Blue Sky...

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msnickybee
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Blue Sky...

Post by msnickybee » Mon Mar 26, 2018 9:12 am

Without Mixcraft, and without the help and support of people here, and our Mark (who is wonderful) specifically, I wouldn't be continuing to produce my own songs as such an interesting hobby now that my children are older! Here's a new one from me, I appreciate any/all your criticism, help and advice very much (including how to lip-sync to my own songs better lol):

"Blue Sky" on YouTube
"Blue Sky" on SoundCloud

thanks
Last edited by msnickybee on Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
Nicky
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midimoose
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by midimoose » Mon Mar 26, 2018 9:56 am

Lovely! Having expressed your fondnesss for cake, I think you deserve an extra slice for this one! I listened repeatedly, and enjoyed everything about it-- lyrics, sentiment, fine guitar work and vocals, and beautifully smooth mix. Many thanks for sharing this with us. Rick. The video is also pleasantly relaxing. :D
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time." Albert Einstein

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msnickybee
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by msnickybee » Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:27 am

midimoose wrote:Lovely! Having expressed your fondnesss for cake, I think you deserve an extra slice for this one! I listened repeatedly, and enjoyed everything about it-- lyrics, sentiment, fine guitar work and vocals, and beautifully smooth mix. Many thanks for sharing this with us. Rick. The video is also pleasantly relaxing. :D
thanks so so so much Rick!
cake on its way...Gluten free choc cake doesn't have quite the round *sound* to it...but I've got clotted cream too.... :-)
thanks for taking the time to watch, listen, and comment, means a lot!
Nicky
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Starship Krupa
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by Starship Krupa » Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:04 am

I'm really enjoying your performances on the vocals and guitars and the lush, spacious mix. Wow. You are a really good mixer and masterer. MIDI instrument programming is nice, too.

You did the video shoot all on a mobile phone? I'm curious what software you used to edit the video (if it wasn't Mixcraft).
-Erik
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msnickybee
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by msnickybee » Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:25 am

Starship Krupa wrote:I'm really enjoying your performances on the vocals and guitars and the lush, spacious mix. Wow. You are a really good mixer and masterer. MIDI instrument programming is nice, too.
You did the video shoot all on a mobile phone? I'm curious what software you used to edit the video (if it wasn't Mixcraft).
Thanks Erik!

