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But it sounds homemade.


xgsjx
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I’m sure there was something similar to this a while ago, but I couldn’t find it. 

My sounds in my tracks always sound very amateur. No matter what I do, I feel like I’m polishing jobby. 
Ive not spent a fortune on sound equipment, I have Logic Pro X as my daw & apart from the stock plug ins, I have Roli Equator, Strobe 2 & Cypher 2 (both from FXpansions) & a couple of NI fx plug ins. 

I’ve heard tracks from other people using similar gear & their mixes sound like songs. Mine sound like a bunch of tracks playing at the same time. 

I have an NI KA6 audio interface to record my bass or guitar, but I rarely record as I’m never happy with the results.

Can anyone help where I’m going wrong?

Here’s a short house track to give you an idea of what I mean. 

 

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I wouldn't say that this sounds particularly homemade to me but it isn't really my genre so the subtleties may be lost on me.

In general though, I find that digital recording and anything other than hugely expensive interfaces lend a too-clean quality to the highs which often ends up with mixes sounding a bit cheap. 

I would make sure that any guitars are recorded with mics on amps (rather than DI'd) and I often try putting keys and such through an amp sim plug in (but perhaps only mix the effect in 50/50, say).

I would also experiment with putting the whole mix (and/or individual instruments) through a tape sim plug in (Variety of Sound do a great free one).

The Baxter eq plug in is a powerful but subtle bus eq that I use on everything to tame that harshness/cleaness that betrays home recordings. I think there's a good argument for putting the main mix through a subtle compressor and a tiny bit of reverb just to mush everything together: somehow this glues everything together in a way that makes a coherent whole.

I think the great limiter is in terms of vocal sounds - without a nice condenser and some acoustic treatment in your room it is very difficult to get a truly polished and pro sound but there are still ways and means to get 90% there. If you are recording mainly non-vocal stuff, it's a little easier. 

One last thought: I almost always find that if I've recorded something (or seen it being recorded) it is *very* difficult to hear it as I would someone else's record - I hear the flaws, the compressors, the reverb... I even see the singers at the mic - but when I hear a great record, I just hear music. YMMV

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Personally I don't think there's anything wrong with the gear. Remember that even the most simple of modern recording set ups is technically vastly superior to the equipment that most classic recordings were made on - especially if you are not relying on an acoustic space to make your recording in.

IMO there are two things at work here.

1. We all tend to be super-critical of recordings we have made ourselves, even when ultimately there's nothing really wrong with them. Also it's very difficult to judge a dance track at home when it needs to be played on a club system along side similar tracks that you think sound good.

2. It may be that like me you are simply not as good an engineer as you would like to be. It took me 20 years and several tens of thousands of pounds spent on equipment to realise that I was never going to be able to make recordings that sounded as good as the ones by my favourite artists. Are there any studios specialising in house music in your area? I'd take a couple of tracks to a commercial studio with a sympathetic engineer and do your mixes there and see if that makes any difference to the sound of your recordings.

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47 minutes ago, Dankology said:

I wouldn't say that this sounds particularly homemade to me but it isn't really my genre so the subtleties may be lost on me.

In general though, I find that digital recording and anything other than hugely expensive interfaces lend a too-clean quality to the highs which often ends up with mixes sounding a bit cheap. 

I would make sure that any guitars are recorded with mics on amps (rather than DI'd) and I often try putting keys and such through an amp sim plug in (but perhaps only mix the effect in 50/50, say).

I would also experiment with putting the whole mix (and/or individual instruments) through a tape sim plug in (Variety of Sound do a great free one).

The Baxter eq plug in is a powerful but subtle bus eq that I use on everything to tame that harshness/cleaness that betrays home recordings. I think there's a good argument for putting the main mix through a subtle compressor and a tiny bit of reverb just to mush everything together: somehow this glues everything together in a way that makes a coherent whole.

I think the great limiter is in terms of vocal sounds - without a nice condenser and some acoustic treatment in your room it is very difficult to get a truly polished and pro sound but there are still ways and means to get 90% there. If you are recording mainly non-vocal stuff, it's a little easier. 

One last thought: I almost always find that if I've recorded something (or seen it being recorded) it is *very* difficult to hear it as I would someone else's record - I hear the flaws, the compressors, the reverb... I even see the singers at the mic - but when I hear a great record, I just hear music. YMMV

Cheers for this.  Unfortunately, Variety of Sound only make Wondows plug ins (noting for Mac).

But... You have helped me to discover that Logic has it's own tape saturation plug in (in the guise of a tape delay), so I'm about to give that a try.  I'll try some of your other advice too. 

