PC with PreSonus FireBox running Cakewalk SONAR 8 Producer Edition; stock SONAR plug-ins (Vintage Channel, Perfect Space and Lexicon Pantheon are favorites); MBQualizer; Shure KSM27 (vocal) and SM81 (acoustic guitar) mics; Marantz monoblock amps driving Vision Acoustic “Soloist” monitors; Martin DX1 acoustic; Line 6 Variax 300 electric (Strat and Tele models); Ibanez Soundgear bass; Line 6 Gearbox Gold (Fender Twin and AC 15 models for guitar, Bassman for bass); Garritan Jazz library (drums); Native Instruments B4 (organ).
Production Notes & Credits:
“Find” is an acoustic pop/rock male vocal track, one man band effort, written, performed, and engineered by Jeremiah.
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: This mellow, acoustic based effort comes to us from the John Meyer/Jason Mraz school of acoustic pop/rock. Jeremiah has obviously done his homework as to how those artists construct and arrange their recordings—masterfully, in fact! We hear the close-miked dry lead vocal and the somewhat too close (more on that later) acoustic guitar that are characteristic of the above mentioned artists. The drums are also stylistically accurate, again with a close-miked feel. We particularly liked the cymbals, which are delivered with a clarity that allowed us to hear their tonal changes quite well.
Midway through the song Jeremiah’s arrangement becomes a tad more complex with the addition of some mildly overdriven electric guitars and Hammond style organ. To our ears the song begins to lose a bit of its balance here. While the Hammond sound is as authentic as any that we have heard, the electric guitar volume seems to overwhelm the heretofore simple track and continues to overwhelm it until a second, less distorted electric (panned to the right) joins in to re-balance things.
Now back to the acoustic guitar for a moment. First let’s begin by stating that the subject of squeaky strings has been discussed on more than a few occasions in this column. The problem can originate from many sources, including technique, new strings, miking choices and overprocessing. In Jeremiah’s case, the origin probably includes all but the overprocessing. That the acoustic guitar is close-miked is quite evident, while the brightness of tone would suggest a newish bronze or phosphor bronze string. Regarding the technique, “dragging” through the chord changes rather than lifting and repositioning the left hand would certainly result in some of the artifact that we hear. In any event, while some “squeak” is inevitable for most of us mere mortals, the amount presented here is disconcerting and distracting to our ears.
Suggestions: Jeremiah is obviously a very talented guy, and one of those rare individuals who seem to be equally gifted as both a musician and a recordist. That we compare him to two other very gifted fellows is not a slight, but rather a compliment. That said, we feel that, like so many other one person operations, the lack of a dedicated producer is problematic with his track.
How so? Well a good producer can assume many of the “hats” that the artist is often forced to wear, and the best producers are able to gain the confidence of the artist to the extent that suggestions and critiques can be made sans hurt feelings. Did Jeremiah hear the acoustic guitar squeaks and the volume problems with his electric guitar? We’ll never know for sure, but any dedicated producer worth his salt would most assuredly have heard them, and would have had the communication skills necessary to address the issue.
Let us then step into the role of de facto producer for a moment and suggest that Jeremiah revisit his mix. Turning the electric guitar down to the approximate volume of the lead vocal should let it sit in the mix better. As for the acoustic, if it is the close-miked vibe that Jeremiah is after, may we suggest switching to a ribbon or dynamic mic. While small capsule condensers are a fine choice on acoustic guitars, they also can intensify high end information and artifacts. Switching to a different string, such as a silk and steel, or using an older slightly dead string can also help. We would advise against trying to eq the problem away until these other avenues have been explored, since it may change the overall tone without fixing the problem.
Summary: No shortage of talent here—just add fresh ears.
Contact: Jeremiah Horner, firstname.lastname@example.org.