Original - pre vocals basic tracks critique please

DonnyThompson

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less compression for starters. I don't know if the compression I'm hearing now is a result of what you've added, or if it's an inherent part of the sample itself - many snare samples are heavily compressed as part of their sound.

As far as being too bright, that kinda speaks for itself, it seems pretty heavy in the 3-6k region. Again, this might not be because of what you've added, it could be that this is part of the sample.

You might try attenuating some of the 3-5k area by a few db, maybe add a little body down around 250-300 or so. As far as compression, I'd be at around 3:1, with a -12db thresh, with a slower attack and quicker release.

But that's just me. If you are happy with the sound as is then you should stick with it. Remember that when you post a song for critique for a room full of engineers, you're bound to get differing opinions.

IMHO of course.
 

DogsoverLava

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Vancouver
Thanks Donny

This particular drum sample library comes from Superior Drummer 2.0 and I'm using one of their presets inside the SD mixer/router which most likely does include some compression. I'll drill into it and see what's there and see if I can come up with something more intentional - i'll use your recommendations to makes some adjustments.

The biggest value here is real time opinion and cause effect adjustments and feedback. I'm a novice as far as time in and ability goes - lacking years of cause effect understanding. Feedback - particularly specific feedback lets me hear both before and after as I get directed into a project and make adjustments - it's totally invaluable. I learn from listening to everyone else's changes in their projects as well -- like a master class a bit but slower paced. It's the best model for learning - real projects by folks with skin in the game.

I'm just trying to be respectful enough not to overload the board with all my own stuff and questions... Unleashed I'd be a vampire. It's also why I share my own opinions on stuff too - making sure I only speak in areas where my opinion would have merit based on my experience, or where it would make sense to offer it in the context of my own background .

So please feel free to comment or critique. I'm building up ability using both broad focus but also micro directed tasks one step at a time. So far this has been great for me with this track - by the time it's done I hope to have a great track - but even more so I hope to have learned through the process. That learning us what I'm after - the track will be gravy and icing!!!!

I welcome any and all opinions - I'm hungry for them and appreciate the critical ear and effort enormously. Many thanks.

Spent the day in the car driving and singing along to this --- trying to scat melody and inspire lyrics.... Coming together in my head --- good times.

Cheers
Rob
 

DonnyThompson

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Location
Akron/Cleveland, OH
While I have to be honest and say that the style in which you write, perform and record really isn't my thing, at the same time I have a large amount of respect for anyone who lays there material out there for everyone to hear and says "what am I doing wrong here?"

It takes guts to put your material out there for honest critique. You are doing so with a motivation of improving yourself and your craft. You aren't posting with the selfish intent of raising view/listen counts on audio media sites, or posting in search of a bunch of "yes people" to tell you how awesome you are because that's what you think about yourself and your ego needs confirmation, and you don't get defensive and pissy when someone says " this needs work".

You are posting because you sincerely desire critique and want to improve, and that's what this forum is here for.

Listen to all style of music. Analyze the tones and levels of all kind of instruments. Watch your listening levels. Often you can hear things more clearly at lower levels. Keep doing what you are doing. The more you do it, the more your ears will start to refine, and the better you'll get.

FWIW

d/
 

DogsoverLava

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Jun 21, 2014
Location
Vancouver
snarcomp2.jpg
Gaincomp1.jpg


Here are two screencaps of the compression from inside of SD2.0 -- the first is applied to the snare specifically and the second is applied to the master 1/2 out of the drum program

Don't know how well you can see the settings - i'm going to drill into these a bit.
 
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DogsoverLava

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Vancouver
UPDATED: Here's a new mix and more complete arrangement - featuring lyrics & vocals

What's still needing development is the outro and the inclusion of a bridge before the 3rd verse -- working on those still. Also working on changing some of the phrasing of the vocal performance. I tend to hold notes and make the phrases overly elongated --- totally open to suggestions.

There's a slight gospel element to this that I'd like to build on possible (but not overdo)
Lyrics are perhaps a little corny -- tried to be earnest with them - song's is sung from the perspective of a lover who has died or had to move on.... might try to clean them up a bit as well content wise - make them a little less obvious ----

Open and interested in suggestions on any of the above. This song is part of a song cycle following a young soldier going to war...

https://soundcloud.com/dogsoverlava%2Flay-me-down-original-demo-wipv1
https://www.dropbox.com/s/6brqww96aqjqkf3/Lay Me Downv1.mp3?dl=0

Thanks for any suggestions, comments or critiques -- all welcome.
 

