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Do y'all get frustrated that your low-end mixes can't compete with label mixes? Dynamic Microphones
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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goom's Avatar
 

Do y'all get frustrated that your low-end mixes can't compete with label mixes?

I'm afraid to show my work to any of my friends knowing that people know what professional music is supposed to sound like, but they don't know that big labels, even independent ones, use million dollar studios with Grammy winning engineers.

I'm sitting here trying to get my hundred dollar microphone to sound like a Neumann with plugins that make me cringe. And I know the singer's going to tell me what her favorite record sounds like. It's kind of frustrating the lack of experience and talent doesn't help, either.

Old 1 week ago
  #2
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Yeah, I feel that. Tried for decades to make low rent gear sound high end. Decided to quit wasting my time and build a rig including everything I could possibly want. Major bucks but I wish I had done it long ago. That said, you can do a whole lot more these days with a whole lot less and much of the low end gear gives high end results. Gotta love progress.
Old 6 days ago
  #3
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It's called expectation management.

deliver something better than you said that you could
low ball peoples expectations so that they are super impressed when you are just idling.

And the truth is that your $100 is never going to sound like a big boy studio - so STOP stressing about it.
Old 6 days ago
  #4
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bitman's Avatar
I just keep tryin.
Old 6 days ago
  #5
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RightOnRome's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by goom View Post
I'm afraid to show my work to any of my friends knowing that people know what professional music is supposed to sound like, but they don't know that big labels, even independent ones, use million dollar studios with Grammy winning engineers.

I'm sitting here trying to get my hundred dollar microphone to sound like a Neumann with plugins that make me cringe. And I know the singer's going to tell me what her favorite record sounds like. It's kind of frustrating the lack of experience and talent doesn't help, either.

"The greatest teacher, failure is..."

Yoda
Old 6 days ago
  #6
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jdier's Avatar
 

Find joy in the journey.

There are milestones along the way and incremental improvements that can be made with small adjustments, more practice and continued learning. It may take years, so make sure you find a way to love it every step of the way.

We are all working on getting better!
Old 6 days ago
  #7
Gear Addict
 
BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
yes. sometimes hardware can restrict our ability to get good results.

but a novice in the SSL room, with all the toys, does not a great record make.

its the skill of the engineer that matters most, so just keep at it, and try to learn something every day.

best wishes. Buddha
Old 6 days ago
  #8
Gear Addict
 

I don't know of any major engineer or artist that started mixing on million dollars studios or playing in front of tens of thousands of people. You're no different. Eventually, skill and talent makes the difference, not the gear.
Old 6 days ago
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdier View Post
Find joy in the journey.
This is my philosophy too. I got the chance over the last year to set up a semi decent home studio for the first time since I got interested in recording...about 12 years ago.

I never had the chance or time to do that before because of work. But last year I recorded 20 songs...some of them turned out pretty good...some poor and some ok.

The whole time was fun though because I kept learning new things. The hard thing is that sometimes when things go right you're not sure what you did to get it right. For example...recording vocals...same mic, same room, same preamp etc...some of the vocals I recorded sounded pretty full and ok...others sounded thin or weak or bland.

The variables are huge for the beginner...what did I do right when it sounded right? What did I do wrong when it sounded wrong. I think it takes time for the answers to sink in.

But it's fun along the way and the end goal is to start making songs that really sound good and that friends can listen to and not be distracted by the home demo'ness of it.

In the very beginning it's frustrating as hell...(I have been recording for 12 or 13 years very intermittently and only had a long stretch over the last year) I remember mixes from 12 years ago that would make your dog howl at the moon. But soon, as arranging, performance and recording start to improve and you make ground mixing you start to see that the light at the end of the tunnel may be just around the corner. And that's inspirational. You just have to keep going. Keep doing it. Soon your intuition will start to direct you, as you absorb better practices and understand ideas and concepts better.

Then you start to realize that the process of learning is so interesting and fun...and that snowballs and builds momentum in what you can achieve.

etc etc
Old 6 days ago
  #10
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zukan's Avatar
 

Enjoy the journey.

