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M57

The End Of The Skyline

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HoboSage    1,990
20 minutes ago, M57 said:

 I was raised Catholic; guilt is part of my work aesthetic.

 

 

LOL  That was funny.  I didn't realize your weighted-key board was dead, and I understand that for a true player like you that's important.  So . . . get another one. :) 

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symphonious7    188
On 8/2/2017 at 2:32 PM, Jenn said:

 

 

Despite the odd lyrics, I feel like you could craft the symmetry a little better. 

Skyline is a powerful word in and of itself but it's not getting the punch for some reason, at least for me. Maybe if you added more internal rhymes just building up to that one line? I'm not sure though

 

 

 

 

I am soooooo not a lyric critic, I... that's not my expertise.  But I gotta say something did feel a little funny, just... like "why are these lyrics not hitting me... seems like they should be" so... I think you might be onto something Jenn.  I think for me it was that... some of the meanings seemed... I dunno... just like they could have been phrased a little better or something but I can't figure it out.  

 

Ok for the part that I am somewhat qualified, the musical side, your voice is great!!  The high note in the beginning was a little pitchy, but it works, I don't know if it's an easy fix for you to re-sing and nail it, or if you've been singing it for a week and singing it one more time makes you want to bang your head on a wall.  If it's the latter, just leave it, your cranial health is more important and few will notice.  

 

The song itself isn't really.... can't lie I don't really like this kind of music.  But I know alot of people that do, my little cousin does and I've seen artists with her that remind me of this sound, heck my wife loves Ben Fold's and you've definitely got some of his vibes to my ears.  So you say it's a sketch?  Does this mean you want to add further instrumentation?  It actually stands alone pretty well with the piano except that if you go that route I think it's a bit long.  With some strings and harmonies and you know... finesse I think you could get away with that length just fine though.  


That's all I got, hope it helps.  

 

 (I didn't mean I don't like this music cause it's bad, just cause I don't get it, and don't feel qualified to say much about a genre I'm not a fan of.)  

 

 

 

Edited by symphonious7

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M57    259

Thanks @symphonious7 Yeah, writing lyrics is not my idea of a good time, but on the other hand, getting them out can be cathartic. I may make some changes but I don't consider this one to be any worse or better than others I've written.  Lyrics for me are personal and they are usually at least somewhat purposely obtuse, so I totally understand and even expect people not to get them.  On the other hand - "making a connection" is somewhat more important.  It doesn't matter if you like them or not, it's more about how they resonate, bring out memories or create memories/images, so when you say, "they're not hitting me." then they've failed.  But just like music, lyrics are subjective thing.   Funny thing - on another songwriters site (I participate in two), one of the members remarked that he read the lyric first and was hesitant to listen to the music because he was worried that the music may not stand up to the quality of the lyric. I'm not kidding.  I've only heard from a few people about the lyric, but if the two of you are any kind of indicator, I guess I can expect a diversity of responses.

 

As for the music, I'm not at all prolific. I only write a handful of songs a year and I do my best to make them all quite different, both in texture and genre.  Yet you're the second person who has mention Ben Folds, who I had never heard of until recently.  I've listened and have to admit that I don't get it, but I guess that's to be expected because his music is not part of the playlist of my life.

 

Yeah, it's a sketch - so the first high notes are dodgy because I wasn't warmed up.  The piano isn't recorded wonderfully and it's not unlikely that I'll go back and re-record most everything.  Yes, I'm looking to orchestrate this one - strings are my first choice.  Strangely, you and I are in the minority where the arrangement decision comes in - most folks comment that they like this as a 1+1.

 

Thanks again for your honesty and thoughtful comments. -Mark

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M57    259

OK, I was able to work on this today. I decided to go orchestral.  There are just a few places where I'm hearing a few extra notes and tweaks.  @HoboSage now that piano is driving me nuts. Gotta do something about that.  It sounds really bad where I was doing a little flex-time with it.

I've never done an arrangement quite like this before.  Getting the articulations right is tricky.  I can see myself tweaking this until they cart me away.