DonnyThompson

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Location
Akron/Cleveland, OH
There are two things that caught my attention here on this latest version. One is engineering and one is performance.

The engineering critique is that the drums sound far too "thin" to me. The snare and hat are both pretty bright, and "papery" sounding. It's lacking a "body", a fuller frequency range across the board. The kick lacks weight and warmth.

When you use Superior, are you tracking all the drums to one track? Or, are you splitting up the kit pieces so that you have the kick on its own track, the snare on its own, etc. ?

Performance wise, the groove is pretty loose. I can hear what you are going for, which is a laid-back kinda thing, but you've got some timing issues in there - the most obvious is between the two guitars at the intro, and the other is the bass guitar / kick drum relationship - the bass is sometimes laying back too far, or, hitting too "high" ( on top of) the beat... and it's kinda distracting in relationship to the rhythm section.

Sometimes, these laid back, slower grooves can be the toughest to lock down.

I'd do some tightening up through editing on this, get that bass and kick to at least find "the one" together. It's okay if they both lay back, but when one does and and one doesn't, it makes for a clumsy groove.

There is also a technical side to this timing/groove issue I just mentioned, and that is that when you have two primary low end instruments hitting "the downs" at slightly different times, it can really mess with gain reduction settings; and if you've got gain reduction of any kind strapped across the 2-Bus, what can happen is that the compressor is hearing one attack transient just before or just after the other, and it can kind of mess with how the compressor responds, both in attack and in release.

I like the vocals, although they also sound kinda thin... but you have a cool relaxed feel to them... occasionally, they sound a little reminiscent of The Band or The Grateful Dead.

I think that if perhaps you were able to get the tracks to someone else to mix, you might be able to hear for yourself the difference between what you are doing and what the song could sound like. Part of your problem here is maybe that you've been working on it for too long, and need a fresh pair of ears to present an alternative mix to you.

IMHO of course.
 

pcrecord

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Warning!! the following comment will be based only on personal taste and must be taken as such !
The vocal is quite nicely perform except for some isolate flat notes. I feel sad that the effects put on it, push it far in the back of the mix. I would keep the vibe already installed and make a copy of the vocal on an other track and treat it with only EQ and Comp, then bring it in the mix until the vocal becomes more upfront.
Or I would remove the ambience and doubling effect of the vocal and mix it more like the solo guitar and make sure it sound like it was in the same room as the band.
Again, I don't want to sound like the thousands guys that always tell how they would have done it differently..
It's just my opinion, no fact or science ;)
PS, I also feel the timming could be improve. It's hard to play slow and tight at the same time but the impact would benefit greatly.
 

DogsoverLava

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Vancouver
When you use Superior, are you tracking all the drums to one track? Or, are you splitting up the kit pieces so that you have the kick on its own track, the snare on its own, etc. ?

For this piece I'm using a preset in Superior that has everything routed to buses in the superior mixer then to the DAW on one track so the processing and mixing of the various pieces is happening in Superior - I can change that for sure by breaking down the drums into more sends.


Performance wise, the groove is pretty loose. I can hear what you are going for, which is a laid-back kinda thing, but you've got some timing issues in there - the most obvious is between the two guitars at the intro, and the other is the bass guitar / kick drum relationship - the bass is sometimes laying back too far, or, hitting too "high" ( on top of) the beat... and it's kinda distracting in relationship to the rhythm section.

Sometimes, these laid back, slower grooves can be the toughest to lock down.

I'd do some tightening up through editing on this, get that bass and kick to at least find "the one" together. It's okay if they both lay back, but when one does and and one doesn't, it makes for a clumsy groove.

So this will be a new thing for me to attempt - are we talking time tweaks or shifting of notes - stretching? Is there a tutorial you have come across that you can point to that might help me workflow wise in attempting this? I also have a question about latency --- Could any timing irregularities be the result of latency issues (ie, tracking live with previously tracked takes?) Is there a tracking strategy for this? The acoustic guitar is tracked by two different mics through the M-audio interface -- where the electric is DI into the interface, then into the DAW w/ GuitarRig 5 Pro sims - is there a scenario where latency would be a factor here? Also - technique wise -- should I be muting all tracks but the drum or drum and bass when I track other instruments so that I'm locking into the same element for every specific take as opposed to drifting into locking into say the guitar which itself was locking into the drums -- kind of like a step removed --- would this be an issue or could this be happening?

