johnfn's News

How 2 Mix: REDUX

2017-07-11 11:44:15 by johnfn
Updated

First things first, whenever you're taking musical advice from someone, ALWAYS listen to their music to see if it's any good. If you like the mixes in my songs (try http://www.newgrounds.com/audio/listen/754531) then use my guide, otherwise don't! I freely admit I have a long way to go, though I feel my mixes have the basics in place.

Anyway.

HOW 2 MIX, sorted by importance.

 

Remove limiters.

If you're using FL Studio, for gods sake, remove any limiter on your master mixer channel. When learning, never put a limiter on master. This makes it impossible to mix when stuff starts hitting the limiter's threshold.

 

Are your songs clipping?

Clipping is the sound of distortion that happens when your songs go too high into the red on the volume meter. If you don't recognize clipping immediately, I'd advise you to always keep your master volume meter in the green until you do.

 

"My tracks sound muddy!"

This is because of TOO MUCH REVERB. There's a lot of misinformation about this that if you just do random EQ cuts or something all the mud will go away. No no no. If your song sounds muddy, step 1: TURN OFF EVERY REVERB AND DELAY. "Wow, it sounds crisp now!" (If it doesn't, you missed some reverbs. Check in your VSTs, they often have built-in reverb and delay modules.) Yeah, I know, it's amazing.

"But now it's a little dry." Put a SMALL amount of reverb on ONE instrument. Put some SMALL delay on your leads. Add it back gradually, and constantly check your mix for mud as you do so, turning it back when it's too muddy. You should now have a better, non muddy mix.

I think what happens is that to an amateur, each of their 6 instruments with reverb sounds great soloed, so they join them all together, not realizing that the reverbs will also combine. That's how you get mud.

 

Put a high pass filter on every non-bass instrument.

The quantity of frequencies in your song should look like an inverted pyramid. Tons of reverb tails and delay on top, a few mid range instruments, and ONE SINGLE BASS INSTRUMENT. If you have multiple things in your bass, they will make the low end sound muddy.

"But I don't have tons of stuff in my bass" This is where I'm going to surprise you. Almost every instrument has bass frequencies. Put a spectrum analyzer on your different instruments and test them out. Yep. Better safe than sorry. Always put a high pass to trim off those redundant frequencies that muddy up your low end!

 

Side chain your bass to your kick so that they don't overlap.

Learn how to sidechain in your DAW. The idea is you want the bass to get quiet when the kick hits, then be loud when the kick is not hitting. If you don't do this, your kick won't be audible in your song.

 

Take care with your volumes.

80% of mixing is getting volume levels to be right. For some reason, everyone is obsessed with EQ. NO NO NO. EQ is helpful, but, aside from the bass high pass I just mentioned, VOLUME should always be your first go to.

 

How to make good volume decisions:

Keep practicing, you'll eventually be able to do this in your sleep. Until that point, there's a trick: make all mixing decisions with the volume turned down low. The brain can make better mixing decisions when a track is very quiet.

 

Make your drums louder.

If you're reading this guide, you got the levels of your drums wrong. Sorry, but it happens to every amateur musician for years.

90% of people who do drums wrong get them too quiet. Compress them, MAKE THEM LOUDER. (The remaining 10% are weirdos who somehow made them too loud.)

 

Don't have overlapping frequencies.

Imagine that your song has a couple of slots:

 

•    bass

•    midbass

•    midrange (melody/singing)

•    midrange pads

•    high range (high arps, or sometimes nothing).

 

If you put one instrument in each slot, the song will sound full. (Assuming you didn't make any of the above errors)

If you put more than one instrument in the same slot, they will fight with each other and make each other inaudible. 

 

My bass doesn't sound... basey enough

USE SUB BASS. 

High pass your bass instrument. Now, put a sine wave under it, playing the note that your bass instrument played. A sine wave is like the ultimate bass note, it's tough for anything to sound as big. 

When done correctly, it will sound like your bass instrument is huge and super basey. (If it doesn't, you probably need to high pass some other instruments that are interfering with the bass, like I said above.)

 

Panning/Stereo Width

"But I wanna have two things in the same slot! I WANNA!"

There's really only two things you can do. First, you can pan - put one thing left and one thing right. This can work, but it can also make people go insane if you have two melodies going at the same or something. (Not that I would ever do that...)

It's generally a good idea to be aware of panning, though. Panning e.g. hihats alternatively left and right can help fill out a mix.

The other trick is stereo width. When you have a melody and a pad, and they're both at the same frequency, you're going to have some clashes. One cool trick is to adjust the stereo width of the pad to spread it out. (You can do this with the width parameter of Utility in Ableton - not sure about other DAWs). This will have the weird feeling of panning it both left and right simultaneously. It makes it sound wider, but with space in the center for something else.

It's hard to explain, but it's a great way to mix something like a pad with something like a melody. I did it in this song http://www.newgrounds.com/audio/listen/622648 - see around 1:20 where the stabs and the melody are going at the same time, but not clashing somehow.

 

How to improve

Always always always ALWAYS be listening to other people's mixes. Compare your mix to the mix of other songs. Is it as good? Is it lacking in some way? What are they doing better? 