Edited by M57

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Jenn    246

I like everything you've done. Everything can be brought up in volume before 1:40. It's a little hard to hear and you've gone some great stuff going on

My ear really wants to hear a heart wrenching bass line though... That just swells and swells and swells. I think it would really compliment your voice, to contrast the falsetto, and to give more depth. 

I also think one last final pound on the piano after "skyline" would resolve the song and give it some kind of retrospective feeling... if that makes sense 

It's a very very pretty song though.. 

Edited by Jenn

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MonoStone    904

Lovely song Mark! Beautifully sung and played.

 

I noticed quite a lot of hiss from the start, but I know that's something you suffer with for one reason or another and maybe can't fix. I wondered whether it was the piano as the his seemed to change when you played.

 

First listen - I really liked the song, and now that it's done I still hear it... I think it catches easily in my brain. Just weirdly, in memory, maybe the arrangement got a bit much for the song.... not sure.... I'll listen again...

 

Second listen - Yeah the hiss is strong on this one. And the overall track is very bright, so you could afford to eq some high hiss away maybe... I think it's all really good. I'm in two minds as to whether or not the quite elaborate string arrangement plus piano gets a bit much at times, maybe it takes away from your vocal at times, but it is really well done so hard to not like. I'm not sure.

 

I think it's a great song. And a great job... the only thing wrong is the noise, which did bother me on this more than it has on some of your others.

 

Dek

 

 

 

 

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M57    259

@JennThanks so much for your very thoughtful and helpful advice.  I've been aware of the lack of bass and I'm trying to figure out how to fill it in.  The double bass sounded like poo, and the cello just wasn't cutting it. I may play around with an electric ..maybe even a fretless.

 

What do you mean when you say bring up the volume before 1:40? are you talking about the orchestra?  Surely not the piano??  As Hobo David pointed out, the piano is the problem right now.  I'm definitely going to re-record at least some sections, not just because I don't like what I played, but because it's got all kinds of technical issues on the recording end of things.

 

As far as the "final pound" is concerned, consider the lyric.  "We'll never see the end of the skyline."  Never three times I say!  Text painting demands that I not only don't resolve things, but rather I leave them hanging on a good dominant structure.  This is art!  If I was just trying to write a song, I'd end it on a big 'ole C minor chord and cash my check.

 

Thanks again Jenn.  Really, I very much appreciate your thoughts.

 

@MonoStone I'm having such a good time making the music that I'm completely not focused on noise - No doubt I have no business trying to be an engineer and musician.  I probably don't think I have low pass on a damn thing. I'm just hyper-focused on the music and I wonder that my almost septuagenarian ears can't hear that worthless hissy stuff anyway.  Thanks for the heads-up, Dek

 

-Mark

 

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Jenn    246

Before 1:40: the orchestral instruments. They sound really distant and soft.. Which I know you crescendo, but right now I feel like I'm questioning if they're even really there haha

Like you said, it might be the piano. Or it very well may just be my ears! :ph34r:

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HoboSage    1,990

And all the cheesy things that can. . . conspire to turn this song around so that we'll never hear it's sincerity clear again. 

 

You couldn't even let the piano open the song alone, and we both know why - the noise from the piano.

 

But, at least I get now what you mean about a pause following "that can" making your lyric work.  It would actually work well if you actually sang those lines with such a pause - and you could sing with the pause - easily.  The first instance of "that can conspire" is especially quick and problematic to me, and since it's the first instance, the confusion it creates carries over somewhat to the following ones, even though they aren't quite so problematic because of the way you sing those.  Just my opinion

 

 

 

Edited by HoboSage

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Matthew76    232

Nice combination between the softness of your voice and the instruments...

It's a great journey you offer us with that song...

Maybe the end could be different... I don't know, I find it misses something there...

In any case... Magical moment!

 

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M57    259
2 hours ago, HoboSage said:

You couldn't even let the piano open the song alone, and we both know why - the noise from the piano.

