Blue Kiwi Mic going into a Universal Audio LA-610 preamp for vocals. Universal Audio 2192, Apogee Rosetta 800, Dangerous Music D-Box for 8 channel summing into a Alesis Masterlink ML-9600. JBL LSR4328P reference monitors with matching sub. Mixed on Intel quad-core PC with Digi 002 Rack running Digidesign Pro Tools LE 8, Waves Platinum bundle, Waves Studio Classics bundle, and Waves GTR3 amp simulators on guitars and bass. Roland mesh-head V-Drums with TD 20 brain; Korg TRITON Studio keyboard; Virtual instruments: Steinberg Virtual Guitarist 2, Fxpansion BFD 2, Modartt Pianoteq, East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Gold, and Native Instruments Absynth 4.
Production Notes & Credits:
“Lonely at the Top” is a male vocal rock/pop tune. Gregory did everything himself (including playing drums and singing all vocal tracks), with the exception of the guitar and piano which were played by Wally Castro, and the bass which was played by Elijah Green. Everything was recorded at Gregory’s home studio.
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: Gregory tells us that he has been actively learning the art of recording for the past three years and that “Lonely at the Top” is the first song that he has recorded, mixed, and mastered on his own. So how did he do? Well, pretty darn good for the most part.
Right from the start we were happy to find that Gregory was savvy enough to bring in some excellent musicians to help him reach his goals. The guitar is all kinds of funky, and the interlocking of the bass with the drums is top notch. Let this be a lesson to you loyal readers out there, recording starts at the source, and throughout history killer players have made many an engineer/producer’s job that much easier. Knowing one’s limitations, and being open to the talent of others, is a skill that can provide many benefits. Kudos to Gregory for grasping that relatively early in his career.
That said, all that talent has to find its way onto a recording, so let’s delve a little further into Gregory’s mix and see how he did in that regard. Starting with tonal issues, our main area of concern is with the drums. Through our monitors the kick drum has quite a “clicky” sound to it, a lot of beater head and not much meat. Perhaps because of this, the snare and toms sound a bit muffled to our ears.
The lead vocal is suffering from some sibilance, although we have certainly heard worse! As for the mix’s balance, we found all of the vocals, lead and background, to be somewhat out “in front” of the music bed. This is particularly noticeable near the last third of the song when the lead guitar enters with its jazzy Santana-style riffing (nicely done, Wally!). We also felt that the string pad was a tad too thick and loud throughout the song, and that it was vying for the top spot, along with the vocals and the lead guitar near the end of the song.
Suggestions: In his cover letter Gregory invited us to “bust his chops with the truth!” in our review. Well, sorry, Gregory... but that won’t be necessary. What we will do is to encourage you to think about a few options that may help you with this and future mixes.
The first area that we’d like you to think about is the concept of depth and space in your mix. In other words, which sound sources occupy what spaces. It’s a given that your kick drum, bass, and lead vocal will occupy the center of your mix. After that, choices such as panning and ambience come into play, and can really determine the overall feel of things.
In the case of “Lonely at the Top,” we would love to see the string pad reduced in volume and thinned out below 250 Hz. We also feel that the backing vocals could be reduced by several dB and given a bit of reverb in order to place them back into a supporting role in the mix.
As for the drums, adding low some eq in and around 80 Hz would beef up the kick drum, while the addition of some upper midrange eq to the snare and toms would help define them. Lastly, bringing back the lead vocal volume would help it to “sit” better in the mix, and identifying the cause of the sibilance would be worth the effort for future recordings.
Summary: Some good decisions made at the start, and some stuff you can learn to fix.
Contact: Gregory Piere, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gregorypiere.com.