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I wrote this on my acoustic guitar. This is a virtual instrument acoustic guitar. It’s out front at the start but soon gets kind of lost in the mix. I worked so hard at crafting the finger picking and now I can’t hardly hear it. Why am I complaining? I’m the one who covered it up! Don’t know why, but the last part reminds me of “Toy Story” with Woody and the gang sitting on the fender as the car drives into the sunset. Yes, no, maybe?

https://soundcloud.com/user-686710883/i-love-you

 

 

 

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This is quite a lovely piece..  It has a great flavor.. One thing you might consider (it took me a LONG time to figure out).   In my observations, the brain can discern about 4 - 6 different strands of audio data in music (think of instruments)  When too many instruments are playing out at full force it becomes a WALL of sound (Phil Spector generally considered to have created this technique in rock music).   

You can start by 'opening up' each instrument. By this I mean - not every instrument plays the full chord.  Let one instrument play (on a C7 chord)  C and E an octave above, let another instrument play the 5th (G) and 7th (Bb) an octave above. Let some instruments play a 2note riff, in between what the main instruments are doing.  At some point rock bands with 2 guitars, started developing the technique of not always playing the full chord.  One would play a rhythm and certain notes, the 2nd guitarist would play (sometimes in syncopated rhythm) the other notes.  

Another way of looking at it, is you want the different instruments to ebb and flow in what they play.  Some instruments may only come in on the chorus.  If you make the other instruments play fewer notes, there will be room for the picking guitar to shine thru.  I think of music as a 'guided tour',  As the museum moderator walks thru the building spot light come up on the particular point she is trying to make.   Also think of it as a conversation, if everyone is talking at the same time it gets muddy. 

Now of course you can take this to whatever degree you want,  everybody playing flat out, to each being more moderate, to each playing very sparse.  I used work for a disco record company and the 1st rule was 'something changes every 4 bars'.  You can do this by looking looking at your track page in your DAW. I color each track. When I first start a piece, everybody (all me playing different virtual instruments) are playing too much, sometimes the notes are too fast, to dense)  I listen and decide what is  important, I focus on that, sometimes re-recording it, then CUTTING out other parts or go back and thin them out, just hitting beat 1 skipping a measure or more.  All the time changing the patterns.  

If you listen to and look at the score or one of pieces I've done (shameless self-promotion). You'll see, I juggle a large number of instruments, yet each is very sparse, it's very easy to ascertain what is going on.  Now this is a certain type of music, which is not what you are doing, but you can get the point. 

If you listen to and analyze Beatle songs, you see how cleverly they changed parts, even their singing, sometimes solo, unison, 3rds harmony 5th harmonies.  They kept changing things actually pretty quickly.

Listen to the artists your inspire you, and figure out what they are doing..  

I first did this with graph paper and different colored felt tip pens, Each instrument was a different color, each square on the graph paper was a bar.  Finally I ended up with a nice piece of artwork.  I even used techniques to show volume rises and falls,   marks to indicate intensity,  It's some work but you begin to get a better idea of what works.  

I would look for MIDI files, import into my DAW (Logic)  and look at the activity.  to see what was happening in what I considered a great song.  

 

Pardon my verbosity.  I really like your postings, everything has been quite good.  Keep at it.    cheers

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mark styles, thanks for the thoughtful comments. You’ve got quite a few very good observations. I always try to build up parts in my arrangements from less to more. More often than not, less becomes more too fast so I know what you are saying. I do take people’s critiques to heart and try and become a better arranger. If I could master just one thing in my stuff it would be a well balanced bass. I’m constantly struggling with “Is the bass going to overpower everything or is it so low in volume as to not be heard at all?” I only have my flat response studio headphones to mix with and I listen to my finished stuff through an equalizer app where I have the bass turned down a bit, not an ideal setup but it’s what I’ve got. Thanks again for all of your knowledgeable observations. Playing/composing on a real instrument is simple and satisfying. Being the sole producer of all aspects of my music in a DAW is pretty overwhelming. If I could just know that the bass comes across on other people’s systems without being too loud or too soft I’d be happy with that.

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Well the human ear has a tendency to hear the highest pitch/tone, that's usually what makes the melody.

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The Bass is good, it holds it's ground and is not overpowering. Personally I'd lower the volume and Eq a bit of high.   But it's a minor point.. Other's might find it totally perfect the way it is.   You have a bit of low mid's going on,  It get's a little cloudy.  I use Genelec 8040's and Grady 1000 headphones.  

