You are here

Sparse Sounding Track

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Sparse Sounding Track

Postby JRocker » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:43 am

Hi, I've recorded a track that is very sparse, just acoustic guitar. The type of sound of the mix I hear in my head and would like to achieve is one that is kind of similar somewhat to this track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy7yuj-UrNI or any others along similar lines, wher it's just a vocal and very sparse instrumentation, like either a piano, guitar and some gentle string. Would appreciate any advice regarding what I need to do to achieve this sound. I guess reverb is one of the main elements along with compression.
JRocker
Poster
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:42 am

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:17 pm

First a disclaimer, have a read of my signature text... ;)
So having established my lack of credentials feel free to ignore the following as you see fit.
Personally I think that if you're going for a single instrument & vocal track you need to really make a point of the sparseness. Use the silence as an integral part of the composition - instead of having another instrument come in to add interest, drop something out entirely - the left hand of the piano perhaps, or the bass strings of the guitar - or just have a line that's the vocal on its own. Don't be afraid to strip things right back and let the reverb around the space carry the interest.
I may not be making the most sense, but here's a great example from another forumite, Ramirez:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17gyqLt2eFs
Of course what's key to this is having the material and performance to carry it - but that's down to you. :)
Hope that helps.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4147
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:00 pm
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby The Elf » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:02 pm

You need to create depth in your mix and that won't come from simply adding reverb. Pay attention to the EQ and the relative differences in the ambience. The depth may come from one reverb with different pre-delays for each source, or you may have to apply different reverbs for each. Only your ears can decide. What needs to come forward; what needs to be pushed back?

If your mix is very sparse you may not even need compression. This is about listening and understanding what the audio is telling you - not applying a process just because you can.

Serve the song and give it what it asks for.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11228
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby James Perrett » Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:04 pm

Had a listen to your reference and, in my opinion, the biggest issues are going to be having a strong vocal performance and a good arrangement. There are actually all kinds of imperfections in that song (like piano noises) but it works because they don't get in the way of the essential core of the song - and possibly add a little charm and honesty to the song.

I didn't listen the whole way through but the song seemed to build nicely and there were just enough touches of other instruments to keep the listener interested.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 7133
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby JRocker » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:25 am

Thank you kindly for your replies and advice so far.

I will tell you a bit more about my approach, as mentioned I have recorded an acoustic guitar and vocals and on a couple tracks some subtle strings sounds via samples to add texture. With my acoustic guitars, I always recorded double tracks, so I have each acoustic guitar (rhythms) padded left and right to give it a full stereo effect. Any acoustic guitar solos or fills I only record one track and place them more center in the mixing. The vocals, I have also double tracked, but feel in this particular setting and how I want these tracks to sound, I think one vocal is sufficient. What do others think of this approach so far?

I've managed to also record some backing vocals just simple vocal harmonies like in the chorus and one some verses. I want to create something that is also replicated in a live setting. I have a Harmony Singer pedal which I use live so recreating those backing harmonies I have recorded on the actual recording can be somewhat replicated live.
JRocker
Poster
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:42 am

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby The Elf » Fri Jun 15, 2018 7:56 am

There is no 'right'. The only way to assess what you're doing is to give us an example.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11228
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby JRocker » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:27 am

The Elf wrote:There is no 'right'. The only way to assess what you're doing is to give us an example.

I've uploaded a snippet from my original song here:

https://clyp.it/xr05cbwd

It's got double tracked guitars (panned left and right) and vocals with some subtle reverb to illustrate where I want to go sound and musical wise. Everything is as recorded, and there is no EQ or other effects at moment. Like I mentioned, I want to create some atmosphere and keep the sparseness and capture the emotive elements of the song, love to hear your advice and suggestions.
Another example of what I'm trying to achieve sound and music and mixing wise is like Johnny Cash's version of 'Hurt'. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt1Pwfnh5pc
JRocker
Poster
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:42 am

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby The Elf » Sat Jun 16, 2018 7:41 am

The guitars sound pretty good, but they are more up-front than the vocal, so I'd probably want to reverse that.

I'm not sure that the DT vocal is really helping here, but maybe if you drop the double back to just support the lead it might work better. As long as the recording, and your vision for the song, supports the vocal being placed very much stage-front, then that's the way I'd take it.

All IMHO - as I said, there is no 'right'.

You can't 'mix by mail', so there's only so much anyone can advise over a forum, but what you have sounds good as a starting point. The rest is down to what you're hearing, what you want to hear and your ability with the tools you have.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11228
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby blinddrew » Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:46 am

Sorry, i misunderstood your initial post; i thought you literally meant one guitar track and one vocal. Ignore me and listen to the Elf. :)
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4147
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:00 pm
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Jun 16, 2018 9:20 am

I'd leave the guitars alone but make the vocal almost dry and without the DT for that intimate sound JC is getting. He sounds like he's sitting a couple of feet in front of you, almost literally 'in your face' and singing for you alone and that's the quality that makes that recording work so well for me.
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6322
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Sparse Sounding Track

Postby CS70 » Sat Jun 16, 2018 5:40 pm

JRocker wrote:Thank you kindly for your replies and advice so far.

I will tell you a bit more about my approach, as mentioned I have recorded an acoustic guitar and vocals and on a couple tracks some subtle strings sounds via samples to add texture. With my acoustic guitars, I always recorded double tracks, so I have each acoustic guitar (rhythms) padded left and right to give it a full stereo effect. Any acoustic guitar solos or fills I only record one track and place them more center in the mixing. The vocals, I have also double tracked, but feel in this particular setting and how I want these tracks to sound, I think one vocal is sufficient. What do others think of this approach so far?

I've managed to also record some backing vocals just simple vocal harmonies like in the chorus and one some verses. I want to create something that is also replicated in a live setting. I have a Harmony Singer pedal which I use live so recreating those backing harmonies I have recorded on the actual recording can be somewhat replicated live.

My band has a couple tracks which are essentially acoustic guitar + vocals, and some of my fave songs are just like that.

My take is that 80% is the performance. Then there's double-tracking guitar and vocals to add a bit of vibe and the choice of vocal delay and ambient reverb. The plus is that crazy delay/reverbs, which would never work in a busy mix, sound absolutely great in a very sparse production - goosebumps great if you get them right.

About the performance: keep in mind that by the time you hit "record", you've probably used your voice since you were, say, 3 years old.. while you may have played the guitar for less than that. Playing a "naked" acoustic guitar is the true test of any guitarist - you need to do the bass, the drums, the melody and the harmony all while you're singing - while changing dynamics, emphasis and doing the eye candy all on a single instrument.

Avoid gimmicks: just play the song on the guitar really well (or find someone who can) and you'll be fine.
User avatar
CS70
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2494
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video  and the FB page


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users