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Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

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Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby kelpbeds » Sun Mar 10, 2019 11:53 am

I'm a guitarist and have dabbled with recording but never really got anything to sound at what I would call a professional level.

I'm using Ableton 9 to a PC and recorded the below micing the guitars using an SM57 and using Easy Drummer.

It's basically a copy of a backing track which is the second link.

My recording sounds totally dull compared to the backing track which has far more clarity to it. Can't figure what I'm doing wrong!

Thanks

https://instaud.io/3p4r/delete/deb949efdcbb8c873caf5b117619401345491ca4

https://instaud.io/3p4q/delete/a087053db65879aa3a63e5e849b4a1605dae3f42
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby kelpbeds » Sun Mar 10, 2019 1:09 pm

Oh and just to add i'm going through a Focusrite Scarlett in my home studio for which I have built lots of acoustic panels to try and improve the sound in there.
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun Mar 10, 2019 1:57 pm

kelpbeds wrote:I'm a guitarist and have dabbled with recording but never really got anything to sound at what I would call a professional level.

I'm using Ableton 9 to a PC and recorded the below micing the guitars using an SM57 and using Easy Drummer.

It's basically a copy of a backing track which is the second link.

My recording sounds totally dull compared to the backing track which has far more clarity to it. Can't figure what I'm doing wrong!

Thanks

https://instaud.io/3p4r/delete/deb949efdcbb8c873caf5b117619401345491ca4

https://instaud.io/3p4q/delete/a087053db65879aa3a63e5e849b4a1605dae3f42

Welcome! :thumbup:

I suggest that you change those links immediately! I was given the option to delete the tracks in each case! :shock:
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby blinddrew » Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:04 pm

Welcome to the forum. :)
Starter for 10 is that you're not really comparing like for like as the first track's in mono but the second is in stereo - which will always give you a bit of extra separation and clarity.
A couple of other things spring to mind from a quick listen:
The rhythm guitar part in the second version appears to have a bit more bottom end, whereas on the first link all the guitar parts are playing in the same part of the spectrum.
Also on the second link the bassline has, to my ear, a lot more upper harmonics - meaning it can cut through without carrying so much mid (which is again competing with the guitar).
Better ears than mine will be along shortly I'm sure. :)
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:10 pm

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

Just had a listen to your own and the reference audio links, and there indeed a lot of difference between the two. All your notes are in the right place, and the performance basically sounds fine to me, but the most noticeable difference is the mix itself.

Where the reference mix has all its various elements sounds balanced and spread across the stereo field, yours doesn't. Just read Drew's comments, and on my playback system I don't think your mix is mono. The entire mix is very narrow and panned rather to the left, but I can definitely hear some stereo width that disappears when I switch to mono.

Onto the instruments themselves, the drums sounds initially good on the intro, but once into the songs your kick drum sticks out and dominates their sound, while the snare and other sounds get a little lost.

Meanwhile, the reference bass guitar is compressed so its output is very even and 'driven', while yours sounds a bit weedy and distant by comparison.

However, the biggest difference to my ears is the main guitar parts, which on the reference are double-tracked and spread across the loudspeakers for a 'big' sound, while yours sounds like a narrow mono sound panned around 10'o clock, which makes the overall mix sound rather small. These guitars also sound rather distant (like a live musician playing on a stage at the other end of a hall), whereas the reference track has them right 'in your face'.

It might be worth revisiting your reverb choices, to pull everything forward, but particularly your panning, so that you get both a close but wide delivery.

Hope this helps!


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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby CS70 » Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:13 pm

Hm, well, first of all the volume of the two clips is very different, and once you turn the volume to get them in the same ballpark, the balance between drums and guitar is quite different. The level difference suggests that the backing track has been mastered - possibly with some processing there.

But regardless of that, which is totally fixable... when it comes to the guitar sound, are u sure it's an issue of recording? I mean, does your guitar sound similar to the backing track when you play? The backing track seems to be simply a different guitar sound at the source.
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby kelpbeds » Sun Mar 10, 2019 4:24 pm

Martin Walker wrote:Hi kelpbeds, and welcome to the SOS Forums! 8-)

Just had a listen to your own and the reference audio links, and there indeed a lot of difference between the two. All your notes are in the right place, and the performance basically sounds fine to me, but the most noticeable difference is the mix itself.

