December 11 Update:
After further feedback from Tutor Nick Wilson, original artist Tim Knowles and A LOT of self-analysis (in more detail in blog below) I revised a few parts of the track I was unhappy with and now am proud to submit and expose this version of my remix.
I feel I very clearly tried to fit too much into the earlier versions of the track which is where it became quite messy and cluggy. I totally ripped apart the middle breakdown of the track, stripping the vocals and piercing 'rat-a-tat-tat' that plainly sounded out-of-place. This was rectified by implementing a lighter melody that simulates the vocal pattern of Tim in his original "I'm not Givin Up" and "Blast it out your stereo" lines. Slightly slowed down and stretched out across the track I feel this makes things feel less rushed. I also played in a subtle horn section to turn the 'hecticness' of the previous buildup into more of a soothing feel which fits more to the timbre of the original track and Tim's vocal.
Upon hearing this final version Tim gave some very kind feedback, describing it as "experimental and unconventional". Perhaps the compliment I was most proud of was when he observed that "It breaks all the rules of conventional pop music structure but it still works". In comparison to his vastly more impressive remix under our same project guidelines - Focus (Folktronica Remix) - Mackenzie Walker (Remixed by Timmy Knowles) which he felt was very structured to fit pop success, this is not something I want to achieve.
Whilst I want to learn the discipline of skills in the box and understand conventional structure and form, I also want to break the norm and not be like anyone. This doesn't mean I'm not inspired by and will learn and no doubt implement things that work and I like from those I admire, but I also want to establish my own lane and feel this could be the first step in me continuing to do so.
So have a listen on my link above, and also check out Timmy's great remix to the right. Below is my analysis and link to my original version, which you may be able to hear and understand my original frustrations and hopefully providing some honest feedback on the changes I've made.
Thanks again for reading.
Original Blog & Song - December 4
This is not a song (EMP Remix reflection)
This is not a song. I’m sorry to your ears. I’m sorry to Tim Knowles. I’m sorry to soundcloud. I’m sorry to the universe. I am better than this. I must be better than this.
This remix of Tim Knowles beautifully played and sung acoustic tune “Not Givin Up” has been butchered, slaughtered and hung out to dry whilst still in the delivery room by Yours Truly.
This was our current remix assignment for Electronic Music Production in my Bachelor of Audio Degree at SAE Melbourne.
Sure there are parts of my track that are nice, I mean working with vocals and guitar talent
the calibre of Tim’s can be nothing but fun and soul soothing, and his gentle hum that begins the track compliments the kick nicely. Tim’s written an excellent song and it’s so beautiful and from the heart. So what the flamin heck have I done to it?
That Kick is one of the few things in this track that has done its job. Its heavy (replicating the Julian Jeweil and Sam Paganini French and Italian Techno styles as inspired and desired) and simple to mix into for your Sunday-arvo beachside-resident DJ, but that’s about where the positives end. Hell even the kick is actually wrecked as the groove swing which was applied then removed and reapplied to the shakers ended up back on the kick, yet still it messes with the velocity which in turn throws the volume of the entire early section of the track out of whack.
The intent to have a hectic middle section of the song worked with a heavy kick dropping back in, but even that is messier than Mrs Browns Boys’ brown boys. I worked so hard to meet all the criteria and to then get it to flow, that I got caught up-too deep in the trap of the project to see it for the bigger picture. To actually listen to it with the arrogant and snobby ears I have. They know what’s good. This isn’t. Yet I met all the key parts of the criteria, other than the bit where it’s fluently in time. Although nowhere in the rubrik does it say “Just make a bloody nice tune”. Lucky for me, cause I can’t….yet. But I will.
Not being trained in Ableton made this exercise soooooo frustrating. Missing a couple of half classes was less than ideal, but I made up for it with lots of YouTube tutorials and I feel once I get my head around this program I’ll be full hummin', but I’m just not sure how long that will take. We have learnt some great skills but I need to keep practicing them in the classroom setting for them to sink in. Having the teacher perform a task in class just once, then having us do a little exercise to replicate some of the things he’s showed us isn't getting me there as I need repetition; repetition that isn’t effective without help within earshot.
I pay all this money for this course (and, again yes I know I had to reschedule some things on my timetable which didn’t help with this assignment) but if this project was in Pro Tools I would’ve at least felt competent with the basics. Far too many times I’d get hung up on minor errors due to never using Ableton before, nor being really shown how to navigate it.
Simple things that I need to learn the basics of but that I can’t from youtube, because I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO GOOGLE IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM IS. I strive so hard and put in so many hours but why, oh why, oh...nevermind. Repetition is how I will get better but I still need someone there to guide me or at least re-centre my balance as I start to fall off my bike. The exercises in class are great and I learnt so much from Richard, but I need to keep going over these things in a classroom setting to get the hang of it, as when trying to do it alone I don’t remember how or why I can’t reach the desired intent. Despite the amount of notes I take or tutorials I watch or lessons I read. I need the one-on-one time or even just being around the other students so I can absorb and learn positive habits and techniques they possess that my brain won’t even consider. I want to be good at this project and it burderns my life that I suck at it. When his dream becomes his nightmare.
So what did I do? Just what it had to be but even then I feel I haven’t done enough. I want to be proud of the things I produce and learn and create and love to show them off to the World, like my Dad’s song about my Mum. It’s beautiful, done well; simple and to the point. He is everything I want to be and more. So is Boris.
