3 Free Songs, What do you think of my mastering?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by headchem, Nov 24, 2005.

  1. headchem

    headchem Guest


    Here's what I did to the tracks (in proper order):

    EQ - raised the bass and treble a bit. I have a feeling like I should have tweaked the mids EQ, especially on Running In Fall, but when I do, it sounds unnatural, so I just left the mids alone on all three songs. Is the jury still out on whether or not EQ before Compression is a good idea?

    Stereo Imager - makes the bass more mono, makes the treble more stereo. My crossover is set to 1.32 kHz. The more stereo imaging I do to the treble, the more I need to raise treble in the EQ to maintain the same perceived loudness. Anyone know why this happens?

    Single Band Compressor - Earlier threads in this formus convinced me to shy away from multiband compressors since I have control of my mixes. Yes, I am mastering my own music... Yes, if I had the money, I'd send it to Siberia to get some fresh ears on it... :) The whole Head Chemists album was produced and recorded (and mastered) on a budget of whatever we spent for midnight runs to Wendy's over the course of a few months. Does it sound like it?

    Anyways, compressor settings: ratio - 2.5:1, attack ~35 ms, release ~135 ms. These settings rarely change for me. I've heard that they should change depending on the track, but these settings always give me the punchy bass drum. Any advice otherwise?

    High Frequency Harmonic Enhancer - just a tiny bit... If I've overdone it, tell me so! This part of mastering is so easy to overdo. I'm distorting from 6 kHz and up. Is my high frequency band too wide?

    Volume maximizer / Limiter - I boost gain until I hear a little distortion. There's also a tiny bit of soft clipping in there. My limiter is built-in to this unit, and I use the 4ms look ahead because I think it makes everything sound a bit smoother. I don't really know what it does, though. Can someone explain the look ahead feature?

    Here's a screenshot of my mastering setup: http://www.headchemists.com/free/mastering_screen.jpg

    So, what's the verdict on this setup? I haven't used any master reverb because I like a nice tight sound. Would anyone recommend a master reverb, though. Thanks for all the advice!

    I hope you enjoy the tracks. Our album is titled Bittersweet Melody, and it's about an hour long with 17 full tracks. Feel free to spread these three tracks around to anyone who might be interested in our style. Again, we made the whole album with $0, except for the CD pressing, of course. I'm also going to graduate from college next spring, so if anyone knows of any good jobs... :)
  2. Hey headchem,

    I was thinking when I started there was something peculiar about the subdued high end on Running and Fall and Elon Oak (to a smaller extent), but then I pulled out South - Paint the Silence. It's reminiscent in a good way. Now I just saw "formed in London" on your site. Makes sense. We don't hear that style much over here in North America; it's a nice change. I like it - sounds great.

    As far as suggestions go, I might have tried a high eq cut on a few of the Legacy instruments - those guitar hits, part of the drums - to bring it into the same mellow space as the rest.

    I like the strings/pads on Running in Fall (and some of the others on your site). If they are also from Reason, which sounds?

    Also, did you guys go to college for music, or is this a pass-time?
  3. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Thanks for the input. Neither of us study music, but we're both wishing we had. But then again, it wouldn't be as fun if it weren't a hobby. I'm an international studies and Spanish major, and BenJamin, who graduated last year was a corporate communications major. Our producer went to college in Nashville 10 years ago to study music engineering, though.

    All the sounds are from Reason. My favorite strings are the Arco Strings found in the default Orchester refill, and the String Quartet patch found in Propellerhead's Strings refill. The pads are almost always a random tweaking of knobs until something sounds cool. I especially like to automate malstrom settings and the Vocod's Shift with the matrix.
  4. Musicgrl

    Musicgrl Guest

    Wow, I am impressed. That was beautiful. The vocals were pro sounding, my favorite part, and of course the strings. I have a song I was going to ask if anyone would lend an ear to.It has been tweaked sense then, but it will give the ideah. The songs is called Bittersweet. Thought that was rather ironic:)
    Again, I really enjoyed the music,awesome job..
    Music Girl
  5. beht

    beht Active Member

    Mar 23, 2004
    Well I thought Running in fall was overcompressed, too loud, noisy, slightly irritating to the ear. That or during mixing, too many frequencies in the same range - a lot of upper mids or highs kind of clouding things up. Can't hear vox very well.
    The other two songs I think (I stress "I think" as I'm not a ME) sound a lot better, if also overcompressed but not nearly as much.
    But forget all that - GREAT songs and writing - very imaginative and fun music. Enjoyed all three songs thoroughly.
    As "pro" tracks I think they make it, but could benefit from better mixing/mastering.
    And when I say overcompressed, bare in mind that I don't like to compress things too much - during mastering I'd never go over 1.5:1, so that's just me.
  6. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Thanks for the input! After listening some more, I agree with you beht that the compression was too much on Running In Fall. I tweaked the EQ a bit to try and find those frequency build-ups, and it sounds different, but I'm not sure it sounds better. I think it's more a case of "I should have EQed my instruments better within the mix." Well, here's the new version: Running In Fall (remastered)

