Rock, Paper, Scissors (the single mix)

May 3, 2011 6:22 PM

Shorter, sweeter mix of this responding to some of the suggestions on the last one. Lost the first intro, cleaned up the drums, changed the harmonies slightly, brought up the melody guitars, and dropped in a blazing little guitar solo, even if I do say so myself! It's under three minutes now -- give it a listen! Now just have to figure out the B-side...

posted by unSane (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Hey kudos, man. You really distilled this right down to it's best elements without losing any heart. It could be just me, but I think the bass sounds a little bigger too, which gives the whole thing a little more bounce.
posted by snsranch at 7:43 PM on May 3, 2011

You're right, I gave the bass a little kick in the pants too.

It's incredibly helpful having feedback to get you the last 10% of the way there. The problem about working on your own is that you tend to obsess about the wrong things and ignore the last 10% of things that will actually make a difference.
posted by unSane at 7:56 PM on May 3, 2011

I missed this the first time around, but I really dig the song. The harmonies are killer. Great feel, too.

I'm not crazy about the mix, though (although I do prefer this one by miles). I think the main culprit is the guitars: too much gain, way too much compression (or maybe it's just the gain) and reverb. They're kind of squashed and washy and get in the way of everything else. The organ in the second verse is kind of in-the-way, too.

Anyway, that's just me, listening on my tiny work headphones (which have been known to lie). I tend to prefer pretty dry mixes.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:45 AM on May 4, 2011

Hey ozzy, try listening on speakers. The phones tend to make the center vocal sound about 3db lower which exaggerates the panned guitars and organ. I'm not saying you're wrong though.
posted by unSane at 7:49 AM on May 4, 2011

(also I could give you the stems if you fancy attempting a mix!)
posted by unSane at 10:14 AM on May 4, 2011

Well I do like mixing other people's stuff... if you want to send links to stems or (better yet) raw tracks, I'll throw it in the music-making-queue and (hopefully) give it a quickie 30-minute mix some week soon.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:28 PM on May 4, 2011

It's a bunch of tracks, I warns ya!

Coming up.
posted by unSane at 12:44 PM on May 4, 2011

Definitely getting there unS - nice job. I think that there's something just a little overheated about the mix though - which I guess it what Ozzy is getting at - and it probably is down to too much compression all round. I disagree about the guitars though - they sound pretty fucking hot (and very BritPop) to me.

I find that compression has to be used with real caution. Especially if your ears are getting tired of a track. It's a very fine line between just enough and just too much. It's very easy to whack on "just a bit more" and think it sounds great, but when you listen a few days later you think "nope". Compression can also make things sound very tense - I can't really articulate what I mean there. All the air gets squeezed out of the track somehow. Basically, I try to restrict use of compression to mixdown/mastering, and then I use as little as I can get away with. I rarely use it on individual tracks and I just ride the faders if there are any nasty spikes or drop-offs to deal with.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:53 PM on May 5, 2011

Well, there's a ton of different kinds of compression. In this case there's the following:

-- natural compression on the guitars from gain on the amp (actually Guitar Rig 4, going thru the RAT simulation -- some compression there -- into the Fender Twin sim -- a bit more compression there)

-- compression on the tracks. I think they pretty much all have some kind of compression. Certainly all the guitars. The drums have individual compression, the lead vox has its own compression, plus it's doubled on the choruses and the double is compressed hard, and the BVs are all bussed to a compressor. The bass is compressed and I think the organ is too, not that it makes much difference.

-- bus compression. I put about -4db of compression on the bus, mostly to even out the differences between the intro which is just a single guitar part panned hard left and right, and the big climax which has got 2 x doubled guitars, double lead vox, six tracks of BVs, bass, drums, and organ. I did some automation but keeping it all under control is really hard.

-- limiter. I used the Waves L1, just brought it down to the peaks and let it handle any minor overages. I think it's about -3db.

So anyway, none of the individual stages are compressed that hard but yeah that's a lot of compresion overall. I'm not sure exactly how I would go about it differently though as there are rationales for all of them.
posted by unSane at 7:32 PM on May 5, 2011

Do I detect a slight degree of irritation there mate? My comments were meant to be wholly constructive and not insensitively critical. This is a good track (it was in my head when I was eating my breakfast this morning!) and you and I have, I feel, a certain understanding musically that allows us to be a little more blunt without causing offence. I hope!

