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8 posts tagged

Feedback on your tracks

“Can you review my bassline?”

First of all, thank you for your awesome and very helpful blog, and also for your music – love your latest album!

I’ve just read your most recent post about making kick and bass work well together. I’m producing some psytrance for a couple of years, but still my kbbb is very far from perfect. Can I ask you to briefly review my latest attempt? (it’s a short 1 minute snippet, some synths and percussion added for context). Just like the guy from your post, I feel the kick and bass refuse to work well together for some reason. Also I would greatly appreciate if you say something about the bassline itself (the frequency balance, the groove and stuff).

I’ve also read your posts about how you were involved into Russian psytrance scene. I’m from Russia and remember Psyplanet ;)

Arseny

Thanks for your words, Arseny!

This bassline is fine. However, If you want to match your bassline to the current Psytrance sub-standards, you need to clear the mud and tweak up the filters. Clarity (or should I say, the lack of it) is the main issue here.

I suggest using a reference, it really helps a lot. It’s especially true if you working on headphones which I personally not recommend to do. Here are few tracks by other producers, also in Cm key. Compare these basslines with yours:

Train your ears

Do you hear these crispy, sharp, punchy basses? That is what you should aim for.

Earlier I’ve written about pretty much everything that could be said about the basslines, so rather than repeat myself I’ll put for you these four useful links here:

  1. Psytrance bassline synthesis
    Filter envelopes, resampling, MIDI-notes
  2. Psytrance bassline equalisation
    Boosting harmonics, clearing the mud
  3. How to make a punchy bassline
    Phase, layering, processing
  4. How to fit kick and bass together
    Read about the volume balance in particular

By following these tips you should be able to make a nice punchy bassline. But if none of this helps, let me know what exactly do you struggling with the most in the comments below and we’ll try to fix it together.

2017   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

Feedback for “Vibrations” by MKZ

Hello Daniel, my name is Adrian and I’m from Argentina. I started producing Psychedelic music about 3 years ago. I would like you listen to my track and get some advice and your opinion about my track based on you knowledge. Sorry for my English :) thanks for your time and hope you like it :)

Adrian

Adrian, I have to say this is a fantastic track I enjoyed a lot, reminds me of the good old days of Full-on Psytrance and also gives slightly reminiscent of Electric Universe. Well done! I have just a few comments.

First and foremost, the track progressed in a very strange way, sometimes by eight bars and sometimes by twenty. I can’t stress enough that most electronic music should progress by 16-bars sections, otherwise you not only make it weird but also make DJs job much harder. I’ve written about it earlier in the “Criteria of professional production” mini-series, make sure to check it out.

Criteria of professional production. Part 3. DJ-friendly arrangement

Extra four measurements at 49—53 Bars (highlighted in red) messes up the structure of the track

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I have a feeling that the kick and the bass are not quite in sync. You know, It’s like when you mix two tracks on CDJs and the beat is mismatched just a little so you hear those phassy high-end clicks? It’s like the bassline is somehow rushing (or dragging? :-).

Are you rushing or are you dragging? scene from “Whiplash” (2014)

Perhaps, you have some processing plugins causing latency of the channel? If that’s the case, I would suggest either using phase alignment plugin like Voxengo PHA-979 or manually adjust the individual track delay.

I also think that the mix can be improved. At the moment it seems like you’re trying to push everything at the front, as the result making all elements compete with each other rather than support and create several layers of depth. You can hear it especially at 2:18—2:45 minute.

Other than that, with some more effort it can be a really nice track. Keep ‘em coming!

2017   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

Feedback for “H N Y” by Myrtillus

First of all thank you very much for your awesome site, I have to confess this is somewhat gold, thank you very much for you availability and expertise sharing in the scene with such an open mind. 

I have been persuing passionately the psytrance production for some time, and it is clear you are very passionate about your work as an artist.

Recently I have managed to finally achieve a track with which I am comfortable to share and ask for feedback and I think you are the best person to whom I can ask for that advice. Please, tell me your point of view.

Myrtillus

Myrtillus, this track has some nice melodies but overall it doesn’t hold up as a whole. The structure is very weird too: it seems like throughout the track you turning on and off different layers with no particular reason.

