New Author Struggling; 5th song submitted, 5th song rejected. Opinions?

Hey everyone. I’m new to AJ, and am quickly experiencing all the growing pains right from the beginning. When I first signed up, I submitted 4 songs. All were rejected with the stock response of:

“This submission does not meet our commercial production (mixing/mastering/sample quality) standard or our commercial composition/arrangement standard, unfortunately.”

After I got over the initial disappointment, I did my fair share of research on the forums and even found that someone had posted a link to YT where a handful of reviewers spoke about why songs are often rejected. I learned quite a lot and tried to figure out where I went wrong. Like many others, I was frustrated that the reviewers don’t give specific feedback (understandably), but I think after considering what info I picked up from the video and other forum threads, I had some educated guesses depending on the song. If my guesses were right, I couldn’t disagree with them either. Anyway, I decided to move on.

I wrote another piece and submitted it, and it was rejected. I think though, that I made some progress because this time the stated reason was only relating to the “commercial production (mixing/mastering/sample quality) standard,” which implies that I kept my composition under control (I think I got too creative with my first 4… I was having too much fun).

I have no problem stating that I’m no pro when it comes to mixing/mastering. I do the best I can with what I have, and when I compare my stuff to “pro” stuff, there are some differences I can hear, but it’s hard for me to put my finger on what it is, how to describe it, and most importantly, how to fix it and improve. So if anyone in the community is willing to give it a listen and tell me what you think, I’m all ears because I’m always willing to learn and always wanting to improve. I’m a rock/hard rock/metal guy, so that’s what’s here. Thanks in advance!

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Hi @rockinblockhead !
I’m not very familiar with this genre, but I just want to say you don’t give up! you have good stuff and this sounds very well!
Maybe they don’t like you rhythm change (0:32)
Maybe you’re playing too much with harmonies in some point (0:54) and they dont like it. who knows? maybe here there's a lot of this kind of stuff and they don't need more, because they dont consider that this one is “so special” or “so diferent”.
Anyway, I think you’re doing great! wait for more opinions… :smiley:
don’t give up, keep doing!
sorry for my english

I don’t know. I like it and I can see it being used in frantic videos. I did compare it with some big selling hard rock tracks here at AJ and yours has less stereo separation and is a little dryer (less reverb space). That’s all I can hear. Keep working on it. It’s good!

First of all, great track and great playing! the composition is great but the mix/production side of things needs improvement. It sounds more like a demo than a finished, polished track.

First impressions:

Not enough stereo spread, it sounds very mono.

Not enough “shine/air” a.k.a. high end. It sounds a bit muffled.

I’m guessing you’re using sampled drums? To me, cymbals usually stand out too much in tracks like these, especially if they are samples they can get very repetitive.

Hi @Kannonh. Your English is just fine, I had no problems understanding you. Plus, you’re doing better than some people who have grown up here in America! AJ seemed to have no problems with my arrangement/composition for this track, so I think I’m OK here. But thanks for speaking up and sharing your thoughts, and I’m not giving up any time soon. ,/,


Hey @MidnightSnap, thanks for the reply. I can see where you’re coming from regarding the stereo separation. In this track I made my drum kit a bit narrower than I usually do; it’s spread about 30% each side whereas I’ve normally gone out to about 50%. The bigger issue might be with the guitars. The guitar in the intro which also comes back in for the end is two separately played guitar parts, each panned hard left and right (100%). The original performance wasn’t as tight as it appears in the final mix, though. I used the elastic audio function in Pro Tools to tighten it up, and in doing so, I tightened it up so much that maybe some of the stereo spread was lost. The other guitar which appears throughout the middle of the track is two guitar parts panned left and right only 75% each way. I did that just to put it in a different space than the other guitars.

