Critique me!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by corl45, Apr 7, 2012.

  1. corl45

    corl45 Active Member

    Hi, I hope this is the right forum, but I would like some nice harsh, constructive, and helpful critiquing by some more seasoned recording engineers. Critique everything from my setup to the song I'm about to post. I will post the song I've recorded at the bottom.

    First off, I am by no means an expert, I'm just a 17 year old with tons of interest and recording being one of them, I bought a little bit of recording equipment and do recording on the side for myself and friends, I do not have time to practice a lot but I do it wherever I can. My current set up comes to this:

    Shure C606 (dynamic, for guitar)
    3 Behringer dynamic mics. Don't know model but they're pretty cheap 50 bucks for all three. Only use them for micing drums.
    1 MXL 990 large diaphragm condenser (for vox)
    1 MXL 991 small diaphragm condenser

    All those mics run into a Behringer Eurorack UB1202 mixer (with built in preamps) from there I run it into my M-Audio Fast Track MKII running through USB into my computer. And yes, right now my DAW is FL studio (ONLY because I know how to use it well and haven't had time to learn Pro Tools) I already know the kind of wrap FL studio has. I really want to do more with Pro Tools.

    Please understand that I'm on a budget, I welcome anyone saying that I should buy this or that (or should have bought this or that), but if it's like a $2000 Digi 003, it's kind of out of the question.

    This song is NOT FINISHED, I'm aware of the very prominent errors, but also, I'm no not very good at vocals at the moment, haha. But nonetheless, any help/advice/critique would be much appreciated (especially in the vocal area!). Don't be afraid to be a little mean.

    Thanks in advance.

    Song:Tonight_SemiFinal.mp3 - - online file sharing and storage - download
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    AH... 17 and no name?

    First things first. Nobody's going to sign up to download your music or to listen to it. There are other sites that don't require us to sign up for anything.

    I'm 56 and when I was your age, I was doing precisely what you are currently doing. Though I was doing it at the largest studio south of New York City in Baltimore Maryland. I made lots of dorky 17-year-old mistakes back then, LOL. You've already got a nice rig for a 17-year-old. And I really wouldn't have anything bad to say about your software because it's totally usable. ProTools has some neat features and certain advantages when interchanging between other studios, video post and such. Otherwise compressors are compressors, limiters are limiters, equalizers are equalizers and I think you get the picture? Plug-ins are something that are more specialized and they cost. But if you don't understand the fundamentals, you'll get arrested, LMAO. Most of these algorithms today are very similar to each other. It's only the GUI that's really different. So if you're getting decent results with software you already know and are proficient with, no real need to change.

    You say budget is not a factor but really, it's a HUGE factor when it's not really necessary. You should become as proficient as possible with what you currently have before you start to move up. You need to learn how to drive before you can become a race car driver, get it? I started riding my bicycle in the streets when I was nine because somebody had given me a ride on their motorcycle. So, what I really wanted was a motorcycle which a nine-year-old is not entitled to yet. But I knew that if I was going to be a motorcyclist, I'd better learn how to be a motorcyclist first on my bicycle. So I started marathoning. By the time I was 12, I was already doing 50 mile marathons. By the time I was 14, I was doing 200 mile marathons. By the time I was 23, I had my brand-new Honda Silverwing. Band I could get fat and lazy. Today that 30-year-old Honda has antique tags on it. (Yes I know this is one of these adult stories being given to a kid who probably doesn't appreciate it, yet?)

    What you haven't learned yet is that certain pieces of inexpensive equipment can be better than things labeled condenser microphones. Such as the SHURE SM58/57's. So you really need a couple of those because those are staples of the professional recording industry. The current SHURE that you have is probably adequate for guitar? It's probably quite usable on vocals as well but I prefere the SM58 since that's the one you see used on television most often. (That's what I also utilize for television.) And why do you think it is? It's because it's just that good on vocals, on guitars, on drums, on most anything. There have been more hits made on those than any other microphone ever made. So pick up a couple, you'll be glad you did. I do use condenser microphones on vocals, some of the time but that's about all. Where your biggest difference will be had is in your preamps. And your current Beringer stuff, ain't all that bad. Friends of mine ask me to make recordings of them, not on my premium equipment but on their low-cost equipment just like yours. That's because they know, I know, how to squeeze the most out of that stuff and they want to make sure they didn't make a mistake in their purchase. So I'll utilize anything put before me. I really don't care even though I have my preferences. But that's because I really understand the equipment that I'm using. That only comes with time and experience which is what you are currently accumulating.

