Music Production Club - Round 3

my contribution is here. i‘ve been working in more of an electropop space for awhile but i want to move away from that, towards rockier textures; i’ve been feeling inspired by the more diy/muddy/modest end of shoegaze in particular, artists like astrobrite and pasteboard and funeral homes. i make music in garageband (lol) and i‘ve never really dug into other programs or used sample packs because it all feels… extremely overwhelming. i don’t feel like i have a natural production brain, i really struggle with figuring out what a song should sound like and what parts should go where. i feel much more comfortable in songwriting/composition modes.

broadly, i think of summer vacation as a sort of... thwarted time, more exciting in the anticipation of it than the actual experience. so i wrote a little bit from that perspective, and i wanted a longer build-up; i wanted to transmit the feeling of things being better when imagined than when lived through.

@"cass"#p131821 this is really cool! i like the interplay of the electronic/synthy textures and the guitar, which feels much more physical; and the mixing is great, i feel like i can hear everything. i love the little electronic flourishes that move it between bars and sections. i do think it's missing something - it feels like a _beat_, maybe, more than something that stands on its own? vocals would do the trick here, but i don't necessarily think it has to be, like, a pop song vocal - it could be something spoken, like a poem or a monologue. makes me think of [a johnny foreigner interlude]( alternately, it could just be a melody, or some instrumental texture that pulls focus in, or something. i like to freestyle melodies on top of stuff when i can't figure out what should go where, just humming or "ahh"ing - though you may have done that already too!

@“leah”#p131869 thanks for the feedback! i definitely knew it was missing something like that but i didn‘t really have time to add any substitutions once i realized i wasn’t gonna get vocals i was happy with. i'm definitely a total melody dipshit, a lot of my music feels more like a beat than like a finished song.

yours has some lovely lo-fi vibes, i really dig it. also your voice is great. this may have been on purpose, but the production is rather "thin" and "fizzy," there's not a lot of low end so it comes across kind of harsh and doesn't feel as like, wall-of-sound overwhelming as i expect from shoegaze. you can fill in the low end with all kinds of stuff, the traditional thing would be bass guitar obviously, which you can really convincingly fake by pitch shifting a regular guitar (don't tell bassists i said that lmao). alternatively you could do what i did and fill in the low end with a synth bass. mine is just a square wave with an unsynced LFO modulating the pulse width and it sounds good, and is easy to filter down so it doesn't make your mids sound gross if that's a problem. i don't know what kinds of instruments and effects garageband has though so what's possible might be more limited for you.

garageband is really flexible though and you can get a lot of mileage out of it. i talked about the samples and plugins i used in my post but i usually don't like to do that because i honestly think it doesn't matter, you could absolutely make every sound in my submission with stock plugins in almost any DAW. i use the stuff i use because it speeds up my workflow, or because it's inspiring, but honestly i have big respect for anyone who does more with less. but also if you ever want more info on that stuff, i am... happy to expound my decade of extremely niche knowledge.

@prophet_goddess first off, thanks so much for the comments! some of the things you mentioned, like compression, have been in the back of my mind as things that I should definitely be learning about. Maybe, while we‘re in the “feedback” phase here, I’ll make it a point to watch some videos or something covering the topic, and see if I can get that drum to cut through a little more. I'm going to check out underscores as well!

As for your submission, I really love that hazy aesthetic and the "ear candy" bits that you have going in there every couple of measures. It sounded totally natural to me, so not sure if you got what you were going for, but it at least sounded pretty convincing to me!

Overall, it's just a cool, vibey submission. I wouldn't have minded it if had gone longer, or gone into a B section (maybe an idea for a future prompt there).

@“kamillebiden”#p131902 i was recently recommended this video of a guy building a compressor on a breadboard and not only is that whole process fascinating, it starts with a very simple explanation of how compression works with some very nice graphics. i highly recommend it.

Listened to @humblepopstar ‘s this morning.

Don’t know what to add really based on what cass has said. I agree with the garageband remarks. I think it‘d better to write full songs even if the stock plugins aren’t great because you can always go back and change that latter or even record it properly sometime. My workflow thus far tends to be spiral like that. I start with basically a broad idea, and take turns refining each part until it‘s narrowed down to the point that I don’t really want to work on it anymore. But it's important to me to have the full “song” done first, before I start that narrowing process, because otherwise I never move on from the first few measures, or the “A” part.

Darn how did I miss this? I think my eyes glaze over stickied threads.

