constructive criticism?


New member
Hey all,

Here's a song I just finished recording and mixing today. Thought you guys could give it a listen and maybe offer up some constructive criticism.

Bit of background info: that's me on all the instruments, and yes, those are real drums (a crappy Mars Music set). Bass guitar, piano and sax from the GR-30 guitar synth. Guitars are cheap knock-offs of a Strat and an Ibanez Artist Series played through a Celestion-loaded Crate amp with a Zoom 505. Actually, the lead was recorded on a 4-track years ago, and I decided to go back and re-record all the other instruments, which turned out to be a bit of a pain in the ass.

Recorded with Cakewalk 8.0, a Behringer 1602A mixer, an SM57 and an EV 257. Software compression, limiting and EQ by Waves, reverb and "Aural Activator" by DSP-FX. Encoded to mp3 with BladeEnc, at 128 bit rate, although I can't say I'm thrilled with the conversion, since quality is definitely lost.

It is at

That sounded awsome! Great guitar playing!! The only things that was wierd, on my speakers, was that the bass was distorting (peaking maybe) in the section where it stays on an A note I think.

Sounds awsome though!

Yeah, I just listened to it and noticed the distortion, but I think that's just one of the annoying things about the mp3 conversion, since it doesn't distort on the wave file. There's also a weird high pitched artifact from the high hat that comes in every once in a while on the mp3. Do I just have a lame mp3 encoder? Can anyone recommend any better freeware/shareware ones?

None of this piece clipped on my system; I did notice the bass turn into what sounded like a drone instrument in some places. I thought that effect worked in the piece... :)
The bass overall sounded muddy. The lead guitar was too loud relative to the other instruments. And this statement is made with a claim of objectivity stemming from my up-front admission that I'm jealous of your pickin' skills. If you feel that your .mp3 encoder is wiggy, e-mail me the 15 seconds of the piece (in .wav format) that you think
is indicative of the sad conversion. I'll convert it using Vegas Pro and e-mail it back. Or D/L their free demo and run this test yourself.

Yeah, that drone was on purpose; I went from a muted bass and guitar to just banging on the open A string on both. Just for a change in dynamics, you know?

Do you mean the bass frequencies in the mix were muddy, or just the bass guitar? Would you recommend cutting down on some of the low end on the bass guitar?

I just looked at some stuff about Cakewalk 9.0, and aparently you can mix down to mp3 within the program, so maybe I'll just get the upgrade this weekend and try that, since I'll probably end up getting it sooner or later anyway.

And thanks a bunch to you and Fender for the compliments about my playing. I just wish my drum playing was half as good as my guitar playing, since I had a terrible time laying down that drum track!

After listening several more times, I can rule out the EQ on the bass guitar. When it's by itself toward the end it sounds cleaner.
My guess is a bit too much reverb somewhere.

Speaking of trouble with a drum track- I just posted a new MIDI synth tune with some psycho drums using two separate drumsets panned left and right thru 2 ports on a Sound Canvas.

The tune is "SB-14 MIDI minimization.mp3"

(1668KB, 128Kbps stereo .mp3 format)
My favorite encoder is Xing's audio catalyst, a combination cd ripper/encoder program. I'm not familiar with the encoder you're using, so I can't swear xing's is better, but I've had no problems with it.

-Nate K
Man, awesome guitar and the overall mix sounds pretty damn good. I wish I could get as much headroom in my recordings. How does one get that sence of 'space'. I find my stuff sounding all compacted together.

Are you doing this all on PC or do you track on some other multi-tracker?
Space.... Let me see.... Um, I don't really know. Basically I just pan the instruments around until they don't get in each other's way (for example, the distorted rhythm here is hard left, while the piano is hard right), add reverb to bring some forward and some back, and do a bunch of EQ'ing to make sure the frequencies of each instrument are distinct and don't drown each other out. Then I run the whole mix through the Aural Activator to give it a "sheen" and then through the L1 Ultramaximizer to bring up the volume. The EQ is the hardest part; it's a pain in the ass to get it so that everything doesn't sound like mush.

This was all done on the PC with Cakewalk, except for the lead guitar, which was recorded on a Fostex X-26 about four years ago, and which I just transfered to the PC.

Oh, and drstawl: I love your stuff! Sounds like Phillip Glass fighting with Frank Zappa. Do you have some sort of software that helps you compose that stuff, or are you just a master of odd time signatures and polyrhythms?

Thanks for that kind comparison. I used to catch Mr. Glass in Central Park, NYC when he'd just show up at the bandshell and jam for hours. And Frank was a hero of mine on more than one front.
The compositions that involve MIDI and sound like what you described are done from scratch on a keyboard that I can't play or with a digitizing tablet and pen using the CW staff, piano roll and event list interfaces. Yes- I do it the hard way. One note at a time. Which is why I'm saving my pennies to get a decent guitar-to-MIDI converter. Since producing 6 CDs worth of this stuff over the past few years, nowhere have I found a more receptive audience than on this board! It's not a very normal musical style and I want to thank those that have taken the time to D/L and check it out. I think it's pretty obvious which pieces utilize computer arrangements
even if I chose not to mention it. As to the odd time signatures; when my band (from the stone ages) put together a demo, we included an electronic calculator and a spoon on the list of instruments used on the tape. On one tune I used a pair of spoons as a triangle (and whatever you hit a triangle with) and hit it once every seven beats in a 98 beat pattern. Yup- 14 dings per measure.