    Don't spend too much time on it, since it's already been pressed to 1000 CDs... I really appreciate the chance to improve my mastering ear, so thanks for the feedback. My improved ear will certainly be used on the second album!
  7. sander_8

    sander_8 Guest

    wow that sounds nice ! Running in fall is already in my default playlist! And you did all this with Reason? :shock: Sounds like I still have a lot to learn :oops:
  8. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Thanks! Almost all is done in Reason, except of course for the vocals and guitars. We record those in ProTools. One of these days I'm going to write a nice long tutorial on all the Reason tricks I've learned through the years (both of them) of using Reason.
  9. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    In Running it seems like the effect is out of time with the tempo causing an uncomfortable tension. I found that too distracting to really be able to offer more on that track. IMO there's never a context for effects which are out of time with the host tempo or creating any sort of unfavorable tension, it ruins the groove.

    I liked Legacy although it sounds a but thin on my monitors

    In the case of ElonOak the recording's not bad, a little dry/thin. The production itself is strong, great job on that. On a musical level though the song itself does nothing for me.

    Just my opinions, certainly not to be mistaken for facts. Your production skills are decent, nice job of putting these together. :)
  10. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Thanks for the feedback! When you say 'effect' on Running, do you mean the echo / reverb on the vocal? You're right about the thin sound on Oak. All the guitars were recorded with my built-in mic on my laptop... :)
  11. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    Hi, no I mean the guitar effect (or keyboard track) that starts just into the song and continues in the back for a while. Sounds like Waves enigma to me maybe? Here's what I mean, try this:

    1. Start the song and count with just the guitar.
    "1-and-2-and, 3-and-4-and, 1-and-2-and, 3-and-4-and" -- right? So that's the groove you should build around, you did that with the strings quite well.

    2. Now start the song again and count only the pulse of the effect/keyboard track. See what I mean, it's out of time? It subverts your pulse. That effect is way too loud to be "behind" that groove so the net results is an obvious tension, but not a good one like you would have with either of those parts on their own. Sounds like you were trying to get the effect to go:
    "1, and-3-and 1, and-3-and 1, and-3-and 1, and-3-and" But it's not so the thing to do, if you really want to keep it, is time it to the tempo so when you count the pulse of the effect it's inline with your groove

    That's just my opion anyhow. Peronally I'd lose that effect/key track altogether until 1:34. The drop it again at 1:48, bring it back for a few seconds later on in the song, etc. I'd probably reduce the number of sections the string are one a bit too so that it makes them sound more special. Oboe can create a similar feel while offering a nice contrast to the strings... Also you have some OK synth decorations later on, there's nothing wrong with bringing one or two of those in earlier. The bottom line is that there's a lot going on in this mix which makes it hard to "follow the bouncing ball" form start to finish. I would pare back the parts a bit and really focus on bring out the groove more so that the vocal part and the groove are uber cohesive. This song has a great deal of potential.

    Listen to "long singing" by "fridge" if you can find it. That song really offers some great ideas in this vein. It can also be heard during the closing credits for the DVS film, "Skate More!".

    Incidentally I like the vocal on this cut and some of the drums, that effect just keeps bugging me. This song reminds me a bit of that band who did, "Standing outside a telephone booth with a radio {?} in my hand", kind of "Tears For Fears-ish", great potential. Your production skills are quite solid. :cool:
  12. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Ahh, I understand now. Great input. I agree now that the synth part is overbearing and should come in a appropriate times instead of over the whole track. I'll try that oboe, too. I have a feeling it will work perfectly. Nothing like a new set of ears to open up a song!
  13. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    Yeah well none of my stuff compares to this yet so it's just opinions. I'm a music fan first, a musician second, and an engineer/producer third, so my priorities are a bit whacky.