I have always believed in learning with gear that is relevant to the stage you are at in your learning curve. And one of the best learning methods is to try to take sub par resources and make it sound good. What you will learn 'slummin' it' will show its colours when you start to move up the quality ladder.
Old 6 days ago
  #11
Gear Guru
 

everybody has to start somewhere, but first things first:

when your singing is as good as the big-label superstars

when your lyrics are as good as what you hear on the radio

when your songwriting is competitive with the big hits

when your musical performances as good as what the top session musicians or A-list programmers can do

Then you can cry about how your low-end mixes are holding you back.

And not for nothing, but you can pay someone to mix your song for you ... and it is still YOUR song. You can also pay someone to write your song for you, or sing it, but then it's not really YOUR song anymore, is it?

So - first things first.
Old 6 days ago
  #12
Gear Head
 

You don't need a million dollar studio, not by any means. For vocals, a super high end vocal chain that a pro recording artist uses might cost around $10k-15k. Big studios just have millions of dollars in equipment so that they can have a variety of options for their sound, when really they may only use 1% of that equipment 90% of the time. Also you can get clone variants of almost all high end analog gear, for about 10-30% of the cost, which will still produce 80-90% of the same sound. Certainly very few people would be able to tell the difference in a pro song recorded through a "clone chain" and a pro song recorded through a "real chain". The clones of these analog pieces are generally made with the same components and only have very subtle differences. A pro engineer might be able to identify the subtle differences, but not the average person. There are many pro engineers on this forum that feel they can make pro-grade tracks with 100% clone chains (like Warm Audio) that cost no more than $2000 or so.


Beyond that, if someone can't make a pro-sounding track with a 100% clone chain, then their issue probably has to do with their recording environment. Many newbies do not adequately treat their room. They throw up a bunch of stuff, and feel the reverb is killed, but there are other qualities that a room imparts to the sound which are not always very obvious, and can blend very closely with the vocal itself. This is why it is important a room be sufficiently treated for the Lows and Highs and not half assed. This is arguably more important than having a fancy vocal chain.

Then of course it's also important to select a microphone which is close to the sound you wish to get for the artist you're recording. This doesn't necessarily mean you need an expensive microphone, as there are plenty of cheaper or clone microphones which have good sounds to them.
Old 6 days ago
  #13
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It’s not the gear it’s the ear.
Old 6 days ago
  #14
Here for the gear
 

What's a label mix? I think you might be working against yourself here. If you have gear that is sufficient, which is ridiculously accessible these days, you just need a good performance and song. I mean, it sounds reductionist, but if you're making bad recordings, the performance was bad or you got in the way. No listener cares about the microphone you used. Not having a "label mix" hasn't stopped great songs from being made or becoming successful. Keep working, serve the music, and set tangible goals.
Old 6 days ago
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Do you get frustrated that you can't play as well as whoever plays your instrument really well?

I can't play guitar like a great guitar player and I can mix like a great mixing engineer. Same thing. Getting frustrated is counter-productive.
Old 6 days ago
  #16
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Quetz's Avatar
What you need to understand, as the others have pointed out through these posts, is that you don't need a million dollar studio to produce world class recordings.

You need great songs, great musicians, and good instruments.

You don't need a single piece of hardware beyond the basics (microphones, interface, and monitors), and you don't need to spend thousands on those either.

If you're not getting the results you want, it's because you're not good enough yet, so don't sit there crying about it, do what we are all doing which is spending as much time as we can learning and doing and trying to perfect the processes.

If you haven't spent a good few years at it already, then I'm afraid you're going to have to buckle yourself in for the long haul, or go find something easier to do.
Old 5 days ago
  #17
Getting frustrated when you don't know what you're doing is pretty normal...like playing guitar...that's some frustrating stuff when you're taking 5 minutes to shift your fingers from a D to a C. But you just keep plugging away. "Being frustrated" is no sign of defeat or complaint. It's perfectly natural.

Old 5 days ago
  #18
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quetz View Post
You need great songs, great musicians, and good instruments.

You don't need a single piece of hardware beyond the basics (microphones, interface, and monitors), and you don't need to spend thousands on those either.

