I haven’t posted any songs on the forum for a while but when I have, I’ve always really appreciated the feedback - constructive suggestions that led me to re-record (and, I think, massively improve) a couple of songs. Anyway, prompted by my teacher @Richard_close2u I’m posting now because the more I get into the composition side of things, the more I understand how important collaboration is, at least in the rock/pop genre, and jazz of course (not that I do any of the latter). And I’m also increasingly bumping up against my limitations - particularly in terms of mixing, but also as a musician, singer, lyricist and tunesmith, you name it. So this is a long shot but if you listen to these songs and think ‘I would have mixed/written/sung/played that differently’ but at the same time feel you are in the same ballpark as me stylistically, would you consider a collaboration on a completely new project? You’d have to be familiar with the Reaper DAW as that’s the only one I own and I’ve barely got my head around a fraction of what it can do, never mind branching out into other DAW’s.
Anyway, enough blabbing. These are my two most recent compositions …
Thanks for sharing, John. Lots to like in both songs.
I preferred Waves. I think the arrangement and mix flowed better and benefitted from being shorter. I would suggest lifting the vocal to bring it more up front.
In Low Road I liked the idea to work different instruments and dynamics as the song progressed. I would work more on the transitions. I found the switches to be a little abrupt, like separate files had been concatenated rather than blended. Perhaps some automation of levels may help and think about loudness being more consistent throughout (without eliminating dynamics)
Thanks very much for listening so carefully @DavidP and - in the case of LRTTL - staying with it to the end 5 minutes-plus is too long I know, but I take any opportunity I can for a guitar noise work-out. Can’t help myself. The transition issue you mention is an example of what I call my inability to mix. I’ll research level automation to see if I can improve it. On the other one, I generally find that when I lift the vocal it stands out like a sore thumb but I’ll give it a go. Thanks again - it’s so useful having fresh ears listen and comment, greatly appreciated.
Lovely stuff. Love the atmospheric guitar playing. Nice compositional ideas on the Low Road track.
On Waves I think the vocal mix is almost good all around imo, but I feel there may be some possibility to eq out some mid to lows, there seems to be a woofiness that probably could be easily eqed out with the right frequency. Then you could raise the overall vocal as mentioned before, without it standing out in that “woofy” range.
I’m no pro, still learning especially guitar and vox mixing. From my perspective, I think the guitars are really well mixed.
The drums on the second track are a bit quiet, but I still hear them oftentimes dragging a bit behind in time. May be an artistic choice, but I feel there are moments when the track is rhythmically too disjointed.
I’m still only a few years into producing and using Ableton so I can’t help specifically with Reaper. Some things are universal though. But getting the ears to hear what’s good and what’s not, and what to do is something that I feel just comes with practice and yes maybe collaborating.
I like a lot of the musical arrangement ideas on the road to the Light, as said they could come together better rhythmically, but I think you put some supporting instruments in that made it quite interesting.
If you’d be up to we can try to bounce some ideas. Maybe you mix some of my stems and I some of yours. Then we could check how we like each others mixes and exchange what we did.
I’m also searching for some collaborations to get better. I know most prefer to collaborate with more experienced people, but if you’re up to it, my PM box is open.
Nice work John and composing a good original is no easy feat let alone 2. I enjoyed both but I preferred waves. I think you have a really nice song there and I agree with David in that you should raise the vocals which will take your song to the next level. Lovely work with both songs though!
Thanks @Eddie_09. I’ll bite the bullet and bring the vocal up.
Thanks you very much for listening @Siff . I’m not 100% clear what stems are or how you share them (unless it’s an obvious file sharing thing) but I’ll research that and then great - I’d be keen to hear what you can do with them. I can’t promise to do anything worthwhile with your work however. Mixing is a blind spot for me. Anyway, I’ll message you separately after I’ve googled ‘stems’.
Really good job on both of your originals John, I thought they were really well put together and I enjoyed them both.
I agree with @Siff Marcel, there was something not quite on point with the drum rhythm on the second track, so maybe have a look at that. Was it a hi-hat that was going in the background as well? For me I thought a tambourine would have sounded good going, chacka chacka cha, in the background but that is just my opinion.
Yes, I can hear the fault now @SgtColon. I recorded to a click track and then added drums. So possibly the rhythm is OK (ish) but I need a better drum track. I’ll try that anyway.
Great songs John! You are very good at crafting a song - both of these are different styles, which is good for the listener being able to experience different genres. In both songs, you have also created different melodic and harmonic textures to give the ear something interesting to listen to as the song progressed. Sometimes, a good song is lessened by repeating the same idea too often. I heard someone say that to repeat something brings familiarity; to play three times or more can become tiring for the listener. This isn’t the case for your songs!
