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Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

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Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby jdthom » Fri Dec 14, 2018 1:18 pm

Hi guys.

Hopefully this is the right thread for this post.

My band recorded three songs (released as singles) with our label using a professional studio, experienced engineers and professional mastering.

We’re no longer a part of the label but have all copyright to the songs. We’d like to record three new songs to put on a mini album alongside the existing three.

My question is in regards to matching the quality of the new songs with the previous ones.

I reckon we could use a new sound engineer and achieve a similar quality but how could we ensure that all six tracks are ‘cohesive’ and sound like they belong on the same album? I guess one option would be to have all six mastered by the same engineer? (we have the unmastered versions of the first three songs).

As an alternative (and a project for me), we could record the new tracks on our own using my home studio. I’m an amateur at best but should be able to achieve a fairly (if slightly less) similar quality of recording with some effort. If we went down this route, how could we ensure that all six tracks sound fairly cohesive?

Any thoughts/opinions/advice would be much appreciated.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby The Elf » Fri Dec 14, 2018 2:35 pm

Using one mastering engineer will help, but going back to the mix stage with one mix engineer will likely help more.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby blinddrew » Fri Dec 14, 2018 2:49 pm

Do you have the mix files for the original three songs or just the unmastered stereo files?
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Dec 14, 2018 2:59 pm

Hi jdthom, and welcome to the SOS Forums! 8-)

The Elf and blinddrew are both on the money - if you have the mix files it will be comparatively easy to bring the three existing tracks in line with your proposed new ones.

If on the other hand you only have the final mixes, the sensible approach would be to match your new tracks to those to form a cohesive whole.

Good luck!


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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby jdthom » Fri Dec 14, 2018 3:34 pm

Hey guys.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I don't have access to the mixes, only the unmastered tracks. It's a good point - having the mixes would be ideal.

I'm keen to record the three new tracks myself but I guess if the quality doesn't match they'll sound out of place on the album. Unless you think the mastering will help balance things out somewhat?

There will be a certain amount of cohesion in that the will songs have our signature 'style' of delivery, structure, vocals etc.

I guess there's no straightforward answer and would be a case of 'try it and see.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby Sam Inglis » Fri Dec 14, 2018 3:45 pm

I think this is something that people often worry about too much. The major factor that gives an album consistency is that it's the same people playing on all the tracks, and writing all the songs. No-one ever complains that Led Zeppelin IV is inconsistent, but it was cobbled together from sessions in different studios at different times. Likewise, say, Neil Young's Harvest.

Having listened to a lot of SOS reader albums in my time, I think that too much consistency is a more common fault than too little.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby jdthom » Fri Dec 14, 2018 3:58 pm

Sam Inglis wrote:I think this is something that people often worry about too much. The major factor that gives an album consistency is that it's the same people playing on all the tracks, and writing all the songs. No-one ever complains that Led Zeppelin IV is inconsistent, but it was cobbled together from sessions in different studios at different times. Likewise, say, Neil Young's Harvest.

Having listened to a lot of SOS reader albums in my time, I think that too much consistency is a more common fault than too little.

Hi Sam.

Thanks for the encouraging advice. I haven't listened to that Neil Young album as a whole but will definitely give it a listen.

Yeah, I guess it can be tempting to use the same presets across all tracks when recording an album from scratch. Maybe having a blank canvas on the new tracks will work in our favour?

We don't have access to the same equipment or recording facilities but can use it creatively to create a similar sound. And of course, listening to the original track levels etc. would provide a reference point.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby Ramirez » Fri Dec 14, 2018 4:05 pm

Sam Inglis wrote:I think this is something that people often worry about too much. The major factor that gives an album consistency is that it's the same people playing on all the tracks, and writing all the songs. No-one ever complains that Led Zeppelin IV is inconsistent, but it was cobbled together from sessions in different studios at different times. Likewise, say, Neil Young's Harvest.

Having listened to a lot of SOS reader albums in my time, I think that too much consistency is a more common fault than too little.

Agreed.

A lot of times when I work with a band, they’re worried that an album will sound inconsistent due to different sessions at different time, sometimes at different studios. It’s never an issue in my experience, provided the players are the same and the songs come from the same place.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby The Elf » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:31 pm

All good points.

Just beware the DIY approach. Unless you really know what you are doing you can disappear into a world of pain and frustration. Hiring a studio and a good engineer might be a better use of your time.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby Dave B » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:48 pm

jdthom wrote:..record the new tracks on our own using my home studio.. <snip>.. should be able to achieve a fairly (if slightly less) similar quality of recording with some effort.

