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Bob Elliott
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Bob Elliott

5/5/2013 10:05:32 AM

This Only Took Me 5000 Hours
I guess in the equation posed by Todd of time and money (an equation I've pondered in music since way in the deep past) I have found I have more of the first than the second.
This piece here seemed to want to drain me of all of it. We don't always have to stand face to face with how obsessive we might actually be, but this project wanted to stare me down.

So I hope this is the final on "Something New Under the Sun" because I need my life back.


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Richard Scotti

5/5/2013 12:21:05 PM

It was worth all the effort. Brilliant! it could become a standard. It's one of your best.
But could you please raise the vocals just a touch? And maybe the background vocals too? They are SO great that they deserve to be heard and more importantly, they are the glue that holds the composition together. I don't like the vocals on my songs to be too loud either but there is a "sweet spot" that must be found between too low and too loud. Your voice is on par with Van Morrison. When I listen to a Van Morrison CD, I want to hear all the instruments and his voice is one of them. Be confident that you have an unusual and distinctive voice. Don't bury it; celebrate it.
It's one of your best artistic assets.

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Bob Elliott

5/5/2013 3:13:39 PM

Thanks so much, Richard. I consider you a real pro. A couple other people told me the bass is a bit loud, so I think I'll go in there with a little adjusting. Thanks for the advice.

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Bob Elliott

5/5/2013 5:44:51 PM

Well, as of 5:30 here in cal 5-5-13 that is a revised mix using those suggestions. It is clearer now, but are we sure there isn't too much lead vocal? Too little bass? If not I think I can rest on this one.

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Hop On Pop

5/6/2013 5:25:38 AM ---- Updated 5/6/2013 5:59:09 AM

At home with sleeping kids. Link open in another tab, ready to play as soon as they awake.

Listening now and this is a lovely song. The piano/guitar interplay is wonderful, really great.

In contrast to what Richard said, I think that the voices are a little too high, myself.

However,with absolutely no disrespect intended toward Mr. Scotti (Whom I respect and admire greatly), as far as production choices, you need to follow your own gut, and not be so quick to make changes based on other folks' opinions, no matter how much you respect them.

This is music that you are making for you. You're not getting rich on this stuff, so who else really has to be satisfied? Sure, when a guy like Richard offers his advice, it doesn't hurt to consider, but it's still just one set of ears. And you will have to live with whatever choices you make.

Who produced Late Afternoon Sun and Simple Machines. Those are both brilliant albums that I believe you completed before even coming here, right?

So, my comments about the voices... take it for what it's worth. Richard is right in that the vocals are outstanding. They always are. You know that I'm a fanboy and that I think that your voice is incredible. But do for you.

Great work on this one, Bob. You can keep working on it forever if you keep listening to everybody's input. But it's wonderful as it is.

Just another masterpiece.
I envy you so much, both your talent and your time.

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Bob Elliott

5/6/2013 6:37:00 AM

Thanks tons , Todd, and also for the mix comment. It didn't sound quite right in the truck. Everything was finally balanced except the voices were too loud a bit, but more than that the main voice still has some harsh eq issue, but probably I only need spend 1000 more hours and I'll get that voice debar shifted.

Kidding. Maybe one more pass is all it needs.

Want to point out Tom O'Brien is singing backups with me, Matt Perez on drums.

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Shoe City Sound

5/6/2013 6:44:08 AM

I agree, this is a wonderful tune. And I gotta also agree with Todd that you can keep working on any tune forever. It's a luxury that having your own studio makes possible. But it can reach a maddening level of fine tuning sometimes haha. So we made a decision here that after something is mixed correctly ie everything in balance all sounds clear and true - then it's legit to have as many versions/mixes as you want. What may seem in need of work at one point can honestly sound good that way another time down the road.

However many hours you devote is always worth it, I think. There's nothing more worthy of time spent than great music.

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Richard Scotti

5/6/2013 8:15:06 AM ---- Updated 5/7/2013 5:19:02 AM

First of all, I want to make it clear that it's impossible to really get a handle on a mix from this distance. Mixing is incredibly difficult when someone is in the same room with it but on a blog, our suggestions are only based on what can be heard with no knowledge of what's actually occurring on the mixing board. Todd ~ I'm humbled by your kind remarks. I don't deserve it but I'll take it! I don't mind when someone disagrees with me, especially when it comes from a noted musicoligist like yourself!