It's nice that someone has taken an interest.....because really, I'd love to get started discussing all the musical aspects of it! And maybe some of these random words might help someone (gawd knows how lol), but it's a thought.
So my reply will be long! Your fault for taking an interest, and writing nice things!!
For me, there's the technical side of the production, but there's the compositional element too...
So, given your kind words, forgive me for a second if I share some of my thoughts on what you said?
Here we go lol.
In terms of the guitars:
as Mark will know, I've long been on a journey of trying to get a reasonable acoustic guitar sound. Still not there, but it's getting better. This time it's real double-tracked, playing the exact same part twice. Not too many punch-ins to be fair. Many folks would criticise this - "it'll get phasey!", "too echoey!", "you can never play it the same twice!" etc. But, I still do this, I'm a bit stubborn. Personally? I quite like it. The acoustic sits slightly left, with some mild ADT just off centre right and a little Plate, but then the 2nd (real) double-track sits rightwards.
Mild compression during recording process, only really TDR Nova for EQ mixing.
For me, the driving acoustics are the rhythm of this track...I can remove a lot of their mid/low-end to clean up the mix, and then it becomes an Eagles song with crisp but ultimately thin sounding guitars, and feels a little empty.
Curiously, there's no electric guitar on this track! The melody guitar, and the solo is my Taylor GS Mini... I'm a big fan of Acon Digital "Multiply", and I quite like the ProStudio Twisthead amp sim too, and Klanghelm IVGI (the 1st gen one) for a bit of grit.
The melody guitar gets double tracked only for the ending section
The solo also uses 2 sends I setup, one panned left, one right, just for delays - one timed double the speed of the other (both in tempo), just to go as big as poss ;-) (not to mention a ton of reverb at this point)
On the rhythm section:
I admit it, I cut corners with drums. I really do. Early on I use loops, maybe recording initial guitar with a metronome, but the real drum samples then inform my better overdubs, like the melody guitar parts.
I have to cut corners with the drums, because otherwise I'd be at it for months and months, and I will then lose patience, I know I will! The song is more important than that, and for me it's all about the melody.
It's my first time playing my new (well, I've had it unused for 2 years!) uBass too... required a fair few punch-ins!!
On the synths/midi instruments:
I'm a big synth fan. Am I any good!? No. It's all in the box. With the worlds tiniest keyboard. But I think it adds texture, and keeps panned roughly R in a bit of space, until it's double-tracked with lower register notes in the ending section. It's all in the build-up of the song, I guess.
On the vocals:
Not my strong point, but I'm a big fan of backing vocals. To me, a BV can be a Hook. It really can. There's tons of examples of that. I'm not trying to create 10cc's I'm Not In Love, but you know what I mean. Great fun can be had with Melodyne for things like this!!! It's truly a wonderful thing, despite its AWFUL interface.
Compression during tracking was key for me here, as my technique isn't brilliant, and then there ends up being too much processing...and months pass by...
On Mastering:
That 14.5k+ area is where it's at for me. I regularly go back and listen to Eagles "Lyin' Eyes", from Steve Hoffman's gold cd. Sure, all my music is MOR, smooth...a little boring... but it's what I like. Sounds from analogue gear 22k+ can affect the range we hear... does TDR Vos slick EQ recreate? I actually think it does, if you've got a reasonable recording in the first place.
I mix and master entirely in the box, and don't even roll a separate mastering project. A1stereocontrol, Limiter 6, TDR Vos slick EQ, maybe an extra hi/lo pass to clear some plugin distortion, SPAN. That's it.
Reverb is kept real simple this time round to be honest, just a single Plate that everything uses. I really seriously tried to limit the number of plugins.
And I try to move away from Limiter 6, but *always* come back to it. It is vastly underrated, and vastly misunderstood. Mid/side compression is where it's at, for these wide mixes, where I have slightly panned guitars. Why would you want all that careful central bass/drums squashed in with the carefully mixed guitars? It really works, in my ultra-humble opinion.
On the video:
Yes, shot entirely on a phone. Won't be doing it again though! Back to my trusty Canon IXUS! See how the video sometimes keeps hunting for focus! Grrr! But then, I used to use Windows Movie Maker, but microsoft got rid of that.... so I found "Shotcut" (google or "duckduckgo" it in my case lol), it's actually really really good. Fades/transitions, colorising, all these things aren't too difficult, and a lot easier to master than eg Lightroom I think. Now if I could only get some kind of timecode thing going to make lip-sync easier ;-) but, well, this is only a hobby inbetween my day job!
I've also just used Shotcut to create a 25second video which I'm about to upload to Instagram...
So why don't I use Mixcraft for video? Well, because it's cumbersome. The video playback engine stutters. All kinds of things. And I've tried ever since it was introduced (v6 or v7?). Anyway. And Shotcut provides much better control over the output format... MKV? no problem! rescaling and cropping? no problem! All kinds of things.
On the composition:
Whilst it's not such a great song, I am quite fond of the jangly guitar overdubs. That's where I want my time to go when I'm doing this really!! To be honest, I spent quite a while recording those, and editing them, and fixing the sound of those. It's a signature of the song. The song is deliberately short, and non standard. Technically, there should be another verse before the bridge, instead we get 1 1/2 verses, no chorus, but the "Blue Sky" line, then a Bridge...but not a 2nd bridge? Not like a Beatles Verse/Bridge/Verse/Bridge either? Strange. But these days I'm obsessed with keeping it as close to 3 minutes as possible! And channeling the 60s vibe... a big Beatles fan thanks to my mum and brothers growing up!

