Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by LongBlackNight » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:03 pm

I was having difficulty with some of those piano notes myself. Good, this is great stuff and gives me some grist for the mill.

Lester, regarding your recommendations for the kick/bass, you're saying that the kick should dominate the lower frequencies around 60, and the bass should dominate around 120, right? I've heard before that bass and kick should be "carved" so they are out of each others way. On this particular recording I have already boosted bass at 120 and kick at 60 (maybe 1-2 dB for the kick). 60 is a very sensitive spot in my experience and can easily get out of hand. Well, you're saying "cut" rather than "boost," so I'll run through the exercise as you've laid it out. I think the graphic eq sweep will be telling.

Thanks, both, for staying with me on this.

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by lesmac » Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:52 pm

The EQ sweep is good to do on the reference tracks as well. An EQ that can solo the band as you sweep is best for this. I've seen that the pros like to roll off the lows on a lot of instruments to eliminate phase issues and mud and let the bass speak clearly down there.
How high you start the roll off probably relates to your reference tacks as Tim mentioned but the G string on a bass guitar at around 98Hz could be a rough guide, maybe higher?
Side chaining the kick to the bass is worth doing nearly all the time.

It seems that boosting is OK and the pros do it all the time but there has usually been some cutting done before hand. Digital samples and Virtual instruments have a lot of high end that builds up as more tracks are added, same with the lows. If you leave it in it causes you to add more in the mids to compete and everything gets out of whack so cutting and carving is somewhat "de rigour". Then its just a case of being a "balance engineer" and pushing faders around or EQ bands which are just volume controls really.

Sorry if I sound like I'm ranting, I don't mean to be. I enjoy this stuff like everyone else here. I think its great to listen to one another's music and have a discussion.

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by LongBlackNight » Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:16 am

No...Ranting is cool.

I'm getting a lot of information that goes to the heart of how to put the pieces together. I've struggled for a while with this concept of equalization carving/shaping/fitting and using it to make the sounds fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Having fun implementing. Have wanted to clean up my bass end and am looking forward to hearing the results--thnx!

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by LongBlackNight » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:31 pm

Hey...I've checked out the frequency bands and have applied high-pass, low-pass and other eq tweaks to specific tracks--esp piano--paying special attention to "sharp" notes and manually editing. I think I have something that is more solid, has more punch, is less fizzy but still open, and has decent kick/bass articulation. Let me know what you think when you come by this way again. Thnx!

https://longblacknight.com/happy-alec

Mixes in reverse chronological order. Latest is version 11.

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by lesmac » Tue Oct 16, 2018 11:51 pm

It's a great learning process doing this stuff!

The mix is still too bright for my ears but that could all be down to taste.

I put an 8-9dB shelving cut at 4.7k on my main outs and for me it sounded better.

The snare sounds a bit too loud but when I listened really quietly the level didn't seem TOO out of balance.

Do you listen at different volume levels? Really low to get a sense of levels e.g.: snare to music. Really loud to hear the bass come forward. That is usually when the brightness cuts the ears a bit.

So for me the mix could be a little bright and the bass a little light. [hey that rhymes :lol: ]

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by LongBlackNight » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:46 am

I agree that the snare is too loud. I've struggled through the years so long to get the snare popping that I tend to be afraid to cut snare, but in this case it does stand out too much.

Bass has also been a longstanding area of difficulty. When you say "the bass" is too light, are you referring to the kick, the bass, or both together? I thought that the bass was working pretty well in this piece, but I'm not asserting that point. What's the cure here? Just turn it up? I think I can maybe add 1-2dB to the bass and another 2dB to the kick, but after that it's in distortion territory.

BTW, I didn't get around to sidechaining the bass to the kick. I get the idea, but I can't seem to get my plugin to do it even though it has a button labeled "sidechain." I need to update plugins at any rate. What I did do is put a compressor on the bass to sharpen the bite and tone down the trailing rumble.

I'll do the volume test again--real low and real high. I have done it already, but I wasn't sure what to listen for.

