Recent Audio Reviews

Altai Altai

Rated 5 / 5 stars

Absolutely fantastic! Lush vocal harmonies and excellent instrumentation throughout. I particularly like the passage around 2 minutes in; is that an Erhu I hear behind the vocals, some other string instrument, or did you duplicate the vocal track and use some filtering/eq/automation for effect? Or none of the above? Whatever you did there, it sounds awesome. Great job all around!

etherealwinds responds:

Well, it's interesting that you should mention that part! I had to go to the project file and look to see what I'd done myself. I don't think so much with my head when I'm putting together a song, I really go by ear and instinct so I've got a terrible memory.

With that midsection, I'll separate it into two parts.

The first part that starts at around the 2 minute point, I remember when I was recording, I sang to try and sound like an erhu funnily enough. I tried a few different vocal techniques to get this sound. Rather than keeping my vocals smooth, I allowed some raspiness to get that typical rasp of the bow on the strings that you hear with the erhu.
I also slid between some of the notes in a way that is typical of playing a stringed instrument, rather than traditional vocal singing.
With the vibrato, I tried to make it quite wide and slow, but also focused on the dynamics of the vibrato. Often on the erhu and other stringed instruments, much of the emotion of the performance seems to come from the dynamics of the vibrato, so they'll slow it down, speed it up, play quieter and louder on the same parts of vibrato, which I tried to do with my voice.

The relevant parts include a folk violin drone, my main "erhu styled" vocal shall we say, which simply has some reverb and a bit of light EQ on it, and one layer of overtone vocals, that I was surprised I actually managed to pull off. I remember learning to try and create overtones a few years back and it was very difficult and took a lot of practise! I'm not sure how great my technique is, but I managed to create a pretty clear sound and a melody with the overtone, so that's good enough for me. The hardest part about learning to sing overtones is actually making that adjustment in your brain and with your ears so that you can actually hear the higher tone, as its polyphonic. Once you start hearing it and your brain/ears isolate that higher whistle tone, then you can start practising on controlling that higher tone. Eventually, it will become more clear and more audible and it becomes easier to control it. Throat singing and polyphonic overtone singing is very common in Mongolia, Tuva, Altai, Tibet and those areas still, so I wanted to give it a go.

In that second part, I just leave out the overtone singing and the instrument you can hear is a Morin Ghuur, which is the Mongolian equivalent of an erhu (if you've ever seen any Mongolian performances or watched any Mongol films, it's the upright fiddle with the horses head carved onto the head.

I've isolated that section for you so you can hear it more clearly here:

Well, that was an essay. I'm really glad you enjoyed it Jeremy! Thanks for your kind comments :)

The Cure is Here The Cure is Here

Rated 5 / 5 stars

If only I could dredge up this much inspiration after recording questionable voiceovers.

This is tightly produced, nicely polished, and simply fun to listen to. The structure of the composition is quite traditional, and I don't mean that in a bad way at all. The sound is similar to other songs that fall into this brand of quirky/comedic music, but it strikes that tone without coming across as boring or by-the-numbers.

The instrumental sounds like it would make for excellent stock music -- which in and of itself might not sound entirely flattering, but I'm envious of that quality, haha. My own work tends to veer more towards the esoteric or specific niches; I have the hardest time trying to compose something that could be marketed on a more general level, and I think this hits that mark while still being perfectly enjoyable as a standalone piece of music, which is awesome.

Great work!

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cameronmusic responds:

Thanks very much!

Once Upon a Time Once Upon a Time

Rated 3.5 / 5 stars

Not bad. :) It's a fun track to listen to, though the more frenetic nature of the track makes mastering it -- at least to a reasonable extent -- arguably a necessity. I think the mix itself varies from 'average' to 'fairly punchy' to 'needs work' intermittently. There's a lot of high frequency content here that I feel would benefit from lowpass filtering to rolloff the more grating frequencies; because of the lack of mastering, the inherent perceived loudness differential between low energy noise and high energy is all the more apparent.

While that may have been deliberate, and, indeed, the track is geared more in that direction anyway, the more constant barrage of higher mid-range and treble frequencies is hard on the ears.

Here's a few quick suggestions based on my own current workflow, and some advice on mixing (and loose advice on approaches to mastering) and so on --

I personally prefer to compose 'into the mix' in the sense that I apply multiband compression and a limiter to the master bus in my DAW before I even get started and adjust if needed. With the type of music I generally make, I've found that I can generally get away with simply relying on the same settings within my compressor of choice (Waves C6) as long as the mix itself is solid overall.

For some tracks I'll have a couple additional compressors working within the mix on individual channels, but usually it's just a single instance of multiband compression with a fairly small ratio -- something like 2:1 at most, threshold of around -1.1 to -1.5 per band, attack setting of around 70ms per band, and release setting left alone.

Honestly, though, I wouldn't recommend delving into that until you try out other methods first. Probably best to go with the more tried and true methods beforehand and figure out for yourself what works best for you. Other advice:

- Regularly check your mix in mono. If it sounds good and balanced in mono, chances are it sounds more than good in stereo. Also, you'll need to do this to check for phase issues, anyway.

- Speaking of phase issues and such, you should always check your mixes with a spectrum analysis tool like Voxengo's awesome 'Span' plugin, which is free.

- I do arbitrary "audibility tests" for my own mixes, or at least have started doing so within the last couple months, that usually boil down to me not being satisfied with a mix until I can hear every individual element of the mix played back at the lowest level I can hear the track at when I'm standing at the other end of my room, etc. I'll check mixes with my noisy AC on and play it back on my phone, my monitor-style headphones, my 'listening' headphones, crappy earphones, etc. before I finalize stuff.

Etc., etc.

Here's what I'd suggest for the time being, mixing-wise (disregarding getting too heavy into compression or mastering). For now, I'd say just tack a limiter on to your master bus and set it to -1.1db or something. That's what I set all my stuff to because I don't want to peak past -1db, though that's a personal preference. For the record, setting it a limiter to -1db usually results in peaks just slightly above (-0.9db or so) unless measured with a more accurate meter, which is why I set mine to -1.1db. But I digress. I do this to avoid having to be overly conscious of my levels while actually composing because I'd rather have a limiter in place preventing clipping at the source than have to work around it from the offset, y'know?

Anyway, do that, and get in the habit of actually mixing everything with your monitors/headphones cranked down pretty low. One of the best habits get into for long-term accuracy when mixing, I find.

And if you try doing the whole 'multiband compression on the master bus' thing like I do, the key is generally to divide the individual bands of the compressor up in accordance with the way the frequency spectrum is defined, more or less -- i.e, something like 20-200 or so for low end, 200-2000 for midrange, etc. I hesitate to give exact numbers because my MBC has 6 bands and most have 4, but that's a good approach to take in the sense that it works for most types of songs.

Anyway, there you go. Hope that gargantuan wall of text helped, haha. Keep up the good work!

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Miyolophone responds:

Wow, this was... this was really helpful. I can't pretend I understood every single thing that you wrote, but thankfully I'm starting to grasp more and more of the technical feedback, and I definitely agree with the excessive high frequencies. My headphones boost the low end, I think, and I tend to compensate poorly for that; those "arbitrary 'audibility tests'" sound like a good idea, really something I should already have been doing. I have quite a way to go on mixing and mastering, I know, so this is the kind of advice I need to hear.

I hope you liked the music itself though, haha. Thanks again for the in-depth review!