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What Am I Doing Wrong Here?!?!
Old 27th January 2007
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

What Am I Doing Wrong Here?!?!

Hey,

Lately I've been wondering about the whole idea of making a song from idea to finished record. I'm really not getting the sounds I want in my mixes or songs for that matter and I'm no closer to finding out why.

I've considered everything from instrument choices, mic placement, the way things are played or sang, the way I mix, I've tried a hell of a lot of things. I also study music production at university but I'm getting no help from them.

I've studied and studied but dont have enough practical experience to know how to achieve the sound I desire. When I think I have a good idea it always ends up being spoiled by the mix coming out flat sounding and pushed back.

Recently I've been studying a song called Cocaine by Robin Thicke, you may have heard this. It consists of Kick, Snap, Bass, Electric Guitar and Vocal. To test my skills I whipped up a little song very similar keeping it minimum. After spending a long time on the instrument choices and sounds etc plus mixing it my sound still comes out sounding amateur against Thicke.

I know this question is massive and couldnt possibly be answered simply but would anybody like to give it a shot??

Everybody at university takes the approach of mixing so everything fits together well but none of their songs have the commercial polish I'm looking for.

I'll post up a couple of samples tomorrow to give a better idea of what I'm getting at.

Cheers, sorry for the essay!
Old 27th January 2007
  #2
Here for the gear
 

Are you trying to get the sound of that song in particular or just feel that you are doing something wrong all together with every song?
Old 27th January 2007
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Practice practice practice...

I don't know if there's an easy answer for this, but I know that the more I work at it, the more I get close to the product that I desire.

You can check out some of the stuff I've done on my website at http://www.suburbanprostudios.com and see what I'm talking about. I'm close to what I want, but not quite...

Oh well, it's a process.
Old 27th January 2007
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Well in terms of that song.

Everything in it sounds big and wide yet so close and not washed with verb.

Stereo kick perhaps, I've tried it. Double tracking the snap, and panning them I've tried that too. Also when I record a single lead vocal and really work on my delivery to make sure tha take is good the vocal never occupies the same amount of space in the track as the songs I reference do. No matter how I process them either. Granted I dont have a good mic or pre yet.

But I've heard some good records made with very little.

Even when I track my Motif straight into PT the sounds are never as big as I want them. I've layered kick upon kick with an 808 etc and it just doesnt work for me.

It works well enough for my mates to say yeah that sounds really good but when I A/B against some of my favourite tracks my songs fall apart.

I record with some good mics and pre's at unversity. Even vocals I have recorded there with a Brauner VM1 through an Avalon 737 still dont have the sound or width I'd expect when I mix them.

I'm looking to get a good mic and pre combo this year but I'm not willing to spend my money if I cant understand how to get a great sound with what I already have.

Like I said I'll post a couple of clips up tomorrow and people can listen for themselves.

I know its a question well all want to know when we listen to a major release. How did they get that vocal so big?????????

But somebody must have the answers.
Old 27th January 2007
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew.sawicki View Post
Practice practice practice...

I don't know if there's an easy answer for this, but I know that the more I work at it, the more I get close to the product that I desire.

You can check out some of the stuff I've done on my website at http://www.suburbanprostudios.com and see what I'm talking about. I'm close to what I want, but not quite...

Oh well, it's a process.
I agree its a practice.

I've worked on arrangement as of late and figured out a lot in terms of vocal stacking etc to represent what I hear in pop and rnb songs today but I lose confidence when its not going right.

Its also a shame when I cant ask the lecturers at unviersity for any help. I mean fair do's a lot of them worked in a local studio and not to sound arrogant but everything I hear local always sounds amateur. I try to stay fair with my judgement and I'm as critical with my own work as with anybody elses.

Theres a sound of any major release and the sound of any amateur job. Only when I hear an amateur job that sounds like a major release do I say wow thats good.

But yeah I'll have a listen to your work.

Any chance of perhaps sharing the techniques you've figured out?
Old 27th January 2007
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

I'll post again,

First ten seconds I heard of one of your samples and I'm already convinced.

Nice work!!

I also hate when people at university try to suggest that mixing records with keyboard sounds and samples is easier because you're not having to mic anything up. Apart from the vocal of course. Its not easy to make an 808 sound as wide and punchy as it does on your favourite record.
Old 27th January 2007
  #7
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by APOHStudios View Post
Could it be you are your own "worst enemy"? I know exactly what you are talking about though. I have the same problem myself.

