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How do I get that "sound" on this song?

Hey all,

I just finished this song and I'm relatively pleased with the sound, but am wondering how I get that bright and crystal clear sound that is found on most professional records. I'm using at home studio, but I'm thinking that I should be able to milk clearer audio even from what I have.

I'm using a Yamaha ES8 that's run to a MOTU mk2408mkII. Vocals are recorded with a Rode NT1A that's sent through a Mackie 1402VLZPRO and then to the MOTU. Naturally, the MOTU goes straight to the computer on which I'm using SONAR 5/6.

What type of mastering can I do in the mix or even after the mix that will allow me to make the song clearer?

The song (R&B ballad, mostly piano and vocals) can be heard here --

Thanks for your help.


Pro Audio Guest Sun, 11/26/2006 - 20:07
I'm using a pop filter, but I think I'm singing too close to the mic. My setup isn't all that changeable, but I think finding a little bit more room to sing further away from the mic will help all of my singing. As for the de-esser, I've seen them mentioned many times, but have never investigated using them myself. I'm going to go take a look at that. Thanks for that suggestion.

In re-reading some of the other comments, I noticed that JoeH pointed out that the song sounds like a nice songwriter demo. Can anyone else confirm that the mastering of this song sounds sufficient (with some tweaks) for a demo. My goal is to get my songs sung by other people.


Pro Audio Guest Thu, 11/23/2006 - 11:26
For me honestly giving my raw opinion.

I think that the song is a little too monotonous. I'd try building it maybe with a few small soft synths in the background that one doesn't really realise but kind of holds your hand throughout the song.

Furhter more on the vocals are you using a pop shield infront of the mic?
when you say words like "please" the extra air coming to the mic is a little disturbing.

and last but not least it sounds like on the vocals that you just recorded it while reading the song on a piece of paper.

what would be more dynamic in my OPINION is that you go through the song so that you know it without having to read any paper and more importantly find out what the song means to you and forget that you are reading a paper and just open yourself up and express the song..

I find that when doing this my voice broadens, gets a warmer sound and vibrato and other nice details comes naturally in places that make the vocal track more exciting and pleasant to listen to.

maybe some more compression on the vocals.. :S

this is just my opinion by ear, i don't have as much experience as many on this board have but i'm just sharing my 20 cents.

otherwise nice work i'd like to hear the finished product if you would like to add it on this post upon completion

Pro Audio Guest Thu, 11/23/2006 - 13:24
That's good advice with regard to the synths. There keys are actually layered in my mix, but the problem is that you can't hear them. I'll try changing it around and seeing if I can make it sound a little friendlier. I'll also look at compression on the vocals. Thanks for the suggestions.

Anyone have any advice on getting a "crisper and cleaner" sound from the mix?


pr0gr4m Thu, 11/23/2006 - 22:37
First, don't be too pleased with the sound. Not that it's horrible or anything, but it needs work.

The whole mix sounds dull. Do the individual tracks sound like that? Does it sound like this when you are recording the tracks?

If it only gets dull like this when you are mixing it down, are you using an EQ or other device that has an equalizer on it that might be cutting out all the high end?

To me the problems sounds like it's something that needs to be fixed when recording and not during mixing. It just sounds like the tracks were recorded like this. If they don't sound like this at recording time, then somewhere you are cutting out all the high end when mixing the tracks.

Crisp and clean can have a lot to do with the equipment used. Different mics have different character. The same goes for mixers and audio interfaces. You may want to try using a different mic or pre amp. It's possible that this could be an issue with the mixer.

JoeH Fri, 11/24/2006 - 00:08
This sounds like a very nice songwriter demo; something you'd send back and forth between a couple of pros working on a song as it grows and morphs into something else along the way. Right now, there's no real hook, and I don't hear much distinction between verse/chorus, etc. (Is there a bridge in there?)

The vocals are way too present, and the singing itself needs work. It's not horrible, but it's not ready for prime time. Not to go off on a tangent about singing style, but there are hints of various styles in what you're working on, but you should pick one and stick with it, at least for this song; be clean and soulful, or be melismatic and jazzy, just find an approach and make it work for the track at hand.

Also, if you're going to work that close to the mic, then some EQ or adjustment is in order, perhaps even a little reverb to add some ambience and perhaps a little sparkle. Again, it sounds simply like someone singing in front of a mic in a booth or a studio, and the fact that it's so much more present than the rest of the track, it draws too much attention to itself the way it's mixed.

I agree with the others about the backing tracks. They're not helping much in their present state; it sounds like a drum machine and some so-so keys. There's much that could be done here to add some excitement. If you must stick with the synth-o drums, then perhaps add a second percussion instrument and a bass line; even the simplest fretless bass bed will add a whole new dimension and motion to the backing track.

Put some gentle/subtle motion to the keyboard track, maybe a little stereo slow tremolo or phasing. A little motion goes a long way for stuff like this.

One last complaint: All of this has nothing to do with Mastering (You are nowhere near ready to be finishing this in its present state), and this thread belongs in "Recording studio" or "Home Recording."

Hope that doesn't come off harsh or nasty, it's not meant to be. I think you're on the right track overall, it just needs some more work.

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 11/24/2006 - 07:12
Hey JoeH,

Your comments don't sound nasty at all. They sound helpful.

I actually put this request in the Mastering forum because I am interested in making the track sound better. I thought it was a function of mastering because the song sounds fuller/crisper in my headphones and on my monitors. I figured that if I was losing sound during the mixdown, then it might be fixed in mastering. It sounds like you guys are saying it's more "garbage-in, garbage-out". Mastering makes good stuff sound really good, but it's hard to fix mediocre stuff.

That being said, I'll take another look at the track.

I appreciate your comments.