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Understanding the magic of mastered songs / Being objective with my own stuff. Help
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Exclamation Understanding the magic of mastered songs / Being objective with my own stuff. Help

Hi there, so I'm working on some songs and I just feel like there is this huge mysterious chasm between things I record and sound decent to me, but I hear them and think it still sounds like it's a demo..

Now I realize there are very reasons why professional studios exist and justify their cost and that they have access to the best stuff out there and I will never have those things. But then I think about stories of bands like Boston for example making a record like that in a guys basement.

I think the biggest mystery is to wonder if a seasoned studio engineer went to my studio, what would be the best mix they could produce with it. Would it be on par with a pro studio or would their mixes come out sounding similar to my own stuff.

I know experience and having a golden ear are important but I guess I just wonder if i'm wasting my time trying to get more out of my studio than is sonicly possible and to just move on to the next song.

Here is a song i recently worked on. I'm no Joe Santriani and never will be but i'd like to get a sense maybe on a scale of 1-10 where this mix feels. 1 being Minicassette recorder.. and 10 being i dunno, Dark Side of the Moon..

https://www.dropbox.com/s/4gtpfwgp66...20Mix.mp3?dl=0

So you know what you're listening too and the gear I have used with it:

Track 1 - Akai S612 playing a looping guitar piece panned far left
Track 2 - Akai S612 playing same piece but different level panned far right
Track 3 - cheaper Yamaha accoustic recorded with an M-Audio Nova condenser playing the same part live

Track 4 and beyond - Various passes of musical solos/accents sharing these tracks.

All recordings went through an inexpensive PreSonus BlueTube stereo tube preamp.

Recorded into a MOTU 2408 at 48khz 24-bit using Digital Performer 3 (2001) on a G4 Quicksilver Mac. 867mhz / 1gb ram

Some reverb used the tracks past Tracks 1-3 were a mix between the built in Everb (mono to stereo) plugin from DP3 and the solo type stuff were ran through a Strymon Blue Sky Reverb.

My "mastering" consisted of bouncing all tracks to a single stereo track and running that through a DOD Balanced Stereo 10 band EQ to remove a little from the 200hz range which produced a bit of acoustic bass rumble that i pulled out and curved the high end slightly to brighten it up some.

I'm very open to feedback. I have heard nice things from friends/family but half of them heard it on an iphone speaker (facebook) and others, well you know just being friends and family. I can't trust their being objective either.

I like that I can hear everything in the song, but god i can't help but feel like there is some other magical effect / process i'm missing that could make something like this sound like a professional recording.


Also to offer some comparison I'll put this out there too. This song was also recorded using the same hardware and overall same approach just a different song. Again, not a great musician, just trying to record a bunch of song ideas I had from the 90's that I could never manage to complete back in the day and now I'm working on finishing those works and eventually move to new ideas.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/st07dsfnc6...es-02.mp3?dl=0


Thanks,
Caleb
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Hi

This sounds quite nice. I am getting a little harshness in the highs, but overall, I hear nothing that makes me want to come over there, grab your guitar, and slam you over the head with it.

I guess the two Qs are: 1) is there anything you hear you don't like, and 2) what are you using as a FOR, to compare this to?

Cheers.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

I'm glad the mix sounded decent. I get to keep my guitar! Heh heh

Well I've been really into shoegazer / dream pop kinda stuff lately and I tend .. but i'm not really using the same instrumentation in this song so maybe these are bad comparisons?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxwAPBxc0lU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGp7BdtwCCk

but i will be doing more drum stuff, but i really like the clean / dreamy / reverb guitar stuff.. and "wall of sound" eventually when i figure out a good distortion from my arsenal that works best.. heh

but i kinda feel like that's my worry.. what more can i do? what could i be missing?

I generally push my recordings fairly hot. i never clip. if i ever hit the clip mark i re-record and step it down a smidgen.

harshness on the high.. i will revisit. i tend to light brighter stuff, but i must say it's probably risky when on monitors since home stereos and cars do their own "enhancements" to a song by design.

in these mixes i've used no compressors.. and i know those are highly regarded tools for recording / mastering. I have an Alesis 3630 and a Yamaha GC2020 and of course the built in compressors in DP3. I just never felt like I needed to use a compressor through these songs as i recorded them.


