As part of my project work this trimester I have been working on a 4 track EP with artist MTea. I’ve talked a lot about this in previous blogs so please check those out for more info on the project as a whole! In this blog, I will be comparing my mix and master of her track Strong & Fragile to the extremely successful track ‘Cherry Wine’ by Hozier. The reason I am comparing these two tracks is because they are both very heavily reliant on vocals and acoustic guitar. I also used Cherry Wine as a reference to try and mix to, especially with the guitar sections.
Anyway, here is Cherry Wine, have a listen!
I’m going to start out by comparing the loudness of both songs. Both have been mastered to -14 LUFS as per the YouTube loudness standards set. Therefore, overall, they both sound relatively similar in volume, the only differences being in mixes. As the vocals are a very important part in Strong & Fragile, I have personally mixed them to be extremely forward and central in the mix, especially in quiet sections. This is different in Cherry Wine in some perspectives. The vocals are very much the forefront, however, the guitar is still very central and louder than my mix especially in the quiet sections. I think this is simply put down to creative preferences, as I think that the guitar playing in Hozier’s versus my track is a lot nicer and more melodic and deserving of being more present.
This is probably the first criticism of my track. I think, although not bad, the artist playing the guitar was out of practise and therefore the guitar just doesn’t sound as nice and well-rounded as it could, especially compared to an artist with the calibre of Hozier. As for tonality, I recorded the guitar in a way that would mean I had a lot of different tracks to play around with, with 3 guitars picking up body and fret sounds and two overheads for room and natural reverb.
I believe that I achieved a fairly nice balance between the harsher, high frequencies of having a mic on the 12th fret and the grittier, bassy low end of the body’s output, which meant that the guitar sounds very nice and natural tonally. I also believe that this is somewhat similar to Hozier’s guitar track, however, maybe not as detailed or harsh in the high-end.
Moving onto vocals, Hozier’s track has no harmonies to support his voice, whereas we have added harmonies which I think add a little bit more flavour and help capture the audience a little more. Other than that, both vocals are relatively clean and live sounding. I have used a little more reverb in my vocal processing compared to Cherry Wine, however, I think this aesthetic helps add an extra element to the quiet sections that the guitars do not bring, whereas Cherry Wine’s guitar does this instead. Overall, there are some notes that are a little bit off, and I did use melodyne to fix some but not all, as I felt that leaving it imperfect would assist in achieving the aesthetic the song gives off. This is similar to Hozier’s track. I feel like his voice is relatively good overall, however some little notes are off here and there just to generally keep interest and give it a lively feeling.
Overall, comparing the mastered track to industry standard, I believe I have done a relatively good job. There is definitely room for improvement in my mix, by bringing the guitars up a little in quiet sections, fixing some bad notes and plucks and de-essing the vocals a little more, however I do believe it comes close to achieving the live, acoustic, imperfect aesthetic that I was hoping to achieve. In comparison to the standard of Hozier’s track, I think that it again comes close to achieving the mark, but through more time spent and more practise, I could achieve this.
Thanks for reading!