Old 10-29-2019, 07:43 AM   #1
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Default Help before I finish albums 5.

Greetings friends,

I am closing in on finishing album 5, and I am seeking some advice before I put it out for those who might listen to it and the rest. I do have some background to provide before moving to the help request. Being I have this obsession of writing songs and recording them, I have relied on information here and elsewhere with little available free time. I started out not knowing how to record, mix, and master and my own; however, I have progressed in that area with each album sounding better than the one prior. For instance:

Album 1: Where You Are I Shall Be: is indicative of my having no clue what I was doing: recording hot, not fully grasping mixing levels, and over compressing. A few still like the album believe it or not.

Album 2: Philosophical Observations: my heaviest and loudest. A bit more clearer than the first. Still recorded hot.

Album 3: Maladies: smoothed it out a bit better.

Album 4: Locked Doors Open Rooftops: FINALLY learned to incorporate high and low pass filters, and FINALLY learned how to use a delay and reverb bus.

I record with EZdrummer (MK Power Drummer for the first three), a Yamaha DGX-650 (which is used for piano, keyboards, sound effects, AND bass guitar), I also run a guitar processor straight into a PreSonus USB for all guitar parts; I experimented with amp simulators and just didn't like them. My microphone is directional--perhaps a laughable idea, yet a loud truck passed by once, and the mike did not pick it up while recording vocal parts. PLEASE don't judge my work on the mediocre to bad vocals. I have tried to get a vocalist, and this has proven quite a pain. I am not making money off of these, so I am content to let them stand as bad as they sometimes/ often are.

1. The mono mix has sounded quite good for this present project, and with the bass guitar being recorded through the Yamaha, do I even need to compress it (I have all other times)? At present the bass guitar sounds excellent.

2. I love piano. Any tricks to make this sound better? A very tough instrument to get right.

3. How and where do I find reference tracks? I have never used them, and I keep hearing them mentioned as essential. I am a Prog snob if that helps.

4. These are the main three for now. I probably will add others as I think of them.

Thank You in advance.

Last edited by ginodi; 10-29-2019 at 08:01 AM.
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Old 10-29-2019, 09:23 AM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2019
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Hi, Finodi!

I "needle dropped" through the tracks, just don't have the time to give it a full listen-through right now, so I'll offer my opinion on your questions based on that...

1) Compression has two main purposes (when not used as an "effect"): envelope shaping and dynamics control. With a compressor you can reshape a signal's envelope (attack, sustain, decay, release) by fiddling with the compressor controls. From your comment, you're satisfied with the "sound" of the bass, so no need to do anything there. The other usage is for level control. If you're having trouble keeping an instrument "in the pocket," you can drop a comp on it (high threshold, high ratio) to keep it from jumping out or fading into the mix. Again, from what I heard, not necessary. The midi velocity is the first line of level control, and it seemed pretty consistent.

2) It all starts with the source. The Yamaha piano is good, but there are others out there (VSTi modules) that could offer you some different sounds. For example, the "Big Cat City Piano" is a sampled Baldwin baby grand that is awesome for cutting through dense mixes, and Native Instruments has a bunch of good ones as well. Working with a synth piano is a lot different than with a "live" instrument! You might try swapping piano "sounds" around to see if you find something you like better, or to have a range of colors for your mixes. A Yamaha C7 and Steinway "D" have very different sounds, as does a Bosendorfer.

3) Reference tracks are ones that YOU pick as a tonal or stylistic target, and use to A/B against your mix to see how close you are to the target. A reference track could be used for a specific instrument sound (a kick tone, or a bass guitar tone) or for a mix balance (kick/snare/bass, for example), or for a mastering EQ curve (rumble and sizzle). The point is that YOU decide with the reference target is, so it would be a track well known to you...

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Old 10-29-2019, 07:27 PM   #3
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Thank you, Sound Guy Dave! I shall look into your second response.
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