Ok, I've taken up enough of your time (and patience) here, but hopefully you take it in the right way, in the spirit of this forum & all things Mixcraft...thanks again!
Last edited by msnickybee on Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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outteh
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by outteh » Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:41 am

Nicky, great work! Unless I missed it you didn't mention anything about microphones or mic placement when it comes to recording acoustic. I too am looking for a better acoustic sound and I can't seem to get that "realism". :D

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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by msnickybee » Wed Mar 28, 2018 8:06 am

outteh wrote:Nicky, great work! Unless I missed it you didn't mention anything about microphones or mic placement when it comes to recording acoustic. I too am looking for a better acoustic sound and I can't seem to get that "realism". :D
Ah right, yes, you're quite right, sorry!
Hmmm. This has been a tricky one for me too.
In the end I've found it's a combination of 4 things (I know you only really asked about the first one, but others might be reading, you never know):

[1] mic placement
[2] strings & the "right" guitar
[3] technique, approach, style, song
[4] compression/limiting/EQ

All obvious things really, but, well, you know.

[1] I recorded the 1st acoustic track with the mic about 4" from the upper bout (I suppose kind of under the 14th fret ish). I hate all that 12th fret nonsense! Too percussive sounding. The 2nd track at the lower bout, but this then is mixed in at a much lower level to give texture.
I *am* thinking about a better mic though! Any ideas? What do you use? I use a Shure Beta 87A, and I've got an unusable Rode NT1A - too much noise with my preamps, and too many noisy neighbours.
I fancy one of those Lewitt small capsule mics, but funds are a bit limited at the moment, but eventually that'll be my next improvement I think. The Shure is a tiny bit shrill.
[2] strings... whilst I use Elixir, these take a while to settle in in my Yamaha. It's a very clean, not too boomy sounding acoustic which helps. My Martin or Guild would be difficult I think, but haven't tried yet. When the strings are too new, there's way too much sizzle.
[3] need to be really careful with technique... this song if you've listened is full of string squeaks! but, I just live with it I think, but I try with technique, and avoid rattles etc. I've got a particular song which keeps defeating me, just because it sounds great acoustic, but just doesn't translate. It's too hard to play. It would need a ribbon mic, and abbey road (not that it's *that* great a song, but you know). Simple chords, I guess.
For the melody and lead parts, I just use my Taylor GS Mini with a KK pickup DI'd. It's brilliant for these things, who needs an electric guitar! (although I've got one somewhere, but not played it for 25 years *gulp*)
[4] compression whilst tracking avoids some harsh transients, but not all, and that then makes mixing and EQ a lot less challenged, some transients aren't even visible in the waveform otherwise
I take the view now that if the acoustic track doesn't sound *reasonable* without processing/EQ, then move the mic. Sure, you need to remove problem 400Hz, and some of the very low end, and I always carefully watch my 2-8kHz (but I know that's unusual).
I've been accused of too much "boxy" reverb on the guitars on this track, and I can see that. It's the result of the double-tracking, and the plate too. Personally? I like it, it fits with the 60s vibe (did I mention I'm a massive Macca fan?), but commonly so so many say "go easy" with it on acoustic guitar. I get that. I really do. And avoid that phasing! Psssh! I say ;-)
EDIT: I just checked, and on the main acoustic track I had:
HoRNetFatFet - set to maximum ratio and threshold just to give 1-2dB limiting of harsh transients (I want smooth!)
TDR Nova - this will vary massively with mic and type of guitar etc, but I'm usually cutting below 90Hz (24dB/Oct), and a fairly big cut around 2kHz

Again, I'd say that my "recreate stereo" approach to doubled acoustic guitars isn't particularly standard, and prone to a lot of problems. But I like it.

Sorry, too long a reply again!
Nicky
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by Mark Bliss » Wed Mar 28, 2018 4:51 pm

She didnt learn the long reply thing from me, I swear! :lol:

I feel its important to point out that the DI guitar recording isn't done with your typical economy acoustic guitar pickup. And the results reflect that.
The mic placement is going to vary by guitar. If you have a boomy guitar, the commonly recommended 12th fret position may work better. If you have a brighter guitar you may want to adjust that as Nicky has discovered and advised.

Nicky's guitar tracks have consistently sounded pretty outstanding IMO, and I think its a combination of her playing (which is pretty darned good IMO) and taking the care to experiment, which is another of her strengths.

To be certain, she bravely explores away! LOL! (I love it and have learned a lot from collaborating with her, for a number of reasons, one being that she simply approaches things from a different angle of attack from mine.)