@"kamillebiden"#p131767 I know next to nothing about guitars but I love this sound. It reminds me of 90s shoegaze/post rock and it puts me in a happy place. I agree with others that I can barely hear the drums though.

@“Andy B”#p132288 huh, strange, nobody else said that they couldn‘t hear the drums. they’re quite loud and the whole mix is sidechained to the kick and snare so they cut through.

@“cass”#p132330 I was responding to the wrong person. Sorry! (fixed it)

Alright, let‘s go for the next prompt.

I’ll pick this cycle's prompt and then hand over to someone else for the next…

_Back to School_.
Whatever that means to you. Feeling evoked by it, or stuff modeled after the music of a particular school themed game a lot of us like. Whatever, it's open!

Deadline is Wednesday Sep 20th.

[“Music Production Club - Round 1”,“Music Production Club - Round 2”]

Excited to participate this time!! Messed around some in Ableton today n I think I finally got past my writer's block. Previously I took a months-long break from songwriting to focus on practicing piano and drums, so I needed some time to get back into it. Very grateful for this thread cuz I missed my DAW lol.

I‘ll say, just in case it helps anyone… I think I’m going to interpret the prompt very liberally. Instead of a new composition, I might go “back to school” in a more literal sense, by watching some videos about compression and side-chaining and seeing if I can make improvements to last week's submission. Doing something like that - or even just ignoring the prompt completely - is totally OK!

Did not get to do anywhere near as much as I wanted this round, still hoping to post tonight…

here's my contribution for this round.

i tried to keep in mind the advice that @prophet_goddess and @jtingle gave last time, really digging into garageband presets and letting those sounds guide me a bit as i tried to fill everything out. i didn't consciously aim to hit the prompt but i think it informed the final piece anyway, in a couple of ways - the drum track is very regimented in a way i associate with school, the sound i built the piece out from reminded me of a school bell or morning alarm, and singing in rounds always reminds me of school choir. i also found that i was pulling a lot from musicians i listened to in high school and college. the bass rhythm i ripped from [a kate bush guitar riff,]( the vocals were pulling from [solange]( and [pas/cal](, and i was aiming for a kind of [vampire weekend]( vibe with the guitar melody.

still figuring out how to record/produce guitar. i like the lo-fi vibe in some spots but i don't know if it works on the whole; and i didn't spend a ton of time mixing and mastering so that could probably be better.

mine is here. i am much less happy with this than i was with my last one, which i already wasn't that happy with lol.

i decided to take the theme in a direction where i learned how to do something i've never done before, which is to produce vocals. i checked out [this andrew huang video](, which i'd seen before but i wasn't trying to produce vocals at the time so i didn't take detailed notes. using the tips in here i was really quickly able to get a vocal sound i'm happy with, so that went well. my main inspiration was [tracey brakes](, and i think i was able to get a good approximation of her vocal sound.

what didn't go well is the rest of the track. this is a cover of [have to explode by the mountain goats]( given the large and mostly obnoxious tradition of acoustic covers of electric songs, i get a big kick out of the idea of doing an extremely synthetic cover of an acoustic singer-songwriter song. i felt like i was going in a good direction, but i just didn't have the time to finish it. i couldn't quite get the chord changes sounding right. the original isn't the most harmonically complex song, but it uses its simple elements quite well to heighten the emotional impact of the lyrics, which i'm definitely not doing. the biggest issue is i learned from this experience that my microphone (which is a USB mic) has too much delay for me to possibly get a performance i'm happy with, so the whole vocal is way out of time. i tried to edit and warp my way out of this as much as possible but i just didn't have time to get it perfect. i gotta get an XLR mic so i can use my audio interface.

@"leah"#p134008 i like a lot of the elements of this, though i think it doesn't quite come together into a cohesive whole. i really really like the panning on your vocals, i'm a huge sucker for that kind of stuff. i also think the super-wide bass sound is cool, though it might be better if it had a super wide high end and then a mono sub/low end, but i don't know if garageband has the parallel processing tools to achieve that. super wide bass sounds can cause some muddiness in the low end, which isn't a huge problem here but is happening a little bit. i also think the end of the track, after the transition to the kick-only rhythm, is really good and feels a lot more like a cohesive thing than the beginning of the track.

i think the feeling of it being a bunch of separate elements comes from two places: one is that the song doesn't have a ton of structure, elements just sort of come in and go out. i like to put sort of anticipatory sounds in my tracks like risers and other effects so that elements coming in doesn't sound as abrupt, but you can also do this with compositional elements like anticipatory melodies, drum fills, etc. you can also use silence for a similar purpose. the other is a mixing issue, and for this i don't know what garageband can do so i'll speak generally. everything sounds like it's in a different space because there's a mix of synths, samples, and recordings. one thing you can do to solve this is use a small amount of the same reverb on everything so it all sounds a bit more like it's in the same space. similarly, gentle whole-mix and individual track/bus compression can help "glue" a mix together so it sounds more cohesive. it's hard to explain how to do that without some audio examples, so i'll leave it at that.

