Too Much Distortion

with industry Pro, Nick Batzdorf

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yan2112
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Too Much Distortion

Post by yan2112 » Fri Feb 25, 2011 6:54 am

Hi, I’m new to Taxi and have only submitted a few songs so far but I keep getting returns with the ‘Too Much Distortion’ box ticked. The explanations given are:

‘Your instrumental tones could use some more clarity and balance.’

‘broadcast quality listings (especially with high-end publishers) are pretty strict about sound quality - there could be significantly less muffle in the instrumentation.’

‘OK recording quality, but could use some more polish, as is, it's on the lo-fi side.’

I’m a bit puzzled. Are they talking about actual distortion in the recording or about the sound quality of the tones used or about the overall sound of the mix or all of the above?

Apologies if this has been discussed in other threads – I have looked.

The songs in question are:

http://soundcloud.com/shadowplay-collective/hey-there

http://soundcloud.com/shadowplay-collec ... e-promises


If anyone can give advice on this topic it would be much appreciated.

Thanks

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Re: Too Much Distortion

Post by mojobone » Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:52 pm

Yeah, I'd say those comments are dead on; the lead vocal in the first track sounds muddy and muffled, in particular. (not talking about the mega-distorted intro vocal, that sounded intentional, to my ear) If you were trying to tame some sibilance, I'd say you went more than a little too far. You really don't want to distort every element in your mix, because there's no contrast, you're piling mud on top of mud. Even the hihat sounds crunchy, like it was printed too hot to tape.

The second track sounds like it's been dulled and distorted by over-compression, again too many distorted elements; would sound more intentional if you could just clean up the cymbal crashes. Everything seems to be panned up the middle, with all the mix elements competing for attention; try spreading things out more, and use subtractive EQ to give each element its own space. Try to think in terms of foreground and background parts, and shift the support stuff to the back, keeping your most important elements (the vocal or instrumental melody) up front. Couldn't tell you much more without knowing more about your setup, but you should definitely check out Michael Laskow's mixing clinics on U-Stream.
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Re: Too Much Distortion

Post by thokus » Sat Feb 26, 2011 10:34 am

Yeah , what Mojo said. If your new to this stuff. ask for help on the"Peer to Peer" forum and you'll get lots of great instruction from the masses. ask for specifics, like "do I need to pan these?" "does it sound muffled ?".. I went through all the "crap" quality returns , still do, but usually returned now for "stylistically off target", instead of the exact comments you mentioned.. Which is great .. that means I've been learning alot here.
Good luck on fixin thes tunes and "Welcome" .. Go and post these two songs seperately on P2P and see what comes of it ..
Tom

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Re: Too Much Distortion

Post by yan2112 » Sun Feb 27, 2011 3:27 am

Thanks for taking the time to listen guys and for the constructive criticism - makes things a lot clearer (unlike my tracks!)

Mojo, you're dead right about the first (vocal) track - I did use loads of compression in an attempt to make it sound more 'produced'. I won't be doing that again.

I'm not so sure what's going wrong in the second track, though. I've just had a look at the settings on the mix and i've only used a dedicated compressor on the Bass guitar and Drums (compression Ratio of 1.65:1). Would that cause the cymbals to break up or is there somethign else that could cause it like too much high end EQ?

You're right I do need to watch Michaels guide to mixing......

And Tom thanks for the words of encouragement. I'm on a steep learning curve at the moment - I just hope I can get to where you are quickly.

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Re: Too Much Distortion

Post by mojobone » Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:05 pm

I'm not at all sure what's going on with those cymbals, there are too many ways that can happen, (could be the distortion is baked into the samples you're using, or because your levels are too hot, causing intersample peaks that bugger the AD converter or improper gain-staging within your mixer or your DAW or not leaving enough headroom for the MP3 conversion or the aforementioned slamming the tape with too much level) but I do know that cymbals have a lot of transient high-frequency energy that can cause trouble for preamps, compressors and converters. What recording format do you use, and are you using drum samples or recording real cymbals?

It also occurs to me that you may be compensating for a lack of low end from your monitor system by adding low and low-mid EQ; it's a pretty common error, if you're using computer speakers to monitor. It could also be your headphones or even naturally occurring phase cancellation in your room sucking out all the low mids. Regardless, additive EQ, particularly in the low mids, will tend to mask other frequencies, particularly the ones that relate to clarity; this is why subtractive EQ is always the recommended first remedy when something doesn't sound right. (although moving the microphone is even better, when that's an option)

There's nothing wrong with a little compression, but all compressors can dull and/or distort your audio, particularly if you use too fast an attack time at high ratios. Compressing lightly in multiple stages is the key to that slickly produced sound you're after.
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Re: Too Much Distortion

Post by jakito » Mon Feb 28, 2011 1:25 pm

I have noticed recently that heavy compression/distortion very often is used on one or a few elements in the mix only. Right now it seems kick drums / deep drums are favored targets especially in the R&B/rap genres but also in more mainstream pop - listen to:
Diddy - Dirty Money: Coming Home, OneRepublic: Secrets, Britney Spears: Hold It Against Me
It can be other elements as well, e.g. vocal distorted/eq'ed a la telephone, or a piano, a distorted synth line, or a guitar.
I guess the point is that you obtain an effect by keeping it to one or two tracks, keeping the rest more clear to make it "listenable"

Kim

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Re: Too Much Distortion

Post by yan2112 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:57 am

Thanks again Mojo. I'm currently stripping back the tracks to see if I can find the cause of the distortion.
I'm using Reason's Redrum Drum sequencer for the drum track so I wouldn't have thought it was the samples themselves that were distorted.
I am however interested in what you said about leaving enough headroom for the mp3- I haven't heard about this before. Is there somewhere I find more info on this?


And Kim thanks for the examples I'll definitely give them a listen.

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Re: Too Much Distortion

Post by mojobone » Thu Mar 03, 2011 1:20 pm

If you use brickwall limiting, (I generally don't) it's possible to compress a WAV file up the keister without noticeable distortion, but MP3 converters require a little headroom to sound their best particularly at lower bit rates. I used to leave three tenths of a decibel of headroom when converting, but Mazz and Matto changed my mind. :D I leave a full dB, nowadays, and the improvement isn't subtle. Another great conversion tip is to convert from high resolution files; if you're mixing at 24-bit 44.1kHz, convert to MP3 from that file rather than the 16-bit version you'd burn to a CD.
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Re: Too Much Distortion

Post by thokus » Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:55 am

Yan.. I was a compressor junkie when I first started.. I thought it really brought out the sound of each intrument . which it did .. but the song didnt have the glue that makes it flow together.. Learning from these guys here on the forum I realized the instruments dont all need compressed... I went back recently to my old song , knocked off all the compression "Buttons" turned faders up to peak or where the mix was good .. then lowered all 10 to 20 db. used the master gain for volume .. thats gives more room for mixxing and less need for compression to bring out each intrsrument.. I use reason drum kit 2.0. I love it .. The kits are premixed but allow for any tweaking or adjustment you want . they sound great.. Hope this makes sense.. I tend to ramble .. Keep at it , and first and formost have fun ..
Tom

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