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What to do when the chorus kinda sucks?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by arneholm, Sep 2, 2001.

  1. arneholm

    arneholm Guest

    Hi y'all!

    I have this 4-minute poprock song on the works now, I am remixing it as the group was not satisfied with the last mixer's job. I managed to almost salvage horrendously tracked guitars by reamping them - they are not great but they hold up somewhat - but now there's a major problem in front of me.

    It is a pretty good song overall but the chorus isn't working. It's a typical case young (guys' average age is around 19), albeit talented, but still inexperienced musicians.

    The song consists of drums, bass, vocals, overdriven lead guitar, "white man tries to play funk" (a cross between acoustic strumming played with electric guitar and that 'actual' high clean strat-funk-guitar) kinda clean rhythm guitar and string synth (very '80-ies sounding).

    All the melody lines are good, but the most powerful part of the song is actually pre-chorus. I can make it really huge sounding, but the caveat is that then it dwarfs the chorus. The main problem of the chorus is the arrangement - it really doesn't hold any particularly good and catchy parts there, except drums and bass which are good throughout the song. The lead guitar plays a rather boring riff (non-riff would be a more acurate description), mostly on top of the vocals and really fights with the groove and the synth of course plays it's more meaningful notes basically in synch with guitar - all the less annoying parts of the guitar are played simultaneously with the more interesting parts of synth and of course right on top of the vocal phrases. The singer also doesn't rise the game during the chorus. BTW - I actually couldn't make out which part of the song was chorus until the guitar player told me...

    I chopped off about half the chords from the sloppy rhythm guitar and edited it so that it actually playes in synch with the drums, also when I reamped it I set the amp so that it was on the verge of overdriving to give it some character, copied second chorus to it and panned them hard left and right, tried all kinds of levels and pannings with lead guitar and synth. I can get it to sound OK-ish but it's still a major letdown after the great working pre-chorus. It's either too thin or a mush.

    I am pretty sure that you all have dealt with the songs that have had somewhat nonworking choruses. What do you guys do to salvage them? Creative EQ-ing, gazillion lines of backing vocals, weird special effects - what else?

    This seems to be the perfect case of pulling a rabbit out of the hat...

    Arne Holm
  2. drumsound

    drumsound Active Member

    Feb 12, 2001
    Bloomington, IL
    Not hearing the song I'm just theorizing her, but here goes. Try letting the pre-chorus be huge and let the chorus be sparse. Do a mute drop thing, and leave the bass, drums and voice. Do something weird to at least one element that's left. Or work with them and add some things, re-write parts etc. ;)
  3. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Float the rythm guitar into a 1/4 or 1/2 note delay, whatever slides it so that it phrases in-between the synth parts. Or vice-versa, slide the synth in-between the guitar parts.

    Overdrive the f out of the lead vocal, or some such distortion to add artificial harmonics, as well as a stereo-izing spatial effect like delay/chorus.

    Or just ask the producer what he wants you to do.
  4. arneholm

    arneholm Guest

    Angelo, thanks... I guess I am the producer now... de facto... De jure the band is the producer but they don't have a clue... They just want to hear every part clearly regardless if it's great or sucks.

    The lead vocals of the chorus doesn't want to be overdriven (I guess) - it's kinda soft, low and boybandish, clean choirboy on the verge of whispering... Also some falsetto thrown in, but in a good kinda way.

    But thanks for the suggestion - i'll try...

  5. warlock

    warlock Guest

    A bit off topic here but:
    Originally posted by Arne Holm:
    They just want to hear every part clearly regardless if it's great or sucks.