But truth be told, There are SO MANY variables as to what is too loud and what is too low that I think that my suggestion may still be correct if the new vocal level were lowered a tiny bit. As I mentioned, if I were in the studio with my hand on the fader I would push it up and down a million times until I heard the right vocal. I must say that the new vocal levels gave me goosebumps and sounded much more professional but now the lead vocals just need to come down just a little bit and that might be the sweet spot. Sometimes it's the EQ that needs to be adjusted. You just have to keep trying. I do agree with Todd that sometimes you just have to go with your gut but sometimes someone else's gut can give your gut good advice. That's why the best bands in the world never produce or mix their own work. They rely on the "fresh ears" of a producer to give an objective viewpoint. Never give up on a great song even if it drives you crazy. Of course you do have to walk away at some point but the relationship of the vocal to the music is CRUCIAL to the subliminal enjoyment and success of the song and right now it's too early to walk away.

The bass is now way too loud or has reverb on it when it should be dry for this kind of jazzy song. In In my opinion it should sound dry and muted like a stand up jazz bass but loud enough to still sound punchy and present. It seemed right the first time. Of course we all produce our own work because we're indies and can't afford studios but the unfortunate thing is that it may take longer for a home product to sound right because with the non-professional equipment that we all have, it's like using sledgehammer when a scalpel would work better. It's harder to find the "sweet spot" when you're not using more precise tools. But the old fashioned of method trial and error still works well and is imperative when all else fails.

All advice is totally subjective but it doesn't hurt to experiment especially when digital recorders allow us to make as many versions as necessary. With all the experience I have, I still do exactly what you are doing: trial and error. The only judges are one's ears. We are creating ear candy. It has to be tasty and sweet. And that's what your song is: tasty and sweet. I respectfully disagree with Todd that if you listen to everybody's input, you'll be working on the song forever.

First off, you have to choose who you listen to carefully and not listen to "everybody". Second, you'll know when it's time to stop. Some of my best mixed songs took several years to get right. Time is as subjective as music. When you feel you are creating a masterpiece, time doesn't exist. This song is a masterpiece and it will sound good no matter how it's mixed. But a great mix will make this diamond shine even brighter. The background vox sound right as is. The lead vocal is now just a tad too loud. I for one, didn't suggest any changes in the bass. It's now either too loud or has some kind of effect that is making it sound it booming and it's really bleeding all over the track! Keep it simple, like the song. It sounded right on the first mix you posted. The amazing thing is that you have so many songs that are so unique. I swear, I wish I had your artistic vision. You are a musical genius.

Others may disagree on the following statement, but I think that with the right producer and the right musicians, with you singing all the vocals, you could get a lucrative publishing contract for sure. Today's market demands "different". I'm good but I'm just a classic rock guy standing in the shadows of my influences. You, on the other hand are truly "different". Use it! I think Todd would agree and no one knows music like he does!

Edit ~ No two pairs of monitors sound exactly alike. Regardless of the fact that they are supposed to be "flat". different monitors still color sounds in different ways. The mp3 I'm hearing on my monitors may sound totally different from the aif version Bob is hearing or what other people are hearing on their monitors. The true test of a mix is when it sounds as good as it can sound on almost every consumer speaker. Even converting a song from aif to mp3 changes the mix a little bit. No one ever said this job would be easy!

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5/6/2013 9:44:21 AM

Love those guitar strums! Awesome! This song was immediately pleasing to my ears. Such great emotional quality in your voice. Excellent chord structure here and it gives the song that unpredictable quality seldom heard in these times. Absolutely love those background vocals. This song doesn't remind me of anyone but you and this is you at your finest. Your time and effort was paid off with a remarkable work of art. I wanted to get up close and personal with the vocal volumes so I put on my headphones. For me, they were fine. Glad I put on the headphones though because I heard several nuances I hadn't heard with my live ears. But I must say that you have totally blown me away with this song man.

