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Joined: 05/08/10
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Making the most of your home/project studio new
      #865963 - 05/10/10 01:28 AM
Here is a track I made. The genre is rock. I'd humbly like to ask for your help in improving it.

On Fire.mp3

This song represents several firsts for me. It's the first time I've submitted a song for public review. It's also my first time tracking my own vocals for a song I've written.

I wrote, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered every note on this track myself in my apartment in Austin, Texas. I'm looking for constructive criticism and ideas on how to improve it. Since this track is all me, anything from performance & songwriting critique to mastering tips is fair game.

I'm going for as clean and professional a sound as possible, given the constraint of working out of my somewhat modest home 'studio'. There's certainly some things I feel that are lacking / incorrect in the track, as well some limitations gearwise, but I don't want to color anyone's opinion just yet by letting on too much.

Assuming that this thread is interesting enough to get a few replies, I'll follow up this post with a rundown of the gear I used, and some of the more important signal/FX chains. Let me know if you'd like detailed information on anything specific.

Also, if it's not too much trouble, I'd appreciate it if you could tell me what you listened to the track on (PC speakers, monitors, etc). This would be very helpful for me.


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Joined: 17/01/05
Posts: 1311
Loc: Big Rock Candy Mountain
Re: Making the most of your home/project studio new [Re: dcaudell]
      #865964 - 05/10/10 01:57 AM
you asked in such a pleasant, agreeable attractive manner - i had to listen
- vocals more up front
-delay in tap
- more punch from the bass - more clarity from the bass
- i like it
- very good singer no need to repeat or resample the vocalist - i like to hear variety in chorus- and hate fade outs. Still - ur way ahead - lets hear more

monitors: KRK RP8s - Mindprint converters

.. is this thing on?

Edited by Stan (05/10/10 02:01 AM)

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Re: Making the most of your home/project studio new [Re: dcaudell]
      #866941 - 08/10/10 07:09 PM
New Version:

On Fire.mp3

Sorry for taking so long to respond. Classes are kinda kicking my butt right now,
and I didn't want to reply without having something to show for the input.
Thanks to everybody for responding. I took everything you said into
consideration, and I'll try to give every comment a good response.

I don't know how interesting everyone find this, but I'm finding myself
with a quite a bit to say, so hopefully someone out there will find all
this information useful.

Responses have been a little hard to come by, as forums go, so I'm
aggregating comments from 4 different forums. But first,
I promised a rundown of my setup:


Muse Receptor >> Digi002 Rack >> Cubase SX >> Audio-Technica ATH-A900 Headphones

Ibanez SA series with piezo (Autographed by Vernon Reid, so it has magical powers.)
Split Triaxis / JMP-1 / POD-XT Pro >> Vox TonelabSE (mostly for Cabsim) >> Receptor

Ibanez Soundgear 5-String Neck-though
POD-XT Pro >> Receptor

JTS NX-8S >> Pod-XT (jellybean) as preamp >> Receptor

Series 1 V-Drums (Kinda falling apart) >> Digi002


Apart from whatever is in the patch,
I mix in some 'verb in the Receptor before it hits Digi002.

compressor (POD Frontend) >> blue comp (POD Stomp) >>
SWR model (POD Amp) >> Cubase EQ >>
VST Dynamics Limiter @-10db >> Multiband Compressor

Pod EQ (+3db@2.5k) >> Tube Pre Model (pod) >> Spitfish DeEsser >>
AutoTune (I admit) >> BlockFish Compressor >> EQ (+2@550)
Cubase VST Dynamics (Auto-Level, Compressor, Soft-Clip) >> DeEsser >>
MultiBand Compressor >> Double-Delay >> RoomWorks

Here is a summary of the comments I got:

- Bass Guitar Muddy / Unclear
- Vocals not forward enough
- Fadeouts suck. Don't ever do that.
- Chorus vocals need variety
- Not enough contrast between song sections
- Nasal Vocals
- Use different guitar patch between verse and chorus
- Turn down gain on guitar
- Kick is buried in the mix
- Chorus needs a tamborine or shaker
- Add arpeggiated guitar to chorus
- Mix too bright / distorts / overcompressed
- Breakdown needs to actually be a breakdown

In addition, here's what I thought was wrong
that you guys didn't comment on:

- Bad processing artifacts in vocals
- Weak notes in verse vocals
- Sloppy drum work, drums don't stand out
- Song is a little boring
- Chorus too busy
- Percussion track almost inaudible

Here's what I did about it:

- Vocals not forward enough
- Bad processing artifacts in vocals
- Chorus vocal needs variety
- Nasal Vocals
- Weak notes in verse vocals

First off, I had been using a stereo-enhancer on the vocals. Apparently
that is _not_ the thing to do. I also turned down the verb from 15% to about 8%.
I had been aggressively EQing the high end to make up for the mic, but I got
rid of almost all of it. I was also running chorus on the vocals, but this left a
lot of artifacts when I encoded into MP3. So I Ditched the chorus. I also turned
the level on the vocals up about 3db. Finally, Auto-Tune also left some artifacts.
I re-recorded most of the vocals, this time _without_ auto-tune.
Anything that still sounds weak is probably going to stay that way. I'm a
bari-bass & my range tops out at Ab above middle C, and that's in a reach.

- Use different guitar patch for chorus
- Add arpeggiated guitar to chorus
- Chorus too busy
- Not enough contrast between song sections
- Song is a little boring

There's 4 guitar tracks to this song. 2 rhythm, and 2 lead.
The lead only plays over the bridge and chorus, and latter part of the
breakdown. The 2 lead tracks use the same patch (Triaxis hi-gain),
with delay over the bridge and dry over the chorus. They play fairly busy,
parallelmotion (harmonizing) parts. I had these parts 85%+
panned L-R and turned down. I thought it sounded kinda
'cool and atmospheric', but in the end it just buried the part to the
point where someone asked for _even more_ guitar in the chorus.
To fix this, I turned the high-part lead guitar up, turned
the low-part lead guitar down, and put both near-center. To my ears, this
focused & differentiated the chorus a lot more.