As for brightness, I always seem to be struggling with balancing between being too harsh and sounding like there's a layer of rags over it all. It just seems to be such a narrow sweet spot.

I'll work on the piece with these things in mind and see whether I can improve these spots. Thanks!

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by lesmac » Wed Oct 17, 2018 2:45 pm

I think you are getting there. :)
Bass has also been a longstanding area of difficulty. When you say "the bass" is too light, are you referring to the kick, the bass, or both together? I thought that the bass was working pretty well in this piece, but I'm not asserting that point. What's the cure here? Just turn it up? I think I can maybe add 1-2dB to the bass and another 2dB to the kick, but after that it's in distortion territory.
I'm not sure myself now :lol: . Maybe its just general balance high to low and for my ears a little reduction in the highs could balance it out.

With the side chain, you need to send from the kick to a bus and make that bus the side chain input on your compressor plugin on the bass track. Set a high ratio of compression with a fast attack and fast release.

Just wondering about your monitoring situation - room and monitors? Maybe you need to use reference tracks to get you in the ballpark more if your setup is adding more apparent bass so you are turning up the highs to compensate.

A down and dirty test I have done on my setup is to play some C weighted pink noise [weighted being equal power per octave I think?] and turn it up in level slowly. On my phone I have a spectrum analyser. You can find them on the net free. https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/audio-s ... 73790?mt=8
With the phone placed where your head usually is when mixing you can work out at what volume level your room adds more bass. Really low levels wont propagate bass so it shelves off there but it can be an enlightening exercise. I can't get over 75dB without my room boosting the bass. An SPL meter is good to have on your phone too.
This is a lot simpler than hooking up a special mic and using software that for me can be hard to get my head around.

I think your track is punching a lot better now. Its just a matter of trying it on different media at different levels [with fresh ears].

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by LongBlackNight » Thu Oct 18, 2018 2:13 pm

First order of business is to reduce the snare, as it is fairly obviously too hot. That, in itself, may effect some cure.

But I'm also going to perform the low-level/high-level tests with more care. I do my mixing in my studio with some very old Event monitors, one of whose tweeter is blown and silent. Yes, I know...not ideal, but I listen in other ways that mitigate this shortcoming. I comp my mix to the reference mixes. In fact, that has been one of the most useful tools. I also take the mix and listen on the small built-in computer speakers, my own car's system, and my wife's car's system. These all highlight problematic spots--especially with respect to high and low end--that straight studio monitoring doesn't pick up.

I think your idea about checking the spectrum of my room is a good idea. I also have new monitors as a high priority now.

Yes, this exchange has been like a mini master-class (hope I'm not being too hyperbolic). The ideas aren't new to me, but looking out upon a sea of ideas can be daunting without specific guidance how to make use of them. It has been hugely helpful obtaining specifics, enabling me to really run down an idea until it works -- that's the key.

Mixing takes loads and loads and loads of patience and time and energy. For years I wondered and wondered whether it was my equipment, but circumstances and other voices continued pointing me in the direction that it was the mixer, not the equipment. For a long time that was really hard to believe--not because I think I'm great, but because I just couldn't believe the gem was there but I just couldn't find it. I really didn't think it would be this hard when I began some years ago. There are subtleties that I, to this day, can't trace as to how I got them to this stage. I do believe this mix, in particular, is way better than it was and--I hope--is competitive.

And there's that rant.

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by andygabrys » Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:44 pm

This piece has come a ways since the first version. IMO you are ready now to really get in there and attack some of the things that are sticking out, and really polish this.

From my perspective - an advertising focused piece greatly benefits from having a progression, a development, or a series of "lifts". So if you choose one melodic motif - its about restating with a thickened melody, added accompaniment, changing the register, adding a harmony, adding rhythm, or subtracting elements as you have about 2/3 of the way through when you "re-capitulate".

Keeping things moving adds to interest, and makes the maximum of a relative small piece of music.