Much Respect!

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Richard Scotti

5/6/2013 12:12:51 PM

All tweaking and mixing aside, this song is another gem from a musical genius and that's all that matters. We are all blessed with different skills and talents. I can do some things well, but I can't do what Bob Elliot does. His voice is amazing and unlike any voice I've ever heard. His lyrics are fascinating and his approach to music is literally out of this world. All I can say is that it makes me want to work harder to get out of my comfort zone and travel to the mysterious world that Bob Elliot inhabits. Someday I must write at least one song that sounds like it comes from that world. I probably can't but I'm gonna try anyway. I love a challenge.

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Tom O'Brien

5/6/2013 4:28:06 PM

Man, this song gives me chills. And I'm not speaking metaphorically. I actually get goosebumps. Your kids sure are lucky to have such a papa. There is so much love in this song. The world needs it.

Now, go cure cancer. I believe you could.

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Bob Elliott

5/6/2013 9:37:20 PM

Ha ha, cancer... I can't even mix the damn song let alone get anyone outside of my small circle to hear it. But thanks so much and the thing is I listened to people's mix advice on most all my stuff. Some of it helps and some of it isn't going to work for you, but a lot of it helps because these guys all have different nice and not so nice speakers, and good interested ears, and it really should sound right on all of it, so it's all very helpful especially when a bunch of people say what you kind of suspected but couldn't get there.

I changed the mix again, and I left the longer ending on instead of the fade but I'll probably fade it like I was doing before, you know, have the mastering guy fade it. The ending is kind of cool, but it may have been one too many times to hear that bit.

Think it's pretty nice now. We'll see what I think tomorrow.

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Steve Ison

5/7/2013 4:33:40 PM

Such a beautiful song Bob - and as Tom said has so much love in it that the world definitely needs now..
Love the lyrics and the joyful blissed out soul vibe
Totally love the slide guitar after 'remember' too
I really like how its groovy but seems so loose n human as well.
It sounds great to me - and all your hours seem to've been about capturing the 'spirit' of the song -'cos sonically its about as far removed from the supa-produced glassy kinda modern techhead boffin rock n pop that i usually associate with that amount of time spent as its possible to get..
Great track -Impossible not to enjoy.

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5/8/2013 1:30:41 AM

I hear emotion--hope even, I grabbed it


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Bob Elliott

5/10/2013 9:22:10 PM

I am very thankful for the comments, and I have had some faith in this song, but the problem I guess for me is it still is harsh to my ears. I do a new mix about every day, and it's getting better, but I can't just lay back and enjoy it like other things I've mixed. It's getting there , but it's not all the way. The one I put up last night is the best, but there's something hurting in the voice sound, kind of hurts the ears, and elsewhere too, other things, but it has come a long way. I guess I'll just do a mix each night until I reach 6000 hours.

That's another reason why I like to hear the mix comments, because this particular one is hard. Some just fall of the tree, this is the trickiest for me in years and years.

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Richard Scotti

5/11/2013 8:14:54 AM

This is the best mix so far. Maybe you should let it marinate for a while and then come back to it with fresh ears. By continuing to mix right now, you run the risk of deconstructing the song to the point where you lose the magic moment you captured originally. Be happy that you've created a great song that we're all talking extensively about. Enjoy the moment. The perfection you seek is unattainable but art is never perfect and no person is perfect. The fallibility and vulnerability of humankind is what makes life and art interesting. John Lennon hated the way Strawberry Fields was recorded and mixed but the version that came out is the one that we all know and love. It could have been changed a million more times but it would always be what it is, a masterpiece.

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Bob Elliott

5/11/2013 8:58:15 AM

Thanks for the advice Richard.

I sure know what you mean about deconstruction. I almost abandoned this recording not long before I posted it. Like a tower of sticks and you pull on this little one or that and then you suddenly seem to have nothing.

But the type of stuff I'm doing now is way less lost in the woods type stuff. Just minor things each day. What I have now is so close, but I don't want the ears to ever shrink away from the main vocal, yet I also think it's terrible when you can't hear the main vocal as much as you're trying. There's eq issues on that vocal, but my eq capacities are already tapped.