    Anyhow after a couple passes I must say I'm fairly impressed with this vocal. It is what it is, but very authentic within that. Totally reminds me of Tears For Fears. Anyhow the one thing I want to emphasize is that you should give "Fridge - Long Singing" a listen even if you have to rent Skate More for $5 to hear it. I can hear where you're coming from and I have a feeling that some aspects of that recording might strike you as highly relevant. In particular the way the song builds from start to finish and the techniques they use to transition accordingly from section to section. It's a textbook, and a hell of a beautiful cut. :cool:

    BTW here's a tune I did which kind of outlines laying a drone effect against a groove (which creates tension) without losing the groove. I'm not saying I know anything you don't, I'm just saying that this is what it sounds like if you sync the effects, etc. Notice the drone part is very strong and stays the same throughout, causing huge amounts of harmonic/rhythmic tension, but it resolves itself "musically" so the net effect is pleasurable (hopefully) :D
  14. BobYordan

    BobYordan Guest


    Cool music. :)

    I especially like ElonOak. It sound like Jamiroquai meets Gorillaz. :wink:

    In my PC speakers there is a thin carpet over the mastered mixes.
    They could use some more brilliance. This is based on experience listening
    to other mixes over the net.

    There is a lot of energy and nice width and depth in them, though.
    Nice sounds coming from Reason, perhaps I should upgrade from 2.5??
  15. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Yeah, I do tend to subdue the high end, so that will hopefully be fixed in my next songs. I'm a big Jamiroquai and Gorillaz fan, so that's a big complement.

    Calgary, awesome track "yellow"! I especially like the percussion. I also like the synth part and I can see how my synth part is lacking a bit in its purpose. I'm not sure if there's anything that can be done for that in the Running track, but I'll definitely keep that in mind for other songs.

    As always, thanks for the input!
  16. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    Credit for the sound of Yellow goes to Rob Papen's Albino. Probably my single favorite synth in terms of sonic quality. Be sure to post your new stuff when you get it done, there's lots of people around here who really enjoy your tunes. :cool:

    If you can find it check out a tune called "Perfect Day" by the band Strange Advance. That's a great example of how these synth drigven productions can be tamed in a context that's particularly relevant to your voice and the way you write. :cool:
  17. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Dang, it's 5:20 am where I live. You must live somewhere besides where I do unless you're a night owl like me! I just finished my last exam yesterday, so I've been "celebrating."

    I'll check out Perfect Day. It's not on the iTunes store, where I get most of my music, so I'll have to search elsewhere.

    A good deal of my new music uses synths as background fillers to add texture. We have a full 17-track album to accompany these 3 demo tracks, which are given as a promotion for the full album, but when our second album is under way I'll certainly post a few more demo tracks.
  18. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    Congratulations! Hope your exam results turn out great. :cool:

    Yeah it's 3:20 AM here, just writing some stuff. I'm working on a kind of Peter Gabriel-ish thing, it's driving me nuts because it's sooo good but I can't get the last 5% right, although I think I've found it now with a new bass guitar line but it's a tricky groove which is going to take me a week to get tight.

    Anyhow anything by Strange Advance will work, it's all synth and voice. Perfect Day is just especially suited to how you write/sing. She Controls Me, Kiss In The Dark, The Second That I Saw You, Love Becomes Electric, Worlds Away and We Run were some of their top 40 hits, my guess is that any of those would give you a similar glimpse at how you can really magnify your hooks within this context. Perfect Day is hard to find as is a lot of their stuff, Strange Advance was a weird little blip in the history of rock, it's all basically done by one guy who hired the singer to do the vocals. The guy was a studio owner from Vancouver who spent years mastering the art of pop synth. Whether you're a fan of New Wave or not, those Strange Advance albums are a great tutorial in synth driven vocal pop.

    The band "The Payolas" also had some compelling pop hits in that genre with some unreal production values albeit more guitar oriented. Nonetheless, texture was their main thing. Bob Rock produced all that stuff and later formed Rock and Hyde with Payola's front man Paul Hyde which had a couple minor hits, i.e. "If I washed my hands in your dirty water, would your religion make me clean?", etc. Anyhoo. Check it out if you get a chance. Bob Rock is a modern master at producing perfectly balanced synth hooks under catchy vocals. He has a great instinct, tons of experience, and some serious production skills. They also worked with master producer Bruce Fairbairn (AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith) who even made a cameo appearance on one of their albums. Check out "Eyes Of A Stranger", "I'll Find Another Who Can" or "Where is This Love".

  19. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Cool, I'll check all those bands out. I'd love to hear your track - maybe we could swap for one my new tracks? [my forum user name]@gmail.com Gotta love 2+ Gb of email storage... I know our producer would kill me if he knew I were giving out new material, so I understand if you'd rather finish your track before letting anyone hear it.
  20. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    I'll post it when I have the vocals done. In my case I'm the keyboard player, guitarist, singer, bassist, writer, drum programmer, and producer. So I have no issues with sharing other than the fact that I have to get the thing complete first. :cool:

    This piece has very few parts but they lock together in a specific way, which is often the hardest stuff for me to get done because I tend to toss out hundreds of takes looking for the perfect one. If I don't nail it all down this week I'm going to set it aside for a month and come back to it so it doesn't get stale.

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