I admire your confidence. Are you really willing to stake your album on it? Hey - maybe you are a great engineer and can knock these out in an afternoon. In that case, fair play - go for it.

But (and it's a big but), if you aren't then you are entering a world of pain, heartache and expense. I do a fair amount of work at home, but my preference would always be to hire a studio for recording. A good engineer can get you sounding great before you even worry about mixing. I used to think that recording was a doddle and that a good mix engineer could work miracles. I now think otherwise, and getting here was painful. It is easier (note 'easier' not 'easy') for a less experienced engineer to mix a well recorded track than it is for a pro to mix a badly track. But it's still not an easy thing to do to a high standard.

My approach to this would be three fold :

1. Record your backing tracks in a good studio with an engineer you trust. At this point, work with whoever will mix and make sure that they can work with the recoding engineer to get a sound that is consistent with your existing recordings

2. Edit, overdub, fix, and fiddle offline at home. Don't waste time working out clever harmonies in a studio - do it at home where it's cheap. Likewise, edit and cleanup your tracks at home. Studio time costs money. There is also a good chance that your mix engineer will want to have things done in a certain way - this may take a few iterations to get right.

(note : always give the mix engineer raw, unprocessed tracks. I've heard nightmares come from certain 'name' producers who gave a mix engineer 'stems' that had horrible gating issues on them rendering them useless. It happens)

3. Once you are happy, hand them over to be mixed. The mix engineer can now get a consistent sound and mastering should be a doddle.

But that's just me :)
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby Jack Ruston » Fri Dec 14, 2018 6:11 pm

A few thoughts....

The mastering is the thing that's going to make the least difference.

Who produced the original recordings? Could you interest that producer in getting involved in this?

If you self produce and engineer, you will not achieve a similar result.

The mixing is a factor for sure, but it can't make two very disparate sets of recordings sound the same.

The way you write, play and perform these songs is probably going to be the biggest factor here. You could go to the same studio, with the same engineer, and make a very different record.

It's possibly a mistake to focus on this as a goal. 1. It doesn't matter all that much how the songs sit together, because people don't listen to music that way anymore. 2. On that note, it's a waste to release six songs together as a single product, when you could release six singles, a couple of months apart, and build some momentum.

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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby jdthom » Fri Dec 14, 2018 6:24 pm

Dave B wrote:
jdthom wrote:..record the new tracks on our own using my home studio.. <snip>.. should be able to achieve a fairly (if slightly less) similar quality of recording with some effort.

I admire your confidence. Are you really willing to stake your album on it? Hey - maybe you are a great engineer and can knock these out in an afternoon. In that case, fair play - go for it.

But (and it's a big but), if you aren't then you are entering a world of pain, heartache and expense. I do a fair amount of work at home, but my preference would always be to hire a studio for recording. A good engineer can get you sounding great before you even worry about mixing. I used to think that recording was a doddle and that a good mix engineer could work miracles. I now think otherwise, and getting here was painful. It is easier (note 'easier' not 'easy') for a less experienced engineer to mix a well recorded track than it is for a pro to mix a badly track. But it's still not an easy thing to do to a high standard.

My approach to this would be three fold :

1. Record your backing tracks in a good studio with an engineer you trust. At this point, work with whoever will mix and make sure that they can work with the recoding engineer to get a sound that is consistent with your existing recordings

2. Edit, overdub, fix, and fiddle offline at home. Don't waste time working out clever harmonies in a studio - do it at home where it's cheap. Likewise, edit and cleanup your tracks at home. Studio time costs money. There is also a good chance that your mix engineer will want to have things done in a certain way - this may take a few iterations to get right.

(note : always give the mix engineer raw, unprocessed tracks. I've heard nightmares come from certain 'name' producers who gave a mix engineer 'stems' that had horrible gating issues on them rendering them useless. It happens)

3. Once you are happy, hand them over to be mixed. The mix engineer can now get a consistent sound and mastering should be a doddle.

But that's just me :)

Thanks Dave. Good advice. The consensus seems to be that a pro studio and engineer is the way to go.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby jdthom » Fri Dec 14, 2018 6:38 pm

Jack Ruston wrote:A few thoughts....

The mastering is the thing that's going to make the least difference.

Who produced the original recordings? Could you interest that producer in getting involved in this?

If you self produce and engineer, you will not achieve a similar result.