I'm sure you've been down a road or two like this. Man, the last four songs just fell right into my lap. I think I only did one or two mixes on each of those and the recording of those was a flash, too.

Really where most of the time on this one went was the main voice. I was working in like six different keys before I finally decided this would be my best chance. I wrote it like five half steps higher, but can't carry through the whole song. It jumps full octaves, and I'm not really that kind of singer.

After I finally settled on the key I did about a million takes. I don't usually do that.

Overall I'm just happy it's gonna see the light of day. I've had it since 2006, and was never sure how I was going to pull it off because its not something really in my wheelhouse.

But you know above where you talk about trying to do something from where my music comes from(very nice of you to say) ? Well, as everyone knows, you're music world is powerful.

But if you are wondering about ours, a major engine of our music is reggae. Even when it's not reggae, Matt and I are looking to tug at the rhythm like in reggae. Things don't share the same beat a lot. Reggae and soul are what I'm almost always setting out to do, but rarely end up doing straight because the songs get hijacked by other things about me like I sing best with acoustic guitar, so folkish tendencies subvert my reggae plans a lot.

Like you sort of say above, there's some mystery, but that's because I really want to trip myself out, and the very nature of music trips me out almost like getting high.

I always thinking I'm setting out to make a straight reggae soul album, but that never happens. If you or anyone else wants the albums, I always put them out free, just message me an address.

And I'm not trying drag the thread on and on, it's just my nature on a music forum to honestly discuss what is going on in my music space, and right now it's all this.

Thanks for the check on the latest mix.

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Richard Scotti

5/11/2013 5:03:50 PM

I purposely refrained from mentioning the EQ on the vocal because as I mentioned in a previous blog, it's impossible to give accurate technical advice when one is not present to interact with the song and the equipment, but you did nail the nature of the problem on the mix of 8/5/13. So, since you brought it up, I feel it's OK for me to put in my 2 cents since we agree on the problem area. The music mix sounds great. The vocal is so close to being right but you did something it that makes it sound "masked" in certain phrases by similar frequencies in the music. It would be like holding up something blue (the vocal) in front of a blue screen (the music). It's hard to see. You have to change the shade of blue of the music to a darker or lighter shade to distinguish it from the music. I think the volume is at the right level but the EQ is a little muddy. If you brighten up with some higher frequencies, (or conversely - roll off some low freq) it will shine through the music and be heard. I suspect that it's too mid-rangey at the moment. Remove a little reverb for clarity as well. Too much reverb tends to muddy the waters.

To me this song sounds like Van Morrison singing on a Jazz-rock song written by George Harrison! I don't see the Reggae connection but I love it anyway. Often what we think we're doing comes out totally different like when the Beatles would try to do country music it wouldn't sound much like actual country music but it comes out totally unique and original. An example would be "I Don't Wanna Spoil The Party" from Beatles 65. It has hints of country but it's pure Beatles. So it really doesn't matter how your intentions get diverted as long as the end result is good and surprising.

The bottom line is that even if you don't change the present mix at all, it's still the best mix and is fine as is. One might have to strain a little to hear some words but
on many records, this is true. U-2, the Stones, Cold Play among others, tend to have the vocals embedded in the mix. For better or worse this is the prevailing trend at the moment. Of course, you don't follow trends, you start them but this mix is perfectly respectable as is.

I've had my fair share of songs that were hard to mix a few go as far back as your song (2006) but it's the songs that are pulled from the wreckage and brought back to life that tend to be nearest and dearest to my heart. Certain songs are so emotionally and technically complex that they demand nuance, subtlety and attention to detail. Let's be thankful we didn't let them die in 2006.

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Bob Elliott

5/12/2013 1:49:45 PM

Blue on blue, that is very insightful and no one in my earshot has ever compared shared frequency to in sound to shared frequency in color. Very useful thought and it is totally something that is happening here.

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Richard Scotti

5/13/2013 6:32:38 AM ---- Updated 5/13/2013 6:34:56 AM

For me, music is a very "visual" medium. I believe that there is a strong correlation between sounds and colors. Words also trigger certain colors and shapes in the mind's eye.

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