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audio Zeppelin Cover Mix Critique

Discussion in 'Fix This MIX!' started by DogsoverLava, Jun 29, 2014.

  1. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Hi Guys

    Here's a cover of Ramble On that I did over the spring. This was a project I initiated to help me develop workflow in Reaper and to rehab my playing hands (old nerve injury). I also did this as a collaboration by putting a call out to vocalists who might want to contribute (On Reddit). Of the two responders one actually delivered. I thought he did great. I gave him stems and he recorded and returned his vocal stems to me (dry) and I treated and mixed them back into the whole. A lot of the learning on this track was process and workflow in reaper - trying to do different things. Any comments would be appreciated.

    Acoustic guitar: mic'd w/ Rodes M5's (stereo pair), also tracks mic'd with SM57 & EV N/D357
    Electric Guitar: Mesa Boogie MK IIC+ mic'd w/ SM57 and using both a Fender Lead III and Hamer USA Californian... Also using GuitarRig 5
    Bass: Fender P. using Amplitube
    Drums: EZ Drummer and Superior Drummer - each note hand programmed by mouse using piano roll in Reaper.

    Here's a dropbox link of the MP3 as well

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/6bf7eepzsliqj9a/Ramble - Coll - voc5.mp3
  2. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Still very interested in some feedback on this mix for those that might like to contribute. Particularly interested in the question of adding "warmth" to the vocal on the verses - and getting depth and dimensionality on the Chorus without making the vocal retreat in the mix.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    This really all comes down to the source(s) of the sounds - and how they were put to tape.

    You've got a pretty big job here, and probably an impossible one, using a home recording rig in digital format in an effort to emulate the sounds and processes which were originally done all within analog; an analog console with punchy pres and sweet EQ's, Analog GR, (the time period tells me that they probably used LA2's or 1176's, maybe even both, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility of even some Fairchild 670's in there too...at the very least on the 2-bus).

    Zeppelin recorded Zeppelin II at Juggy Sound in New York during a U.S. Tour, and Juggy - at least up through '73 or so - and as far as I can recall reading years ago, was using a Helios Console as their main desk. This was a very warm console. The Type 69 mic pres and the F760 Compressors built into the Helios channel strips were responsible for the classic tones of The Stones, Hendrix, 10CC, Clapton, Bowie,The Beatles (later Apple Records stuff), and many other bands, circa 1970... including LZ for Zeppelin II.

    You didn't mention the mic/pre combo your singer used for lead vocals. If tube mics like the U67 weren't used on the original version, then a nice SS condenser, coupled with a nice tube pre, most certainly was.

    Overall, it's lacking mucho low end body and punch, and the warmth you say you seek on the vocals is actually needed, well, pretty much on everything.

    You mention using some emulation (Amplitube, Guitar Rig) for guitars and basses. While convenient, you'll never get "that" classic tone using these emulation VST's.

    These were tube guitar amps, mic'd up, recorded in spaces that allowed the guitar to really sound rich, warm and powerful. You mentioned having a Boogie MK2, which is certainly better than anything Guitar Rig can offer you, sonically. Jimmy Page did play Fenders occasionally, but on this original track, it really sounds like an LP to me, or at least a guitar with hum-buckers to get that full, warm tone... maybe through a Marshall or Hi-Watt, perhaps a Vox or Fender Tube model....and I don't think you'll get his tone out of your Fender Lead III and Amplitube. ;)

    The drums are thin, I suspect that's because of EZ Drummer -which may be easy, but it definitely ain't Bonzo, hammering on a kit of Ludwigs with the drums mic'd up and overheads up top.. Know what I'm sayin'? ;)

    I'm not saying you can't get closer... but it's gonna take some serious attention to detail, and very likely some analog / tube gear to get it done - if your goal is to copy the sound of the original, that is. You wanted an honest critique. My honest critique is that, while the playing is well done, (with the exception of the very weak programmed drums) you're actually light years away from the original sound of Ramble On.