There is also a technical side to this timing/groove issue I just mentioned, and that is that when you have two primary low end instruments hitting "the downs" at slightly different times, it can really mess with gain reduction settings; and if you've got gain reduction of any kind strapped across the 2-Bus, what can happen is that the compressor is hearing one attack transient just before or just after the other, and it can kind of mess with how the compressor responds, both in attack and in release.

I like the vocals, although they also sound kinda thin... but you have a cool relaxed feel to them... occasionally, they sound a little reminiscent of The Band or The Grateful Dead.

I think that if perhaps you were able to get the tracks to someone else to mix, you might be able to hear for yourself the difference between what you are doing and what the song could sound like. Part of your problem here is maybe that you've been working on it for too long, and need a fresh pair of ears to present an alternative mix to you.

IMHO of course.

I really do like the idea of getting the tracks to someone else for a compare/contrast -- I'll keep that on the back burner for the moment and proceed with working with both the technical and performance aspects of the tracks. Really appreciate the feedback - invaluable process wise for sure and I can't thank you enough. The more critical you are means the more opportunity to learn that I have - project based learning for sure.
 

DogsoverLava

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Jun 21, 2014
Location
Vancouver
Warning!! the following comment will be based only on personal taste and must be taken as such !
The vocal is quite nicely perform except for some isolate flat notes. I feel sad that the effects put on it, push it far in the back of the mix. I would keep the vibe already installed and make a copy of the vocal on an other track and treat it with only EQ and Comp, then bring it in the mix until the vocal becomes more upfront.
Or I would remove the ambience and doubling effect of the vocal and mix it more like the solo guitar and make sure it sound like it was in the same room as the band.
Again, I don't want to sound like the thousands guys that always tell how they would have done it differently..
It's just my opinion, no fact or science ;)
PS, I also feel the timming could be improve. It's hard to play slow and tight at the same time but the impact would benefit greatly.

The vocals only have EQ and reverb from within Reaper on them, plus they are double tracked. I'm not using compression on anything except the drum presets inside of superior drummer. If I tweak the reverb by dialing back the wet signal this will move them forward in the mix more? I'll play with that - you're right - the balance is just not quite there between them and the rest of the track - they stand slightly apart sonically. Also - I'm duping the reverb for each vocal stem - would you recommend applying the verb to the master vocal control track only (I'm using folders to manage my stems in Reaper so I can control the vocals as a group as well as individually).

I like the idea of a more naked vocal sound - more intimate and more a solo guitar performance kind of piece -- I'm going to consider that as an alternate arrangement and treatment for when I work through some of these other issues.

All opinions are desired here - yours are great so don't hold back. Many thanks.
 

Smashh

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Oct 12, 2012
Location
Australia
Hi DoL,
I ll give you my 2 cents ,not an expert here but hope theres something helpful for you :)

THe bass and kick need more thud down low, me thinks .

Firstly I think you should re do the bass guitar . Youve got nice lines/ phrases there , now you just need to execute ( he he hope thats the spelling) them with no rushed notes.
90 per cent of the bass is spot on but the rushed bits , e.g. second half of intro need to be right in with the drums.

Then the guitars , if you leave them as they are , you could use a stereo aux with delay maybe 10 ms ( what ever ms sounds good to you ) and feed some of each guitar to the opposite side so it sounds bigger and
balanced nicer. I think it would tuck away that slightly sharp A on the g string of the electric rhythm guitar intro .

The guitar lines are sterile ( I mean when the chorus sparks up , the strum and purchase are the same when they could lift )
If you use the same guitar tracks you could maybe alter the level and /or ambience for the chorus etc , It'll be ear candy for us listeners .
Maybe the acoustic could me more prominent in the verses .

The cymbals and snare seem like they have a HP filter and makes them thin , For me I wanna hear more natural lows of the snare and cymbals ( maybe 150 - 300hz range , my guestimate lol )
that would make them sound more real for me.
The transitions into the choruses could have a big crash on the kick just before "lay me down " and on the " down " also . That would give the chorus more impact .

