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audio "What Will It Take" First Mix Draft (Critique request)

Discussion in 'Fix This MIX!' started by Jeremy Dean, Mar 12, 2016.

  1. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Hey there everyone! This is the first draft of a mix I've been working on. I just need some other ears to hear things I may not be catching right now. ALL input is absolutley welcome, please be honest. :) Thanks in advance for your help! :D
    - Jeremy
    (P.S. One thing I haven't spent time on yet is compression and Limiting on the Master bus. It will be addressed in another draft.)

    Attached Files:

  2. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    My first thoughts were - what would this sound like if it was recorded by an actual chamber group? When you start with that piano patch and strings and then when you come in with vocals - what I'm longing for here is the intimacy created by real movement of air in a room - Even though everything sounds great it also sounds very artificial - not bad artificial, but a little too muzack style artificial - too good. I know you don't have access to a Steinway and a chamber group with strings and a full orchestra so you've done a great job with what you have but these kinds of arrangements obliterate the intimacy and the character of intimacy in songs. As far as arrangements go and the subject matter - I think you'd have a more powerful song with a more stripped down style. This is big production Jesus - I'd like to hear the Jazz club or a coffee house Jesus version --- or even the front porch version.

    It reminded me of Survivor's Eye of the Tiger, or Asia's Heat of the Moment ---- and those songs are very dated by their mixes and arrangements to the point that they can be a little hard to listen to. Also - this production is very Euro --- like I'd expect this kind of orchestration on a german television performance -- not a guy in Virginia --- I'd want to get the Virginia version.

    All that criticism is more arrangement and performance based - What I hear is a very well done mix considering how much you have going on in it -- there are some real nice moments and there were a couple of really nice moments that I went "oh that was unexpected" --- the cool thing being I actually could hear those parts. I'll let the pros speak to the mix proper -- I just wanted to comment because I know the effort you put in here and I think you did a great job as a musician (I'm assuming this is all you for the most part?) Tell us about what you've done here. It would be cool to know how you put this together.
  3. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Thanks for your input DogsoverLava! I appreciate your encouragement, criticisms, and comments . I too wish I had a full orchestra and Steinway in my basement, but you know. ;) As for your comment on "what I'm longing for here is the intimacy created by real movement of air in a room", I don't have any acoustic treatment in my room and usually just record my vocals in a certain area of my room and I haven't had a lot of problems with the way it sounds. But I decided I would try something different as an experiment on this project. I made a little makeshift vocal booth out off blankets and a matress and recorded my vocals and acoustic guitars in there to see if I would get much of a difference. I also created a tent of blankets around my amp when recording the electric guitars. I'm wondering if I should've recorded the lead vocals out in the open air of my room. Not sure if it would've made a difference though.
    This is actually a cover of a Michael Card song(). I believe it was produced in the 80's or early 90's. My job was to make it a little more modern but there is still a lot of 70's/80's influences left in my mix. I like that style of music and grew up playing it. I'm not sure what I else I would do arrangement-wise, apart from an acoustic style arrangement, but I wanted to make the song sound kind of edgy and urgent. It was a little hard to get away from the vintage sound on this one. :D
    So, as far as putting this together I did all the intrumentation and vocals. My DAW of choice is Mixcraft Pro Studio 7. The drums, orchestral sounds, synths, and paino are all done with vts's. I used Sennheiser's free "DrumMic'a" vst, which in my opinion is EXCELLENT for being free and Acoustica's Pianissimo for the piano. I don't really have the equiptment to record a full drum kit yet, or else I probably would've done that. I used a Jackson(really not sure what model), a BOSS ME-70 multi-effects pedal and a Digitech DF-7 pedal, running through a Vox AC15VR(pretty sure that's it) for all the electric guitars. I used a nice Martin dreadnought acoustic. I used a Shure 588SDX on all my vocals and a Squire/Fender bass. There are about 5 or 6 synths(I used Messiah, Glass Viper, T-Force Alpha Plus, Journey, and possibly Memorymoon), a lot of them running arps. There are 4 or 5 electric guitar parts, 1 clean doing finger-picking, 1 doing stacatto notes with some overdrive, 1 distorted doing rhythem power chord parts(doubled L&R), and 1 Lead distorted. I recorded the bass direct into my mixer and used a bass amp plugin. Other midi work I did was for orchestral strings, a cello, some violins, and french horns.
    The arrangement started coming together when I was first listening to the original and started playing the piano line heard at the beginning of mine. I just built on it from there experimenting with synth sounds and the dynamics of the song and such. One of the funnest parts for me was all the synth stuff in the second verse, the guitar solo(of course), and the slam in the second verse. Not sure if those are the kind of details you were looking for DogsoverLava, but that's all I have time to write for now. Let me know if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them. And thanks again for your input! Very helpful! :)
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I don't have any issues with your choice of VSTi's; ( piano, strings, drums...) in fact I like your arrangement better than I do the original. I'm also of the opinion that arrangement and instrument choices are personal taste things, and what one guy likes, maybe another doesn't, simply out of personal taste... so I'm gonna keep my comments limited to recording and mix engineering.

    The low end of your mix is a bit muddy and undefined.

    Much of this could also be due to the fact that you are mixing in an untreated space; and because your environment may have built-in low end resonance problems, you are either cutting the lower end of your mixes, or, aren't adding it when needed, because your room is lying to you, making you perceive that you already have enough, or even too much, so you end up attenuating the low end when you don't necessarily need to ... follow? This can also occur with the mid and top end too, but I don't think that's your problem here. Usually in home studios, the low end is the beast you need to tame... and on that note, 1" Auralex isn't gonna get the job done here, either. It won't do a thing for frequencies below 1k. Low end treatment requires mass and density.
    There are many great threads here on RO about acoustic treatment, so I won't get into it here, but a simple search would produce more info for you on that topic.