I think part of my hope/plan is to make stuff i could find place for on a service like pandora or spotify.. and i think part of me wonders how jarring would it be if people were listening to something in a similar genre go from one song to one of my songs and be like.. that sounds so bad.. when i listen to professional stuff i never get that sense of "oh wow that's a low quality mix".. now i will say i've heard songs where vocals perhaps get drowned out by their own sounds in a song but it was in the space of itself, not when played bumped up against other similar songs.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
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decocco's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by part12studios View Post
Now I realize there are very reasons why professional studios exist and justify their cost and that they have access to the best stuff out there and I will never have those things. But then I think about stories of bands like Boston for example making a record like that in a guys basement.
Don’t feel bad because those stories are BS. Is your basement home to a Scully tape machine and a Flickinger console? The record company also provided a professional engineer. Then that record was mixed at Westlake. That’s the reality of that Boston record.

Dave Grohl recorded a grammy-winning record in his garage! Of course his garage also contained super producer Butch Vig, highly skilled professional engineers and a mountain of top-quality gear.

Have you ever recorded in a professional studio? If not, you would be well served to try it. Practice like you mean it, and spend one day in the studio working on one song/tune/concerto/whatever. At the very least it will be educational.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Yea that's a good point. That's a good idea. I should look into that. Find out how much it would cost to work in a pro studio. I imagine there are some around the Boston area.

I wish I could get some idea of who if anyone used MOTU 2408 MK2s back in the day in a professional setting. Does anyone know if as of circa 2001 or so when these were new devices were competitive.

I'm just trying to get a sense of where these devices stood in the pro audio ranking at the time. i'm not comparing this hardware to new stuff, I think that's fairly apples to oranges. I'm recording at 24bit / 48khz.

As I see it, people were making fine songs and recordings in that era.. songs that I would be proud to say I produced if I were said producer of those works, but were any of them using MOTU gear or was that really always and ever will be "home studio" caliber gear that was never made or intended to be capable of pro mixes?

Now while I am being a Digital Performer 3 purist on an OS9 mac.. I do have intentions of taking my mixes to a modern computer and exploring mastering options and plugins. I have ableton live and some plugins that were suggested for mastering that I got for a fair price.. so that's a step in the process that is worth mentioning though I'm not saying that's a must do step.. just something that might effect the possibilities.

It just seems like striking the balance of "driver" vs. "car". on the one hand no matter how good a driver you have.. if you're in a basic car, you're not going to win the race.. then again if you're a bad driver in a high end car you probably will still lose to better drivers in comparable cars.

I know I'm not a great driver, but if I keep using this gear, will it ultimately hold me back or is it really just a matter of getting to know the gear i have and experiment more.

I think part of it comes down to how much time i need to spend on songs before moving on to the next. if i know my songs quality are fairly "peaked" on the stuff i'm making i can move on understanding i am close to the limits of what i have.. but if my stuff could sound better (near pro) then I'm willing to put the time in to get things sounding better..

Maybe I could hire a local producer to come to my studio and maybe record something that way as well.. god what i'd love to see to have someone like a butch vig in my studio recording something with me.. someone i know / respect.. but unfortunately these guys are obviously beyond me on every level.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by part12studios View Post
Yea that's a good point. That's a good idea. I should look into that. Find out how much it would cost to work in a pro studio. I imagine there are some around the Boston area.
http://qdivisionstudios.com/

Been there. Def recommend it. Tell Ed that Jeff Hayat sent you.

Cheers.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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decocco's Avatar
 

There is no shortage of good studios in Boston!

Your gear is not holding you back. I saw MOTU stuff in project/electronic/MIDI type rooms back in the day. I have no real experience with that stuff.

Gear is really good these days, you get a lot for your money. Using a Mackie mixer instead of a Neve console isn’t going to wreck a recording, but a lack of musical skill and discipline will.

The pro-sumer gear can make good recordings. People used to use ADATs and DATs to record, for major label albums and such. They sounded perfectly decent, really. I used those things and they never held me back. The content of those recordings is what matters.

The truth about it is that the gear only holds you back when your needs exceed the gear’s technical abilities. Professional recording sessions are expensive and fast-paced, so they require dependable gear with extreme flexibility. In many cases it is expected that the latest hardware and software will be available. And don’t forget the most important part of a great studio-the space itself! If you have never recorded in a proper acoustic space, you are missing a HUGE part of the “pro” sound.

Gearslutz can be weird with the gear fetishizing. Do I love the expensive stuff? Of course! Can I make do with a Portastudio? Yes. Even a beat up Digi002 with a Behringer A/D interface connected via lightpipe will sound fine as a 16-track recorder setup that costs almost nothing.

