Production technique differences: Organic vs Electronic

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  • @siebass  7 weeks

    This is predominantly an EQ/Mixing question:

    During FAWM, I do a lot more electronic songs than I normally do; normally I'm solidly in the "rock" genre - guitar(s)/bass/drums/vox predominantly. I spend a fair amount of time on eq (especially for getting the guitars/snare out of the way of the kick drum and bass guitar), and adding subtle harmonic distortion for the low end.

    For FAWM, I do more crazy stuff, almost fully in-the-box electronic songs, playing around with synths, do raps, sampling, stuff I'm not as used to. I also do almost no mixing of those elements, other than levels. I don't think i touched an eq for anything other than vocals, and I think it predominantly still sounds clean and good (obviously only IMHO).

    Are there any key differences between how to approach these mixes and productions - organic vs in-the-box? Are the electronic elements and synths/synths basses just already eq'ed so well to easily slot into a dense electro mix as opposed to human played elements, with a lot of frequency range "smear", for lack of a better term?

    Full disclosure I wouldn't say my ear is great, I've only been mixing for the last few years, but I think I'm doing ok. That said, I feel like the electronic stuff sounds good, for me and my music, with a whole lot less effort than an organic mix. Thoughts, FAWM folks? Is this true for you as well?

  • @hmorg  7 weeks

    In-the-box sounds omit a lot of steps between the genesis of the sound and the final product. Let's take the bass drum for example: Someone builds the drum to sound good acoustically, that acoustic sound is affected by the choice of skins, the kick pedal, the person playing the drum. Then the choice of microphones and their placement affect the recorded sound. So, more variables before you even get to the mixing part. Whereas in-the-box solutions can craft a sound sort of behind the scenes and offer more finished products to the producer-consumer.

    Of course I'm talking out of my ass here, it just seems logical to me.

  • @nadine 7 weeks

    I'm just the other way round as @siebass. Lacking of instrumental skills and collaboration partners i in early days I started producing electronic music (mostly trance, house, hard trance) though I always preferred writing pop music. When I started producing pop and rock music I thought I could do EQ, dynamics, reverb, delay and master in the way I was used to. Too funny to be true πŸ˜„. Having some knowledge from another genre helped but my pop and rock sound is quite harsh and cold. I'm still working on that mystery!

    Are the electronica sounds or VSTs already EQ'ed?
    It depends on the year they were developed. I started around 2004. You had to know a lot about EQing and layering. Synthesizers these days are fat! The amount of EQing decreased ein the past years.

    We may have some chit chat via mail if you want.

  • @ustaknow 7 weeks

    It's a great topic, and comes up several times a year in a number of different ways.

    What you observe and hman says, - all is great assumption and correct. I could write a book about it πŸ˜€

    However, your concluding, fine sentence looks like the thesis statement πŸ˜€ "elec. sounds... lot less effort..." and allot of auto-mat-supposition by the read rolls in like a blanket over it.

    For e.g., a friend 3 days ago gave theirself 10 mins to put together a full on track and all plugins. Wholley-scheit I wanted their autograph on an 8x10 glossy. And here's where the problem, and UNINTENDED comes in... "why in the world would anyone use that and call it their own?"

    And that's why I find it so challenging to engage this unless working with someone FtF in a studio and, e.g., - "dude frame it send me the file after lunch" and we'll play it. They went to the tools and in 10 mins framed the song to then be played as if, LIKE one may block out a Lead Sheet with pen and paper, - to then be played (recorded well, dry) then, etc.

    Over the years here we've had some EXCELLENT articles and sights and just regular people advice givers that addressed all this and the use of comparative tracks, ref-trax's to use of - generating a tone/noise to level dB, all to. I rarely see a good - how to mic, level and etc. the signal chain (goes right to mixing πŸ˜€ which ain't recording πŸ˜€ )

    So you asked for "thoughts" and I know you are sincere, hell, this place is close and maybe has 50 people here πŸ˜€ and could ask anywhere, Facebook even πŸ˜‰ oh my. - far better if want "good" advice πŸ˜€ hahhh (kidding, kidding, kidding...).

    I think for a demo you are 100% correct. And, but, then?

    Then the discussion goes sideways and in a very diverse, disparate context here, can become untenable.

    Perfect e.g., what more than "death and suicide" did anyone need? And yet? Disparate, untenable - just because. Wow, aye?

    And this is how this topic may go w/o, - "Lots" of framing?

  • @ustaknow 7 weeks

    How to record, mix and use, do, not, use EDM is like discussing, politics, religion, sex, money πŸ˜€ - what underwear to wear, thong, boxers?

    But since I comment this, maybe not.

    The ultimate opinion (OPINION) for the thought police out there is, if you care to then call it your own, - go ahead. When, I talk about "biab" as has been said here, - if it's all my grandmom could do and participate, then, Lord Bless her! Have at it! But, enter it into a "comparision" context and next to a 1+1 demo used to frame an initial songwrite, well, then? (and autotuned no less?)

    You should'a herd, my buddies track and compared to other demos offered. You'd never connect the two. Both highly proficient if one knows what they are hearing.