If you're not getting the results you want, it's because you're not good enough yet, so don't sit there crying about it, do what we are all doing which is spending as much time as we can learning and doing and trying to perfect the processes.
While I agree good sounds and great musicians/instruments are of utmost importance, I think it's a pretty bold claim to suggest someone can get a "professional grade sound" with basic microphones/interfaces/monitors. Most people here would not agree with that. It's definitely not that simple as there tend to be notable sonic differences between budget gear and high end gear, otherwise studios would not use this stuff, especially with regards to tonal quality. You could have an excellent room, song and musicians, but with a cheap vocal chain, it can often be difficult to get a truly pro-grade sound, regardless of the engineers skill, and no matter how much EQ or how clean your recording was. Engineers can't "magic up" the harmonics and tonal shape into the recording that high end analog equipment would. While there is a few budget gear pieces that really do shine, they are not the norm.

This doesn't mean people can't record hit songs with cheap gear, but they generally will need decent gear if they want a pro sound. Suggesting to people that cheap gear won't hurt their sound can lead them to believe that the poor sounds they get are their own fault rather than the gears fault. The truth is high end recording chains can make even the crappiest artists songs sound like a major label record. The radio is filled with examples. You can take a basement rapper/singer and put them in a major studio in a high end vocal chain and their recordings will sound like they have a million dollar label behind them, because that is the point of the gear.

Again this isn't suggesting people need a million dollar studio, but rather pointing out that a high end recording chain does tend to produce high quality sounds with any recording artist.
Old 5 days ago
  #19
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goom's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KhaosSignal View Post
Again this isn't suggesting people need a million dollar studio, but rather pointing out that a high end recording chain does tend to produce high quality sounds with any recording artist.
Pretty much this. My initial thoughts were about the frustration of meeting other people's expectations of what standards they want out of their music and not realizing what resources, both mental and physical, that takes for the low-end mixer/producer when the singer says she wants to sound like Norah Jones on Come Away With Me and I'm staring at a Chinese condenser mic that has issues.
Old 5 days ago
  #20
Gear Head
 
soggy mittens's Avatar
 

When you record a band with a drummer than has a drum kit that sounds like a bunch of wet cardboard boxes and they are hoping for a recording that sounds like a zillion bucks and you're just like....
Old 5 days ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KhaosSignal View Post
You can take a basement rapper/singer and put them in a major studio in a high end vocal chain and their recordings will sound like they have a million dollar label behind them, because that is the point of the gear.
I think it's more like putting a basement rapper with a high end PRODUCER/ENGINEER/WRITER that will make them sound a million dollars. The gear is a relatively small part of the equation. Certainly the case if we're talking about pop/rap records rather than say a full rock band setup.

Most people I know only acquired nice gear AFTER they had a degree of success in the music business (using very cheap gear).
Old 5 days ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KhaosSignal View Post

This doesn't mean people can't record hit songs with cheap gear, but they generally will need decent gear if they want a pro sound. Suggesting to people that cheap gear won't hurt their sound can lead them to believe that the poor sounds they get are their own fault rather than the gears fault.
Back in Black was recorded with SM57s. So was much of Van Halen I. Inexpensive sound cards are distortion free and quiet.

If you can't get good sounds with minimal gear, it's not because of the gear. If it's not the room, then it's the skills of the musician and/or the engineer. The gear you have limits the range of possibilities of what you can do, but with any gear and talent you can record good sounds.
Old 5 days ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
everybody has to start somewhere, but first things first:

when your singing is as good as the big-label superstars

when your lyrics are as good as what you hear on the radio

when your songwriting is competitive with the big hits

when your musical performances as good as what the top session musicians or A-list programmers can do

Then you can cry about how your low-end mixes are holding you back.


Singing, writing, and/or playing as good as many of the "big label superstars" isn't necessarily asking much. So I really don't think any of that is a requirement to "cry."

If you're just saying "the performance matters more than the gear," I think we've pretty much beat that into the ground...

I think maybe this was just a bit of venting. Let he who is without that sin cast the first preamp. Or whatever.
Old 5 days ago
  #24
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noah330's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by goom View Post
I'm afraid to show my work to any of my friends knowing that people know what professional music is supposed to sound like, but they don't know that big labels, even independent ones, use million dollar studios with Grammy winning engineers.