You are absolutely better off honing your musical craft and working with a talented producer/engineer. Do you play out often? You should. You should be in the loop with other like-minded musicians. Networking is everything in any business.

And if you want to grow in your recording ability you need to be around people who can help you out with that, people you can learn from.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Cool that's great to know. That's what I needed to hear. I definitely am not blaming the music on the gear. My musicianship isn't nor will it likely ever be top notch just due to time to practice and motivation to perfection. Thank god looping in DP3 is surprisingly good. It seems to naturally merge tracks to create pretty seamless sound (dry) so once you lay some reverb or other effects on it.. its indistinguishable

One question though about "the room" and acoustics. Does it still matter much if 90% of what I do is line in? I know the monitor speakers I listen too are effected by the room of course. It definitely hasn't been acoustically treated as it should. So that might still make it important.

However it's a basement room with drop ceiling and small.. like 10x12 probably.. I do have some foam on the walls and ceiling in a few estimated spots but it's not enough to really make the room acoustically dead. I would probably have to buy a LOT more foam for that and that's a lot of money..



But yea I'm going to do some research on studios / producers in the area.. I definitely see the wisdom in learning both in a real studio and maybe seeing what an experienced producer might suggest in my home setup.

Thanks!
Caleb
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
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decocco's Avatar
 

As far as room acoustics... It depends on the person. You can learn a bad room and get good results out of it if you aren’t mic’ing anything up, but it is more challenging than being in a good room where you don’t have to second guess anything.

It looks like you are making the most of your space there! Your setup looks good-totally decent!

Making a room completely dead is not necessarily something you want to do, that can be tough to work in, too. Are your monitors really positioned ideally? As in, is the stereo imaging sharp and are they close enough to you (but not too close) as to eliminate the room as much as possible? Near-fields like that should definitely be at ear level. I can’t tell from your pic. Your monitors may be humble, but ideal positioning is necessary for mixing (for me anyway)!

I think the human element in all this cannot be emphasized enough! Working with people you respect can only help. Good luck, Caleb!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks so much for that insight! I just needed a sanity check. I'm very happy that among this maze of cabling and gear that recordings are quiet.

I typically do everything through my presonus bluetube preamp directly into the 2408.

Yes I definitely have been lacking any human element in my studio. It's just me. The occasional friend but no producers / engineers have set foot in my studio. Everything I have done in there has been through research / online / forums like this one.

Just learning what I can from those sources has gotten me pretty far, but absolutely would be stellar to get someone knowledgeable in there. Even if it had to hire someone as a consultant perhaps to have them give me some pointers could be good.

one thing i'm trying too is a little crowd sourcing asking people which sampling sounds best. Of course using facebook everyone is on their phone so asking sonic feedback on iphones might not be the best, but then again if it sounds good on an iphone maybe that's not a bad factor to account for. heh. Like when the Beatles would mix to a car speaker. Though doing a quick googling I couldn't confirm if that is true or a mixing myth. Anyway the idea of making it sound best on the format most likely to be heard on does have merit.

Pepsi Challenge
https://www.dropbox.com/s/dic5ah8dkr...e%202.mp3?dl=0

mix i liked from the sample above.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/st07dsfnc6...es-02.mp3?dl=0


Very glad I started this thread and thank you all for your insight. I'd love to hear more!
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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decocco's Avatar
 

I don’t hear anything wrong with what you are doing, I think you are on the right track; try not to overthink things. That’s tough for a lot of musicians, especially now that everyone has a home studio and the ability to endlessly tinker!

Do you have a musical peer group?
Old 1 week ago
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

Smile

Thanks for that perspective as well! No peer group. I'm not sure where I would find one.

I feel in this awkward position of wanting to learn from pros, but not really some rich guy who can afford to buy peoples time.. i'm not going to become a music producer myself, so it's not like I'm looking to start a new career, I just want to learn and i dunno volunteer maybe. be of some help to them, but i'm not sure what i could offer.

I did do some googling at work yesterday and found a fair number of studios and audio specialists around the area so I have some emails / phone calls to make.

I definitely agree about the endlessly tinkering syndrome. I have A LOT of past music backlog to get through and i'm trying to strike a balance of quality / quantity. I'm not doing this full time and as a dad/husband/employee I have to make the most of that time.

Right now I've been kinda on a repair mission. I have this Kawai K3m that's some bad Sanken Bridge Rectifiers in it and just found the parts today I believe that will bring it back to life.