    Is it jus me or are all bands like this? Drummer NEEDS to hear his hat no matter how soft he played it in some parts. You put it at a lower level and the drummer goes: "ofcourse you can hear it with your engineer ears, but what about "normal" people?" wtf? All the synth parts HAVE to be heard no matter that there are bass, drums, two dist guitars and two vocals on top of it.
    when you say: "this part of the song has too many instruments for everything to be clearly heard and some things have to be more buried in the mix or removed". They look at you like you are the Antichrist.
    And then they give you an exple of their favourite recording but there are 1/3 of the instruments they use and say: "but everything is clearly audible here".
    A good example is a band I have recorded many times. They use a sampler and MIDI tracks for drums (which are not generic sounding drums but mostly dancey sounding with FX and so on)and background synths + Fretless Bass (with a great player), Guitars (clean and dist), death vocals, clean vocals, female vocals + some synth played live for foreground synths.
    They have about 8-10 tracks of MIDI for background, everything has to be clearly audible ofcourse, then the bassplayer uses some slap and stuff which sounds grat so that has to be clearly audible, then they add some dist guitars. They cann't be thin, but yet the bass has to be clearly audible through the heavy guitars and the heavy guitars cann't kill the 8 tracks of background MIDI. And then they put both clean female vocals and death vocals on top of that and add a little synth. Now I'm stuck with like 32 tracks of stuff and everything has to be clearly audible without anything sounding thin. The drums cann't sound thin, the bass cann't sound thin evan the vocals cann't sound thin not to talk about guitars which have to sound like guitars on 90's death metal recordings where there was no audible bass (which you point out)and the kick drums were just clicks of the frequency 8000. Damn it! :)

    Finally with like 1000 compromises we get the thing to sound great, but why does it have to start all over again with another recording?

    Oh well,
  6. Bob Olhsson

    Bob Olhsson Distinguished Member

    Feb 13, 2001
    Nashville TN
    Home Page:
    The mix is often the "final exam" for both the song and production.

    1. four minutes is a little long, can it be edited down and strengthened?

    2. a good production move might have been to modulate on the chorus. Is it REALLY too late?

    3. it sounds like your mix is making it pretty obvious that it needs some new parts. Maybe it will inspire some if the group is open to the idea.
  7. arneholm

    arneholm Guest

    The last double chorus goes into modulation actually and that is a good thing. I guess I can chop of the bad part of a guitar solo (it was fun watching the lead guitar player listening the rough yesterday, during the guitar solo his head was visibly bobbing inforward motion to the groove of the song, suddenly - when his guitar playing collapsed - his head also stopped bobbing...) - But there will be a major fight if I chop something off, that's for sure... I am probably going to do just two mixes and see how will this go...

    I am pretty sure they are exhausted of the song, they have redone it at least three times already...
  8. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Feb 27, 2001

    What I would do in this situation, is point out that they need a Producer, not a mixer at this particular juncture. Tell them that you can help them fix it properly, and track the parts that are needed, retrack the parts that step on the vocal, and make it work for them. Then mix it.

    If you charge more for this service, or if you require profit sharing, or whatever, negotiate it up front. Or do it for this one song, and they'll keep coming back to you. If you explain how you can help them, and give them details, of what's not working, and why, they'll go for it.

    If this isn't an option, and you have to mix what you've been given, try the non-chorus, chorus. That means the B-sec explodes, and the chorus goes to next to something empty and interesting.

  9. Curve Dominant

    Curve Dominant Active Member

    Apr 13, 2001
    I would try this, Arne...

    Delete the 1st chorus altogether. Let the 1st bridge build in all it's glory, then go right to the next verse.

    After the 2nd bridge, bring in the chorus, but as a turn-around. It's weak, so make it even weaker. Take elements away, and crank the vocal tracks to fill the void. It's the "anti-chorus" approach, but it works, trust me. The idea is "reverse hip." Let the dynamics dip here, then bring the next section in BLARING away. Then wrap it up.

    Let me know if that works.

    Eric Vincent
    Curve Dominant Sound&Vision
    Philadelphia USA
  10. Juergen

    Juergen Guest

    Originally posted by Arne Holm:
    The lead vocals of the chorus doesn't want to be overdriven (I guess) - it's kinda soft, low and boybandish, clean choirboy on the verge of whispering... Also some falsetto thrown in, but in a good kinda way.

    If you are interested in giving overdriven vocals a shot, route the track to an aux channel which you overdrive to taste and mix in with the original...you get the clean and the dirty...

  11. zap

    zap Guest

    Try Curve's approach !!

    I did EXACTLY this... I had this track from a guy who had an overly complex and strong verse, and almost sillyli "bridge-y" sounding chorus.

    So I did just that - his verse became the chorus - his "chorus" became the bridge... and we added new verse which was spoken!! Came out SMACKI'n.


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