    People will tell you your Beringer isn't worth squat. But it really is. It's perfectly fine it just ain't perfectly professional. But who's handing you a $30,000 contract? So all I'm really trying to explain to you is, it's not what you've got but what you do with it that counts, most. It's really much more fun and quite a challenge to get professional results out of the low-end gear. When you get to that stage of proficiency, then you might consider moving up? The problem there is that moving up actually costs considerably more than moving laterally. So something that cost a couple of hundred dollars more than what you currently have is not a move up. It's just something else to play with.

    Back in the mid-1980s, I was already utilizing and using the API & Neve stuff at the other recording studios and NBC network television. While my personal equipment was equivalent to your personal equipment. I made some fabulous recordings with the world's cheapest microphone preamps (Single cheap IC chip). And I still love listening to those recordings I made on that crap utilizing just a pair of headphones (since most of the stuff I was doing was essentially live recording in live nightclub venues). And I hate making recordings only utilizing headphones. But you do what you have to do the way you have to do it to get the job done.

    I later stuck a pair of my JBL's in the back of my Chevy Van and started doing remote recordings that way in the later 1980s. What I really wanted was one of those BIG TRUCKS, like Record Plant Remote & Remote Recording Services. And that's what I have today. But you can't just go right to that at 17. You need to work the stuff that you have for a couple of more years. You might consider picking up a Digi design M-Box that bundles ProTools with it for around $450. With that, you'll get a couple of additional microphone preamps that may sound noticeably different from what you are currently utilizing. That will get you the ProTools that you are desiring, dirt cheap. So now we are talking just under $1000 for what I've suggested. But are you really ready for that yet? We won't know until you first learn how to post your music on a site that does not require us to sign up for anything.

    So that's the end of the first lesson.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. corl45

    corl45 Active Member

    Thank you tons for the reply, Remy! My name is Tyler. As my previous post may say otherwise (with the site I uploaded my file too) I am very proficient with computers, I have used 4shared long, long ago, and it didn't used to require one to log in to view the file, so that is definitely my fault, sorry about that. It seem there's no good file hosting services now-a-day, so I just put it on my home webserver. You can find the song here: . This is a song I decided to record for some friends, that I haven't quite finished yet.

    But, thank you again for your reply, I will definitely work on maximizing the performance of my current gear, I have noticed slight improvement over the years/months that I have been recording. Thanks for the tip about the SM58's that mic was actually going to be my next purchase, as I heard a lot of people, like you, talking about how big of a staple in recording it is. I will surely be picking one up a soon as possible

    I would guess the next step is to see what you have to say about my recording, I am very curious.


  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Hi there Tyler! Glad to meet you. I understand that this is not completed. It's also not in stereo but is profoundly, monaural a.k.a. Mono.

    It's actually a reasonable effort for a guy your age. After listening to this on 2 pair of monitors it sounds to me that you recorded and mixed this strictly through headphones? If not strictly headphones, just a small pair of monitors that is slim on its bass response? That's because, it's has way too much low-end that needs to be cut. You get a much more dynamic recording that smacks, snaps, much better when you high pass filter (low-frequency cut around 80 Hz), on the bass drum, vocals and even the bass guitar. You are also not providing enough presence (3-5 kHz boost) on your vocals along with not using or utilizing any compression. Compression from between 3-10 DB, with a ratio of 4:1 is a good starting point for vocals. Vocals for rock 'n roll just never sound right unless you have copious amounts of compression. Then you get to actually "place" that vocal on top of the music were you currently have it but it will be more " there " with a consistency like you've heard on all of the hits you like. The low-end response you currently have is just rather muddy and nondescript.

