Computer (type and DAW not given) running GSI plug-ins (VB3, Mr Ray), Native Instruments plug-ins (Kontakt 3, Absynth 4, FM8), M-Audio Ozonic, Electro-Voice RE-20 for vocals, M-Audio Nova mic for acoustic guitar, ART Tube PAC preamp/compressor, acoustic and electric guitars, M-Audio Keystation Pro 88 MIDI keyboard.
Production Notes & Credits:
Music: “More Than This” is a male vocal rock song with a Ska feel. Jonathan handled all of the recording duties as well as playing the acoustic guitar, synth and vocals. Jeremy Hartford played the electric guitar and Kerry Sabanty played the fender Rhodes and the bass “sounds”. Jonathan writes, “We did this recording for the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. We’re a relatively new band with limited recording experience. No mastering has been applied to the mix yet.”
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: The vast majority of Readers’ Tapes submissions come to us from “one man band” operations, so it’s always a treat to receive a track from a real live band. Please understand that this is in no means a slight to all of you DIYers out there, you certainly have our respect for the difficult tasks that you face and the many hats that go along with the job! Nevertheless, there is something inherently refreshing about the sound of a bunch of musicians playing together. Call it energy, excitement, or vibe... the bottom line is that the interaction between musicians creates a feel that is near on impossible to capture by oneself.
Jonathan and the gang have sent us a righteous little rock/ska tune that accentuates all that is good with the band format. “More Than This” is tight, catchy, witty and well recorded. Jonathan has made good use of the entire sound field, no masking or competing frequencies, and the arrangement breathes with different instruments weaving in and out. Unfortunately, sibilance problems on the lead vocals prevent this otherwise keeper track from being a total success. While we appreciate the dry, “in your face” nature of the lead vocal, spitty sss’s ssssssound unpleasssssant. Get my drift?
Suggestions: Sadly, this not the first nor the last good recording to be undermined by the dreaded sibilance monster. That being said, let’s try to identify the cause and see what can be done about it.
Sibilance is usually caused by one of three things: overcompression/limiting, overhyped microphone frequencies, or an actual physical problem such as an overbite or other tooth-related issue. In this case our money is on number one. Why, you ask? Well, not only are the sss’s effected, but we also hear problems with the “f” and “t” sounds as well. They sound elongated and exaggerated, and this is almost always a sign of incorrect or overly enthusiastic compression.
With that in mind, then, we can only hope that the compression was applied during mixdown. If that is indeed the case, we suggest that Jonathan go back and readjust the attack and release times on his compressor until the artifact disappears. If he finds that his vocal has lost some of its presence because of the change, we suggest that he go “old school” and double the performance. This should supply some mass without the artifact.
If the problem occurred during tracking, guess what? Jonathan is going to have to sing it again, as there’s no way to remove the sibilance if it happened during tracking. One thing is for certain: if the song goes to mastering in its present state, an already bad problem is going to get a whole bunch worse as a result of the processing that the mastering engineer will most likely apply to it in order to raise the volume to modern commercial standards.
Summary: Oh, ssssssssssssso close!
Contact: Jonathan Barker / The Conduits, firstname.lastname@example.org.