Let’s take a listen and look closely what happens at the first two minutes:

Bars Time What happens
33—41 0:56—1:10 Kick, bass, and textures
41—49 1:10—1:24 Snare drums added
49—50 1:24—1:26 Short break
50—57 1:26—1:38 Snare drums removed, hi-hats added
57—65 1:38—1:52 Drum loop added
65—66 1:52—1:54 Short break
66—68 1:54—1:58 Just a kick, bass, and textures again
68—73 1:58—2:06 Hi-hats added
57—65 2:06—2:20 Drum loop added
Different elements turning on and off

What’s wrong with this? Well, it’s bad for two reasons.

From the listener’s perspective, this track sounds like you just playing around with various loops turning them on and off randomly. There is no development, no storyline, it just goes nowhere.

From the technical point of view, all electronic dance music progresses by 16-bars sections. You can’t just add a new instrument layer at a 7th Bar or make a 23-Bars-long breakdown, it breaks the entire structure of the track. I’ve written the advice on how to make a proper arrangement, make sure to read it.

Criteria of professional production. Part 3: DJ-friendly arrangement

Also, maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the track tempo isn’t a whole number. To make the track goes along with the metronome, I had to warp it at 136.50 BPM. Is that the case? If so, that’s a total nightmare for DJs, please don’t do that :-) Just remember: always use whole numbers in tempo, 135, 136, 137 BPM... whatever, but with no decimals.

There are more issues in the track, but at first I’d suggest learning more about arrangement, structure, the “flow” of the track. And the best way to it is to listen to more music around, put some reference track and try to recreate its structure, the same way like painting artists learn by copying other artists’ masterpieces.

2017   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

Feedback for “Renaissance” by Euphoria

Hello Daniel, my name is George and I deal with music production the last 2,5-3 years. The DAW that I use is Ableton. It would be my pleasure if you hear a track that I have in process and tell me how it sounds based on my knowledge and your experience of course. I really hope to enjoy it.

George 

Track overview in Ableton

George, this is a very weak work. I like how the bass and the high hats sound like, and that’s probably it.

The biggest flaws in your track are detuned samples. While the bassline is in Dm, some of the samples I hear are in G and other tones, producing those musically unpleasant moments.

I suggest tuning all your samples to Dm to match the bassline: plucks, synths, background effects. I’ve written about tuning earlier, be sure to check out that advice.

How to tune samples harmonically

Maybe I am wrong, but it looks like you just put a bunch of samples and synth presets together without particular meaning. For example, that acid riff at 2:18 and 4:09 — is it supposed to be the main theme? If so, why did you put it in the middle, where is anticipation?

Or that arp melody at 0:01—0:20, why it doesn’t appear anywhere on the track after the intro? What was the point of putting it there? You see, that kind of randomness I’m talking about.

And speaking about that arp in the intro, it seems that all of you, Zyce, and Flegma have used the same sample from the same sample pack, which is not cool. There is nothing wrong is using samples, but at least use it wisely — tweak and change it, otherwise you end up like a clone.

Attack of the clones

I suggest thinking what you’re trying to achieve first, what story do want to tell your listeners. And only then make the track accordingly. Take a read to my album behind the scenes to get an idea what I mean by that.

2017   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

Feedback for “Rocketship” by Vernski

Can you give some feedback on my new work-in-progress track? What to improve?

Vern Junior Jones

Vern, I certainly hear a lot of improvements since your last track: there are more clarity now, better soundscapes, and arrangement. Well done!

But as you can guess, there are some issues as well. Let’s go through each of them.

Bassline

The first thing is about the bassline: I feel it has a lack of pressure, it’s too “weak”. I can’t know for sure what caused it since I haven’t seen your project file, but there are few possible reasons: volume balance, equalization, or phasing issues.

Psytrance bassline equalization

Phase cancellation explained

I want to remark that this is not a problem generally speaking, but it is a problem for this particular genre’s sub-standards. Take a listen to few other tracks’ basses, which are in the same Am key:

If you don’t hear any difference, I bet you’re listening on headphones — it’s a common problem because headphones can’t give an accurate low-frequency response. I suggest checking the bassline on monitors.