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2 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

Personally I don't think there's anything wrong with the gear. Remember that even the most simple of modern recording set ups is technically vastly superior to the equipment that most classic recordings were made on - especially if you are not relying on an acoustic space to make your recording in.

IMO there are two things at work here.

1. We all tend to be super-critical of recordings we have made ourselves, even when ultimately there's nothing really wrong with them. Also it's very difficult to judge a dance track at home when it needs to be played on a club system along side similar tracks that you think sound good.

2. It may be that like me you are simply not as good an engineer as you would like to be. It took me 20 years and several tens of thousands of pounds spent on equipment to realise that I was never going to be able to make recordings that sounded as good as the ones by my favourite artists. Are there any studios specialising in house music in your area? I'd take a couple of tracks to a commercial studio with a sympathetic engineer and do your mixes there and see if that makes any difference to the sound of your recordings.

I don't think it's the gear, I think it's me.  I'll upload something I'm working on later to give you an idea (vocals are recorded by a professional & are from another song, it's a remix I'm doing), but even the Mrs says my tracks don't sound like finished songs & the instruments sound "cheap".

I'll have a look at local studios & see what they have.

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21 hours ago, xgsjx said:

I'll have a look at local studios & see what they have.

The most important thing is that there is an engineer who is sympathetic to the genre of music and can understand what you are trying to achieve. 

As long as you are able to transfer the audio files you have created onto their system the equipment will be irrelevant.

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It is not gear, but your capacity as mixing engineer. It takes hours and lots of mixing to get to sound like the pros. Your gear and software is enough for you to create "radio ready" music the problem is in the mixing and mastering process. Case in point Billie Eilish music was all recorded and produced by her in her brother in their bedroom but all those songs were mixed and mastered by a mixing and master engineer.

Chucking more gear and plugins at it will make no difference, if you want to get better at mixing you need to get some knowledge and practice.

I hope this helps. 

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42 minutes ago, Mcgiver69 said:

Chucking more gear and plugins at it will make no difference, if you want to get better at mixing you need to get some knowledge and practice.

I get what you are saying but knowing which pieces of equipment and plugins are needed and how to use them is an integral part of the process. I'm not sure you can get the results the OP wants without a working knowledge of (and healthy stock) of decent plugins.

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12 minutes ago, Dankology said:

 

I get what you are saying but knowing which pieces of equipment and plugins are needed and how to use them is an integral part of the process. I'm not sure you can get the results the OP wants without a working knowledge of (and healthy stock) of decent plugins.

But remember that a lot of what are now considered classic recordings were done with minimal equipment - a space big enough to fit the musicians, a handful of microphones a plate reverb and some compression and that was it. 

IME a good mix engineer is worth far more than a bucket load of plug ins.

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Very good advice already above 👍

My own tips would be:

  • Use reference material when mixing. I often forget to do this myself… it takes dedication to keep referencing your own work against professional mixes, especially when you’re ‘in the zone’ and don’t feel like pausing. But it’s always useful.
  • Controversial perhaps, but analog gear can make a difference to the finished sound. Especially a good quality mix bus compressor and/or program EQ. I've switched from using literally hundreds of plug-ins to using about a dozen pieces of analogue kit. The absence of choice (which for me leads to 'option paralysis') has helped me to focus much more on the basics of mixing, rather than trying to always solve problems by adding plug-ins. If your set up can't easily accommodate analog, then simply try to reduce the number of plug-ins you're using - choose those that you find most useful and get to know them really well. I've found this 'reductionist' approach to be very refreshing and inspiring (chimes with the comments about some great music being made with minimal kit).
  • Don’t keep using the same preset patches on your plug-ins. Experiment. Try dialing in your own settings. And it doesn’t always have to be subtle. Some of those ‘big studio’ sounds are the results of quite generous knob-twisting! 😮

Also, I reckon most people think their own music is lacking. I know I do. Don’t sweat it, because to other people’s ears it always tends to sound better (especially if you get them drunk first and play it really loud).

*This all reminds me that I need to get sharing some music on here again; it’s been way too long!*

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20 minutes ago, Dankology said:

A handful of premium microphones and utterly fabulous rooms - neither of which your average home recordist has access to. Nor most modern working studios for that matter.

Maybe if you were in Abbey Road, but I was thinking more along the lines of Sun or Chess, which were set up in a space the owners of the record companies had available. Also there wasn't really anything "premium" about the microphones used back then. They were just what was available at the time. It's only desire to carry on copying what has gone before that has made these devices anything special.

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2 hours ago, Dankology said:

Not sure how many house tracks came out of Sun and Chess... Or whether theirs is the aesthetic the OP is aiming for 🙂

But the point I was trying to make is that IME the engineer is far more important than the equipment.

