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17 Aug

The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Posted by 6 comments

listen: The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

original: Original Wreck

This week I found a song I had recorded in 2009. It was a pretty good performance, but it didn’t sound good. I decided to try to rescue the track by exporting from GarageBand and using Pro Tools to get a professional sound.

I made my first mistake exporting. I forgot to turn off the reverb and delay effects on each individual channel. I took this as a challenge. After all, I often hear guitar tracks with chorus/reverb/delay, sometimes effects not appropriate to the song. As an engineer, my job is to make it work.

So I started with the processed tracks. I imported to Pro Tools and added some eq and compression. I set up sub groups to get the instruments working together.

I was having trouble getting the slide part to sit right in the mix. The problem: settings that helped the melody stand out were too much for the backing parts on the verses. I split the slide track into two, so I could use separate settings on the bold lead and the more subtle background.

The vocal needed a lot of help. The vocal didn’t stand out enough, it just blended into the mix. I tried boost some eq settings, but the result was either boxy or hissy. I had read an article about using distortion to add some presence to a vocal line and decided to try that technique.

I pulled out my SansAmp plugin and patched it into the vocal channel. It worked. Listening back, it may be too much. I may go in and lighten up the distortion someday.

Next I needed to fix some tuning issue. I am not a fan of Autotune. Here I had a handful of bad notes in a good performance, so my tuning plugin was the right tool.

The track was in pretty good tune, but I had 5-6 notes that were more than a half step off. These I mended.

I wanted to look at the high notes, the B. Not too high for me, but in a bad spot for my voice. They sounded harsh, especially with added distortion (a compromise, I know). And they were mostly within 10 cents of pitch. Thinking I didn’t need little pitch issues compounding the harshness, I put them in perfect tune. I think it helps.

Lastly for pitch, I was surprised to find that noises like breath and consonants registered as pitched events. Sometimes on weird pitches, unrelated to the key of the song. I pulled these up/down to pitches appropriate to the key signature and zeroed them out. This helped to clean up the overall presentation.

I finished by adding some automation. Bringing out little lines and lightening backing tracks where it was needed. I especially needed to tame my Darth Vader breathing. Muting my breathing sounded creepy, so I went in and isolated each breath and pulled it down 10 db’s. It sounds more natural this way.

I think I ended up with a pretty good track. Of course, i could have gone in and re-played parts or re-sung the entire song. That wasn’t the point. The point was to fix this one. And it sounds much better.

Categories: Arrangements
  1. Mark Johnson
    August 21st, 2013 at 10:41 | #1

    Chris, I don’t suppose you would want to post the original, would you? I would love to hear the comparison. Great track!

  2. Reina and PJ
    August 31st, 2013 at 20:49 | #3

    sounds like a good old man singing a country song…well done

  3. Reina and PJ
    August 31st, 2013 at 21:36 | #4

    That was Andrew comment.

  4. Reina and PJ
    August 31st, 2013 at 21:39 | #5

    hear the drops of water from the guitar ..pretty amazing..like it!

  5. Mick
    April 17th, 2014 at 07:38 | #6

    I love the sound. Well done! Looking forward to listening to more.

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