The mixing is a factor for sure, but it can't make two very disparate sets of recordings sound the same.

The way you write, play and perform these songs is probably going to be the biggest factor here. You could go to the same studio, with the same engineer, and make a very different record.

It's possibly a mistake to focus on this as a goal. 1. It doesn't matter all that much how the songs sit together, because people don't listen to music that way anymore. 2. On that note, it's a waste to release six songs together as a single product, when you could release six singles, a couple of months apart, and build some momentum.

J

Hi Jack.

Thanks for replying.

That's an interestimg point about how people listen to music nowadays - I agree.

Releasing six singles could be an answer to the problem. What would be the logical next step from there? Record an album in the future with completely new tracks?
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby Jack Ruston » Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:36 pm

Well, it depends if there's any need to record an album. I'd venture that for the vast majority of bands, there's absolutely no point whatsoever. They make an album, they release it, nobody notices, thats it...they lose the opportunity to gain traction through a series of releases. An album release is 'worth' more than a single release in terms of what you might call 'fan currency', but it's not even close to parity with the extra work and expense involved...UNTIL...you're reach that point when you're selling thousands of seats a night, and touring fairly consistently. Once that happens, fans will want an album, they'll expect one, and they'll actually listen to it. So really the tipping point at which it's remotely useful is that at which you have built a significant fanbase who are willing, no...KEEN...to spend their money coming to your shows, buying your merch etc.

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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby desmond » Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:17 pm

jdthom wrote:Releasing six singles could be an answer to the problem. What would be the logical next step from there?

Greatest Hits album. :tongue: :thumbup:
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby Ramirez » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:18 pm

desmond wrote:
jdthom wrote:Releasing six singles could be an answer to the problem. What would be the logical next step from there?

Greatest Hits album. :tongue: :thumbup:

This is actually an interesting and relevant point - I have a few greatest hits albums that I’ve listened to a lot. I rarely find them inconsistent even though they often span decades - though I am often more familiar with those collections than the original albums.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby CS70 » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:34 pm

Sam Inglis wrote:I think this is something that people often worry about too much. The major factor that gives an album consistency is that it's the same people playing on all the tracks, and writing all the songs. No-one ever complains that Led Zeppelin IV is inconsistent, but it was cobbled together from sessions in different studios at different times. Likewise, say, Neil Young's Harvest.

Having listened to a lot of SOS reader albums in my time, I think that too much consistency is a more common fault than too little.

+1 to Sam

If the same people are playing, it will sound very much the same.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby CS70 » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:43 pm

Jack Ruston wrote:Well, it depends if there's any need to record an album. I'd venture that for the vast majority of bands, there's absolutely no point whatsoever. They make an album, they release it, nobody notices, thats it...they lose the opportunity to gain traction through a series of releases. An album release is 'worth' more than a single release in terms of what you might call 'fan currency', but it's not even close to parity with the extra work and expense involved...UNTIL...you're reach that point when you're selling thousands of seats a night, and touring fairly consistently. Once that happens, fans will want an album, they'll expect one, and they'll actually listen to it. So really the tipping point at which it's remotely useful is that at which you have built a significant fanbase who are willing, no...KEEN...to spend their money coming to your shows, buying your merch etc.

J

This is what I always thought. Every single is an opportunity for new marketing and new fans.

Actually, the fun things with the internet is that until you're very well known, old stuff is just as new for most people as the new.
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby blinddrew » Sat Dec 15, 2018 12:12 am

I am reluctant to stick my neck out and go against the grain of the much more experienced voices here, but i'm going to...
This will come down to your personal standards, but you might be able to get what you want by doing a complete DIY effort.
Jack, for example, is a professional and has professional standards. I, for example, am not and don't. Hence i was able to create something that our band is very happy with - but only with, i should add, the help of a lot of people on this forum.
So if you're interested in trying to tackle this yourself you need to work out what your quality criteria are. The first three tracks were professionally produced you say, but that can still cover a wide range of quality in the final product, how high are you aiming?
And how much time do you have? It took me about a year to do our five track ep.

I'm also going to lob one other challenge in around the benefits of an album. Depending on the genre, the age of your audience, and your gigging plans, having something to sell after the show can still be a useful income top up.

Now i'm going to run away before everyone politely points out how wrong I am about all of this. :)
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Re: Matching quality + creating cohesion for album

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Dec 15, 2018 7:01 am

If there ever was a time in this industry with no rights and wrongs, it's now. Your perspective is every bit as valid as anyone else's.
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