    You have a nice voice, but it's pretty "bright" in the mix - and there's some sibilance, too. You're also missing some lower-mid warmth and "body". The lead vocal lacks a "richness" to it - a richness that I can hear that you do have inherently - but it's being attenuated on the track; the tone is thin, sibilant, and at times even harsh. Your Shure 588SDX is an inexpensive dual impedance dynamic mic, and it has an inherent tilt towards hi-end "hype" - it actually has a +5db shelf ( upward slope) from 2k to 6k. While not "dramatic", it is still hyping the top end frequencies. I have nothing against using dynamic mics for vocals - often they can be a better choice for recording in rooms that are highly reflective - but you may want to look into a dynamic mic that doesn't have that much of a built-in hi-shelf to it, something a bit flatter, and that could also provide more low end warmth as well ... my recommendation would be to look at a Shure SM7B or an EV RE-20.

    Are you also using a HPF on the vocal track? If so, where is your corner frequency set, and at what rate is your slope set for? Even a more gradual low end shelving roll-off would still result in that lack of warmth of your voice if you are sloping too drastically.
    But, I think most of this is due to the mic you are using.
    As for sibilance - it varies from singer to singer; it can be as low as 3k or as high as 9. Set your top end EQ at around 3k, using a bell ( band-pass), and set a fairly tight Q; and then sweep through the range while your track plays to find the offending frequency. This would be one of those rare times I would suggest solo'ing the track while you check the vocal...

    Another thing that might help, is to use a "darker" reverb on your vocal track, then set it for a longer pre-delay time ( say, 80ms or so) so that the verb doesn't happen at the exact same time as your dry vocal does. This would help to add some clarity to your vocal track - but it would still give you the reverb you seek on the vocal.

    Your mix isn't bad, Jeremy. But I'm pretty sure that both your mic choice and mix environment are hurting you.
  5. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Thanks Jeremy - That's exactly what I wanted to know. And Donny - thanks for what you offered here as well - it really helps connect the dots having such context and feedback all available -- just awesome.
  6. CrazyLuke

    CrazyLuke Active Member

    Good performances on that track. Would love to hear one of your originals next.
  7. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Hey there Mr. Donny, thanks so much for your input. I appreciate that someone with your experience takes the time to help small home studio owners like me! :D
    @ Donny: After I posted that first mix draft on Saturday morning I listened to it while riding in the car and definitely noticed some stuff. I heard some bad mid-range clashing and it turned out to be my vocal and rhythm guitar that were the issue. I also noticed that my vocal was getting buried at the beginning and a few other spots. After reading your response on Monday I worked on the things you mentioned. I mostly worked on the lead vocal(particularly the harsh awful sibulance) and the bass guitar. I also had a chance to listen to the mix on a few other speakers at my church. I used a reference track with a vocal that sounded great to me to try and get some more depth and body on the lead vox. The HPF I had on the vocal was really taking a lot of low end warmth out of it so adjusted that. I tweaked the reverb to the parameters you suggested, but it was a little difficult. The reverb you hear on my vocal is actually inserted on the master bus, so since it's affecting everything in the mix I didn't want to change it too much and lose the sound I had before. I liked the way the reverb affected the instruments so I made a compromise with how much adjusting I would do. I tweaked the lead vox a lot. A friend of mine let me borrow the mic I mentioned to test it out. He does a lot of live mixing and liked using it for vocals, so he recommended it to me. I'm planning on buying a mic soon but I'm on a tight budget(part of the reason he suggested that mic). I liked the way it sounded on my acoustic guitar, but I had to adjust the lead vox WAY too much to get a sound I liked. I'm looking for a mic that I can use on a wide variety of different things for a low price, but I probably won't be spending my money on that one. I'm interested in treating my room but it will probably be a good while before I get to that step.
    @ DogsoverLava: I took your advice on the track sounding a little "dead". Because I wasn't using mics for my pianos and strings I took a listen and decided to add some more "room" to the mix. It may sound a little odd but I placed a mic a good distance back from my speakers and recorded the sound of the string parts coming out of my speakers. I walked around the room a little bit in between the speakers and made some slight fret sliding sounds with a nylon acoustic guitar at certain times. I also recorded the drums from my speakers at the very last few measures of the song. I then EQ'd the track, did a little noise removal, and then added some reverb. Sometimes air or hiss isn't bad. Without it you sometimes get the impression everything was made with vsts, which is what I don't want here. I'd like it to have more energy than that.
    @ CrazyLuke: Thanks so much for the compliment! This is actually for an Easter drama going on at my church this Sunday. I'm the go-to-guy when the directors need music for a drama. I spend a lot of my studio time on these productions, but hopefully I'll have the time to finish up one of my original projects soon and post them here. Either way I enjoy working on this stuff! :) All Glory to God for giving us cool musical gifts! :)
    So, anyway, I think the mix sounds a lot better now, but you all can be the judge of that. ;) Thanks again for your help! Here's the new mix:


    Attached Files:

  8. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Hey guys, here's another revision of the mix, sorry. I realized when played alongside professional mixes mine was a little dull sounding. If anyone's still interested, here's what I think is the final mix:


    Attached Files:

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