 

But, at least I get now what you mean about a pause following "that can" making your lyric work.  It would actually work well if you actually sang those lines with such a pause - and you could sing with the pause - easily.  The first instance of "that can conspire" is especially quick and problematic to me, and since it's the first instance, the confusion it creates carries over somewhat to the following ones, even though they aren't quite so problematic because of the way you sing those.  Just my opinion

 

 

I could try singing it differently the first time - maybe even "fix" it so it's grammatically correct, which would set up the meaning for subsequent goes.

 

Honestly, I wasn't trying to cover the piano.  I just felt like it makes no sense to have the orchestra come in halfway through the tune, so a bit of foreboding arranging seemed to be in order.  If anything, the French horns sound cheesy to me there, it's one of the few places where the instrument doesn't sound anywhere near real to me.  Hypothetically speaking, if I was to replace the piano part with a better recording - or a fake instrument Do you think I should take the Fr. horns out?

Edited by M57

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HoboSage    1,990

In case I wasn't clear, I'm now saying that you were right and I was wrong.  Because I now get that if you do have a slight pause between "can" and "conspire"  -and I think just a brief, comma's worth of pause is all you need - it will all work well as written.  Because you don't really sing it with such a pause, I just wasn't hearing/processing it before. No need to "fix" anything else if you briefly pause - the pause is the fix.

 

Sorry, Bro.  But, while I agree it's just the french horn which sounds especially fake, even though the other orchestra sounds are more realistic-sounding, with the exception of perhaps the low cello which is very legato, all the other sounds still sound to me like they were triggered with a MIDI keyboard controller.  I'd rather you embraced the fake and used a really cool and tasteful synth pad or two.  I think that could sound awesome, though not likely your first choice.  But, unless you get a chamber orchestra to back you up on this . . . think about adding to this with the classical guitar you were contemplating - with maybe just the cello sound for some low end, and perhaps some tasteful orchestral percussion which doesn't tend to sound as MIDI.

 

P.S.  As you update, please re-post the track later in the thread so we don't to have to back-track to the opening post to listen again.  Thanks.

 

P.P.S.  Classical guitar panned to one side playing one complimentary arrangement, steel-string acoustic panned to the other side playing a different complimentary arrangement, with a cello down the middle,  might be all you need to tastefully build the sound of this one with all-real instruments all in your wheelhouse as a player.  It would be you playing piano with two guitar players on acoustics accompanying you (who are also you) - and some cello player. :)   Could sound great. 

Edited by HoboSage

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M57    259
31 minutes ago, HoboSage said:

In case I wasn't clear, I'm now saying that you were right and I was wrong.  Because I now get that if you do have a slight pause between "can" and "conspire"  -and I think just a brief, comma's worth of pause is all you need - it will all work well as written.  Because you don't really sing it with such a pause, I just wasn't hearing/processing it before. No need to "fix" anything else if you briefly pause - the pause is the fix.

 

Sorry, Bro.  But, while I agree it's just the french horn which sounds especially fake, even though the other orchestra sounds are more realistic-sounding, with the exception of perhaps the low cello which is very legato low end, all the other sounds still sound to me like they were triggered with a MIDI keyboard controller.  I'd rather hear a cool synth pad or two.  I know that's not your thing.  But, unless you get a chamber orchestra to back you up on this, think about adding to this with the classical guitar you were contemplating - with maybe just the cello sound for some low end, and perhaps some tasteful orchestral percussion which doesn't tend to sound as MIDI.

 

 

Hell, and I was going to publicly make it clear that you were right.  Every other time I listen to it I hear it wrong and I have to remind myself that it's OK - I'm the artist. Of course, it didn't help that you were so damn adamant that my play on words didn't make sense.  I'm not mad at you bro; it's meant as a complement and it means that I take your crits seriously.  My wife didn't get it either, but we've been married way too long for me to get all verklempt over it.

