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PavlovsCat

My Rocked Up Cover of "Strawberry Fields Forever"

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I played drums professionally many years ago but was stopped due to a repetitive stress injury that resulted in lifelong tendonitis that causes pain after just a few minutes of playing. Consequently, it was only during the pandemic that I was spending more time at home and thought to myself, I'll never play at the level I once did, I can't even realistically practice. But I can still have fun playing -- even if I can only play for a few minutes at a time and have to limit myself to simple to play songs. So, last year I got a new DAW PC and started recording. While I wrote at least a few hundred songs over the years, I thought I'd start my musical rehab/practice with some beloved re-arrangements of Beatles, Zeppelin and other songs some of my friends might enjoy. Unfortunately, I was never a singer and I never learned much about mixing or mastering and am only starting to learn very basic things. I've been using Izotope and other AI -based mixing and mastering tools hoping they can do what I don't know how to do. 

This was recorded via midi controller using sample libraries -- relying heavily on Orange Tree Samples libraries for guitar and bass, the grand piano is Embertone''s Walker Lite -- which I loved for this song. The drums are ezDrummer library played in Superior Drummer. The Tron sounds are from MTron Pro. There's more, but those are the ones I leaned mostly heavily on. 

I would welcome mixing and mastering advice and if anyone out there is looking to collaborate, feel free to PM me. I can obviously use a singer -- and if anyone with a good voice wants to replace my lousy voice on this, please let me know.  That said, I did have a blast playing this. It was my first time playing it -- and as I can only play a limited time without pain, the piano part was my first take, as are most of the tracks, so yeah, it's sloppy, but unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to be capable of playing at the level I once did, so even though it's not a great performance, I'm fairly happy with it. I mostly want to learn more about how to mix. 
 

 

Edited by PavlovsCat
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bring up voice and check some notes as there a tad off.good job.jack c.

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Hey PavlovsCat . . . excellent rockin' version of this classic ! Really like the drums and the feel they have. It's great when a cover doesn't "copy" the original, and I so like the way you presented your version a lot. Well done on the vocals as well, a few timing change ups, and an interesting effect really worked for me, captured the period.

Mix wise, it gets a bit thick in a few places, with so much sustain going on . . . but I wouldn't change a lot, maybe vocals up a hair in the first verse.

Love that ending where it goes all helter skelter.

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Really enjoyed this - brave song to cover with such a different style - well done.

Andy

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Nice work on an old classic!  Never heard this song with this much energy in it. I like it.

-Tim

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6 hours ago, jack c. said:

bring up voice and check some notes as there a tad off.good job.jack c.

 Do you mean off notes with my voice or an instrument? I'm guessing you mean my voice. I'm not much of a singer and didn't spend time with Melodyne on it (which I own). Can you tell me the minutes and seconds that you found particularly worth fixing? Thanks furor for the feedback. 

Edited by PavlovsCat

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16 hours ago, noynekker said:

Hey PavlovsCat . . . excellent rockin' version of this classic ! Really like the drums and the feel they have. It's great when a cover doesn't "copy" the original, and I so like the way you presented your version a lot. Well done on the vocals as well, a few timing change ups, and an interesting effect really worked for me, captured the period.

Mix wise, it gets a bit thick in a few places, with so much sustain going on . . . but I wouldn't change a lot, maybe vocals up a hair in the first verse.

Love that ending where it goes all helter skelter.

Thanks. I'm really  looking to get better at mixing -- I'm fairly incompetent at mixing at the moment. So the thick parts, are those the end of the verses/choruses? I'm trying to figure out how to spot this stuff and fix it. Funny, everyone here is a lot kinder about my playing than I  am! It's appreciated. Although I'm hesitant to turn my  vocals up. I suppose they're not as loud as they could be because I wanted to draw less attention to them. 

Edited by PavlovsCat

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8 hours ago, PavlovsCat said:

Although I'm hesitant to turn my  vocals up. I suppose they're not as loud as they could be because I wanted to draw less attention to them. 

Rocks and glass houses where vocals are concerned - you won't get any crits from me in that department, so sing your heart out.

Some on here use Melodyne and others swear it is the Devil's work. Personally I only have three issues with Melodyne: (1) I probably use it too much, (2) I give it too much to do (i.e awful singing) and (3) I'm not very skilled with it.

Apart from that, what's not to like - so rock 'em up and let the talent shine. Double tracking, harmonies, reverb and delay can cover a multitude of sins. 😂😂

Andy

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14 hours ago, PavlovsCat said:

Can you tell me the minutes and seconds that you found particularly worth fixing?

never mind using melodyn you don't need it.your voice has many lennon qualities.1 line---13---104----109----134---148---228---233.jack c.that song sounds great.jack c.