That said, I have to also make it known that while I appreciate the intent of her calling me out, this one is her work. Her mix, her master. And she did good. One minute I was throwing tips and suggestions her way and when I paused and looked away for "just a moment" she pulled this one off and hit a homer!

My advice, the better you get it from the start, the easier the mix process and the better the end result. Consistently.

Fighting with inferior recordings is a frustrating process and the end result is just never quite satisfying.
Cant say it enough. Put the effort in at the start. Jumping eagerly ahead never pays.

OK, beat that point to death..... 8)
Stay in tune, Mark

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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by msnickybee » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:42 am

Mark Bliss wrote:the better you get it from the start, the easier the mix process and the better the end result. Consistently. Fighting with inferior recordings is a frustrating process and the end result is just never quite satisfying. Cant say it enough. Put the effort in at the start. Jumping eagerly ahead never pays.
Got the T-shirt, dress, jeans, sweater, literally the lot on this one. In spades. Times 100. 1000 even.
Months of frustrating work. Because.......because you convince yourself "ah, but I'm a beginner, that's the best it CAN sound... It's only a hobby... it doesn't matter how high the audio quality is... I'm making music here!"
Am I the only one with those voices in my head!? :lol: :shock:

Got unreleased songs with months of effort done.

But then, multiple layers of tracks all created with the "yeah, but I can't expect HiFi quality" approach...yields...a harsh mess with a top-end like shards of glass.

Thanks Mark, you're a star :D :D
Nicky
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by Mark Bliss » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:48 am

SShhhh!
don't tell anyone. 8)
Stay in tune, Mark

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msnickybee
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by msnickybee » Thu Mar 29, 2018 7:05 am

you know what would help...going forward too...
as you know I'm trying more recording with compression/limiting at source...
we lull ourselves to thinking "hey, we've got plugins, we can process it afterwards, I've got 24bits here, I can record quiet, just get the signal in"
but, I disagree these days, and this old forum post here supports...
I've been looking at channel strips etc etc...minefield...
sticking with my old Cakewalk UA25-EX for now, and my Audient iD14 is unusable!
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outteh
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by outteh » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:16 am

So are you plugging in before the recording? In other words, does the recorded guitar have compression/limiting applied? :D

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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by msnickybee » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:42 am

outteh wrote:So are you plugging in before the recording? In other words, does the recorded guitar have compression/limiting applied? :D
Yes I am recording through a recording interface/hardware compressor now.
I always used to do this, until a couple of years ago when I got a new Audient iD14 interface, and thought "but I can just record at a quiet level - I've got 24 bits 144dB! - and compress with a VST".
I know feel that I was wrong...
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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by Mark Bliss » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:07 am

I am a big fan of DSP compression when recording vocals, and sometimes other instruments. This is assuming of course the product uses a decent algorithm. Some aren't so great. But certainly recording with a bit of compression eases the resource load and improves the workflow IMO. Great for vocals for sure.

But.... Its really just an algorithm used in a different way. Its not like a fancy expensive box with tubes and a big transformer in it.

And as far as the other thread goes, I experimented with the pedal method some years ago. It worked ok SOME of the time, others not so much. I kind of felt it was limited by the intended signal levels of an instrument vs mic.
It might be that it works better with certain types of mic and certain styles of vocal performance I suspect.
I'd say try it if you have one already, but I wouldn't go out and buy a pedal just for this or go hunting for a bunch of cable adapters or something......
Stay in tune, Mark

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Re: Blue Sky...

Post by msnickybee » Thu Mar 29, 2018 12:52 pm

There's a number of "channel strips" around, but I'm not about to spend any money any time soon... :D
It's a shame none of my interference have inserts ie an effects loop to be honest...I might get my old Fostex 4 track mixer/tape out of the loft, even that had an effects loop! And it wouldn't be a "pedal", I see them a bit more as guitar effects, although maybe Eventide do something...it's not an area I know much about...yet... But, just thoughts.
To be serious about getting the best raw track, I think it's time to get a *little* serious about outboard...
I'm not buying this article from recording revolution saying "do I need an outboard compressor?" answer: NO, to be honest. And Warren "Marvellously Well" Huart agrees eh?
Nicky
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My latest EP Bittersweet is still available on Spotify, still writing the new one!
or check out my YouTube channel

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