Sound-alike Project Wrap Up

The sound-alike project is finished and I am both surprised and pleased with the final result. Despite a few hiccups in the recording and mixing, we were able to deliver something that sounds remarkably close to the original.

We were able to get the drums sounding pretty close to the original, I believe due to good mic placement and research to begin with, and good use of the available outboard gear. We used a variety of different compressors on the different elements of the kit to get it sounding as punchy as the original. The only thing we couldn't quite achieve was the same snare sound, which I believe is due to the fact that the snare in the original track was layer with samples that obviously we didn't have. I still think we were able to get a close enough sound, but the snare in the original track definitely sounds bigger and has a lot more crack, which we struggled to achieve.

Despite a problematic first attempt at the vocals, I was pleased with how they eventually came together. Obviously Megan and Hayley Williams have distinctly different vocal timbres, but I feel she was able to capture Williams' vocal style to a good degree. We ended up choosing to re record the vocals with Megan as we all felt the original vocalist didn't have the right vocal qualities required for this song. Namely their voice was quite breathy and came from the head whereas Williams' voice comes more from her chest. We all felt that Megan would better be able to capture that and I think she did an excellent job.

The performance in the guitars has few minor nuances of difference between the original and our version. While he was no doubt a very talented guitarist, I feel he wasn't able to capture the same dynamic performance as the original, notably in the guitar solo. Listening back it sounds a little wooden compared to the original, which seems to have more feel, despite its simplicity. I was still very impressed with how quickly he was able to get nail the guitar parts and it made for a very efficient recording session.

We struggled in the mix-down getting the overall distribution of frequencies right. The original track has a more present mid section than we previously though. We compared the tracks and found that ours had way less high mid frequencies so we scooped it all out and as a result overcompensated and had to put a lot of it back in eventually. In the end we couldn't quite get those same mid frequencies right and despite all the same instrumentation, melodies etc. it makes the two tracks sound pretty different in a broader scale.

The main glaring thing to me that we got wrong was the width of the acoustic guitar. This was something we changed quite late in the mixing session when we decided that the acoustic guitar in the original sounded wider than what we had, particularly in the choruses. While I think it was a good decision to take two of the guitar takes and pan them out, we should have made the guitar narrow for the verses and open it up in the choruses and bridge, as it is in the original song. However we just left it stagnant and its a pretty obvious difference when you listen to the track with headphones and the guitar sounds almost hard panned in the first verse particularly.

Obviously the original track has a lot more musical instruments and elements in it than what we used in our version. We picked out all the most prominent instruments we could hear, but I have no doubt there is a myriad of other instruments we overlooked hidden low in the mix, but work together to create the overall fullness of the track that ours seems to lack.

Despite those flaws I was very surprised at how close to the original we were actually able to get. Watching it come together in the mixing session was a rewarding experience and I am very happy with final mix (apart from the few things mentioned above I would fix if I had another attempt). The overall experience of this project has been a highlight of my entire experience as a audio engineer and I hope to work on similar projects in the future.

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