    You may also want to cut some of the low frequencies on the guitars and make them grind a little better. If you are recording this guitar through an amplifier, the amplifier by itself will invoke its own compression personality. If taking the guitar direct and utilizing a cabinet emulator in software, you may want to add some compression there also. Now with a single guitar input and track, you would then also be able to add some stereo time delay affects to create more of a feeling of stereoscopic soundscape while still panning your guitar to the left or right channels where it would still be predominant with some of the time delay appearing in the opposite channels to create a feeling of a more spacious environment.

    Bass guitars also frequently require some additional limiting along with some additional presence to make it cut through better instead of just sitting at the bottom of the mud farm.

    On to the drums... that snare drum needs to smack you in the face. So I generally start by just pushing up drums and bass guitar to get that dynamic feeling of energy. One of the things I frequently utilize is what I refer to as my reference CDs. Before I begin any mixing, I always stick in my reference CDs to take a listen and to use them as an audio template for what I made be trying to achieve. These reference CDs I use, includes stuff from numerous engineers including my own previous work. People like Ed Charney, George Massenburg, Bob Clearmountain, Bruce Swedien, Roger Nichols, Remy David before I begin any mixing. That's what you're going after, after all. One of the tricks I like to utilize on this genre style of music is I frequently invert phase (reverse phase) of the bass drum. I don't always do this but I find that this frequently causes a unique and helpful phase cancellation that tightens up and accentuates the bass drum while giving it a greater thud that's more hard hitting. I don't do that to any of the other drum microphones unless I'm using a top and bottom snare drum microphone in which case, the bottom snare drum microphone also gets phase inverted in comparison to the top snare drum microphone. Again, some high frequency equalization and/or some additional presence in equalization, in small quantities, goes a long way on the drum kit. I wish somebody had suggested these things to me when I was your age. It took me a few years to get there but I was there by the time I was 20-21. One of my primary influences in that was from George Massenburg since I also loved what he was doing with Earth Wind & Fire, the Emotions, Little Feat and I knew him from the time I was 15. And it was from listening to his material for a few years until I figured out that bass drum phase inversion trick. I couldn't figure out how he got his sound on the drums so tight and that was it. When I talked to him, he verified that to me. And when I said I was working in the studio when I was 17, I was basically doing commercial editing, slideshow pulsing, reel to reel & high speed cassette duplication. Occasionally, I would pick up the phone at night when George would call. He would call because they guy that gave him his first break, shortly after he left, was the guy who I was working for and who gave me my first break. And that was at the now defunct and legendary FLITE THREE RECORDINGS/RECORDINGS INC. in Baltimore. Louis R. Mills was the owner of that legendary studio who recently passed on. Unfortunately, George must have not been able to take time out from his new job as Professor of New Music at Montréal's McGill University to attend the memorial service held just last month that I attended. They were good friends.

    One of the things I discovered when I was your age was the AES conventions in New York City. I started to attend at 17 and have been going back every year for the past 39 years. Well now, it's every other year in NYC which is the closest to me. It appears every other year when it's not in NYC, in San Francisco. So it still occurs every year but not twice a year like it used to. It's extremely educational just to walk through the exhibition floor without ever taking any of the seminars which costs a lot of money. But you can get free tickets to the exhibition floor if you go to If you're on the East Coast, Midwest, you're going to have to wait another two years for the AES, NYC. It will be happening next year generally in early October in San Francisco. It also is covered rather in depth right on their website. You don't have to join the AES and in fact, you really can't until you are an established professional. But you can still go. I'm sure, if you want to give them your $80, and you can give them a good reason for doing so such is what you have already accomplished, you can become a member of the Audio Engineering Society. And it sounds to me like you are well on your way?