The nature of Headphones is that they will always be 'colored' somewhat.. Listen to a lot of commercial stuff, and then your's, so you can begin to understand the response of your phones.   Another producing trick, is to add a professional song from an artist you like, or the material is in a similar vein to your production, Solo them on/off with your mix.  Even with individual instruments. It's a bit hard to ignore the key and tempo will be different, but you are only listening to the quality of the sound. 

Back in the 70's it was still the 'Wild West' of recording. A lot of multi track studios were popping up.  I worked at a decent studio in Boston, Dimension Sound.  Deal was I could do my own music whenever the studio wasn't booked.  I always played David Bowie's "Young Americans" song when mixing down one of my songs. . I would solo his song, and go thru all my tracks, kick, bass, kids, etc. Play with EQ, volume, so that my instrument would 'fit' in.  When I was finished, I would fade my mix up and into Bowies, and try to get as close to the colors and EQ he had in this particular song.  Sometimes a final 'mixing plug-in smooths things.  You can use ones that come with your DAW.  I use Slate Digital FG-X or IZone 8..  with this you can add a little 'sheen' to the top, maybe, 'tuck in' the low miss with a tight notch.  And sometimes you don't need any of that. 

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mark styles, thanks for mentioning that the bass isn't overpowering, that's really good to know! I don't ever run mixes through mastering plugins because I don't have a clue how to use them. I've tried to understand db and shelves and all that technical stuff but I only end up frustrated. You've got me thinking about it again and I might try messing around with one. I have a simple question about mastering plugins and it is this; assuming the plugin will be applied to the entire mix as a whole, is it better to run the mix in the DAW to a devoted submaster output where you can insert the mastering plugin or, what I would consider an even easier method, can you just as effectively load the one file (.wav) of your mixed song into a wave editor like Soundforge and use the mastering plugin from there? I'm guessing either way would be okay, but I don't know.

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I just plug mine into the mix output in Logic.  You could just as easily use your method, (into a sound editor app).    If you're putting each instrument in your DAW on it's own separate track, -  kick, snare, hats, toms, etc. you might want to send those to a bus, and apply a limiter to drums alone.   Some mixers, group instruments and send to separate busses, (stems). then each buss, can get a separate limiter, compressor, EQ etc. It depends on your songs, how complex are they, how many plug-ins you have, and how intricate you want to get.   

Read magazines, like Electronic Musician, Mix Magazine, Keyboard etc. (there are a bunch).  Keep reading them, at first it may seem confusing, but gradually you glean a tidbit of info here or there.  Better yet, check out Youtube videos.. There are quite a few on different music subjects.  You soon learn which ones are put out by intelligent guys/girls.  and which are not so informative.. 

The internet and Google (or your search engine of choice) is one of the most amazing learning tools ever available.  (of course a lot if mis-information is there too)..   There are also Facebook forums on almost any subject, theory, synths, music.  A lot there to go over too. 

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mark styles, thanks for the advice. With the exception of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), I've done those things you've mentioned but to me I might as well be reading Greek. I've tried getting into Facebook a few times and it's just not my bag. I can't even sign up for Twitter because they want to verify me by sending me a text message... I don't have a mobile phone, only a landline hence no text messaging. It's a Catch 22. I've even emailed Twitter's customer support a couple of times about this and they never responded back. Not your concern, I know, but I'm just sayin'. I do love YouTube however, so maybe I'll try looking up some mastering tutorials. I think I've tried that in the past with little success but it's been a while. If you've ever seen "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" I'm that guy that just wants to sing (compose in my case). I've got Beatles in my blood so I can't complain.. even though I just did... but I sure wish I had my very own George Martin.

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That song... wow! The stepwise chord progressions always get me, and you sweetened the deal by throwing some min7s and 6s in there, too! The track itself did seem a little muddy during the middle, but I could just have been listening for it since I read the other posts on this thread. It just sounded so nostalgic—brought tears to my eyes, I have to admit.

Definitely heard the Toy Story part... lots of Randy Newman going on in that song! 😂

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Tonskald, thank you so very much for the truly kind words. They brought tears to my eyes. Or... on second thought, my tears could be due to the fact that only a few minutes ago I got a notice that my rent will be increasing by $69 come October. At any rate, it really pleases me to know that you can feel the “Toy Story” vibe towards the end. I love Randy Newman’s stuff, wouldn’t call myself a devoted fan or anything but he’s got a great sense of melody.. and I’m flattered that you mentioned him with regard to my humble little tune.

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