That Sucking Sound..

Dave Cracked Up (Blog), Creating, Engineering, Music/Audio, Personal, Ramblings 3 Comments

I guess this is turning into a series of posts about my continuing escapades around recording, mixing and releasing an EP.  Didn’t seem like I’d be able to go much beyond the first couple of posts, but here we are.

Thought I’d share a self-deflating experience with you this time around:

I Rock …

Last week, I spent the better part of a morning re-recording vocals for one of my songs.

  • I was getting into it!
  • I was feeling the song and the playbacks were confirming that.
  • Things were sounding great. I was even on pitch!

I took a quick break for lunch and came back to mix things.  It was all still sounding good to me.  I thought I was da bomb – my sultry, raspy voice dripping with emotion… oh man!  Now for some mixing magic:

  • put that vox in the center,
  • compress it to have sit it sit right up front,
  • add a touch o’ dotted eighth delay and plate ‘verb,
  • apply a HPF (@ 200Hz) to cut rumble/lows
  • add a touch of 4kHz for presence and nudge the hi-shelf at 15kHz for some air…


I then bounced out the mix for reference, loaded it up on my iPod and took a bit of a breather before going to get the kids.

… Not So Much

I had the intent of listening to the mix on my walk to the school, but forgot that I had to pick them up with the car.  In the hub-bub to get out the door, I forgot to pocket my iPod.  I didn’t get around to listening to the mix until much later in the evening when I went out picking up some dinner for my wife and I.

I listened to the song and mix and …. literally had to check that I had the right file playing!

What the heck was this … kr@p?

I couldn’t believe my ears.  The vocals sounded rather … well, to put it bluntly, they sucked! There were some minor balance issues i could fix and the mix was clear, but the performance wasn’t at all what I remembered.

What happened?! What happened to the quintessential vocal performance that I’d been so self-congratulatory on earlier in the day?

I played the mix again the next day – in the other car, on the hi-fi system in the living room and back in the studio.  I still had the same opinion:

I sound like a lifeless wet rag…

The Reality Check

The whole exercise kind of drove home a piece of advice I religiously adhere to when working on client projects:

Give yourself frequent breaks to clear your head, reset your ears and re-align your perception.

You may have heard this advice from audio engineers talking about not pro-longing a mix session, but it can also apply to the creative and performance end of the spectrum as well.

I got caught in the trap of becoming too subjective – falling in love with a sound I was producing / hearing.  Or should I say, falling in love with a sound that I THOUGHT I was producing / hearing.  I wasn’t giving my ears and head a chance to come up for air, get rested and get objective.

I wasted an entire day getting self-absorbed in and excited about something I was doing for myself – not entirely a bad thing in the big picture, but the result wasn’t something I was proud of.

I now have a lesson learned / reminder to remain disciplined in my process…

Comments 3

  1. Man, can I relate! This usually happens to me with songwriting at the keyboard.

    I usually end up highlighting the file and hitting the delete key JUST AS HARD AS I CAN! 😉

    1. Post

      I gotta say – that’s exactly what I did! Today, it’s back to the “drawing board” and re-think what the vox should sound like…

Leave a Reply to Dave Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.