But yes I really just want to be sure I'm able to produce something decent. I guess I always kinda have this fear that the production might get in the way of the experience of the music.. like i feel like I can hear when something is home made by someone else, not to say the music is bad, just not pro.. and I feel like it hear it in my stuff too and just wonder if there is anything i can do to minimize that.. so I'll keep forging on.

Thank you for the encouragement.

Sincerely,
Caleb
Old 1 week ago
  #13
Lives for gear
Feedback on your two mixes... This is just my opinion and not intended as a criticism of your mixes. My mixes of the same material would be different, but not necessarily better.
The second piece just didn’t grab my interest (which is not your fault), so I don’t have anything specific on that.
The first piece deserves a more dynamic mix. My reaction is that the first instruments playing were always the loudest instruments through the whole piece. As other elements were introduced, they were introduced at somewhat lower levels and stayed (exactly?) at those levels for the whole piece. That’s a very static mix. Some producers and mixers introduce new elements at a slightly higher level than they will play during the remainder of the piece. It lets your ear hear the new element more clearly and “learn” it before it is cheated back to its static level. And those first instruments can also be cheated back a bit in the mix as other elements are introduced. These subtle changes add some life and depth to the mix. The reverb levels of each element can also be varied subtly to taste. These things tend to add an element of human personality to what is otherwise a perfect machine that plays without variation.
Old 1 week ago
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by part12studios View Post
Cool that's great to know. That's what I needed to hear. I definitely am not blaming the music on the gear. My musicianship isn't nor will it likely ever be top notch just due to time to practice and motivation to perfection. Thank god looping in DP3 is surprisingly good. It seems to naturally merge tracks to create pretty seamless sound (dry) so once you lay some reverb or other effects on it.. its indistinguishable

One question though about "the room" and acoustics. Does it still matter much if 90% of what I do is line in? I know the monitor speakers I listen too are effected by the room of course. It definitely hasn't been acoustically treated as it should. So that might still make it important.

However it's a basement room with drop ceiling and small.. like 10x12 probably.. I do have some foam on the walls and ceiling in a few estimated spots but it's not enough to really make the room acoustically dead. I would probably have to buy a LOT more foam for that and that's a lot of money..



But yea I'm going to do some research on studios / producers in the area.. I definitely see the wisdom in learning both in a real studio and maybe seeing what an experienced producer might suggest in my home setup.

Thanks!
Caleb
Hi Part 1,

sorry this is off topic but what can you tell me about the instrument hanging on the wall, i have the exact same one that i picked up in a hock shop years ago, somebody once told me it was a lute that had been turned in to a guitar. it's old and i cannot read the manufacturers name on the body as its worn off.
any info would be appreciated. thanks.
Paul
Old 1 week ago
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Bushman thanks for that. you're totally right. volumes really never change throughout. other than fading in/out. I'd love any examples you might be able to share that demonstrate it. I definitely see your point and I'll think on that for sure. I can do automations with DP3 so I should definitely give that some thought.

pquinn, yea this is a lute guitar made by Frammas. German I think. This was how they were made (not converted). My dad bought this one in the 60's I believe in Kansas City. Very cool instrument. Doesn't have a lot of volume due to the nylon strings, but well made. I'm at some point going to get a luthier to install an active mic pickup inside it so I can just plug it in. Not a cheap mod. Micing it is not fun because its just uncomfortable to play trying to keep the mic optimally positioned while trying to hit record, position oneself and then play the piece and not bump into it.. lol

Also Jeff, thanks for the recommendation. I haven't reached out yet but definitely will. Looks like a great space!

Thanks!
Caleb
Old 1 week ago
  #16
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decocco's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by part12studios View Post
Thanks for that perspective as well! No peer group. I'm not sure where I would find one.
This would require you to get out/play out and network with other musicians. Even something as simple as playing an open mic night every so often. It may not be easy with husband/father duties, I know!
Old 1 week ago
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

Great advise though. I have a supportive wife though so this is not an insurmountable thought. I just need to look around some.

Thanks!
Caleb
Old 1 week ago
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by part12studios View Post
Great advise though. I have a supportive wife though so this is not an insurmountable thought. I just need to look around some.

Thanks!
Caleb
I involve my wife. She loves it and she has an understanding on the kind of time i need. The better i am, the better she will be
Old 1 week ago
  #19
Gear Maniac
 

yea we're working on music ideas together, so she gets why i would like to give us a good space to record and even consider what it might take to make the walls better for recording / monitoring. So yea that's cool that you do this too.
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