It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. That’s why I’m doing it. If it was easy then anyone would do it but I’m not just anyone, although right now I can’t do it so I am just another anyone. But that’s why I shall continue to work. I’m intrigued to see how the other students go in regards to this and how many have to re-submit theirs. The more and more I listen to this track the more and more I hate it and know I’ll no doubt have to re-submit it, but where will I find the time this late in the year. I guess there are four potential outcomes:
I so badly wanted this to be good and invested ~25 hours + (just this week!) into it which clearly was not enough. It’s been a great learning experience, picking up tips along the way but still not to my standard.
Here are some things I did learn and either did incorporate or aim to in future projects.
Planning is crucial. Whilst I had a plan in my head and a few ideas on paper my lack of knowledge with the program left me open to explore (a good thing!), which I knew would result in a lot of trial and error (that’s ‘learning”, another good thing!). That’s cool but I just feel there is so much I missed which could’ve made me more productive here and I guess getting so caught up in ticking the boxes of the checklist and not knowing which sounds ticking those boxes would give me, really hindered my planning process.
The disappointing part for me is that I am actually oh-so-proud of the last minute and a half of the song, so clearly I learned something along the way. By the end things were starting to click and it finishes beautifully (although the volume balancing could be better.) I guess that’s the point, the end of the song is good for all the mistakes I made at the start, I just didn’t have enough hours in the week to go back and re-do the entire track.
The bass line sounds beautiful and along with the kick gets us hummin along with a nice little groove. I wanted to give it a club banger feel hence why the kick is so heavy and I opted for the first lyrics sampled to be the “blast it out your stereo”, linking this tune to fun and to have it pumpin.
I tried to repeat the melody from those lyrics in midi form multiple times throughout the track, so the melody would subtly sync along with the lyrics. I also did this with the “I’m not givin up” line. Part of this was done using Sampler, triggering harmonic and melodic patterns.
Gentle reverb is used throughout on the vocals along with the Complex Pro option to mask the audio warping technique on the vocal as it’s been converted to the 125 bpm. I also decreased the tone in his voice at various points as an homage to the deep house style of male vocal.
I’ve used the left and right shakers panned from the original track to give some width and keep the gentle pace of the song piddling along. I really enjoy strong panning in a lot of the psytrance and techno I’ve heard and tried to implement that where possible. This was done on some delays and ping pong effects to add a level of fun to the ears of the listeners. As to almost keep the ears guessing.
Similarly I wanted to try and highlight Tim’s amazing vocals by having a breakdown in the middle of the track, it just hasn’t come off quite how I’d like. At the 1:52 mark I tried to emulate a condensed version of Nicole Maudaber’s minute-long breakdown in her remix of Alcatraz’s “Giv me Luv” (from around the 4:15 mark), yet really ripped myself off by rushing it and not giving the patience that I now hear she has in her version. This vocal-only break seperated by simple synth hits (midi effects set up myself and quantized appropriately) hasnt come off how I would’ve liked, as I tried to blend this in with a throwback to one of the pioneers of modern techno Richie Hawtin and his Plastikman track - Spastik, by sharpening the attack on the snare hits to give an almost ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ effect (at my 2:17 mark). As described in my remix plan, I also wanted to try and emulate a Kanye-style breakdown here with the reverb and delay applied to vocals with little instrumentation at the same time, as to really have the lyrics empahised and to shine through.
Then in one of the more effective methods I tried- in that I’m actually proud how it has came off- I manipulated the ‘canadian board’ on my customised drum rack, gradually toggling from ~260hz-to-7khz whilst simultaneously adjusting the pan. This has brought through a smooth transition from the hectic mind-nuttering snare cracks into the gentle angelic harmonies that wind out the track.
I’ve again leaned on using the pattern of the vocal into a siren synth, then into another vocal and also using subtractive fm synthesis in attempt to simulate the “I’m not givin up line’ so that it smoothly blends between the high-end melodies and Tim’s calming vocal itself as the track winds out.
I enjoyed making my customised drum rack and then making the beat accordingly as well using my own synth sounds. I need to improve my use of the MIDI and linking it so I can be more efficient and have more fun utilising the keyboard itself, it’s just something I need more supervised practice in doing.
I enjoyed the back and forth
feedback with the original artist Tim along the way, and he was very supportive and trusting in where I was going with it. Perhaps I should’ve delved more into his psychology into making the original track, as that may have helped me determine a clearer intent in myself and this remix.
At the end of the day this was a productive exercise despite how frustrating. It’s exposed to me that this is what I want to do and this is the path and using these methods is necessary for what I want to make as a career. This has inspired me to get better at doing so. I put so much time into the individual volume automations of each track but really neglected an even balance on the final mix. Taking more time to analyse and reflect on the fly will benefit my ears, as long sessions, whilst beneficial, have also hurt my overall product.
Finally, if nothing else I know this blog has been extremely long but getting all of these thoughts and my description of this process out has been necessary. It’s given me vision for my future long-term by needing to keep focus on the short and the need to get better EVERY DAY-whether it be in-the-box or as a means of creative thinking. It has also given me confidence, because amidst all my negativity and self-loathing, it has also forced me to reflect on the positives I performed in this track and things I did learn. (Plus hyperlink to some pretty cool tracks)
So despite me being my own worst enemy there is light at the end of the tunnel. I look forward to discussing this further with anyone willing to question or listen.