    I would venture to say, you may get additional feedback from other members here that may even offer to remix your multitrack project for free? I could even give you a slam Bam thank you ma'am, ITB (in the computer only software) mix. Generally, when I'm presented with a recording not made on my premium quality console, I will generally do a analog mix supplemented with hardware and software. When I record everything through my premium console & preamps, I'm more likely to generate a mix strictly in software? And that's because this console I use, from the mid-1970s, has a certain characteristic sound that is not quite obtainable the same way just through software. But plenty of guys do just that and work strictly ITB (in the box a.k.a. computer). We all have our own personal styles and techniques that we utilize in numerous ways. Those other mega engineers always seemed to me to have a characteristic technique and sound to each and every one of them. I never thought that I would ever have my own actual signature sound? And even while I started doing decent music recording, I only felt more like I didn't have my own sound? As years went on, I realized I did and I like the sound that I generate. I'm not like those other guys. I'm not even sure I could come close to those other guys but I think I already do? Most of my work is quite different from theirs in that, I specialize more in live recording for broadcast and live recording for albums than I do studio work. I've done plenty of studio work but I love that constantly changing challenge of live on location and the fact that I don't get a second chance to remix anything when you go on the air live. And a lot of that, I do without ever having a microphone check nor rehearsal. So a lot of my engineering is really fly by the seat of your pants style. It has to be right in 5-4-3-2... go to black... you're on the air. So the mix that I have to push up is accomplished in just 30 seconds. Now that's a challenge! A lot of strictly recording engineers can't do that. But that's because I have worked in live broadcasting as much as I have worked as a recording engineer. I generally don't do PA because I hate PA sound. I don't care how good the PA system is it always sounds like crap to me. But when people pay me and request me to do so, no problemo'. And I freak out a lot of PA guys because they have a much different way of working than I do. That's because when I do PA, I'm really just pushing up a recording mix through the PA. Of course you can't always do the same things you would do for recording because you have to be concerned with feedback. So you really can't utilize all that compression I'm talking about for PA without running into trouble. So I find that all of those reference CDs have been the greatest schooling I could have ever gotten. I don't think I would have even gone to university to get a degree in recording arts and sciences? Especially since that did not exist when I got into this business. The only degrees relating to recording engineering when I got into the business was Mass Communications, Electrical Engineering, Music, Broadcast Journalism. I also don't believe in spending beaucoup Dinero on recording engineering degrees. You're better off getting a degree in business while pursuing recording on your own. And I never had the money to go to college anyhow and neither did my parents. Today, things are a little bit different and a practical college degree makes a lot more sense than an impractical college degree which is what the music industry has turned into today from a business plan standpoint. Besides, a lot of the big studios along with a lot of the big record labels are virtually nonexistent anymore. So it's sort of come back to where I was where it's really better to find your own way. I'm sure there's plenty of folks here that will argue that with me? That's okay, they have that right. And they'd probably be right, today. That's because I'm really old-school and I'm old, too old.

    Okay, let's try this again. Take two (they're small)
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. corl45

    corl45 Active Member

    Thank you so much for your help! And I'm glad to meet you aswell! I will definitely try out your advice as soon as possible (I get a little busy sometimes). And yeah I did a lot of mixing on headphones (Me Electronics HT-21's) but I also did a lot on a stereo I have hooked up to my computers (don't have any monitors yet). The problem being that my headphones are a little bass-light, and the speakers are a little bass-heavy, so I usually listen to the bass heavy speakers and turn down the bass quite a bit from there, but it's hard to get it right. I will do a little work, re-read your post numerous times and get back to you asap. Thanks for your help!
  6. corl45

    corl45 Active Member

    Sorry about the double post, but, here we go:

    Alright, got some time to do some editing and mixing and messed around taking into deep consideration your tips/advice. I put a high-pass filter that cuts off around 80 Hz oh both guitar tracks, vocals, drums, and bass guitar. I then put a little (more) compression on the vocals, it's currently at threshold: -9.4db, attack at 00, release at 200ms and ratio 5:1, and boosted the 3-5k range in my eq on the vocals aswell. I also tried to get the snare to pop out more (with an eq boosting around 2.5k Hz) And I really wanted to try that inverted phase trick on the drums, but my drum track is all one sample, unfortunately, and I'll talk a little about that below. Messed with the volume of everything and panned (ever so slightly) guitar and vocals. I also messed with the eq on quite a few things. (I think that's near it.)