    - We also had a discussion about, (very granular and related to this topic, actually) πŸ˜‰ -- new tube tech versus a "REAL" tube amp. How many know what a 5F1 circuit sound "LIKE" to compare but with a *Tube Rectifier with sag (hot, been on for 20 mins or so ), - at 2 o'clock into a 16 ohm 12" speaker? (ported, open, closed back?)

    There IS non-tube tech that, you know what - for the trouble, sounds just like it. But you know what happens, then the difference in FUZZ, OVERDRIVE, DISTORTION - needs to be defined πŸ˜‰ hahhh.

    I love "over drive", - I shot "clean" into my mixer on nearly 99% of my demos. Any "other" you hear, is manual manipulation. But ever had real cane sugar versus the triple dose artificial that kills the tastebuds, numbs them (ear drums), to the finer elements?

    - So, my thoughts πŸ˜€

  • @vomvorton  7 weeks

    Agreed with @hmorg but also @nadine - it's definitely easier to get a clean mix with synth / sampled sounds when you don't have the sound of the recording space to deal with. But that can also lead to the mix feeling TOO clean which may not be desirable, depending on the genre you're working in.

    I've mostly recorded "in the box" in the past but experimented more with using a guitar amp and microphone this year and it's interesting how it changes the vibe of the song. But if I'm working quickly, for a skirmish or something, I know I'm going to be able to get a decent-sounding mix quickly by using synths and directly recording instruments. With a bit more time to spare, it's fun to record both ways and use a blend of stuff.

  • @kissinginpublic  7 weeks

    I find it’s very tempting to overproduce and EQ in-the-box stuff, but actually like anything else it’s about finding good sounds that each have emphasis in different frequencies. Frequency slotting is more that than EQing I’ve found. I’ve learned the hard way πŸ˜€ My big tip (and a recent one for me) is to set the pans then balance and EQ in mono, and add reverb while listening in mono. But that’s all workflow and isn’t unique to in-the-box electronic stuff. Personally I like adding subtle analogue-type effects (room reverbs, saturators, etc) on mine to take a bit of that shiny edge off.

  • @adforperu  7 weeks

    I've had issues with "in the box" stuff all my life, but I've only recently learnt how to start combatting that a bit. The main three for me are...

    - Saturation - will bring out other harmonics of the sound that might otherwise not be audible, and gives it more of an imperfect feel which is what you want really (to a degree!)

    - room reverb. I have a very short and narrow reverb on my return tracks and send just about everything to it to varying degrees. The trick is to be subtle of course, it's about blending the mix together

    - 3rd party plugins. I can't speak for all DAWs, but with Ableton for example, a lot of the plugins are great for reductive and corrective stuff (EQs and compressors) but not so great at adding character. I decided to part with Β£20 on CLA-2A compressor and it was quite apparent what a different sound it gave. Tape emulators can go a long way too as I'm sure @vomvorton will vouch for!

  • @vomvorton  7 weeks

    Haha, yes I will indeed. Any time I have a mix that is feeling a little too sterile or feels like things aren't quite gluing together as they should: tape emulations on everything. Mmmm.

  • @tesla3090  7 weeks

    I think it's due to the nature of synthesis. Since you're generating a set of waveforms, they tend to contain a narrower frequency range than an acoustic instrument does, and since synths usually have filters, that narrows down the spectrum even more.

    As someone who usually works with a mix of both, individual synths definitely seem to need less eq on their own. Now when you layer 3-4+ different synths to create a single sound. Then you kind of need to get surgical with the eq to keep things from getting muddy.

  • @siebass  7 weeks

    Appreciate your thoughts @ustaknow, took me a few reads to understand, and get your concerns. I wasn't pointing to BIAB or other generative tools; that didn't even cross my mind nor do I have any issue with them. I was speaking more narrowly (so maybe I need to edit some framing here to the thesis as you suggest). It's really an EQ question more than anything, so I can add that to the title if you think that would prevent folks from getting confused.

    I use Logic Pro as my DAW these days. When I build an electronic song in the DAW, I am still largely playing the parts other than the drums on a velocity-sensitive midi keyboard. I probably spend 4-8x longer CHOOSING my sounds/synths, picking the ones that I think work for the given song. After that's done, and I add my vocal, I find I have to spend almost no time on the mixing, other than levels, before it sounds good to me. Maybe it's the byproduct of this choosing process, but I was wondering if it's something more innate to the synths that are available to me, as I am an extreme n00b when it comes to electronic music production.

  • @siebass  7 weeks

    @hmorg, that was my guess as well, I just don't have much basis for the guess, so I figured I'd post here.

    @nadine thanks for your perspective from the electronic side of things, I really have just been fumbling around and rolling with what I think sounds ok, but it's been nothing more fancy than guess-and-check.

    I use Logic Pro, and it has TONS of built in sounds/synths/arpeggiators, but I don't know when they were actually developed, but my guess is that Apple has heavily refined them over the years to be "well EQ'ed" for lack of a better term.

  • @siebass  7 weeks

    @vomvorton Blending is an interesting idea; I'm usually 100% in-the-box (save vocals), or 100% organic, so I've not tried a blend, I bet that would sound cool. Also everyone loves tape saturation, lol.

