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First time ever mixing a keyboard...

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First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby JamesFernando » Fri May 22, 2020 8:04 am

Hello everyone, it's been quite a while since I last posted. With the current Covid19 restrictions killing our gigs, we decided to do a bit of home-recording.

Everybody's Changing by Keane (yes, the one with that piano line).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEJGBZOZlkE

Do let me know how my treatment of the mix was, particularly for keyboard, and the subtle delay on the vocal? Was waffling over trying too hard and risking an unnatural sounding mix, but decided to just run with this.
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby Arpangel » Fri May 22, 2020 9:02 am

Hi, my impression is that the mix just doesn’t gel, it actually sounds like all the individual elements were recorded in different rooms, I know that was the case! but you want to make it sound like a cohesive "one room" sound. The vocal is a bit too prominent to me, and the guitar sounds a bit low.
I would experiment with compression, and some sort of artificial ambience to try and give the impression of one space.
Too much criticism is just not worth it in cases like this though, it's always going to be a big compromise.
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby Martin Walker » Fri May 22, 2020 7:08 pm

Hi JamesFernando,

I do like this song a lot, and particularly love the intimate recorded sound of your vocalist, who is also giving a real performance, although they are a little high in the mix.

I also agree with Arpangel that the guitar sound is largely submerged - you can see he's playing all the notes , but at times the only obvious sound in the mix from him are the string squeaks. I'm sure you can make more of these two parts to separate them, even just spreading them in the stereo image a bit more would be a start.

To my ears the arrangement also desperately needs a proper bass end, either as another keyboard part or a dedicated bass instrument of some kind.

Also, I know how difficult it is under unusual circumstances, but it doesn't help that you on keyboards are so obviously reading the dots, while your guitarist looks so uncomfortable. This is so much in contrast with your vocalist that for me it rather spoils the end result.

A great start though, and I'm sure a few tweaks will reap dividends.

Hope this helps!


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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri May 22, 2020 9:43 pm

As James says the guitar is very low in the mix and it's hard to hear what he's playing, possible because it's almost the same as the piano in the first couple of verses (it's gets a little better when he starts strumming)? The vocal sound (and the singer's voice) is gorgeous but, to me, sounds autotuned, autotune is an effect that sounds best when you don't know it's there (I've heard worse and I may be wrong and she's an even better singer than I thought). I'd say do some fader riding of the guitar track and pay some attention to the reverb (are you using one reverb as a send or different ones on each track?) to get all the parts to seem to be in the same room.
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby innerchord » Fri May 22, 2020 10:20 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:The vocal sound (and the singer's voice) is gorgeous but, to me, sounds autotuned,

That's fascinating. I hear no autotune at all. Now you're going to have to tell us if you used any or not!

Now I'm here I'll make a few quick observations. Things sound nice as it (perfectly adequate as a quick demo) but:
Vocal is too loud and present for my liking. A little more compression/control needed.
Keyboard/guitar issues are low-mid definition, which is lacking. You have a big, full piano sound which doesn't allow the guitar to speak. Try to find some frequency space for each instrument. There are only three, so it's not difficult in this case.
Your choice of the piano in stereo and a mono guitar is natural, but the opposite of what I'd do if looking to add some interest to the mix. The guitar sits right with the voice in your mix.
I don't like the vocal echo at all, sorry. Too distracting!
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri May 22, 2020 11:27 pm

innerchord wrote:
Sam Spoons wrote:The vocal sound (and the singer's voice) is gorgeous but, to me, sounds autotuned,

That's fascinating. I hear no autotune at all. Now you're going to have to tell us if you used any or not!

Yes please, if there is none she has fantastic pitching and control, not impossible TBF I have heard young singers doing 'Cher/Believe' acoustically but they aren't usually accurate enough to be 'Believe-able'. TBF I have only listened on my Bose Relay BT speaker so any artefacts I noticed may well be generated here (or by YouTube).
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat May 23, 2020 3:21 am

All the below is intended as constructive feedback. I admire that you folks took the time and effort to do this but I'm going to be honest because that's all I've got.

I'm also going to disagree with some of the previous responders, with whom I often do agree, in a manner which may be surprising to them.

If you're feeling sensitive please don't read any further because i'm going to be brutally honest as I see it. Please bear in mind this is my own subjective opinion and does differ from that some of my knowledgeable friends above. I feel bad relating these thoughts not only for that reason but because it may seem that I'm dissing your efforts as a group.