Get some samples of your work posted, and let's see if anyone can help. It may just be that you are hyper-critical of your own work. Or maybe there is a problem that someone could help you with.

It is kind of like trying to get a diagnosis from a doctor by just talking to him on the phone. "Doctor, I don't feel good, and it hurts when I do this" "What is 'this'?"



You have earned some respect from me for this, if it means anything to you. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people go out and spend thousands on a piece of equipment when they do not have the basics or truely understand it's usage. They just buy it because of the name or because so-and-so has one or even worse, because some gear snob told them that what they have is a POS.

Okay, I am off of my soap box now.

Doc
Thanks Doc.

Perhaps I am my own worst enemy but upon A/B'ing any mix against my own and mine sounds pushed back and flat compared to theirs I know I'm missing something. I suppose 'what' is the million dollar question.

Respect is everything! I'm in this to learn, which I really dont feel like I'm doing at university. I'm not suggesting that the lecturers dont know what they're talking about because they do but I dont feel they can provide me with the right answers to help me achieve what I'm looking for.

I know there are a lot of major releases which people will pick fault with but every major release still sounds like a major release and a lot of different people have put them together so those guys all must know something I dont.

In terms of the mic, I really believe I should be able to get a much better sound from my mic then I'm doing if I have the knowledge to do so.

I'll post a sample up of something I've been working on today.

Thanks again
Old 27th January 2007
  #8
Lives for gear
 
No4PCs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tempest19 View Post
Thanks Doc.

Perhaps I am my own worst enemy but upon A/B'ing any mix against my own and mine sounds pushed back and flat compared to theirs I know I'm missing something. I suppose 'what' is the million dollar question.

Respect is everything! I'm in this to learn, which I really dont feel like I'm doing at university. I'm not suggesting that the lecturers dont know what they're talking about because they do but I dont feel they can provide me with the right answers to help me achieve what I'm looking for.

I know there are a lot of major releases which people will pick fault with but every major release still sounds like a major release and a lot of different people have put them together so those guys all must know something I dont.

In terms of the mic, I really believe I should be able to get a much better sound from my mic then I'm doing if I have the knowledge to do so.

I'll post a sample up of something I've been working on today.

Thanks again



Hey friend, maybe a mastering house issue?
I think after your sound mastered by a good mastering engineer the thing will be ok !
Old 27th January 2007
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by No4PCs View Post
Hey friend, maybe a mastering house issue?
I think after your sound mastered by a good mastering engineer the thing will be ok !
Hmm, possibly.

I've never had the opportunity to hear a pro mix before its been mastered. I've heard a lot of different things towards mastering. Some people say a master will turn a flat mix into a commercial masterpiece. Some say a pro mix sounds almost identical before the master as it does after.

If that latter is the case, I'm far from that.

I think its more about the sounds or even song I have to start off with. I get excited at the initial idea but after I've recorded a few parts it never turns into what I expect.
Old 27th January 2007
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

This is a clip of a chorus from a song I been working on today.

A little info.

Drums tracked in mono from Motif straight into 002r
Bass mono from Motif to 002r
Strings stereo from Motif to 002r
Piano stereo from Motif to 002r
Vocal NT1a into Focusrite penta pre with about -3db compression at 2:1
Same with backing vocals and acoustic guitar.
Attached Files

Reach You Chorus - MP3.mp3 (1.31 MB, 371 views)

Old 27th January 2007
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tempest19 View Post
I'll post again,

First ten seconds I heard of one of your samples and I'm already convinced.

Nice work!!

I also hate when people at university try to suggest that mixing records with keyboard sounds and samples is easier because you're not having to mic anything up. Apart from the vocal of course. Its not easy to make an 808 sound as wide and punchy as it does on your favourite record.
So are ya saying that this sounds like a pro recording or an amateur? Haha.

It's very easy to discount hiphop and rap when you're not familiar with it. Making a record slam is verrrrry hard.
Old 27th January 2007
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew.sawicki View Post
So are ya saying that this sounds like a pro recording or an amateur? Haha.

It's very easy to discount hiphop and rap when you're not familiar with it. Making a record slam is verrrrry hard.
Ha ha ha sorry I re-read and that post wasnt very informative.

Sounds like a pro record.

Has the same sound as when I listen to my favourite rnb and hip hop songs.

I also agree. Theres so much involved to get 808s to sound like that.

When I track an 808 kick and snare they sound nothing like a pro record. I can never get an 808 to sound wide like your samples show.

This is what I'm getting at, I must be missing something out somewhere.