    @kissinginpublic Definitely for levels and balance in mono, I do that for my organic mixes as well. I had also decided to do the room send on my electronic productions as well this year to try to "unify" the room sound as well, so glad to hear it's something other folks do too, as @adforperu also noted.

    For 3rd party plugins, I'm deep in the Izotope stuff, so I mostly use those for the eq linking (links cuts and boosts), seeing visual masking data, and ozone for mastering, but my go-to compressor is actually Logic's "Studio FET", blending in for the parallel compression, and like Frank's Red Hot, I put that sh!t on everything, but mostly for getting percussive stuff to cut through the mix and for harmonic distortion (apparently modeling a "Blackface 1176 compressor"). To my knowledge, all of logic's built-in compressors are modeled after classic circuits; some googling says the "vintage opto" is an LA-2A clone. I'll have to test it out.

    @tesla3090 Fair point, I'm not usually layering synths from the get-go, usually I'm picking a particular arpeggiator or synth bass from the array available in my DAW.

  • @ustaknow 7 weeks

    @siebass πŸ˜€ ah, thanks! πŸ˜‰

    It all has to come from somewhere.

    And being a noob has nothing to do with it. Actually, a "noob" can be your best review-er-er since not over thinking, just hearing. And why I encourage anyone to comment, but say "why" like/don't.

    Check out some great vids on "MoTown", - all - were "focus grouped" just a handful of folks with tumbs up/down no explanation. He did okay πŸ˜€

    So, back to "noob" is moot.

    It's said and I agree, a Fender Precision Bass for some reason, played as-is just mixes - no problems. You'll see videos hear and there come up now and then. I have a Fender Precision Fretless, all fully stock and yes, for some reason, (and I could write why πŸ˜‰ ) it just mixes as *is, well - source. I may adjust the Tone, Vol pot or tissue the bridge but, it's all in the moment "mixed" like John Bonham with 2 overheads πŸ˜€ - no per sound source - he adjusted his dynamics as played, etc.

    I know, fully realize, "but I am pointing to zyx tech..." and comparing to xyz tech... - source. Like ? my Fender Precision (an el cheapo eBay find,someone quitting Bass, - cost nothing) versus my battery powered turbo charged w/Whammy Bar Bass (really, *dive bar on a bass, with dollar drink specials too!) - well, that superkalofragelistic bass has a specific voice. Source.

    So, your gear Hz's all came from some source, prefiltered.

    There's probably some person who's Scoped these with the harmonics emphasized.

    - It is what it is, accept the good news, it's okay πŸ˜€

    Be glad you HEAR and know what's good, for you. Some don't, - ask others for that πŸ˜‰

    It could just be it's not made in Japan anymore like Deep Purple?

    As far as recording space, and dead acoustics, how many Reverbs do folks own? Or just add a room mic? and then, manual other.

    If you're just cutting Hz's (or worse adding Hz's? and not L/R'g and time shifting and dB +-'g) that's great!

    What then is it heard on ? 3mm PC speakers, ear buds, studio monitor HP's? Special sauce, gone!

  • @ustaknow 7 weeks

    "That said, I feel like the electronic stuff sounds good, for me and my music, with a whole lot less effort than an organic mix. Thoughts, FAWM folks?"

    - You think it's better. What if someone else did not agree?

    You'd want to know why if not offered.

    Then you could access, "I like the unreal sub-bass, well, just because I do, and don't care that it's a Polka".

    - Boxers, briefs, thong? πŸ˜€

    I read reviews, and just the other day I asked some friends, "what am I not hearing?" It's sounds like krappe to me..., what am I missing these others are not? What are they hearing? Is there something else going on? "The kings, naked, he has not clothes, really..., or, not?"

    Again, great topic and all will do well to read all the responses and get what they can from them, - it's all gud! πŸ˜€

    And, happy fawm0ver πŸ˜€ aye, - ain't this great!

  • @nadine 7 weeks

    @adforperu, @vomvorton:
    Thanks a lot. I didn't use any saturator or tape on electronic music, because I didn't need it. It may give that warm crisp sound I missed in my pop and rock production. Maybe that's it already.

    I've listed a bit into your music and I didn't think that your electronic pieces have a rock signature sound or lacking of warmth. I only found out that you compress way softer (or use later attack times) than I do. As for reverb you're on the same side. Electronic music is full of long tail reverbs, but I didn't get used to it.

    I agree with you! Layering synths can end up in a mess. Especially when you speak of strings and pads playing the exact same line...

    Don't underestimate electronic music arrangements. They have 40+ tracks aswell, but the focus shifted. When I started we had 5 different melodies in the same time having 1-2 layers - Nowdays EDM pro's have 10 layers of the same melody and they also may have trouble seperating this pudding. There are some synth, that already bring these 10 layers are are mixed quite well. Have you ever heard Massive or Sylenth playing presets on one note? This already sounds like a full song o_O It's not the way I make music or ever will; so probably that's why I shift more to pop and rock these days instead of fumbling with these new gen synthesizers.

  • @scottlake 7 weeks

    There is no 'vs'.

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