    That being said, if you're trying to make it your own sound, then well, you've done that.


    kmetal likes this.
  4. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Thanks Donny. I appreciate that you took the time to listen and were able to share your feedback. It's absolutely invaluable to me. I'm not looking for a pat on the head and a cookie from grandma (though I always really like grandma's cookies). But I am looking to build up some skill and ability within my DAW and to be able to produce really good stuff (eventually) within the limitations of the gear I have access to. There's lots of self congratulatory stuff out there and forums designed for the same but I'm definitely not looking for that - I get that at home where my wife thinks everything I do is amazing (she can't believe that after 16 years together she was married to a rock star and didn't know it).

    This particular track was ut more as a process focused lesson in using the DAW (Reaper). What my wife doesn't hear are all kinds of background noise, hacky playing (with lots of dropped notes and looped sections), really poorly mic'd acoustics (before I got the Rode M5's I was trying to mic the acoustic with my SM57 and EV 357) lot's of punching in/out ---- pretty much a pick and mix grab bag of stuff threaded together into some sort of cohesion. Also on the playing side are some physical issues I'm rehabbing through that affect performances. All I hear on this stuff is what I didn't do or couldn't do at the time so my own objectivity is also skewed towards what's not on the track, making it harder to hear what's actually there (good and bad).

    As I build process oriented chops, my options and my understanding grow which facilitates better recording ---- kinda like a kid learning how to ride a bike - I've got a shitty bike and I'm wobbling all over the place -- but I'll eventually learn to ride what I have quite well --- I just need time and some direction - hence coming to forums etc.

    Now there are forums out there and places to get feedback from - but none of them have shown a willingness to deliver it straight (or slightly bent) with the weight and candor coming from people with real experience and expertise as what the folks on this forum offer. I like when grandma gives me a cookie but too many grandmas and too many cookies are going to make me fat and they wont help me get better. I need feedback loops built into my processes that remind me where the true bar is and give me a incentive to keep my eye on that very far far distance while simultaneously setting smaller project goals for myself and securing input from others that actually helps me move forward in gradients. "Attention to detail" is my takeaway here from you. For each project there's a detail ceiling so to speak - but I can and should push that up as high as I can while still moving forward. If I was recording this again today I think it would sound a lot different even though It's been just a few months.

    What I learned from my first submission to this forum was how essential my listening and recording environment really are. Although there are some things I can't change about my current setup there are certainly others I can change for the better. This track was recorded before that feedback though but I did try to mix it in a better environment without the headphones everything was tracked with.

    I don't have information on what the vocalist used to track his vocals - his raw stems sounded ok to me sound wise but they had level issues and some pitch issues that I dealt with - I had to use envelopes to trim and treat the vocal in the track for the levels. Compression helped me deal with some aggressive end of phrase attack stuff -- Is there anything you can suggest direction-wise when dealing with vocals that would give me a warmer or more round tone from them without making them muddy?

    Again - thank you for your feedback and also the kick in the backside. It's very welcomed and much appreciated.
  5. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    So in other words, "years ago, in days of old, when magic filled the air".

    That's all it's missing is some magic. When was the last time you listened (really listened) to the Zep version? Try headphones, you might be shocked by the stereo imaging.

    Like Donny said, yours is not a train wreck by any means. The vocal, bass, guitar performances are all pretty good. As a mix, it's fundamentally sound, just lacking some punch to me. As an attempt to mimic the original 1969 recording we're all so familiar with, it falls short - but don't worry most would. The guys who caught lightning in a bottle 45 years ago would be hard pressed to it again. So for your part, a good effort in an unwinnable battle, but if you think you would benefit from some nitpicking, some of the guitars are way too distorted in spots, you don't use anywhere near the same left/right separation between guitar parts. I'd try a less boxy reverb on the vocal and go with a longer and brighter reverb instead. The singer does a nice job on some of the louder parts, but maybe a little too forceful at times during the verses. I didn't notice anything out of place with the bass. Maybe if the more Bonzo kick drum came out, you could go fuller and rounder on the bottom of the bass.