Anyway - so far as "how to go about it differently" I guess it depends on whether you've printed any or all of that compression on the tracks etc. If you haven't - try getting shot of it all and remixing with a "less is more" ascetic to the fore. One thing I've noticed with your stuff is that it's very loud. Not sure whether you feel compelled to make it all as loud as possible because you feel that it will sound better. That ain't necessarily so....

This track would sound even better to my ears with a bit more "air" in it, more of a live room sound. If I had more time I'd ask you to let me have a copy of the multitrack when you send them to Ozzy and we could do independent remixes. But......hands full at the mo I'm afraid. Funnily enough I'll be posting my own PowerPop track in the next day or two - called "Knew It Was True". Almost a companion piece to yours.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:01 AM on May 6, 2011

Do I detect a slight degree of irritation there mate?

No, not at all. I like hearing how people would do it differently -- that's the whole point!
posted by unSane at 4:21 AM on May 6, 2011

Oh, I am gonna re-amp those guitars. I am gonna re-amp them so hard.

(Actually, last night a live amp saved my life, or at least my sanity. Couldn't get sim tracks to sit right in the mix and was ready to throw the whole rig out the window. Recorded my little Blackheart and, even though the tone wasn't exactly what I was going for, it sit perfectly, worked great.)
posted by uncleozzy at 5:35 AM on May 6, 2011

OK, Ozzy, I sent you totally raw tracks, no amps or anything. Look forward to anything you make of it.

Major & Ozzy, I did a really really rough mix as dry as I could bear it and with almost no compression except on the vocals and a bit on the kick and snare. Just straight off the board, no fiddling with levels. Is that what you're talking about? It has all sorts of problems but I do kind of like it in some ways.
posted by unSane at 12:24 PM on May 6, 2011

The mix works pretty well on MacBook Pro speakers! Sounds pretty much like a spot-on pop/rock mix on these itty-bitty things.

There's something I would've suggested if I'd been producing this: that ending? Where the guitar pitch kinda glides up? I love it, but that wouldn't have been the ENDING. There would have been a pause there, about 10 beats or so, then the whole band woulda come back in (perhaps after a very brief drum fill?) for a tag ending.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:06 AM on May 7, 2011

Yeah, that's a great idea, Flapjax. It deliberately ends on the relative minor instead of the tonic which leaves it feeling slightly unresolved. So yeah, a tom fill and a full band hit at the end would sound awesome.
posted by unSane at 4:16 AM on May 7, 2011

It deliberately ends on the relative minor instead of the tonic which leaves it feeling slightly unresolved.

Which, make no mistake, can be a really cool thing. But I don't think it's exactly right for this little pop gem of yours here!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:29 AM on May 7, 2011

Yeah the minor ending works much better on the acoustic version. Definitely going to try this.
posted by unSane at 4:38 AM on May 7, 2011

I went back to the mix and I realized I'd left something in there which I'd kind of meant as an experiment. What I did was put a 30ms delay on each of the rhythm guitars and then pan the original to one side and the delayed version to the other. This is a pretty standard technique with a single guitar (the Haas effect, I think) but I wondered what it would sound like with doubled guitars. So the opening riff, for example, has the following

-- original A, panned hard left
-- A delayed 30ms panned hard right
-- original B, panned hard right
-- B delayed 30ms, panned hard left

So that probably explains why it sounds all washy.

It's a very powerful technique with a single source, because you hear the sound as panned towards the undelayed sound, even though you have the same amplitude signal going to the opposite speaker, just delayed 20-30ms. In fact you can make the delayed signal about 20-30% louder than the origina before it starts to sound centered.

I also tried pulling back the gain on the rhythm guitar a bit and it does seem to make it sound a bit more aggressive. So I might essay another mix with the Haas effect taken out, the gain pulled down a bit, and Flapjax's excellent idea for an ending.
posted by unSane at 7:05 PM on May 7, 2011

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