 

As for orchestration, I hear you - and I'm already conspiring ;) to bring in a few musicians to double or replace parts.  Flute and strings for sure - Just like I did with oboe and strings on Monterey. Luckily I have colleagues that are happy to come over.  Winds get get to stand alone, and my approach with strings is to blend them such that the recorded strings are as dominant as I can get them and keep it "perfect." The virtual strings sound damn good to me, so my only intent is to get them to sound 'human.' Read: flawed enough that you think they're real. Not that I don't want flawed playing per se, but you know what I mean. Having a real wind player means I can re-write the part in places that are more exposed, and with articulation that would just sound totally fake as a virtual instrument.  The Fr. horn sounds good in other settings.  It's got to go in the intro - I'll probably pull it this morning.  I have a few more ideas that I'm going to experiment with, but I'll keep the first verse as blank as possible.

 

I'm planning on having a recording engineer consultant over to help me with the piano sometime this month.  Once I solve that problem, I'll be able to get you off my back - not that you won't find some other way to harass me. :P  I'm actually counting on it. Don't disappoint me.

 

EDIT:  I'm not hearing any guitar parts at the moment, classical or otherwise, but I'll ruminate on it.  I think you mean for me to scrub the entire orchestral approach, but at this point I'm feeling rather committed.  What I'd really like to get in there is some percussion - big toms and maybe a snare throwing down a rumbling beat like an army way off in the distance.  I just can't figure out how to pull it off.

Edited by M57

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HoboSage    1,990

Well, as you know I'd rather this be a 1+1.  But, I only implied you should scrub the orchestral approach if you couldn't get real players and instruments.   Sounds like you can - at least for some of it.

 

P.S.  There's nothing preventing you from also doing a polished 1+1 version, simply mute the other tracks.  Just sayin'. ;) 

 

 

Edited by HoboSage

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Oswlek    87

Forgive me, but... I liked this more when it was just you and the piano.  {ducks} :)

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M57    259
On 8/5/2017 at 11:07 AM, HoboSage said:

Well, as you know I'd rather this be a 1+1.  But, I only implied you should scrub the orchestral approach if you couldn't get real players and instruments.   Sounds like you can - at least for some of it.

 

P.S.  There's nothing preventing you from also doing a polished 1+1 version, simply mute the other tracks.  Just sayin'. ;) 

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Oswlek said:

Forgive me, but... I liked this more when it was just you and the piano.  {ducks} :)

 

It's nice as a 1+1, but I never envisioned it that way. I played the piano sparsely intentionally in order to make room for other parts. It was a sketch from the start.  I'm enjoying the hell out of arranging it, though I think I need to make some parts edgier and less melodic, like those French horn lines.  If anything I can see culling the piano in places (or certainly re-playing some parts) and adding some non-orchestral synthy/soundscapy effects and possibly even some world percussiony parts in places.  Bottom line:  The orchestra gives it much more dynamic motion, plain and simple. I have a feeling that, at least in part, you don't like it as much because I'm not executing it well enough, and for that I have no excuse, but it is what it is.

 

Right now I'm investing time working out a new vocal chain by re-singing the vocal.  I can already tell the pre-amps I'm auditioning are better than the one that's currently in the recording.  No doubt you guys will complain that you liked the old performance.  Then I'll replace the piano part entirely and rename the song. :P

Edited by M57
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JH Michaels    74

I'm a little disappointed after just arriving in Monterey.....you want to just pack up and go to Ashville......ok so I'm just kidding.  Without getting into the weeds about the lyrics, I thought they conveyed the meaning pretty well.....and I like the song as a 1+1....it's simple but rich in texture.   With that said....the falsetto just doesn't grab me as a matter of personal taste.   I get what you are doing, but I feel like it just doesn't drive home the feeling.  You are far more detailed in your production than I could ever hope to be, so to me the overall song sounds great.  I always look forward to listening to your work.  I guess I could describe it as ear candy.  lol

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M57    259
2 minutes ago, JH Michaels said:

