Kogwonton likes this.
  5. Kogwonton

    Kogwonton Active Member


    I've got some very severe gear limitations. I also have absolutely no training in sound engineering. I started recording with a digital interface, a couple of mics and an amplifier about seven years ago. I don't even know most of the technical language. I've been learning what the knobs and settings do by turning knobs and changing values and seeing what it sounds like. I've been getting a lot better at it, but I still run into all kinds of problems. And I thought learning to play the instruments would be the hardest part. I have a pair of tiny mackie monitors and a set of earphones to work with, and I've been getting advice wherever I can, which is why I'm here. I appreciate constructive criticism. I'm working on redoing a couple of the instruments that have been bugging me with this song, and I'll have a remix without any compression fairly soon. -Dan
  6. Kogwonton

    Kogwonton Active Member

    Here is a version with no compression added. I messed with a couple of instruments and moved things around a bit.


    Attached Files:

  7. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Wow! what a difference. You can now hear each instrument sitting in its own place, and more than that - you can really hear the subtle stuff, totally missing in the first. Tonally, the bass isn't as overpowering any longer, and the adjustments to fader levels can be heard. No contest.

    For the first 15 years I was recording, I didn't own a compressor, and tape compression was the only thing I had, but didn't really understand what it did when I pushed levels. In the late 80s and 90s, compression for many people became an automatic thing they did. In live sound too. I'm not really sure that I followed the trend, and still I add compression only when it's needed - which for me seems to be bass guitar and vocals, but only very gentle stuff. Once you apply it to everything, the entire recording loses the dynamic range, nothing is quiet - playing a not softly was pointless because the compressor brings the level up, and the occasional loud note gets dropped.

    I find it odd that as our recording systems have increased dynamic range possibilities, trends in some musical genres have decided it's best to only use a quarter of what is available?

    Now you have an open and clean recording, you can go back and listen to how each track sits in the mix, and decide if adding a little compression here and there is positive or destructive. Personally, I suspect in this track the compressors may well be redundant.

    What next - if it was me, I'd spend a little time on the piano sound - the eq and perhaps the reverb? Is it live or sequenced? I think there may also be duff note in there, quite a quiet one, just after 31 seconds.

    If this is a trial and error project, you've done very well I think. This stripped back version is far more appropriate to the vintage recording. SO your task now is tiny detail. In the over compressed version, I doubt that anything other than big adjustments to eq, effects and levels could actually be heard. Still a few fret noise effects? (hopefully artificial?) near the end in the quiet bit that need taming. Not a bad job though. I quite like it now.
  8. Kogwonton

    Kogwonton Active Member

    I think the first version might be a combination of my poor use of compression, and the fact that Soundcloud's player plays hell with it. I did make a lot of changes to this, though. The bass and some lower synth stuff was bugging me, so I recorded some new tracks. I didn't use any compression at all with this mix. Only a little EQ. I did rearrange the stage a bit, as well. I'm not using any sequenced tracks. Everything is played just as it sounds. I am using a Yamaha Motif keyboard, and several guitars. The keyboard has ok pianos, but they could be better.
  9. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    when you get some spare cash, have a listen to the pianoteq 5 piano - a software sampled piano that can be used standalone or as a VSTi. I've been very impressed with it, as has a concert pianist friend who is very picky. The bass end is much cleaner now - and it sort of fits the Oldfield style. It's also damn hard to play, and I'm impressed. Especially as he steals the Tubular Bells motif, and changes the time signature. How he (and you) didn't switch to the other version impresses me greatly. Oddly, I actually tried playing that piece a few weeks ago, and found myself getting it wrong again and again.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, there is a way you can change that, ya know. You don't have to remain uneducated. It's a choice you make.
    There are so many great resources available on the web these days for this kind of information - articles, instructional videos, online classes - it's all there at your fingertips. You don't even need to leave your house.
    If you choose to not to learn about it, then you have no one to blame but yourself. Simply "turning knobs" at random is not the way to achieve a good recording - or a good mix.

    If you wanted to hammer a nail into a piece of wood, would you choose a screwdriver for that task? If you wanted to paint the trim of a door in your house, would you reach for a mop?

    All these tools have specific purposes and are designed to do certain things.

    Learning about what the tools are, what they do, and how they work, is going to get you a whole lot farther in this craft than your current method of "hunt and peck until it sounds good".

    Audio Engineering is not something you learn over a weekend... or even over a year, either, for that matter. It requires years of study, ear training, constant learning, daily application of that which you have learned; because this is the way you make mistakes, and making mistakes, realizing what mistakes you've made, correcting them and committing them to memory, is how we learn. Around here, this is known as "PBL" or, Problem Based Learning. And it's a very valuable learning tool.

    It takes time, education, and application. You need to start out by doing a lot of listening, then more listening, and then more listening... training your ears to pick up on certain nuances and frequencies ... understanding the difference between 50hz and 500Hz. Understand what sound is, and become familiar with gain and gain structure. Know what the tools in the toolbox are, what they do, when to use them, and what to expect as a result of their use.

    Grabbing a quick 10 minute crash-course in the basics of gain reduction is not going to make you any better at what you do... it's just one small part of a medium sized piece of a HUGE machine, and none of those parts can be learned in 10 minutes.

    If you really want to do this, if you really want to get noticeably better at what you are doing, then start educating yourself.

    It will also help us to be able to help you more, because we speak in engineering language around here.
    You need to be able to understand what we mean when we ask you "where is your ratio/threshold?" Or, "are you side-chaining the reduction?" or, "what is the corner and slope on your HPF? " ...

    Commit to the time, knowledge-gaining, and application that it takes to learn this craft. Hang around here as much as you can.
    There's gold within these walls - veteran engineers who selflessly give of their time to help others... but you have to do your part, too. ;)


    Sean G likes this.
  11. Kogwonton

    Kogwonton Active Member

    Yea, thanks. That's why I'm here. I appreciate the time you took to respond to me.
    Sean G likes this.
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