Percussions

Take a listen to the offbeat hats that starts at the Bar 41:

It seems that velocity of each hat is set pretty randomly, causing a weird stress pattern. The offbeat hats are one of the key rhythmic element along with the kick and snares, so I would suggest keeping them in a more predictable way.

Rhythm structure basics

Now take a listen to the closed hats starting at the Bar 65:

These driving closed hats, on a contrast, could have a slightly stronger variation, it sounds almost straight at the moment. Besides, the samples of the both hats are very similar to each other making almost no distinguish — the offbeat hats are getting lost here.

Nikola and Dalibor are the masters of groove:

Snares

Now let’s go back to the Bar 49 where snare drums starts:

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that these snares have too much “body”, some unnecessary harmonics in the low-mid range. Try to sculpt your own snare by layering few different samples or just cut the low-end with an EQ.

Making a layered snare

Build-ups

My main concern is the lack of energy and overall progression. Even when the track does progress, it’s hard to notice because there are no time indicators for this: some build-ups or at least a crash cymbal on a strong beat every sixteen bars.

I’d suggest adding some noise sweeps, cymbals, snare fills, and other elements that would tell listeners “okay, something new is happening here”. This would make track more interesting and will help to keep listeners’ attention throughout the track. Here is what I’ve quickly made just to give an example:

Making build-ups and drum fills

Progressive music is all about building a tension and then release it, a balance between the “dry” and “wet”. It’s good to learn how producers in other genres do this, especially in Techno.

Listen to these two tracks, they’d be completely boring but Spektre and Alex Di Stefano are the masters of the tension-and-release game:

Keep them coming.

2017   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

Kick, bass, and missing drive

Hey Daniel, I’d like to share my ongoing project though a lot of work needs to be done, the track is in F# and somehow I don’t like how the kick and bass sound together. Also if you could give me insights about the overall arrangement so far and the mix, I think something is missing for that drive in the track. Feedback would be appreciated. Cheers!

Zahaan 

Zahaan, this is a really nice track with some decent sounds and atmosphere. Well done!. But you’re right, there are few that can be improved.

First of all, kick and bass. These two elements should sound as one, but in your track, I feel that bass is a bit lost: it could be due to phase issues or simply because of the volume balance.

Try to adjust volume levels first, see if there is a room for making the bass slightly louder in the overall mix. Or try to slightly boost second and third harmonics instead to emphasize the root key.

How to make a punchy bassline

Psytrance bassline equalization

Now speaking about the missing drive, I’ve noticed the lack of crash cymbals and offbeat hi-hats. Try to add these and you’ll see the difference. Like this:

Rhythm structure basics

Extra crash cymbal, snares, and hi-hats on top of the track

Listen to a track of mine called “Arrival”, for example. It has a huge accent on the offbeat hats, and probably that’s why the track sounds so high-energy:

Arrival is a new single that is coming out on December 19th

I hope it helps.

2016   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

Common production mistakes

Hello Dan, I have a bit of a favour to ask of you. I was hoping you could appraise a track I’ve been working on. I’m well aware of your JOOF scouting commitments and I don’t want to hassle you personally with something like this, however I would like to know from a professional standpoint where this track sits.

Vern Junior Jones

Vern, first of all I want to say this is a really nice deep and atmospheric track, and I enjoyed listening. However, there are few common mistakes that I’d like to highlight, and I hope it helps to you and the other producers around.

Too many breakdowns

Let’s put this track on a new Audio channel in Ableton so we could see the waveform. The first thing you can see clearly is that almost half of the total track’s length is breakdowns (highlighted on the picture):

Is this track made to be played in a clubs? I can tell you for sure, no any DJ will play this track on the dancefloor as it is because so many and so long breakdowns will suck the energy out of it. I advise to think and answer yourself about the purpose of this track, where it can be played, who is your target audience, and then make track accordingly.

Criteria of professional production. Part 3. Dj-friendly arrangement

Unnecessary low-end

I’m not quite sure, but I have a feeling that the main atmospheric pad that is used throughout the track have some unnecessary low-end frequencies, as the result making kick and bass a little messy. Even a sidechain compression that you’ve put on this pad doesn’t help much. Work more on equalization to cut the low-end off, and give each element more room to breath.