I'm a little disappointed after just arriving in Monterey.....you want to just pack up and go to Ashville......ok so I'm just kidding.  Without getting into the weeds about the lyrics, I thought they conveyed the meaning pretty well.....and I like the song as a 1+1....it's simple but rich in texture.   With that said....the falsetto just doesn't grab me as a matter of personal taste.   I get what you are doing, but I feel like it just doesn't drive home the feeling.  You are far more detailed in your production than I could ever hope to be, so to me the overall song sounds great.  I always look forward to listening to your work.  I guess I could describe it as ear candy.  lol

 Hah, I lived in Monterey (as a child), but I've never been to Ashville.  Of course I'll probably never get there because I may never see the end of Skyline Drive.  Thanks for the kind comments.  I feel like every song is an adventure in so many ways, but this one is challenging me on the production end.  I wonder that it's a lot easier to grab a couple loops and slap 'em around until they sound good, then play a few real instruments where you have control over every aspect of the sound. Fake orchestral instruments, though they sound great,  come with a finite, no make that small variety of articulations and timbres, and I think that makes it much harder to figure out how to make them sound good, if not close to real.

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Oswlek    87
On 8/7/2017 at 1:41 PM, M57 said:

No doubt you guys will complain that you liked the old performance.

 

LOL!  It's possible, but I don't think so because there are things about this performance that don't feel as tight as you stuff usually is.  If you leave all that and go change what I do like about it, though..... :)

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snabbu    439

The piano at the beginning has a naive sound to it, and when the song unfolds into it's full arrangement that works so well as a contrast for me. 

The arrangement is really nice and I like that level of detail in it a lot.

Nice melody.

I like it.

 

Cheers

 

Gary

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M57    259

So this is somewhat of a major update.  I re-recorded the vocal and the piano.  @HoboSage 's comments about the quality of the piano were sticking in my craw.  He was right!  Either figure out how to record my piano or punt and use the fake stuff. So I did something about it.  I went out an bought a virtual pia...  NOOO!  WAIT!  No way, not yet.  I have a fabulous instrument and I'll be damned if I can't get a good recording out of it.  So I brought in a recording engineer consultant type.  He pronounced my room to be very good sonically! Yea! I installed a lot of treatment so it's nice to hear from a pro that it was worth the time and investment!  Next, he turned around my piano so that it actually used the room space - something I had been loathe to do, because I always assumed I should be taking the room out of the equation.  Then - and this is my secret weapon.. I went out and bought some very nice pre-amps - a significant upgrade from the what I have been using.  The pro took all my gear and while I was playing, made some mic/pre pairing choices and moved the mics around the room while listening in headphones like some kind of shaman.

 

Anywho,  brand new piano track.  Sure, someone is going to say they liked the original performance better ..but not the recording!!  Vocals were re-recorded using the new pre-amps as well (they are different and I actually used takes from both). The difference (technically) is astonishing to me and I'm thrilled.  Here's the updated SC file..   Too much verb sauce maybe - especially on the piano??

 

 

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Jenn    246

I think the piano sounds really great...

But the vocals sound a little muffled? at least in the beginning. But sound good when you go into falsetto

I don't think you have too much reverb.. though it may be a little too much contrast between the staccato strings and the piano.. but I'm not entirely sure

 

I've changed my mind.. this reminds me of Father John Misty

 

Anyway.. it sounds like you just need a few touchups. But really loved watching this evolve :) 

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HoboSage    1,990

Wow!  Piano and vocals sound fantastic - reverb included.  Congrats on solving a major problem.  What preamps?

Edited by HoboSage

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M57    259
7 hours ago, Jenn said:

I think the piano sounds really great...

But the vocals sound a little muffled? at least in the beginning. But sound good when you go into falsetto

I don't think you have too much reverb.. though it may be a little too much contrast between the staccato strings and the piano.. but I'm not entirely sure

 

I've changed my mind.. this reminds me of Father John Misty

 

Anyway.. it sounds like you just need a few touchups. But really loved watching this evolve :) 

 

Thanks Jenn - I agree - I think the vocals are seem a bit over compressed when the instruments first come in.  Not quite sure how to fix it.  Maybe loosen the compression and automate the fader a bit more.  I feel like part of the problem exists on the mastering end of things where I'm finding I really have to crush things because acoustic instruments have so much dynamic range - apparently even the fake ones.