I learnt this the hard way having spent a large amount of money and time building my home studio only to find that the weak link was very much me. Sure my recordings made with Logic, a 40 channel digital desk, big Tannoy monitors and a multitude of effects both hardware and software were technically better than the ones I had done on a 4-track portastudio, but not by a massive amount and they were still nowhere near what I was aiming for.

This was very much brought home to me when with another band we used a very ordinary looking studio with what was technically an inferior system to the one I had at home, but the engineer was able to get a recording that sounded excellent in a fraction of the the time it would taken me to achieve something that merely sounded good.

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I think we're probably making the same point here. The only difference being that I would regard understanding the use of plugins to be integral to engineering skills you mention above.

I'd bet the engineer that you used was in large part using his expertise with the hardware equivalents of the software plugins we use at home. And, no doubt, a raft of plugins too.

I reckon for something to sound good it has to be well played, recorded, mixed and mastered - and arguably in that order of importance. With the electronica that the OP is working on at least the engineering side can be a little more straightforward. Unless he's setting up all his sequencers around a single mic for a classic 1950s sound...

 

 

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On 17/02/2020 at 10:05, xgsjx said:

Here’s a short house track to give you an idea of what I mean. 

Brave of you!

I am clueless as a sound engineer, but to me it sounds a bit too much like a 'sample track' off an early 90s sequencer...

All elements are occupying too much of the 'middle' of the sound spectrum, so they are competing not complementing. Also it's all dead on the beat, if the bass was slightly ahead of the drums it might sound more urgent? I'd double the tempo of the hi hat as well.

All the sounds sound almost 'gated', I think you need to let the samples decay a bit more or add delay/reverb (it sounds very dry) and (horror of horrors) add a hefty dose of compression as well.

 

It's a quarter century since I recorded any tracks myself but I'd be delighted to have one or two of mine critically dissected!

Now to read the r4est of the thread and see if people agree with my diagnosis!

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You guys have given me some great advice here so far.  I've been putting it to use on a track I'm working on (vocals were recorded by someone else, but all the rest is mine).

Still sounds unfinished to me.  Should I bounce the individual stems to audio stems, then mix & master?

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1 hour ago, xgsjx said:

You guys have given me some great advice here so far.  I've been putting it to use on a track I'm working on (vocals were recorded by someone else, but all the rest is mine).

Still sounds unfinished to me.  Should I bounce the individual stems to audio stems, then mix & master?

You're looking for feedback here so I'll offer a few opinions, see if any of them help (or hinder?!). In my opinion pro mixes generally manage to separate the elements so things have more of a distinct space.  And for this you have basically eq, reverb, panning, and arrangement (it can be more complicated but in a nutshell that's the biggies)

thoughts: 

- concentrate on the vocal first, it sounds like it needs a bit more presence and top and a touch of nice reverb, vocal plate kind of thing. This is a nice vocal to work with so make it the upfront main thing -

- find new kick, this one isn't very nice and it's too mid bassy i reckon (it's like bass and kick at the same time), and take the reverb off it completely (and then maybe add a TINY bit of small room type reverb). If you love this kick then at least take the reverb off and probably high pass it a bit so it sits with the bass better. 

- cut a bit of bass out of the backing vox

- the snare needs a bit more sympathetic arrangement, it's a bit annoying in the verse

- be careful with the reverb so things have their own space. Too much of the same reverb on everything is a big contributor to a non-commercial sound. Have say 3 reverbs on the sends, all different (big med small) and add a touch to different elements. big reverb on vox, mid on snare, small on hats etc.

- Find something to reference your mix against that is similar (london grammar?)

 

Option B:

Bounce the stems dry and pay a mix engineer

[edit - I don't mean this as a joke, I have a mate who's a pro mix engineer and sometimes I wonder why I bother trying to mix my own stuff when I should probably just pay him to do a better job of it :) )

 

 

 

Edited by tedmanzie
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Cheers @tedmanzie  I’ll try some of your tips over the next few days.  I’m not a fan of the kick either (it’s 2 different kicks layered). 
I’ll spend a bit more time panning things & take your advice on reverbs too. 

I’m not against option 2, but I have no money for a mix engineer, though I might try in the not too distant future. 

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20 hours ago, xgsjx said:

You guys have given me some great advice here so far.  I've been putting it to use on a track I'm working on (vocals were recorded by someone else, but all the rest is mine).

Still sounds unfinished to me.  Should I bounce the individual stems to audio stems, then mix & master?

Definitely better, sounds more 'unified'.

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Cheers Ted. I updated the track on SC & wish I would have kept the original to compare.  Though I put the most recent one as “Give me a sine” & the one before as “A sine”

I’ll update SC with the first version if I haven’t deleted it. 

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