In terms of recording, both songs could benefit from stricter tempo. In waves, the tempo wandered a bit, so you might find you benefit from recording to a click track or drum track, then muting it on the final mix if you’re not going to use it. I say this because it is a problem for me also. I have a tendency to speed up when I know something tricky is about to happen, so click or drum track keeps me ‘on track’. Also I found the recordings got a little ‘muddy’ - I noticed this on Waves. I wanted to hear more of the electric floating, but without detracting from the vocal or acoustic guitar. I’m not sure how you had it, but I’d push one guitar more to the left and the other to the right - this will give each their own space and won’t conflict with the voice, which should remain the main focus, but supported by clear accompaniment. Your vocal is recorded close to mic, which gives it an intimate feel (if this is what you were after), but can also lead to ‘boominess’ if you’re not careful. Recording a little further away from the mic will remove some of these lower frequencies to create a more natural (but less intimate) feel.
Good songs - I’d like to hear more of what you have!
That’s some great advice @AndrewAntipodes - thank you. Rhythm is defintely my main achilles heal when it comes to playing. I’ve been spending a lot of time on it in recent weeks and hopefully it will improve. I do generally use a click track but even then I tend to get ‘distracted’, so to speak, by the harmonic changes and by anything but the most basic rhythm patterns.
Good spot on the vocals too. I stay close to the mic so that I don’t have to embarrass myself - and scare the dog - by singing too loud. But I will have to do something about that because it only works for certain songs.
I’m at a bit of a loss with production/mixing as I said in my original post but separating instruments may well help; I’ll try it on Waves.
I’ve always got one or two compositions on the go and I’ve posted some on this site before now. I derive immense satisfaction from the act of creating music, however modest the results. But once I think they are done I barely listen to them again and I certanly don’t expect other people to! However when I feel I have nailed the shortcomings you and others have identified I’ll probably post a couple of new tracks to illustrate the improvement (or lack thereof) and I would really appreciate your further thoughts.
PS - I just listened to some of your stuff on Soundcloud. Fantastic!
Likewise - I listened to about 50% of your Soundcloud songs yesterday - you obviously love diversity of genre and topics (as do I). The first I listened to was ‘Safe Haven’, and I loved to mix of sung and spoken word, plus I like songs with reggae or similar feel.
Regarding mixing, I am on a journey as well - if you listen to some of my earlier Soundcloud recordings compared to my recent ones, you’ll hear the development of my mixing. I don’t want to hold myself out as an expert by any means - far from it - but I made some notes on what I have learned so far - found here.
I must go back and subscribe to your Soundcloud channel to watch out for when you add new songs - do you have much in your 'back catalogue?
The suggestion to pan the different guitars worked a treat. So naturally I will now be doing it on everything I record. Thanks for setting out your recording technique so clearly. Two quick questions Andrew:
Do you find Cakewalk a better product than Reaper? I’m a paid-up subscriber to the latter and reluctant to change unless I’m confident that the more expensive options are worth the extra.
When you pan how far do you do it? Reaper has a round dial for panning if you can visualise that - where would you move the dial to to give an appropriate amount of separation?
I put stuff on Soundcloud when I want other people to listen and advise on issues that are giving me problems, and sometimes when I’ve made corrections for them to consider. Maybe it’s become a de facto ‘best of’ as a result, I’m not sure. I have no critical perspective. Either way it’s about 10% of my ‘back catalogue’. 99% of the pleasure for me is the creative process; I rarely listen to things once they are finished to my (partial) satisfaction so I can hardly expect other people to do so! Anyway, I expect Chatgpt will be writing better stuff than me in a few months if it isn’t already. Meanwhile however I have subscribed to your channel and will continue to listen with interest. I’m not sure how Soundcloud works in that respect but I assume I will get an alert when you post something.
Thanks again for your help Andrew.
Regarding Reaper v Cakewalk, I find they have similar functions and workflow. I introduced changes to hardware (mic and acoustic shell) and changes to mixing at the time that I changed software, so I suspect my better results are due to the latter. I am about to embark on a re-recording of a song in Reaper and will use these new hardware and techniques, so I am interested to see the results. I note that Cakewalk is about to commence a new business model and move away from its ‘free use’ policy, so Reaper will become the more affordable of the two.
For panning of guitars, I usually pan between hard/far and 9 o’clock on the left and hard/far and 3 o’clock on the right. This will vary if I have more than 3 guitar tracks or if there is another track with a similar (competing) frequency range, so I tinker to try and give each some space to exist in, without creating a wall of sound. For a single solo track, I will put this in the centre, unless I have doubled up the lead, in which case I will pan left and right as above, while boosting the volume to highlight the solo.
I agree with your other comments regarding writing and recording and find it interesting we are on the same journey in that regard. Like you, I have a back catalogue of songs to record, and love the creative process of doing that.
I’m looking forward to your next dose of ‘spice’.