If you were to analyze the references you might find this (ref 1):

0:00 - plucks with effect (maybe backwards harmonics), piano swell into start of Motif A
0:04 - Motif A - acoustic guitar picking. Celeste Melody. 4 bar motif that repeats.
0:17 - add drums with side stick snare, bass.
0:31 - Motif B - piano melody on top of same sound as 0:17. 4 bar section that repeats. Double melody lower with acoustic guitar.
0:45 - on third repeat of B, there is a stop rhythm / edit point leading back into Motif A.
0:48 - Motif A. Add synth melody double / replacement. Add slightly distorted electric guitar arpeggiating chords. 4 bar sections repeats.
1:02 - Motif A - add something that sounds like a keyboard plucky sound or maybe acoustic guitar double with eq to limit bandwidth - hear middle left in the mix. Its actually an acoustic guitar harmonic part that is hear more naked at 1:53.
1:16 - Motif B - with melodic development beyond the first section at 0:31. Add arpeggiated synth in the BG adding rhythm and thickness. Sounds like an acoustic guitar melodic double at the same octave as the piano as well as the previous ac guitar an octave lower.
1:40 - Motif C - or maybe call it just a little spice on the V chord leading to.........
1:46 - Motif A - breakdown. Celeste melody over synth or backwards harmonics with effect same as intro without acoustic guitar picking.
1:53 - add drums (no bass). bring out front the acoustic guitar harmonic figure from 1:02 but its forefront because the rest of the arrangement is more open at this point.
2:00 - add piano arpeggio part in high register.
2:08 - backwards piano swell into Motif B with bass and everything cooking - this repeats a number of times, with some melodic differences from the earlier statements of Motif B, and there seems to be some added synth pad which sounds relatively like strings.
2:39 - hit and decay "sting" ending. With the tonic melody note and chord.

So if it were me, I would be looking to give my arrangement the kind of continuous change and build that this reference has.

Note that in every section, there is either a change of sound, or addition, or subtraction, which keeps things fresh, and gives a ton of options for the editor to use. There are several edit points that allow the piece to be edited and in effect "recomposed" to fit a picture that has shorter or longer segments than what this song has. And that is just the main mix. No doubt that this piece is also available with alternate mixes (no melody, Drums and Bass etc) which give even more options.

Some things you could consider:

0:00 - Motif A piano only
0:07 - add second layer of bell like piano sound
0:13 - Motif A - when band enters, hold something back. Keep the strings out until much later. just let the piano bass and drums carry it. Consider swapping the snare center hit for a side stick, finger snaps, or claps to give it someplace to go later.
0:20 - double the piano melody with another sound, like the bell piano sound from the intro, or the synth which seems to be doubling the piano.
0:27 - Motif B
0:52 - back to Motif A - need something to set this apart. Try a different octave of the melody. Try a different melodic double sound - maybe an octave lower. Still thing you can keep the strings out. Save those for later.
1:04 - you could add some kind of L and R panned arpeggio figure that helps to thicken the rhythm, or maybe the strings. I note that you had some kind of similar acoustic guitar harmonics figure that could also come in here instead of already being in from the beginning or much earlier to add something and give it a "lift".

And so on. Note that the ref piece also utilizes acoustic and electric guitars, which really expands the palette you have to work with. You could consider collaborating with a guitarist on this piece and it would give more options. If you stick to it by yourself, you can add even some synth guitar parts as long as they are not featured parts and they would help develop the sound.

The piano swells - it might be better to have a different length - either longer or shorter that will fit into your arrangement a little closer. They were coming in halfway through some bits. Maybe its just me and my taste, but I think they could be made to fit in - and each one can be a different length. Like the one at 1:45 - it could easily just be omitted and go straight into the piano. Or you could end that section on the V chord (on C) meaning that the change of chords would feel more of a release coming back to the breakdown on the tonic chord. That might be too close to the ref though too, so there are other choices - IV to I etc.