Guitar solo go nuts with a longer delay . it deserves it .

Cool song , I listened to it a few times and it grows on me (y)



Have a couple of days off then drink some beers and take a listen and youll know where you really wanna go with it.
Take some notes cause you might forget when you have a hang over ...:ploll


All the best Ash
 

pcrecord

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@Smashh : be carefull with stereo tricks with very small delays! Althought it sound nice at first, it can give you headaches on the long run. By doing so, you are puting a part of the signal out of phase and this is why it gives the illusion of stereo or wider sound.

The best way to do it is to replay the part and record it on a seperate track, with a slightly different sound on the amp or preferably a different amp. Or if you can't replay, you can re-amp the track with a different amp or amp simulator.
 
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Smashh

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Australia
Thanks for that advice PC , I will change how I do that . Do you mean gives a headache as in its fatiguing listening after a while?
 

pcrecord

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No no, nothing like that.. When putting stuff out of phase, some of the frequencies get cancelled and therefor affect the sum of sound of the guitar. If you put the mix in mono it will be more evident. ;)
 

Smashh

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Australia
AH haa , cheers , Ill start listening in mono . Not in that habit yet .
Sorry DOL . Dont wanna lead you astray throuh my ignoorance and thanks for the rescue PCrecord , you rock (y)
 

DogsoverLava

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Jun 21, 2014
Location
Vancouver
Thanks Guys -- I'm definitely going to do some re-tracking and rearranging:

Planned:
Drums - a less busy drum pattern. I like the ghost notes in this pattern but some of the beats and accents don't quite gel with the song. Going to break into the midi and rewrite the drums to suit, paying particular attention to the bass drum and snare hits and how they fit with the bass guitar.

Retrack bass with New Drums - paying particular attention to bass/kick relationship per Donny

Rearrange: Shorten introduction - make it less cliche or predictable - shorten outro

Bridge: Need to breakup the linear narrative that just seems squeezed together - shortening the intro and outro will free up some time for a bridge or break.

Vocals & BG Vocals: Build on the Gospel element of the BG vocals -- bring main vocal out front more and warm it up -- will retrack with special emphasis on tuning and shortening some of the note holds -- initial vocals were scratch

Lyrics: a slight rewrite of a couple of phrases - specifically "I ask you, to let me cross over..." to "I ask you, to turn our page over..." -- crossover is just too death specific and too new agey

Essentially a complete retrack and arrangement --

What I'll still do though is play with fixing some of the timing in the track itself as it exists (as Donny Recommended) as I have no experience with that at all and it would be good to build some chops there.
 

Jonesey

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Western Pennsylvania
When it comes to snare sounds, a-lot of it really is personal preference. The snare sounds fine, I tend to like more lower mids. The melody you sang is basically your rhythm track, you need to step away from it and come back with something more melodic.
 

DogsoverLava

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Vancouver
https://soundcloud.com/dogsoverlava%2Flay-me-down-v5
Here's a new mix of this song featuring new vocals with much cleaner tracks and processing. For this song at this stage in my learning I'm interested in how to get the vocals to gel with the track so they feature, but don't stand apart from the track, and also so they retain some of their intimacy...

There are other things I want to do with this still but I'm taking it one step at a time. Thanks to anyone that's taken the time to listen.
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
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I like it. I think the vocals are in a good general area. I could see where some fader automation or gentle compression could help them sit a bit more evenly, in certain isolated words/phrases. I think it doesn't ever get 'too loud or too soft' so your general 'static' balance is good, In Other words the fader is in a good spot, to me. I think just some gentle gain control would keep the words and phrases together dynamically. I think that the dynamics is what your hearing, and what u mean about the vocs sitting right. I might be wayyyy off tho.

The lead tone towards the end is nice. I like the laid back backyard bbq feel. (Lmao, just realized I made the type of description that drives engineers crazy. Man, make it more bbq, you know, what I mean.?)
 

pcrecord

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@DogsoverLava : It's getting there, I like it.
The vocal sound a bit nazal, but that might be the performer's voice.
The bass, bass drum, snare and vocal should be in the center and you could spread the other instruments around them.
I can't hear the bass drum and the snare is a bit thin and far.

Can't wait for an other version, this is getting interesting ! ;)
 
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