- Bass Guitar Muddy / Unclear

I've got a really peaky-boomy bass track, but I decided not to cry
defeat and re-record it. Instead, I redid the multiband compressor and
yanked up the mid about as high as I could get away with, whilst dropping
the lows a bit, and the low-mid quite a bit.

- Delay not in tap

I'm assuming you're referring to
the opening section. I was capitalizing on what appears to be a
bug in the POD delay as an interesting effect. Unfortunately,
the 'standing wave' that sets up in the delay is out of phase
with the tapped tempo, so I can't really control it. I added
a second guitar (peizo, since I don't have an acoustic) to emphasize
where the beat is.

- Kick is buried in the mix
- Chorus needs a tamborine or shaker
- Sloppy drum work, drums don't stand out
- Percussion track almost inaudible

I smiled a bit when I read I should add a shaker. The track
already had the nu-metal shaker (otherwise known as StylusRMX) in the mix,
but it was totally buried. I picked some new beats. They're pretty clear
in the mix now, but they lock well, so they're not easy to pick out.
Since I took the drums as midi, it was easy enough to change up the
kit and make things pop a little more. Mainly, I changed the virtual material
of the snare to 'wood', and changed the virtual mic position on the kick to
'outside'. They're quite present now, IMHO. Happily, after fixing this, the
drums sounded a little less sloppy.

So that leaves what I didn't deal with:

- Turn down gain on guitar
Nevar! The rawk knob only turns clockwise! I did quit eq'ing up the
highs, though.

- Fadeouts suck
- Breakdown isn't a breakdown
Song is slow, so it's hard to pack a lot of up and down into the 3:30
or thereabouts format. I thought about ending on a piano solo, but as
it stands, there's nowhere else in the tune to let the verse groove
have its day in the sun. These are the breaks.

So, aside from some 'etc', and the lyrics, as requested,
that about concludes it. Thanks so much for everyone's input.

Have a listen to the new version! I had to wrestle with
the mastering process a little. The raw tune turned out very low-mid heavy. Let me know
how it turned out. Thanks!


[Intro / Chorus]
I'm on fire.
So won't you say it again?
Because I'm praying that I don't hear clearly.
You lie.
So won't you say it again?
Maybe the second time it won't hurt so bad.

[Verse 1]
I understand you.
You say I've got you wrong.
You know what you're doing.
See if I play along.

Bullshit machine gun
Have I explained too long?
Attention is flagging.
We must be moving on

You do it again and again and again,
my friend.


[Verse 2]
You've got no conscience.
Am I the only one?
I've lost my patience,
to watch you turn and run.

Drop an excuse now,
I'll leave you all alone.
This [ ****** ] is tragic.
I've let it go too long.

You do it again and again and again,
my friend.

[Chorus... chorus, more chorus ]

---Longwinded Notes:

IMHO, Line6 amp models are great, but their cab impulses are too aggressive in
attenuating highs, and their roomsim is flat sounding. The cab sim in the
Tonelab is much better.

I'm still having heaps of trouble getting a good sound that I can both slap
and finger pick in a single take. I'm beginning to think that the problem is partially
the guitar itself. I'm compressing the poo out of it, but I'm still getting
a very peaky waveform and then tamping it down in the mix.
(yeah I know I could just not slap as hard, but I play loud,
and that's just the way it is.)

I wish I could afford a decent condenser. As it stands I'm using a JTS which
supposedly is basically an SM-57 but not quite as bright. And using the POD as
a pre takes some explaining: I could use the Digi-002 pres, but the whole
point of the receptor is so that I can hear and record effects live, at near
zero latency, without putting any load on the recording computer... can't do
that if I run straight into the Digi002.

The receptor itself has a pre in it, but since the receptor is itself just a
computer, replete with spinning fans and harddrive, it's too noisy. Moreover,
its an even crappier pre than a pod. The pod is quiet, lets me add some frontend
eq, and even has a tube-pre sim.

Since this setup is rather lame, I have to make up for it in processing.

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Re: Making the most of your home/project studio new [Re: dcaudell]
      #867284 - 11/10/10 12:52 AM
The vocals are coming alive - and it sounds so much more exciting.
I'm hoping some of the more experienced 'mix heads' here on SoS will give you some advice on how to use compression - this could tidy up the mix balance a lot.
How well do you know your compressor dcaudell ?

Very catchy tune - hope you get it out.

.. is this thing on?

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Re: Making the most of your home/project studio new [Re: dcaudell]
      #867287 - 11/10/10 01:53 AM
Apart form the compression issues - when the vocalist sings 'you do it again and again..' use autopan on the the dub track vocal - spread it over the stereo - sweet effect and easy to do.
Ill leave you alone now dcaudell and hope the aforementioned 'mix experts' tune in with advice - dont hold your breath.
You may have to start a new thread to attract their attention to a 'Mix Compression Issue' and then link them to your song. Post it on the SoS Music Tech Forum - Might be worth the try.

.. is this thing on?

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Re: Making the most of your home/project studio [Re: Stan]
      #867756 - 13/10/10 07:59 AM
Stan, you've really helped me out a lot. I've taken your advice and started a new thread in the mastering forum here.

SOS also has a couple articles here and here that I found rather helpful.

Hopefully someone there will have the next piece of the puzzle. Until then, it's probably about time I gave back a little. Again, thanks. This whole process would be basically impossible if it weren't for the kind of feedback you give.

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