 


How I judge the NGUAC

2017-07-03 03:50:18 by johnfn
Updated

I break it down into 4 categories, which I score out of 4:

  • Mixing: How well the song is mixed. How well each instrument stands out. Hopefully there are no instruments with overlapping frequency ranges. Is the mix full when it should be? Do the drums provide a good backbone, if there are any?
  • Composition: The melodies and chord progressions. How good are they?
  • Arrangement: Does the song keep my attention? Or is it too repetitive? Does it change and evolve? Do the energy levels change over time?
  • Sound Design/Sound Quality: how good/realistic do the sounds that you are using sound? 

My overall score for your song has nothing to do with these mini-scores. All it has to do with is how good I think the song is. I provide the mini-scores as a way for you to know what to improve.

Q&A:

  • How can I improve my mix? Read this. Additionally, if your song sounds too muddy, you have too much reverb. 
  • How can I improve my composition? Learn how to play an instrument (ideally piano), then play along to the songs that you like. Especially try to break down the stuff you're not familiar with, like weird progressions or fast melodies.
  • How can I improve my arrangement? Er, I don't have a guide on this yet, sorry. Change stuff up every 4 bars - add/remove elements, and try including B/C sections as well. Also try modulating. Arrangement is probably the easiest of these 4 to get down as long as you vary stuff every 4 bars.
  • How can I improve my sound design? I also dont have a guide on this either. It's actually "easy" though - listen to your favorite songs and pay very close attention to the types of sounds they use. Make a habit of this; do it every time you listen to music. Try to recreate similar sounding sounds. 

Hopefully that helps! Good luck, everyone! 


Music Contest: CHIPS COMPO II

2017-05-27 03:10:16 by johnfn

Hello everyone! I'm hosting CHIPS COMPO, the contest with anonymous judging where you make a song based on a theme in a week from scratch, and the second one just started!

Link to the website, with the theme.

Hang out in discord and chat! Seriously, come hang out with us! We have lots of fun and do extra compos and stuff.

* How to submit: Do it right on the website.
* Start: RIGHT NOW.
* End: Look at the countdown on the website. Seriously. It's easier than me posting some deadline on here.
* Theme: THE RIVER. But seriously, look at the website for pretty pictures and stuff.

In Chips Compo, YOU MUST VOTE. If you do not vote on other pieces, you will be disqualified and not receive the score on your own piece. No one wants that. :(


Music Contest: NGCHIPS I

2017-05-10 01:34:59 by johnfn
Updated

Hello everyone! I'm hosting NGCHIPS, a week long, themed, anonymous music competition, and the first one just started!

If you like making music, feel free to join!

The thread about it on Newgrounds is here.

The website with the theme and information is here.

Come hang out with us in Discord here!


PLS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

2016-12-20 03:30:42 by johnfn
Updated

If you follow me on here please follow me on Soundcloud as well: 

SOUNDCLOUD LINK HERE!

thank u

 

if i get more than 200 follower they send me a candy in the mails.


johnfn & dragons

2016-08-06 03:23:21 by johnfn

I'm writing little pieces to accompany a dungeons and dragons homebrew campaign that I am telling. 

These tracks were all inspired by improvisations, and are only barely fleshed out. They are meant more for background listening than rapt attention. Stil, I like a lot of them, and maybe you will too!

https://johnfn.bandcamp.com/album/johnfn-dragons

I expect this will update often, but who knows?


oldies

2016-02-25 04:01:37 by johnfn

I was digging through some old mp3 renders when I found this, which eventually turned into a certain other song I wrote a while back:

https://instaud.io/jXS

This was an insanely rough cut I wrote in a few hours. Still I was taken aback because there were a lot of beautiful ideas in there that I later cut out. I really need to use my pickup more, whoa.


whoa

2015-12-14 03:04:23 by johnfn

My song duality is top rated for the week! That's pretty cool. 

http://www.newgrounds.com/audio/listen/658417

Thanks to all of my 13 mystery voters! I love each and every one of you. 


Itty bitty

2015-11-13 03:05:16 by johnfn

Little itty bitty piano idea I had: https://instaud.io/ewJ I need to go to bed though whoops


Re-appreciation

2015-10-09 17:50:17 by johnfn
Updated

About a year ago I found this album: http://bc.s3m.us/album/minimap - and I thought it was okay. I really loved Scrumb and My Cheesed Life but I found the rest of the stuff just average.

I randomly happened to return to it yesterday, and oh my god, EVERY SONG IS GOOD. I swear, the run from track 3 to 8 is just insane, like, it's just 5 insanely happy songs in a row. (Also, tracks 11, 12 and 14 are great too.) It's rare that I connect with so many songs off a single album - even critically acclaimed professional albums usually have a couple of (subjective, I don't deny) duds, just because that's how music subjectivity works. So, whoa.

(Oh and by the way Scrumb is still the best thing. If you want a good reason to listen to the album, listen to Scrumb first - trust me.)

But what I find interesting is that I was completely unimpressed by this album a year ago, and now it's suddenly SUPER GOOD. I know this means that my tastes are evolving, but it's interesting to see it happen to such an extreme. 

Anywho, do you have any good examples of "grower" albums? Any stuff you used to hate (or just be unimpressed by) that now you love? 

P.S. My Cheesed Life has some of the weirdest chord progressions I have heard. My brain detonates every time I try to pick it apart on piano.