 

53 minutes ago, HoboSage said:

Wow!  Piano and vocals sound fantastic - reverb included.  Congrats on solving a major problem.  What preamps?

 

Thanks David. Well, its a combination of things.  Piano positioning and mic placement may very well be the as if not more important than the pres.  I could spend a year jumping up and down from my piano, moving mics and recording a few seconds and not find the positioning he found with a pair of headphones on.  There's nothing like real-time feed-back.  Even when we were moving the piano around, he would have me play and than we'd move it a few inches this way and that.

 

As for pre-amps I finally decided to take the 500 series plunge and got a lunchbox, which ended up paying for itself with the first pre-amp. I bought the Heritage Audio 4 Slot Rack for $300. Add a Great River MP-500NV for $800 for a total investment of -> $1100.  Compare that against buying a stand alone Great River MP-1NV for $1150 and the box just paid for itself. The other is the A Designs P1, which isn't even available in anything other than 500 series.  The consultant said having matching (stereo) pres is over-rated.  In fact, just the opposite; he loves to mix and match. I'm using two different mics on the piano as well.  Crazy.

 

What's even crazier is I used both pres on my vocal.  I did a complete set of takes with both of them.  My evil plan was to pick the pre I liked and return the other, but what happened is I liked both - for different reasons.  The GR with its mojo just flatters my voice when I sing soft - or in exposed sections, while the P1 gives it a presence and sheen that enables me to ride it lower in the mix without it getting lost, so I have less need to spend time getting it to float on top in a dense mix.  I'd say I used P1 takes about 75% of the time in this mix, but imo some of the best sounding takes seemed to be with the GR. I could see using the Great River on 1+1's. Believe it or not - other than some very low high-pass filtering say below 50Hz, there's not a lick of eq on the piano or the vocal!  Hmm. Actually, I may have to go back and check that - there may be a Slate plug on the vocals that has a little high shelving going on.
 

Edited by M57

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I haven't been able to be around here much lately and and so missed out on most of the evolution process.

So, my observation is based on the very first post you'd made and the latest that you've put up... and the transformation is... WOW! I remember the halting style of playing the piano in that one and how it's changed into a fluidic one here (very pretty!). I also remember that there was a bit of an issue with a few lines that sounded wordy but that's all gone now (did you change them or is it just better phrasing?). That high note sounds perfect now. The whole song sounds like it's been produced just right... it has all these sounds going on but still comes across somewhat stripped down (in a good way). I feel that the pulsating synth sound starting somewhere around 1:24 and leading up to the second verse was a little sharp in texture.. but maybe that's just me.

 

It's a pleasure listening to this :001_smile:

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M57    259
1 hour ago, Sreyashi Mukherjee said:

I haven't been able to be around here much lately and and so missed out on most of the evolution process.

So, my observation is based on the very first post you'd made and the latest that you've put up... and the transformation is... WOW! I remember the halting style of playing the piano in that one and how it's changed into a fluidic one here (very pretty!). I also remember that there was a bit of an issue with a few lines that sounded wordy but that's all gone now (did you change them or is it just better phrasing?). That high note sounds perfect now. The whole song sounds like it's been produced just right... it has all these sounds going on but still comes across somewhat stripped down (in a good way). I feel that the pulsating synth sound starting somewhere around 1:24 and leading up to the second verse was a little sharp in texture.. but maybe that's just me.

 

It's a pleasure listening to this :001_smile:

Thank you Sreyashi.

No, I didn't really change any of the melodies I sang. Perhaps I phrased things slightly different in places, but nothing intentional.  That "pulsating synth" sound is a staccato string section - and a not too unrealistic one imo.  I can bring it down in the mix, but as for the sharpness - that's what staccato playing does. I actually do have it doubled with some legato articulations to give it some length. Maybe I can play with that somewhat, but the texture is meant to be driving just a bit there.

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