Where the reference mix has all its various elements sounds balanced and spread across the stereo field, yours doesn't. Just read Drew's comments, and on my playback system I don't think your mix is mono. The entire mix is very narrow and panned rather to the left, but I can definitely hear some stereo width that disappears when I switch to mono.

Onto the instruments themselves, the drums sounds initially good on the intro, but once into the songs your kick drum sticks out and dominates their sound, while the snare and other sounds get a little lost.

Meanwhile, the reference bass guitar is compressed so its output is very even and 'driven', while yours sounds a bit weedy and distant by comparison.

However, the biggest difference to my ears is the main guitar parts, which on the reference are double-tracked and spread across the loudspeakers for a 'big' sound, while yours sounds like a narrow mono sound panned around 10'o clock, which makes the overall mix sound rather small. These guitars also sound rather distant (like a live musician playing on a stage at the other end of a hall), whereas the reference track has them right 'in your face'.

It might be worth revisiting your reverb choices, to pull everything forward, but particularly your panning, so that you get both a close but wide delivery.

Hope this helps!


Martin

Many thanks for the detailed reply. My song is indeed in stereo. There are only 4 tracks on the song, EZ drummer, guitar 1 panned at 10 oclock, guitar 2 panned at 2 o'clock and the bass down the middle. How else could I have panned it to create more stereo separation?

Re the drums. I guess you can boost individual drum sounds within EZ drummer somehow. Will look into that.

See what you mean about the double tracked guitars, will have a go at that next time. Good point.

The bit where you said mine sound distant whereas the reference track sounds in your face is spot on. How do I achieve that other than the double tracking thing?
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby kelpbeds » Sun Mar 10, 2019 4:24 pm

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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby kelpbeds » Sun Mar 10, 2019 4:26 pm

blinddrew wrote:Welcome to the forum. :)
Starter for 10 is that you're not really comparing like for like as the first track's in mono but the second is in stereo - which will always give you a bit of extra separation and clarity.
A couple of other things spring to mind from a quick listen:
The rhythm guitar part in the second version appears to have a bit more bottom end, whereas on the first link all the guitar parts are playing in the same part of the spectrum.
Also on the second link the bassline has, to my ear, a lot more upper harmonics - meaning it can cut through without carrying so much mid (which is again competing with the guitar).
Better ears than mine will be along shortly I'm sure. :)

Thank you. Will have a think about the eq thing, see what you mean.
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby kelpbeds » Sun Mar 10, 2019 4:30 pm

CS70 wrote:Hm, well, first of all the volume of the two clips is very different, and once you turn the volume to get them in the same ballpark, the balance between drums and guitar is quite different. The level difference suggests that the backing track has been mastered - possibly with some processing there.

But regardless of that, which is totally fixable... when it comes to the guitar sound, are u sure it's an issue of recording? I mean, does your guitar sound similar to the backing track when you play? The backing track seems to be simply a different guitar sound at the source.

OK thanks will look at overall volume. And I'm sure you are correct that my guitar doesn't sound like the backing track enough. Will have another play with that.
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Mar 11, 2019 2:30 pm

kelpbeds wrote:Many thanks for the detailed reply. My song is indeed in stereo. There are only 4 tracks on the song, EZ drummer, guitar 1 panned at 10 oclock, guitar 2 panned at 2 o'clock and the bass down the middle. How else could I have panned it to create more stereo separation?

Re the drums. I guess you can boost individual drum sounds within EZ drummer somehow. Will look into that.

See what you mean about the double tracked guitars, will have a go at that next time. Good point.

The bit where you said mine sound distant whereas the reference track sounds in your face is spot on. How do I achieve that other than the double tracking thing?

My pleasure!

Well for a start you could pan the two guitars at 8 o'clock and 4' o'clock to spread them further apart, but the double tracking should be far more effective. Although playing the part a second time always tends to produce the best and 'biggest' solution (because of the slight pitch and timing differences), a quick check would be simply to copy/paste your existing guitar part, delay it by perhaps 20mS to separate the clone from its partner, and then pan the two hard left and hard right.