Final note: its your choice, and here I would always choose to end on the I chord (tonic) and I would always put the tonic note in the lead. Having any other note (such as your choice of the Maj 7th) doesn't sound "final" enough.

Length: generally fully developed "cues" for libraries work if they are 2 mins plus. Yours is 3:12, so you can go right in and chop sections right now to get to a shorter more focused arrangement. It will make it easier to build and change over time.

Some things I would still look at even if you don't change this piece at all:

The drums.
To me the kit sounds unbalanced. Too much snare, too little kick, and the hi-hats and cymbals feel a little absent. The character of the snare sounds like its been liberally compressed with too short an attack - which makes it feel a little dead and cardboard like.

If its a virtual drum kit, and has mixer presets, generally you should be able to drop those right into a mix and they will work. The more you fiddle with the actual mixer preset, the worse it gets in general.

Doing the side chained bass compression is also going to help the kick be heard.

Here's the way you can think of it:

1. Kick attack
2. front of bass attack is ducked out of the way by the compressor, then the sustain of the bass note rushes up in volume to fill in the bottom.

attack, then sustain, attack then sustain.

To do this:

Send the kick to a dummy bus in your mixer. If you cannot figure out how to just send the kick, you can send it to a channel that has an eq on it cutting off the top end above 100 hz then send that to another dummy side chain channel with the output set to "no output".

On the bass - after doing your regular bass compression and eq to get your bass sound in good shape, then instantiate another compressor that has a sidechain input. On the side chain input, have the compressor listen to the Kick sound that you sent to that dummy bass as above.

Set the attack as fast as possible. Set the release to a slow setting or auto.
set the ratio to 3:1 or 4:1
lower the threshold until you are getting 3-4 dB of gain reduction. This should be easy to do if you solo the kick and the bass.
Play with the release if you need to to get more bass to speak. Shortening the release will mean the kick attack is less heard as there is a little more bass.

Rebalance the kick and the bass (by messing with the bass level, not the drum kit mix). Usually you can bring up the bass a dB or 2 or 3.

To get the attack of the kick to speak more - Add a dB or 2 of 65 hz (if its a 22" kick drum) or slightly higher or lower if its a smaller or bigger diameter kick. Then add another dB or 3 at either 1khz, 3khz, 5khz or 10khz - whatever you feel give the best effect. This "nail in the paddle" will help the attack of the kick be heard, and without being uber loud, the kick suddenly will really be helping to propel the bottom end, and differentiating the sound of the kick from the bass.

Wow...sorry for the essay. I got carried away here. Hope it helps.

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Post by LongBlackNight » Wed Oct 24, 2018 9:06 am

Wow, thanks, Andy! Don't mind the length at all. Appreciate your taking the time to listen and explain things in such detail.

I get the idea behind the side chaining, thanks to your and Lester's explanation. Will go back to that and make it work, as the sum total message I'm getting from diverse sources is pretty clear that it's not optional. Up to now I've fiddled with levels and EQ and compression in an attempt to get more bottom end (on this and other songs) with limited success. At some point the kick just thuds and distorts, and I just have not been able to capture the solid "boom" I hear on so many other pieces. So I hope side chaining is the missing ingredient.

One question that's been floating around in my head for a while. Sorry if the answer should be obvious. What should be the main source of the bottom end? The kick or the bass? I've been coming to the conclusion that it's the kick that should be the main cannon with the bass just oozing enough sound to give it a pitch +/-. This whole thing about side-chaining seems to confirm that. But I'm not sure, and I don't want to waste decibels of energy overloading the bass when it doesn't do any good. At this point, I just can't tell with my own ears for sure.

Will revisit the snare as well. I think everybody has lifted an eyebrow over it, though it's better than what it was.

Appreciate your help focusing on the layering and lifting and shifting of melodic elements. Might leave this piece alone on that item for the time being, and focus on it for the next piece. I'm close to burn-out on this one and can work it in much more organically in a fresh piece.

Appreciate everyone's responses. This has been most helpful.

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