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Very nice. I like the voice you use on it. You do it in a style that is a tribute to Lennon without sounding like you're trying too hard to mimic him.

I don't think there's anything at all wrong with your singing voice. It's got a cool Dylan/Petty/Knopfler wheeze that I wish I could call up without sounding like a caricature. You may have clammed a note in one of the changes, but hey, isn't that what overdubs and comping are for?

When I started doing lead vocals, I hated my voice as many people do at first. I was working on a song and did take after take after take, I think I got it up to 24 takes over a few days. I never thought to record it in phrases, no, I wanted to spit the whole thing out in single takes. So I was going back through all of these to try to find a good performance, or maybe two so I could comp them, and because I started with the first take, I noticed that about halfway through, I started to nail every note. For a laugh I pushed up the faders on the last 10 with no backing and it sounded fantastic, 10 of me singing in unison.

That's when the Beavis and Butthead lightbulb popped over my head: well, duh, my pitch and enunciation, breathing and stamina started to get better because my singing ability, like with any other instrument, improved with practice. This is probably obvious to most people, but it somehow escaped me until I heard it. I don't know what I had been thinking, like I should be able to just sing, right off the bat, with no woodshedding? And why force my untrained voice to sing the whole 4-minute song in one straight belt? Why have an unnecessary challenge? No idea.

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On 1/16/2022 at 12:02 PM, noynekker said:

gets a bit thick in a few places

This is a lather, rinse, repeat process. As with any skillset it takes practice. Do watch some vids on "masking". A lot of overlapping frequencies here.
Some judicious cutting and high passing are in order.
Great energy and execution on the performances and arrangement, so I think a 👍 is due here.

t

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Great Job covering one of my favorite Beatles songs !   Very impressive especially for an early mix.  Really Nice ..  mark

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Great Cover - I do like it when a cover adds / changes the original, so a definite thumbs up from me!!!

Love it

Nigel

 

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Their songs were so epic compared to the stuff we hear today.  I mean, I I'm not just an old man saying this about *the kids today*.  You did a really good job on this, with all the right marks of originality here and there.   

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I don't think your vocal on this has any problems, really. The mix might be a bit on the bright side, but I'm listening on cans so that could be that.

It's ver y listenable, and super impressive to take it on. When you are in eardrums mode, you might need them up with some punch-type compressor so they are more in the same territory sonically as your real kit. Just a thought.

Glad you are still able to get your licks in! Bummer about your tendonitis, but inspirational is your approach to it.

Edited by PhonoBrainer
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I am a real Beatles fan and I can honestly say ...you are a brave man to have attempted this. Such a sad story though, but with that what a great start 👍.

I have heard many a tail when in the studio, of people saying 'I have an awful voice so could someone else sing my song' ..and I have to say some of them do LOL. But I listen out for strength in holding a note and breathing at the right time to produce the said note ... your vocal on this track sounded great, all be it at the back of the mix ... don't hide it as done but use your voice as another instrument ... doesn't matter how many takes to get it right, that said, usually don't try more that 4 takes at a time as IME the vocalist gets worse .. and that's soul destroying. 

For me I can't add anymore than has been commented on already other than to say  .. Well done I enjoyed it!

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Wow, I didn't see notifications for all of these comments. Thanks to everyone who commented for taking the time to listen and offer advice. I really appreciate it. In fact,  your suggestions have inspired me to go back to this song and re-record the vocals.  This was my first take and I  know that I  can do better. I'll probably do that next weekend and update the post. But again,  thanks everyone. It's both fun to play again and frustrating because I  can't play like I once did. But in the year since I  started playing again two decades after I  stopped,  I know that I'm at least seeing my timing improve-- and that's really encouraging. 

What is funny is that you guys are a lot more encouraging than my teenage kids, who enjoy teasing me for my lousy vocals and regularly say things like, "Um yeah, stick to the drums, dad." My son did tell me that I need to re-record this vocal, that it sinks an otherwise good musical performance and after listening back to it with him, I realized that he's right. And after a couple weeks since I recorded this, I really don't like this mix. It's very boomy. 

Edited by PavlovsCat

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very, very good version....your variations of the original's timing and rhythm choices throughout the song are exceptionally well done as is your drumming....as far as i can hear there are parts i would aux track, re-EQ and volume automate to get a different end result, but this is your work so it comes down to what you hear and perceive as the best presentation 👍🎶🥁🔊

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5 hours ago, PavlovsCat said:

Wow, I didn't see notifications for all of these comments.

