an accordion/cabaret song (learning to use Ardour)

I’m still trying to get off the ground with the whole recording thing, but I feel like I’ve made it to the point where I could benefit from the advice of people with more experience. So please advise!

The song I’m working on is called Michael Gilhaney. It’s based on a character in a novel titled The Third Policeman, and uses accordion, vocals, a tiny bit of midi tuba, and percussion (some supplied by hydrogen, some recorded live). You can listen to it here:

I bought a book called Guerrilla Home Recording, and have had a serious go at recording this song using some of the basic techniques it recommends. So I’ve compressed the vocals and used TAP TubeWarmth on them. I’ve done a little bit of stereo panning to separate the bass side of the accordion from the piano side. I used an EQ to bring down the lower mid of the accordion just a bit, so it doesn’t outcompete my voice. And I’ve used a little fader automation to keep the vocals and accordion melody at roughly the right spot.

I’m not going for a sleek or glossy production, here. I want a sort of ramshackle sound, like some of Tom Waits’ stuff, or the Denver Gentlemen. But I want it to be, you know, cool. Ramshackle, yes, but not incompetent.

Though I feel like this is a big improvement over my previous attempts at recording (where I just stacked up the tracks and tried to get their relative volumes about right) I could benefit a lot from the advice of fresh-eared people who are accustomed to using these techniques. What are the obvious mixing problems in here? Are the vocals too loud or too quiet? Too compressed? Are there other aspects of the production that are distracting, or interfere with the development of the song?

Anyway. I’m proud of the song, and would like to be proud of the recording of it. Any advice the Ardour community has to offer would be much appreciated. Thank you!

Great Job Goodmanbrown!!! Good mix!! I like the song. Try to use a little of Reverb (without abusing) in the instruments to give them more sensation of space and distance.

Good Bye and again great job!!!

Thanks for the encouraging words, Matias! (It is scarier than I expected to hit “submit” on a post sharing work in progress-- it’s nice to get a friendly response.)

I’m still struggling to find an approach to reverb that adds space without making the mix sound mushy. Do you have recommendations for particular plugins or presets that work well for you? Is it the accordion or the percussion that sounds to you to be lacking reverb?

Thanks again for the feedback!

Hi Again goodmanbrown!!! Yes, gives a little scary sharing a work in progress. But is the best way to learn.

I recomend you to use this 2 reverb:

1-TAP Reverberator by Tom Szilagyi, an amazing plugin, you can select a lot of types of reverbs (Room, plate, hall etc).

2-C* Plate 2x2- versatile plate reverb by tim Goetze, a great plate reverb.

This two LADSPA plugins works very well for me, but all depends of what you want to achieve. For example if you want to give more space and color to an instrument, use a Plate Reverb (without abusing). But if you want something subtle try with a room Reverb.

Again, all depends of what you want to achieve. Sometimes you don’t need to use Reverb, sometimes yes.

I hope this helps.

Good Bye!!!
See you!!!

The recording sounds OK, and I´m agreeing about the reverb, but watch out, because most ladspa reverbs are plagued by that tin-can sound, it can easily destroy the ¨natural¨ image (I think) you want to put in.
Have you used JAMin? I strongly advise you to put an instert on the master track, and connect it to JAMIN. To start Jamin, use ¨jamin -p¨, or just start jamin, and disable the default system output. Jamin can do wonderful things to your mix… Just play around a bit.

Nice song!

Nice work! Just good balance, and that cowbell or what ever is great.

@MatíasMac: Thanks for the reverb suggestions. I look forward to getting a chance to try the plate reverb you recommend. I haven’t tried any plate reverbs, yet, and am curious to hear the difference.

@roaldz: Thanks for the feedback. I’ve never even installed JAMin. I guess it’s time to fire it up and see what it’s about. So freakin’ much to learn!

one way to smooth out the reverb is to put it on a stereo bus and use sends (probably post-fader for this) on each track to tie into the reverb (make sure to have the dry signal all the way down when doing this) and put an eq before the reverb plugin and turn the highs down a bit before they hit the reverb.