While I'm undeniably dissing the result somewhat, in the following I am in no way dissing your abilities, only the version of the track you've presented.

Your cover is pitched a tone higher than the original. No fundamental issue at all with this as it's almost certainly to accomodate the range of a female vocalist and that's a perfectly legitimate reason to re-pitch it..

My first real observation is that the person playing the piano part is adding key-strikes from the very beginning where there are none in the original. This changes the rhythm of the backing in a way that is, in my subjective view, at odds with the musical expression of the original track by Keane, which is a lot leaner and "says less" while giving more.

As soon as the vocalist starts singing, she's 'warbling expressively' which is not in keeping with the original track and to my ears sounds rather contrived and 'over the top' from the very beginning. In the original version, the vocalist is not being 'expressive' much, there is hardly any vibrato in his voice, it's just relatively pure and clear.

I am struggling to listen to the vocalist in this version. It sounds more like one of those 'ASMR' videos on youtube than it does a proper vocal performance. This kind of sound is, perhaps, novel to youngsters but to me it sounds lip-smackingly "baby doll" and recorded too close to an over-sensitive microphone. I find it really annoying. I would be surprised if I was alone in that perception.

I get that this may be an interpretation of the track but, speaking as a pianist, I've not got a lot of good things to say about the piano part being performed in the cover. I can go into this in more detail if you wish but I suspect you can hear those differences for yourself. The original is lean, stripped right back, slightly electronic in feel and restrained. This version is unsubtle, too busy, feels 'stunted' and doesn't flow well. It also doesn't use the a sustain pedal for continuity anything like as well as the original (though the original may or may not use one, it's so laid back).

All that said, I quite like the acoustic guitar.

I'm really sorry I can't be more complimentary about the performance. I do completely respect your willingness and motivation to try, to put in the work etc. but as a cover for anything other than a high-school music class performance it falls short for me for the reasons above.

You can take that feedback and get all upset, you can take it and get inspired or anything in between.

I think you have the potential to do this a lot better. You're all obviously motivated, and have some talent in order to produce the version you have as it stands, but I would encourage you to listen to the original, not just for the notes but for the feel and the musicality of it.

I'm sorry I can't be more positive with the feedback on the performance but if you take anything away from what I said it would be to listen to the original more, and "perform" less.

I liked the acoustic guitar though.
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby JamesFernando » Sat May 23, 2020 3:49 am

Hello! Thanks for your feedback. Many differing viewpoints here which I appreciate, so I'll just try to clarify each point. Also for reference, I'm the guitarist, not the keyboardist :P

Guitar is quite low in the mix, though I automated it to be more present in the 2nd half of the song. That was a stylistic choice, but it might have been mixed too low. I'm usually quite sensitive to my own instrument, so I don't like to crank it up too much.

There is a very slight autotune on her voice, but the parameters are set pretty low so it hardly ever kicks in, if at all. I only added it in to catch any stray notes, but I honestly don't recall hearing any. Probably could have done without.

They keyboardist is indeed sightreading my chart, which is in C, so he's having to transpose by sight.

As mentioned, I was on the fence about the echo. I appreciate the feedback on it! (Pun intended)

And lastly, for Eddy Deegan: I totally agree, this is pretty different from the original, though most of the notes and chords are the same. You'd also notice I deliberately chose a slower tempo for the first half, and ease into the correct tempo after the first chorus. We must agree to disagree on our stylistic choices, but I do note where you are coming from!
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby zenguitar » Sat May 23, 2020 3:51 am

Haven't listened to the linked track, but thought I might help paraphrase what Eddy is saying. Because he is speaking from the heart, and it happens to be a good heart.

You could call it the 'Whitney Houston' effect, but she came from the gospel tradition of coloratura extemporisation and was one of the very best. The secret to extemporisation is that the vocal extravaganzas are secondary, what really matters is how you deliver the line straight.

The problem with uneducated singers is that they dive headlong into the coloratura long before they are capable of delivering the lead vocal straight. Anyone who has seen an R&B band in a pub, or a girl R&B singer at an open mic night will recognise the basic problem... All the coloratura in the world is worthless if you can't sing the tune straight, without the vocal gymnastics.

Am I right Eddy?

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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat May 23, 2020 3:57 am

zenguitar wrote:You could call it the 'Whitney Houston' effect, but she came from the gospel tradition of coloratura extemporisation and was one of the very best. The secret to extemporisation is that the vocal extravaganzas are secondary, what really matters is how you deliver the line straight.