Up at the top of the topic, there's a button for "follow." If you follow a topic, you'll get notifications whenever someone replies.

On 1/18/2022 at 7:19 AM, DeeringAmps said:

As with any skillset it takes practice. Do watch some vids on "masking". A lot of overlapping frequencies here.
Some judicious cutting and high passing are in order.

This. iZotope's stuff is great, but it's like a self-driving car: you still need to know your destination. :-)

Here's my brain dump on masking and highpassing.

At this point in my mix engineering learning, I know how to prevent a lot of buildups and collisions before they occur, but what I do to check to see if something's being masked, or colliding or whatever, is close my eyes and listen closely. Most of the time, if an instrument is supposed to be a featured part of the mix, you should be able to hear it clearly, as an individual element. The exception is where you want something like a pad or texture to provide an atmosphere. Something that The Beatles did in their post-Rubber Soul studio career, and Brian Wilson, Phil Spector.

The idea is that every instrument should have its own sonic space. There are multiple ways to accomplish that, the first thing to do is "carve," which means that you use EQ to notch or highpass out the overlapping frequencies from one instrument to reveal the other(s). This happens with instruments whose ranges overlap. Bass guitar and kick drum is where everyone starts. You have to choose which one is going to take the very bottom, and then highpass the other one. Sidechaining, where the signal from the kick ducks the bass, is popular, especially in EDM.

Wavesfactory makes what is probably the best single plug-in for eliminating masking, Trackspacer. It works via sidechaining. Wait for it to go on sale for about $40 and pounce. I think iZotope Neutron has facilities for doing this, but I had Trackspacer before I got Neutron, so I haven't spent much time checking it out.

The next tip is highpassing. Most full-range instruments like guitar, keyboards and voice have information in the low end that is unnecessary in a full mix. Listen to The Beatles' acoustic guitars, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers'. Martin and Emerick highpassed The Beatles guitars and vocals like crazy. All you get is the top end, which with strummed acoustic guitar is all you want to hear in a full mix. Same with organ and piano (solo or sparse mixes are another story). My go-to for highpassing is the ProChannel Quadcurve EQ, but most EQ's have high and low pass filters. I would choose one with a graphical display like the Quadcurve, or iZotope's most excellent EQ. I'll highpass a vocal up to 400 or 500Hz or higher. Same with rhythm guitar.

Highpassing has a magic counterintuitive (at first) effect, which is that you'll start to hear more bass, due to letting one instrument have that sonic space.

Another technique that's essential to know, and I'm sure the iZotope AI knows how to do it, is finding and cutting the "honk" or "bark" frequencies of sounds. These are nasal or tubby or shrill frequencies that can make a sound poke out in a mix rather than having its own space. Most of the time it's good to do this, but not all the time, sometimes, those frequencies help the sound stand out in a good way. It can also be counterintuitive: cutting the loudest frequency allows you to push the sound's level higher in the mix, so it ends up becoming more audible. This is the main bread-and-butter use of compression on individual sounds. They don't poke out, so you can crank them.

Lastly, and this is next-level stuff, you can create sonic space with panning and use of mid/side techniques. If you have rhythm guitar and organ, pan them apart from each other. I'm really into mid-side EQ and compression. It sounds more complicated than it is, basically it just means the processing gets applied to either sounds common to both Left and Right, the mono component, or it gets applied to the sound that spread outside the center, the stereo component. So think of a big keyboard pad, a lush stereo sound. You can give it its own sonic space by compressing or attenuating the middle and letting the sides come through. That way, other instruments that are center panned have that physical space to themselves. A lot of the time, synth sounds stack up at the sides, because big, wide pads sound great by themselves. But unless the pad is a featured sound, it doesn't need to take up the entire panorama to do its job. Mid-side EQ works the same way, you can cut the highs in the center and let them come through on the side, or whatever. If you get into this, you should check your mix in mono before putting it out there. Boz' freeware Panipulator is my tool of choice for that.

Close listening to well-mixed material will give you a better idea of these concepts. One of the best acts ever for having mixes that give each instrument its own space is Steely Dan. Throw Aja on your studio monitors or good cans, listen to "Peg" or the title track, and you'll hear every note from every instrument. Also an iconic singer who once hated his own voice to the point that on their first album, there are 3 different lead vocalists. They even let the drummer sing one, so we know how desperate they were. :D

All this is more what you can do, rather than precisely  how, but maybe it will help you make better use of the iZotope software. Even with great AI, it's important to understand what the goals of applying it are. And maybe someday you'll be able to outdo the iZotope AI. After all, it doesn't know exactly what you're going for. It was a triumphant moment for me when I could outdo the Mastering Assistant in Ozone Elements.

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