I'm sitting here trying to get my hundred dollar microphone to sound like a Neumann with plugins that make me cringe. And I know the singer's going to tell me what her favorite record sounds like. It's kind of frustrating the lack of experience and talent doesn't help, either.


Well, a lot of it is just education and practice. Most DAWs' stock plugins are very good and a few years ago those $100 condenser mics didn't exist.

Just keep working at it.
Old 5 days ago
  #25
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by J-S-Q View Post
I think it's more like putting a basement rapper with a high end PRODUCER/ENGINEER/WRITER that will make them sound a million dollars. The gear is a relatively small part of the equation. Certainly the case if we're talking about pop/rap records rather than say a full rock band setup.
Do you think so? I'm talking specifically about the tonal quality of the recorded sound, not the quality of their content. If someone has a well treated room, it doesn't take a pro-engineer to hook up an expensive pre-amp and microphone - which can easily give a pro mix-ready recording right into the DAW. For instance, there are tons of artists that came out of the Atlanta Hip Hop scene, as well as other cities, which bought and funded all of their expensive equipment from drug money, and set it up in makeshift home studios. Artists who then easily used that to produce high end recordings comparable to major label stuff. Artists who certainly aren't audio engineers or anything along those lines, but rather just had basic knowledge of recording and the necessary equipment.

I'm mostly talking about that vocal sound where, when you hear it, you immediately assume you're listening to a big artist because the vocal just sounds so nice. Doesn't happen with cheap gear, and plenty of artist do it without a professional team.

Quote:
Originally Posted by J-S-Q View Post
Most people I know only acquired nice gear AFTER they had a degree of success in the music business (using very cheap gear).
In America, I think many no-name artists book some sort of actual studio time for their releases that "go big". If you listen to all of their "old mixtapes", and compare it to their first song that "goes big", there tends to be a huge jump in quality. There's a TON of songs that went big in recent years that people would have totally ignored if they sounded cheaply recorded and not like a high quality song. For hip hop and pop these days, having that well polished high quality sheen to your vocals is so important if you want people to play and share your song on repeat, because it has become a standard.

There are some artists who do go big off budget recorded songs, but they are the minority I feel.

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper View Post
Back in Black was recorded with SM57s. So was much of Van Halen I. Inexpensive sound cards are distortion free and quiet.
Back in Black is indeed a world famous and awesome song as AC/DC is quite talented, but to my ears it still sounds like a "basement record", rather than something recorded in a pro studio. They have the advantage that dynamic microphones won't pick up bad room noise, but on their own aren't going to deliver a pro-grade sound.
Old 5 days ago
  #26
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noah330's Avatar
Back in Black sounds like a basement record?

Wow. What do you consider good sounding?
Old 5 days ago
  #27
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by noah330 View Post
Back in Black sounds like a basement record?

Wow. What do you consider good sounding?
I don't mean that it sounds like it was recorded by a basement level band, but just that it sounds like it was recorded on very cheap equipment. With Back in Black, it could just be the vocals throwing me off, as they just sound very far back off the track, and not recorded in a ideal environment at all.

What I call good sounding is probably what some would just call "modern sounding" - very clean upfront sound, very polished, no grit, very very clear and cleanly recorded, no static, no noise, etc. I realize that Back in Black was recorded in a different era, and that the "sound" was different back then, however, many microphones used in modern music today were created long before the 1980s. Just, expectations of music quality has evolved with the decades. Polished sounds were certainly possible long ago, but they weren't necessarily sought out.

You have highly skilled metal bands recording in garages these days that easily record "higher quality" tracks than a lot of AC/DC's material, granted, they have easier access to decent recording equipment these days.
Old 4 days ago
  #28
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KhaosSignal View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by noah330 View Post
Back in Black sounds like a basement record?

Wow. What do you consider good sounding?
I don't mean that it sounds like it was recorded by a basement level band, but just that it sounds like it was recorded on very cheap equipment. With Back in Black, it could just be the vocals throwing me off, as they just sound very far back off the track, and not recorded in a ideal environment at all.