    Now the problem with my drums, I don't know how to record my drums and get separate tracks/samples for each mic, and I'm not sure it's even possible with my set-up. The only way I figure I can add effects/filters and whatnot to a mic is to get a hardware effect (all of my effects are software at the moment) and put it after the mic and infront of the mixer. So in turn, I don't know how to Invert phase the kick, I can only invert phase the whole sample of the drum kit.

    I'm also still having trouble getting the vocals to sound "right", I record a lot of metal, and metal vocals don't require quite as much effort as "clean" vocals, that's my thoughts anyway. Could it be my recording method, I usually have them sing in a small room that is located under my stairs (so it slopes down with the stairs, it's pretty small) with a pop filter and MXL 990. Currently ALL the effects I have running on the vocals are: A little bit of chours, compression, and some EQ, I thought about a little reverb but couldn't get it to sound very good.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the AES stuff, I would love to attend one, though I'm in Utah here. The California one would be a little more viable but either way it's a bit of a travel, either way it'd be a really neat thing to be a part of.

    My IP changed cause we I had to do some work on my network, but here you can listen to my new recording and the older one as well:

    I've done some other recordings (mainly metal), if you'd be interested in listening to as well. This song is my main priority though, as it is for someone else, and not myself.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Tyler,part of the problem is that your Fast Track will only allow for a single microphone input & 2 line inputs. So you really can't record multitrack anything. Though there are some inexpensive workarounds you could try such as obtaining a secondary stereo line in input USB audio device. This would then allow you to record 4 simultaneous tracks which are assigned to 4 separate audio tracks in your timeline. Otherwise, you are essentially stuck with only the ability to record a single stereo pair. In your situation, I would go for versatility over audio fidelity to accomplish this. Inexpensive line input USB devices can be had for under $100. Still, your mixer gizmo really doesn't have much of a chance to deliver any kind of isolated multitrack output. The only other way to that inverted phase bass drum trick would be to simply re-wire a dedicated bass drum microphone cable. A soldering iron would be required and you would reverse the wires on pins 2 & 3. You would then mark that cable to indicate that it is reverse phase.

    When recording vocals, your attack time should not be at zero. That's too damn fast. A few milliseconds will sound much more musical while retaining some of the initial dynamics. Anything at its extremes rarely works well. But you really need something that would offer you some kind of multitrack recording capability such as the FireWire-based Presonus Fire Studio at around $500 US. And that comes with some awesome bundled multitrack software. Probably an order of magnitude better than what you are currently using? But you can still stick with what you are currently using either way. It will just further to broaden your horizons and capabilities. There's only so much you can do with what you currently have. I might even suggest (heaven forbid) that you actually utilize your computer built in sound card line input. That, in combination with your Fast Track will provide for 4 simultaneous line inputs that can be assigned to 4 separate simultaneously recording tracks. This is what you would do on the cheap that would cost you nothing extra. I have found that some of those built-in computer sound cards aren't as a horrible at their line inputs as their microphone input is which is simply awful. Then you could utilize your pre-fader monitor send without turning up your bass drum fader on the mixer. This would isolate your bass drum to the monitor output, without EQ. Your snare drum microphone, into a Radio Shaft low impedance to high impedance converter may actually output enough signal to drive the line level input of the right channel. It will be low but it may still work. That would allow for 4 simultaneous tracks of drums. Of course, that wouldn't be the entire band, only the drum set. And that's where the second stereo USB gizmo with a pair of XLR microphone inputs would then allow you to record 6 total simultaneous tracks. This is a wacko way of doing things, I know. I've actually done it on occasion myself. (I didn't even want to admit that here LOL) but it works in a pinch. You got to get your multiple track recording capabilities up higher than 2. Because without a lot of outboard hardware stuff and a better mixer you're stuck. And that's why one of those FireWire devices that accepts 8 XLR inputs is the starting line for actual multitrack recording capabilities. Plenty of folks mixed live to just stereo. But you've got to have the right mixing technique and other assorted outboard gear to begin with in order to accomplish that effectively. It can become quite involved. Check out my website with GOOGLE CHROME and you will hear live stereo mixing that required 10 compressor/limiters, 8 gates, 6 stereo digital effects/reverb devices with a console that allowed for inserting These numerous devices. This is where even an inexpensive Beringer dedicated mixer can be much more versatile than your all-in-one mixer/amplifier can deliver.

