HP xw8200 Workstation PC with Pro Tools|HD 1 Accel system 96 I/O, Pro Tools|HD pack v.6, Bomb Factory plug-ins, DigiRack plug-ins, HDpack 2, Mackie Control Universal; Mackie 1604VLZ Pro, Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI, API 3124+ mic preamp, Focusrite OctoPre LE, Behringer Multicom, dbx DriveRack Studio; Shure SM57 and SM58, KSM27, Blue Bottle, Sennheiser MD441, AKG SolidTube; , Shure E2 headphones, Presonus Central Station, Genelec 8040A, Yamaha NS10m; Gibson guitars, Cort guitars, v6.0 Marshall amplification, Yamaha Absolute Nouveau 5-piece drum kit, Zildjian cymbals, DW5000 pedals and hardware.
Production Notes & Credits:
“Red Rover” is a male vocal rock tune with an acoustic funk vibe. Ryan played the drums, handled all of the recording duties and co-produced the track. Lee DeWyze wrote the song, sang the vocals, played the acoustic guitar and co-produced along with Ryan. Jeff Henderson played electric guitar along with Louis Svitek, who provided the wah and solo sections. The bass part was courtesy of Craig Porazinski.
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: Let’s start by stating the obvious—Lee is a tremendous singer. The vocals soar and glide with emotion and a natural quality that is as good as any major release that we have heard. The man can flat out sing! As for the rest of the tune, to our ears it sounds like things are needing a bit of glue in order to be a successful whole. While the instrumental performances are just fine, some of the ambience and frequency choices may need some rethinking.
The song intros with a fairly aggressive acoustic guitar track that, to our ears, is lacking in air, and we found the lead guitar tone to be rather small and brittle. The bass, with its upper-register “Jaco” tone, is well executed, but doesn’t have enough low-register frequency to anchor the tune. As for the drums, they occupy an “organic” ambient space that is quite different from that of the other instruments, and the distant miking technique that we hear being used seems to have left the kick drum a bit on the muffled side. Lastly, the backing vocals lack balance in relation to the outstanding lead vocal track.
Suggestions: Cohesiveness can be a challenging aspect of any mix. We suggest that Ryan rethink the role of each of his sound sources and apply a sports-minded approach to his mix. As the recordist/producer, Ryan is in essence the coach here, and the individual sound sources are his players. As with any team, you have star players as well as role and specialty players, and the most successful teams are usually the ones that can harness all this talent in a unified way with a common goal. In its present form, “Red Rover” sounds like not all of the players are working from the same playbook (sorry, it’s football season!).
The first order of business is to decide just what the overall ambience is going to be. As it stands the drums and vocals are “wet” and rather distant, while the acoustic guitar and bass are dry and in your face. Bear in mind that there is no right or wrong here, but a successful song is awaiting a decision!
Once that is sorted out, we encourage Ryan to start rebuilding his track, beginning with the acoustic guitar. All of the mics listed in his gear list are more than capable of providing excellent results on the guitar, and we strongly urge Ryan to experiment with mic placement in order to let the guitar breathe some.
Next, we suggest that he figure out how to get more low/low-mid frequencies from the bass guitar into his mix. As it stands, the whole thing is top-heavy and the kick drum gets little help in anchoring the bottom end. Speaking of the kick, we suggest that Ryan add a bit of midrange, somewhere in the 3–4 kHz area, to the kick to bring out some beater-head definition.
Regarding the electric guitar, some mellowing in the 1–2 kHz range would take some of the bite out of the tone, and help it to sit better in the mix. Finally, we strongly urge Ryan to employ whatever technique and signal chain that he used on Lee’s lead vocal track, and apply it to the backing vocals.
Summary: Go Team!
Contact: Ryan McGuire, firstname.lastname@example.org