Heh, I'm gonna have to watch what I say, I dont want to offend anybody

Cheers,
Old 27th January 2007
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tempest19 View Post
When I track an 808 kick and snare they sound nothing like a pro record. I can never get an 808 to sound wide like your samples show.

This is what I'm getting at, I must be missing something out somewhere.
I actually posted in another thread some 808's that I made and use quite often to replace ones that guys bring in that are somewhat sucky.

http://www.suburbanprostudios.com/808_Kicks_wav.zip

Maybe these will help ya out!

Matt
Old 27th January 2007
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by APOHStudios View Post
Your recording sounded good. Everything was very clean, maybe a bit too clean (personal preference).

What I noticed, though, was it sounded too tight. It didn't have very much "space" in the mix, felt like I was in a closet with all of the instruments and the vocalist. Panning and reverb can help this. And I have never liked mono drums(again, personal preference) for the same reason.

The vocalist and the keys seem to be occupying the same space or frequency range/timbre. Seperate them out a little with EQ and panning.

Also, a mastering engineer could help as was stated before. Everything I heard sounds like it was tracked well. The issue is definitely in the mix, IMO.

For me, when I do a mix, I try to visualize a live performance. Where is each instrument/performer on stage? What part of the instrument makes it stand out? How does each instrument compliment the other? How does it compete? It follows the old saying: a place for everything, and everything in its place.

Just my 10 cents (oops, for you, pence)

Doc
Thanks for taking a listen Doc.

I'll fill in some more info.

For the drums, I've always wondered about tracking drums in stereo but I always ask myself, in a pro situation would they track a drum in stereo. Also when recording a live kit each mic is mono except for the overheards of course. So I just tracked each drum in mono then panned the hats and shaker opposite each other.

Bass of course down the middle.

Strings, well the patch was a full orchestra and I've always questioned where to put strings because I dont want the mix lop side by panning them to one side.

I'm glad you've brought that synth pad to my attention. I hooked it up with a gate in a 16th hi hat and tracked it in stereo but its a massive sound and takes up too much room.

This mix is very basic at the moment as I've been sort of mixing it while I've been tracking. Again I'm not sure where to put the pad other than the middle as I dont have anything to go at the other side if I pan it ?

The vocal is sent to a large plate with about 65ms predelay and a 1/4 note delay. The vocal itself doesnt seem as wide as it should be. These songs I've been talking about sound as though the vocal is multiplied by three and panned across the sound stage even though its a single lead vocal.

The BVs are stacked in two's. Two high and two low harmonies.

My singing technique has improved a lot over the last 8 months and I'm quite happy with my progress but I'm considering taking singing lessons to improve my vocals. Given I'm not a naturally good singer but I enjoy singing and I dont know anybody else who sings so I sing on all my projects.

Again thanks for your input, I'll take this back to the drawing board and clean up the soundstage with the keys and see if I can put some space in the mix.

Add more elements possibly?
Old 28th January 2007
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew.sawicki View Post
I actually posted in another thread some 808's that I made and use quite often to replace ones that guys bring in that are somewhat sucky.

http://www.suburbanprostudios.com/808_Kicks_wav.zip

Maybe these will help ya out!

Matt
Cheers Matt, I'll get these loaded up into my sampler and give them a shot.
Old 28th January 2007
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tempest19 View Post
For the drums, I've always wondered about tracking drums in stereo but I always ask myself, in a pro situation would they track a drum in stereo. Also when recording a live kit each mic is mono except for the overheards of course. So I just tracked each drum in mono then panned the hats and shaker opposite each other.
I wouldn't do that with this sort of a mix. For pop or R&B or hiphop or whatever... I would really keep the stereo field narrow on the drums. Work with reverbs or delays or other things to make them wide, but don't pan off to one side or the other.

I'll post more when I get a chance to listen in depth.
Old 28th January 2007
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew.sawicki View Post
I wouldn't do that with this sort of a mix. For pop or R&B or hiphop or whatever... I would really keep the stereo field narrow on the drums. Work with reverbs or delays or other things to make them wide, but don't pan off to one side or the other.

I'll post more when I get a chance to listen in depth.
Thanks man.

I think the mix as a whole sounds amateur. I dunno the song possibly isnt up to scratch or the arrangement, its hard to tell. I know what I want it to sound like but I'm not sure how to get it there.
Old 28th January 2007
  #18
Lives for gear
 

I would also try subgrouping your music and bus compressing it. That might bring everything a bit more together for ya.
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