Repetitive samples

Another thing I’ve noticed is that you used the same drum roll sample each 8 bars, and it goes and goes almost all track long (highlighted on the picture below). This isn’t bad actually, but I would recommend to put some different variations instead to make the track more interesting. That is how our brain works: it reacts and pays attention only to something unexpected. Try to diversify this pattern to control listener’s attention.

Lack of groove

It is hard to judge because I don’t know the purpose of your track as explained above. But since it is a 130 BPM track with a pretty driving bassline, I assume it is made for the clubs, just like the all electronic dance music.

What makes people dance? The answer might vary, but I believe it is the “groove” — some rhythmic pattern that makes your body shake and swing. I would recommend adding at least some driving rhythmic elements, such as open high hats, cymbals, toms, riders, and more.

Rhythm structure basics

Just to give a contrast, I’ll put few other tracks here:

I advise to listen to more music and listen carefully how other producers solve these tasks. Don’t be afraid to copy some of their tricks, that’s how the learning curve goes.

2016   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

Bassline compression and hats EQ

Hey Daniel, how you doing ? I’m a great fan of yours, and I think this is woderful idea. 

When working on basslines would you use compression or not? And also getting your bass to work with the groove of your hats perc can be tricky? Any tips would help? And last question, any tips on getting that percussion hats, snares to stand out in the mix, I’ve noticed the sound has changed a lot and a new bench mark has been set.

If you do have the time could you pls pls give me advice on my debut free track? I’ll understand if you can’t but it would be like Xmas came early :) Thank you Daniel.

Marc Swanepoel

Marc, “to use compression or not” is a bad question because in general I would say “no” — if you can avoid extra plugin, then don’t use it. Less is more. However, compressor is a very powerful device: it can be used for “healing” purpose (as I call it), as well as a for creative manipulations.

So rather than think of “should I use this device or not”, think of what you’re want to achieve, and then you’ll get the answer. Like, do you want to make bassline more punchy? Do you want to make it sounds more dynamic? Do you want the bassline fit better to your kick? The list of compression usage goes on. And answering your question, do I use compression or not, — it depends. There is no definite answer.

As for the bassline and groove ‘friendship’, yes it can be tricky. Equalization is the main factor here. For instance, take a listen to these hats:

Nothing fancy here, sounds like a typical mid-high range hats, right?. However, take a look at its spectrum:

You see, there is a lot of unnecessary low-end frequencies. Even if you did not notice it by hearing, its still there. It overlapping bassline’s frequency range and give your bassline less “room to breath”. So cut it off. I would say, you can easily cut it below 500 Hz in this case. Such unnecessary low-ends presents in most other samples too (snares, closed hats, rim shots, cymbals, toms etc), so make sure to check frequency range by using spectrum analyzer or EQ, and then cut off the low-end, if necessary.

Same applies when you want your hats and snares to stand out from the mix. Each element should have enough space in the frequency range. Also, you can try to increase Attack of your snares by using a layering technique, compressor, or a transient shaper.

Bonus

I have listened to your track, and I have to say it’s fantastic, especially assuming that it is your debut track. I could give advice only on a few very small things, because everything else is just great. Even the track tempo and key (140 F#m) chosen nicely.

It seems you have used the same drum fills at 1:43, 2:38, 3:33, 4:55, 6:45, 7:40, try to focus more on transitions variety. I’m not quite sure, but I guess these drum fills have unnecessary low-ends, exactly what I wrote above — cut it off. Would be nice to add velocity to the Closed hats for extra dynamics, which comes into play at 1:50.

Criteria of professional production. Part 2. Fills and transitions

At 5:02 I thought that something big is coming, but instead, it was another breakdown — that would be pretty annoying for the crowd on the dancefloor. Two breakdowns in a row with only 1 minutes of dance part in between is probably not the best idea.

The fills and growing moment at 5:50 is supposed to be the most emotional moment of the track, but I feel it miss something. On this part, people should scream and rise their hands in the air, you know. Try to add here some pitch risers, more effects, and maybe increase drum fills speed to increase energy level.

I hope it helps.

2015   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production