    Frustration never ends
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. corl45

    corl45 Active Member

    Awesome! I will definitely look for some cheap work arounds and some better software. That re-wireing idea for the cable seems pretty tempting, as I work with electronics a lot and that would be super easy. Also, besides in recording drums and live recording, where would multiple inputs (allowing for editing of each one specifically) become useful? Doesn't most everything else like vocals, bass, and guitar only require just 1 mic and this 1 input?

    Besides the obvious Pro Tools what other software might you suggest, I'd really like to look for some better software, and further more some sites that sell firewire/usb inputs? I've just been using Musicians Friend for most of my purchases.

    I will keep messing around with this song, listening to similar songs and lurking on the forums and see what I can get out of it. Thanks for your help, and I will definitely be posting more when I need some help.

    The aspect that needs the most help right now is the vocals, and lastly, before I head out to begin more working on this song, would you be willing to take a part of my vocals sample and do some editing to how you see fit for the song? I'm just curious as to what they CAN be and are capable of sounding like. I definitely won't use it in the recording, but I think it would help to see what could be done to them.

  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Tyler, I'd be happy to see what I can do with your vocal? An online site that allows for the uploading of files and the downloading by others would be sites like DropBox. Without paying for it, they still allow for at least 1 GB of online storage. This would certainly allow you to convert some files to MP3's. MP3 is not the best way to go but it's more than adequate at least for example purposes. WMA (Windows media audio) has a similar compression ratio to MP3 with a slightly broader frequency response and a little less artifacting at 128 kilobits per second.

    Yeah, keep lurking and experimenting and you'll inevitably get real good real fast. Just remember, too much jerking around of the audio can be great sounding or the most horrific lump of crap you could possibly step in.

    Now, while you have a condenser microphone and think it's cool on vocals, also try your cheap dynamic microphone. I most generally prefer to those on vocals over much other condenser microphones, even the expensive ones. The SHURE SM58/57 (with an additional foam pop filter) I prefer as a vocal microphone. That's because it actually has the right kind of frequency response that slightly limited in the extreme lows and the extreme highs. Inexpensive condenser microphones get to be sounding overly crispy fried. Or like the popped rice of rice crispies. They are great if you like listening to cereal. I ago cuckoo for cocoa puffs. And 100% free lactose milk. Until you need Cheerios to stop a heart attack? But you have a ways to get there yet.

    Most of the stock and bundled multitrack software packages are pretty much written with the same algorithms. The biggest differences in their GUI. I started with Cool Edit mono/stereo only software back in 1996. They later came out with their Pro version which supported multitrack production. They were later purchased by Adobe and today is known as Audition. You'll never find that software bundled with anything. You will find Steinberg CueBase LE bundled with numerous manufacturers computer audio interface devices. The plug-ins you have heard and read about are specialty devices requiring a more thorough understanding of the stuff that's already in supplied & bundled multitrack software. So I would necessarily mess with those right out of the gate. Not until you become proficient with what's already in a multitrack software package. Don't confuse your situation, not just yet. I actually still utilize one of the first earlier versions of Adobe Audition 1.5. They are up to version 4 or is that 5 today? That works just great for my purposes since I don't do MIDI. When you start utilizing MIDI, programs like Steinberg CueBase actually was a MIDI program before it started handling multitrack audio. Audition is actually the other way around and was strictly a multitrack audio program before it could handle MIDI. ProTools was also that way and now also handles MIDI. I can't advise you much when it comes to MIDI because I am what people refer to as a MIDIdiot. We can't all be great with everything. I have my specialty mostly in live broadcast and recording which really doesn't involve the use of any MIDI. So I'm terribly lacking in that MIDI department.

    So let the tracks rip kiddo. Let's see what you can do and what I might be able to give you some examples of with what you try to do. You might have to give me a day or so because I have been dealing with some vehicle problems and also trying to finish a documentary film, of which I have been involved with editing since December or was that October? November? Too long. My brain has turned to mush (most likely from old age at 56?)

    Looking to hear back from you
    Mx. Remy Ann David
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