I think that sums it up neatly Andy :-)

It's all good. If you and your fellow performers like it, it's valid.

The quirks come when you ask other people for their opinion. If they are your friends, and respect you, they will be honest. Possibly quantifying that of course. If they like it they will tell you and you will know they are being honest.

None of the that really matters though. I'll repeat, if you like it then it's valid and anyone else can go fishing. I only gave an opinion because you asked for it and if you discount any part of what I have to say because you like it then I would never argue with that.

It never hurts to consider other people's opinions, but it's not essential unless you seek commercial success. It all really depends what you are trying to achieve.

As I said, and I meant it, I admire that you put the effort in to do it. Regardless of whether I like it or not, the world is a better place for people like you guys doing what you're doing :thumbup:
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby JamesFernando » Sat May 23, 2020 4:02 am

Eddy Deegan wrote:It's all good. If you and your fellow performers like it, it's valid.

The quirks come when you ask other people for their opinion. If they are your friends, and respect you, they will be honest. Possibly quantifying that of course. If they like it they will tell you and you will know they are being honest.

None of the that really matters though. I'll repeat, if you like it then it's valid and anyone else can go fishing. I only gave an opinion because you asked for it and if you discount any part of what I have to say because you like it then I would never argue with that.

It never hurts to consider other people's opinions, but it's not essential unless you seek commercial success. It all really depends what you are trying to achieve.

As I said, and I meant it, I admire that you put the effort in to do it. Regardless of whether I like it or not, the world is a better place for people like you guys doing what you're doing :thumbup:

No worries. I hope I didn't come across as dismissive; I really do appreciate the feedback and will keep it in mind for future projects. It's always important to have an alternative, or even opposing point of view to keep things in perspective. Thank you!
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat May 23, 2020 4:12 am

JamesFernando wrote:I really do appreciate the feedback and will keep it in mind for future projects. It's always important to have an alternative, or even opposing point of view to keep things in perspective. Thank you!

:thumbup:
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby Arpangel » Sat May 23, 2020 7:14 am

Eddy Deegan wrote:As soon as the vocalist starts singing, she's 'warbling expressively' which is not in keeping with the original track and to my ears sounds rather contrived and 'over the top' from the very beginning. In the original version, the vocalist is not being 'expressive' much, there is hardly any vibrato in his voice, it's just relatively pure and clear.

I am struggling to listen to the vocalist in this version. It sounds more like one of those 'ASMR' videos on youtube than it does a proper vocal performance. This kind of sound is, perhaps, novel to youngsters but to me it sounds lip-smackingly "baby doll" and recorded too close to an over-sensitive microphone. I find it really annoying. I

HHHmmmmm? have to agree with most of that.
No vibrato can work sometimes though, and a lot of brilliant singers have made it a feature, but maybe not in this case, and the voice does sound over sugary.
Because of that it stands out too much, not helped by the recessed and disembodied nature of guitar and piano.
It’s not the end of the world, just do another one!
Take 2?

:D
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby JamesFernando » Sat May 23, 2020 5:10 pm

Arpangel wrote:
Eddy Deegan wrote:As soon as the vocalist starts singing, she's 'warbling expressively' which is not in keeping with the original track and to my ears sounds rather contrived and 'over the top' from the very beginning. In the original version, the vocalist is not being 'expressive' much, there is hardly any vibrato in his voice, it's just relatively pure and clear.

I am struggling to listen to the vocalist in this version. It sounds more like one of those 'ASMR' videos on youtube than it does a proper vocal performance. This kind of sound is, perhaps, novel to youngsters but to me it sounds lip-smackingly "baby doll" and recorded too close to an over-sensitive microphone. I find it really annoying. I

HHHmmmmm? have to agree with most of that.
No vibrato can work sometimes though, and a lot of brilliant singers have made it a feature, but maybe not in this case, and the voice does sound over sugary.
Because of that it stands out too much, not helped by the recessed and disembodied nature of guitar and piano.
It’s not the end of the world, just do another one!
Take 2?

:D

I'll upload another song when I get the tracks! Always up to learn more.
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Re: First time ever mixing a keyboard...

Postby Martin Walker » Sun May 24, 2020 2:29 am

Wow, what a productive and helpful thread - I think we all learned something here (including me) about arrangements and personal choices.

Apologies for thinking you were the keyboard player rather than the guitarist James, and I look forward to listening to more from your ensemble in the future! :thumbup:


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