Here's mine. As I alluded to earlier, I made the much less exciting choice to go "back to school" literally, and spent what time I had during the week reviewing some aspects of some online video courses I'd bought on mixing. Mainly, I spent a good about of time watching videos on compression, and tried to implement what I could into it.

I put a compressor on my entire drum kit, since I didn't have time to separate out the tracks. I then just kinda kept messing with how compressed I wanted it to sound - the more compressed and lower "attack" value, the more it started to feel like a real boomy drum. But also, the more I'd use the compressor, the more bite the instrument would lose. Eventually, I settle on kinda something like the absolute most compressor I could while having the separate drums still feel like they had some punch and definition to them. I think I mostly succeeded, or at least, I feel like I got closer to sounding less like "EZDrummer" that I'd been before. Then, I applied some basic compression to everything else. A little on guitar, but mostly on bass, which was in dire need of it, especially in the 2nd half. Took, I think, a lot of the mud out of that track in particular.

I'm happier with it. I think it sounds better. Compositionally, I don't think it's the best thing ever, but at least I feel like I learned something out of the process. I'll move onto something new with the next phase, but will take these lessons with me as I continue to get reps.

Looking forward to listening to everyone's selections for the next few days. Then, we'll start a new round on Monday. @"cass"#1199 - since you were first to join-up, any interest in picking the next prompt?

@“kamillebiden”#p134052 wow the drums sound way better on this! they still get a little hard to hear when the guitars get really loud near the end, but overall a huge improvement. one thing i'd recommend specifically is maybe putting a compressor on the guitar as well and sidechaining it to the drums (with no makeup gain). that way the drum hits still cut through but you preserve the dynamic range from the beginning to the end.

i'll have to take some time to think about it but i'd be happy to provide the next prompt as well!

@“cass”#p134028 thank you! yeah, i was wondering about the bass sound - that effect was a holdover from an earlier version of the track where my playing was off-time and i was using the width to cover it. i didn‘t hate it after i rerecorded it but i definitely could’ve spent more time playing with stereo placement in general. i'll go back into the track and play around with reverb and compression, too - i really appreciate that advice.

for yours, i actually really like that the vocals are off-time with the rest of the track - if anything, i think that effect could be more intense. it suits the feeling of the song, it creates a lot of tension. this might just be my taste, but in a song like this - with really heavy electronic elements and a lot of tension between the vocal and the instrumental - i sort of want there to be some kind of catharsis, like a very heavy drum track or something, to happen towards the end. as it is, it feels a little static. which could be what you were going for!

@"kamillebiden"#p134052 this sounds great! the production changes make everything feel a lot more coherent - i particularly like how much more present the synth and the bass feel at the end. i don't really have any other feedback lol, this it really good.

@“sdate”#p134118 thanks for the feedback!! i‘ve made plenty of dub techno in my life so i don’t know why i didn‘t think to leverage some of that. i think i’m just so familiar with the original song that it felt incomplete without the chord changes and piano.

yours.... i really like!! honestly like even though it's three separate ideas glued together i think the glue worked, i would totally listen to this. the way the epiano comes in in the second section at 1:45 is FANTASTIC, and i love the vocal sample that introduces it, and the transition AFTER that is so good. i think the last section is the one that feels the most out of place, if it were just the first two parts it would feel totally coherent. i think the fact that the drum sounds in the first and second parts are so similar helps tie them together. also the grooves in the first two sections are definitely more similar to each other and the switch to the sort of funkier dancehall groove in the last part i think keeps them from feeling like part of the same composition.

Hey all…

Sorry for the absence during the feedback phase. I got had an uncharacteristically busy week/weekend.

I'm gonna listen to everything today and post some feedback in a bit…

I'll kick off Round 3. I'll just say "do whatever - play" (Recess?), but @"cass"#1199 feel free to pick something else if you'd like and I'll update it.

Submissions due Wednesday, October 4th.