    The brilliance of Bonham is, even on the most rudimentary drum part he's still adding accents so he's playing the song, not just a mechanical drum part. You can't quantitize Bonham. The original sounds more like a hand drum than straight 16ths a tom. Yours is missing the shifting accents. You've programmed in accents, but they don't ever move from the downbeat of the 1,2,3,4. The programming during the sections where it's full kit, are pretty nicely done, I thought. The only big distraction was just as those parts kicked in, there's one small, dry cymbal splash just in my right ear (every time).

    Alright, some nits have been picked. But again, don't take that too hard. What you're trying to do, is VERY difficult. Keep at it, learn as you go, have fun.
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    So... did you put this up against the original when you mixed this? Did you actually lay the original down into the multitrack? And if so? Why doesn't your mix sound like Glyn Johns mix? His vocal was never that muddy. And you can change that.

    I thought you did a good job overall. The reverb on the vocal ain't there yet. That's mud verb. So that needs to be thinned out.

    The bass drum, should be more bombastic. Also, you could use a darker sounding snare drum. And it all needs to come up. It's Zeppelin dude!

    We all love Zeppelin.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Thanks Remy-Ann

    I actually didn't refer to the multi-tracks or original mix for this so I wasn't specifically trying to emulate the original mix though it certainly was established in my mind from memory so its pretty hard to escape. I was more focused on putting together a mix that showed some sort of cohesion while I worked more on workflow. This was my 3rd project so I'm still figuring out basic stuff in the DAW itself. My original mix of this has more echo and overlapping delay with some panning and modulation, but overall really was burdened by the fact it was all done in headphones that really skewed to highs making the actual mix muddied and bass-heavy. It's a fun mix because of what I did to achive some of the effects -- here's a link of that crazy mix for reference but it's totally a product of "wow look at these effects - don't they sound cool" newbie mixer stage. The one I posted here was an attempt to strip back the heavy Fx and better balance the overall bass/treble to a more neutral position.

    I find working on projects really helps make the learning real so I am considering re-tracking this whole thing (and put more focus on the playing and the initial sound capture - ie the recording) and see if I can incorporate some of the learning I've done based on your feedback and the reading I've done. I'm going to do that with the other track (the Sons of Anarchy track) I posted as well - it's just going to take some time.

    A couple things that I'm still trying to build an understanding around is the idea of latency - and variable latency within the DAW and how it affects groove and pocket playing -- I'll probably make a post about it somewhere at some point but I need to do more reading and research before I just start firing away questions --- particularly how to compensate for it both in tracking and real time recording as a player, but also in post -- but those questions are to come later.

    Thanks for your feedback - and yes we all do love Zeppelin.
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Here's a little ditty from 2007.

    I really didn't listen to the original Zeppelin cuts, before I mixed this. Then I stuck in the actual Led Zeppelin cuts, as a comparison.

    Of course the Led Zeppelin recording was done in the studio. Mine was done live at a backyard barbecue party, sponsored by my carpenter who did my truck for me. It was all tracked through a lousy Mackie, that had direct outputs that were dead or totally intermittent. It was mixed on the Neve but the damage had already been done by the Mackie. It's certainly not as bright as the original Led Zeppelin recording because no condenser microphones were used, at all. And in the original Led Zeppelin recording, you're definitely hearing condenser microphones.

    View: https://soundcloud.com/user3139903/esmeralda-zeppelin

    This is not a pay for gig. It was a party and I was partying. So whatever I got off of that intermittent Mackie, with most everything overloaded, is what I got. And there was no decent usable high end, to be had.

    It was all for fun
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  9. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    That was fun -- it had a relaxed backyard BBQ feel to it for sure. The outdoor setting is ideal for rambling! That you singing Remy?

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