What I call good sounding is probably what some would just call "modern sounding" - very clean upfront sound, very polished, no grit, very very clear and cleanly recorded, no static, no noise, etc. I realize that Back in Black was recorded in a different era, and that the "sound" was different back then, however, many microphones used in modern music today were created long before the 1980s. Just, expectations of music quality has evolved with the decades. Polished sounds were certainly possible long ago, but they weren't necessarily sought out.

You have highly skilled metal bands recording in garages these days that easily record "higher quality" tracks than a lot of AC/DC's material, granted, they have easier access to decent recording equipment these days.
This seems kinda silly.

AC/DC were notoriously picky about their sound and always preferred to record live off the floor. In fact, I'm pretty sure I read a lot of the guitar sound was LDC's on the cabs, and there was a lot of mic placement work done to make use of the bleed rather than work against it. You'll never find a modern metal sound in any of their records, even in any of the later ones, because that's not their sound. The kick is boomy and very un-gated compared to most heavy music produced today. I could be wrong but I recall reading that Brendan O'Brien (who did a few of their later records in BC) preferred a mono room mic in front of the kit for the majority of the sound- and you can hear that in both the newer records and the old ones.

To say that this is a 'basement sound' speaks a lot less to the quality of the equipment or studio (you know where they recorded, right?) and much more to the approach the band intentionally took. They didn't want more than a little bit of slap on Brian Johnson's vocal and it probably was a 58. They accomplished what they were after in spades and made a very successful record because they were a very very good band with a lot to prove at that point.

Tl;dr - AC/DC have always been produced in a minimalist fashion (even the new stuff just sounds like roomy recordings pushed a bit to sound modern) and faulting the gear in that case seems to reflect more confirmation bias than anything else.
Old 4 days ago
  #29
Gear Head
 

Also: lots of truth in this thread already, but as someone still on the way up, here's what I've found:

- There's no substitute for a good ear. I started from much crappier equipment and have since gotten some better stuff, but it took a lot of careful listening and mixing to be able to pick out frequencies and listen to compression behavior etc in order to work the way I want to, and quickly. (Incidentally, picking up live sound helped a lot for this.) Sure, it's easier if you start out on nice gear because it will usually take fewer moves to get a great sound than plugins. But as others have said, it's just as easy to waste time and money doing that if you don't have the ear to make the most of it.

- While on the subject of gear, I strongly second what was said earlier about clones. The market for clone hardware today is ridiculous and if you do even a small amount of looking on this forum you will find people making incredibly high quality stuff, some of it even in the USA, for prices that are absurd in comparison to the name brand versions (most of which are reissues, and may not even be as period-correct). I have lately started investing in this sort of equipment to improve my mixes, but I a) don't think I'd have gotten the same benefit from them before now and b) would not consider it worth it if I were paying for name brand high end gear. There are some things that you can only really get from the original makers, but they tend to be specialty pieces rather than the classics (which have been modeled/cloned a hundred times and then some).

- I've found that a way to get a pro sound as efficiently as possible is to decide which things can be recorded on your own, and which can be done in a pro studio on a freelance basis. If you can get an in somewhere with nice equipment as a freelance engineer, and either you or the artist can cover the day/hourly rate, you can cut some of your most crucial tracks on very nice hardware and then mix it at your convenience. I've lately been doing electronic stuff where the vocals are the only thing that need to be done through a nice chain, so that helps (same would apply to hip hop), but for a rock band or similar I'd probably want to track drums in a nice studio and do the rest at home with my more modest setup. You can kind of get the best of both worlds this way, and yes you will still have to pay studio rates, but often if you can make connections with the right people and/or play your cards right you might be able to get a good deal on a smaller amount of time to record your most essential tracks. Then overdub on an as-needed basis where you can use your 1-2 high end mics/preamps to close-mic sources, rather than needing 16+ good sounding channels at a time with a nice room sound to work with.

Again, I'm far from 'high-end' both equipment and experience wise, but these are the things I've learned as I've continued to struggle with my work not sounding the way I want it to. It gets closer all the time and that's just how it goes- like others here have said, every step of the journey really is worthwhile.
Old 4 days ago
  #30
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bitman View Post
I just keep tryin.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RightOnRome View Post
"The greatest teacher, failure is..."
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdier View Post
Find joy in the journey.
I don't get frustrated.....I'm having too much fun with this.
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