As for the distance, I mentioned about reverb in my previous thread. If your guitars have any, then reduce it significantly to push the sounds further forward. You could also investigate adding a small room reverb to make them sound more as if they are playing in an acoustic space without pushing them back (the early reflections from a small room should also give them more 'body').

However, adding more compression to the guitars is probably the best way forward, so they sound 'bigger'.

Good luck!


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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby CS70 » Mon Mar 11, 2019 2:51 pm

kelpbeds wrote:The bit where you said mine sound distant whereas the reference track sounds in your face is spot on. How do I achieve that other than the double tracking thing?

To add to Martin's advice (remove or reduce long-tail reverbs), and assuming you get a more punchy sound to start with, and get a similar drum-guitar balance to the baking track.. the classic trick to get stuff more in your face is to boost the highs, with a shelf or with a low Q (large-ish) bell. You can try different positions - 1K, 2K and 5K being the most common starting points. Don't be afraid of boosting much (listen, don't look) but keep in mind there's usually a narrow band when things get more present but don't stick out too much, and it's a balance that requires rested ears.

The more the highs, the nearer the sound is perceived - I guess since highs have small wavelengths and are absorbed and diffused much more quickly than lower freqs, so your brain interprets the fact that you can hear them as a sign that the source is near.

But as said, you've gotta have a weightier sound to start with otherwise you'll get a weedy, unpleasant tone..
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby kelpbeds » Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:18 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
kelpbeds wrote:Many thanks for the detailed reply. My song is indeed in stereo. There are only 4 tracks on the song, EZ drummer, guitar 1 panned at 10 oclock, guitar 2 panned at 2 o'clock and the bass down the middle. How else could I have panned it to create more stereo separation?

Re the drums. I guess you can boost individual drum sounds within EZ drummer somehow. Will look into that.

See what you mean about the double tracked guitars, will have a go at that next time. Good point.

The bit where you said mine sound distant whereas the reference track sounds in your face is spot on. How do I achieve that other than the double tracking thing?

My pleasure!

Well for a start you could pan the two guitars at 8 o'clock and 4' o'clock to spread them further apart, but the double tracking should be far more effective. Although playing the part a second time always tends to produce the best and 'biggest' solution (because of the slight pitch and timing differences), a quick check would be simply to copy/paste your existing guitar part, delay it by perhaps 20mS to separate the clone from its partner, and then pan the two hard left and hard right.

As for the distance, I mentioned about reverb in my previous thread. If your guitars have any, then reduce it significantly to push the sounds further forward. You could also investigate adding a small room reverb to make them sound more as if they are playing in an acoustic space without pushing them back (the early reflections from a small room should also give them more 'body').

However, adding more compression to the guitars is probably the best way forward, so they sound 'bigger'.

Good luck!


Martin

Excellent! Got all of that. I will have a go at recording this track (at the weekend probably) and repost to see if i've done any better! Many thanks!
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby kelpbeds » Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:20 pm

CS70 wrote:
kelpbeds wrote:The bit where you said mine sound distant whereas the reference track sounds in your face is spot on. How do I achieve that other than the double tracking thing?

To add to Martin's advice (remove or reduce long-tail reverbs), and assuming you get a more punchy sound to start with, and get a similar drum-guitar balance to the baking track.. the classic trick to get stuff more in your face is to boost the highs, with a shelf or with a low Q (large-ish) bell. You can try different positions - 1K, 2K and 5K being the most common starting points. Don't be afraid of boosting much (listen, don't look) but keep in mind there's usually a narrow band when things get more present but don't stick out too much, and it's a balance that requires rested ears.

The more the highs, the nearer the sound is perceived - I guess since highs have small wavelengths and are absorbed and diffused much more quickly than lower freqs, so your brain interprets the fact that you can hear them as a sign that the source is near.

But as said, you've gotta have a weightier sound to start with otherwise you'll get a weedy, unpleasant tone..

Great thanks - had to google the shelf and bell thing, but got it now!
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Re: Advice on why my recordings sound dull and lifeless

Postby The Elf » Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:58 pm

Harder panning makes things sound closer too. I would get your doubles hard L/R panned myself.
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