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Self Produced Doesn't Always Cut It

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Self ProducedI heard about a new album to be released privately. The talk leading up to it was pretty good and the band isn't new to the genre. I was expecting some great material. Sadly, the album just turned me off. It was almost painful to get through the dozen tracks on their latest release. The album certainly doesn't reflect what this group is capable of.

The instrumental part of the album was clean and precise. Just what I would expect from these four talented musicians. The balance was there too. But, the vocals were mumble, mumble, and mumble some more mumble. I tried and tried to make out the words. I even tried headphones. No way to discern what the lyrics are. Maybe a few words here or there but basically the album was 85% unrecognizable mumbling.

Here is a band that knows bluegrass music yet, this latest effort leaves me wondering why they released an album this poorly mixed. The band certainly knows better -- this was not their first effort.

I understand that costs are involved when a band produces a project such as a new album. I believe, however, if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Here is an album that the instruments are taken care of nicely yet the vocals are almost as if they were done under water. The vocal tracks are muddy, low level and actually detract from this project. I'm used to front (or back) porch picking and singing and this didn't even cover that realm.

Something is definitely wrong with the album. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the band produced this themselves, engineered and mixed it themselves. While this may have saved them a few dollars, it destroyed the project.

A problem with doing it yourself is a lot like proof-reading your own material. You are too close to the project. You often cannot see the forest for the trees. I believe this is what happened here. The band knows the words, they know the sound and they couldn't hear what happened because they were too familiar with their own material. I think they actually heard what just isn't there.

I also don't think they wore headphones or earphones when doing the vocals. Again, experience has shown that you don't really hear yourself unless you record using headphones. Even when I was a radio announcer back in the '70s, I wore headphones every time the mic was open. The audio on this latest album doesn't reflect that. Intonation, emotion and certainly clarity are all missing from the mix.

I attempted to bring out the vocals using equalization, compression and various audio filtering but, you can't recover data that just isn't there. While I could enhance the mumble and make it more mumble, I could not recover the lyrics.

The album will remain nameless as will the artist but, it is certainly an exercise in what not to do and why. If you are considering a do-it-yourself project, at least get some dis-interested third party to critique your effort before you press the albums. It could save you from some embarrassment. It would most certainly help in saving your professional image.

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