I have experimented in the past with the stereo width plugin… When I’d put it in, it would sound pretty cool at first, but over time as I’d continue mixing, it would start to annoy me so I’d turn the effect down and make it more subtle. But as more time would pass while mixing, I’d find it annoying again, and turn it down even more. Eventually I’d just take it off and I’d be happy again. But just from my initial tests with it, there’s probably something of value there, and it’s worth playing around with it some more to try and find that sweet spot.

As far as it’s dryness, I kept it dry intentionally and used absolutely no reverb on it at all. Maybe a touch of it here and there wouldn’t hurt.

In any case, thanks for the tips and the compliments! ,/,

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Hey @Flumen, thanks for chiming in. Hmm… second comment about not enough stereo spread, you guys might be on to something. Regarding that, I did talk about that in my reply to MidnightSnap’s comment. So it’s definitely worth a look… thanks.

Adding shine/air is something that I did experiment with on this track while “mastering” it. I usually do this to my mixes anyways, but lately, I’ve been finding that even adding just a touch of shine makes things a bit too bright for my taste. However, one thing I’m learning here is that I have to keep in mind what any potential client might like. So even if it’s just a bit too bright for me, someone else may like it. Definitely something to consider, and you may in fact be right.

Yes, the drums are all samples (I’m using Slate stuff), and the most difficult part about mixing drums for me is getting the cymbals to sit right. So if you found them to be a bit off, I don’t blame you, and it’s an area that I can definitely work on overall.

Thanks for the good tips and compliments! ,/,

Regarding the guitar separation I hear you about stereo plugin effects sounding off at times. If you haven’t already, you might experiment with the “Haas Effect” doing it the good old fashioned way (many youtube videos on it). At the risk of telling you what you may already know…

  • Pan your 2 guitar tracks hard left and right on separate channels (small to zero spread on each channel).
  • Delay one channel relative to the other by 1 or 2 millisec. You should hear stereo separation.
  • Experiment with: i) delay time between the two channels (1-6 millisec) and/or ii) EQ differences (tweak high pass filter up on one, and tweak low pass filter down on the other).
    Hope this makes sense. Good luck!

I think you’re close to the AJ quality bar, you just need to work a bit more on your mixing skills.

Besides the issues already mentioned, there is no clearly defined bass, it’s like the low end is occupied by the kick + low frequencies of guitar and it sounds muddy there. Because of this conflict the kick doesn’t cut through as well as it should throughout the track (example: 0:37).

Hard left and hard right with two different takes is the way to go, but yeah, maybe you tightened it up too much, haha. :grinning:

Try using different guitars or at least two different amps (or amp settings in the plug-in) for more obvious difference if your playing is too consistent.

Yup, thanks for the extra tips. I am familiar with the Haas Effect, as well as the other methods you mentioned. I’ve experimented with each of them (except for EQing them differently), yet I always found that just playing the part twice and panning them hard left and right sounded the most natural/pleasant/best to me. But in the case of this track, your suggestions are definitely worth revisiting. Thanks again!

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Hey @OvertSounds, thanks for your advice. I agree 100% with the general thought of working on my mixing skills! I know I have plenty of room for improvement across the board.

As far as the low end issues go, I actually set my high pass on the guitars quite high; not only to make room for the bass guitar and kick, but also in an effort to make the guitars “tight.” I think most of the low end issues you’re hearing may then be coming from the bass guitar and kick, which I wouldn’t doubt. I think there’s not enough “slap” in the kick drum, and making the bass guitar stand out without being too bassy or boomy can often be a challenge for me, as well as making space in the mix for each of those instruments. In any case, I’ll be taking another crack at the mix and I’ll pay special attention to what’s happening down low. Thanks!

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This tip is worth a million dollars to me, @Flumen! I’ve been in the habit of recording a dry/direct track of all my guitars and basses for reamping purposes, so implementing this method will be a simple, and hopefully effective experiment/solution! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Hey @rockinblockhead, this track is awesome! I don’t think it was rejected because of the mixing quality. My guess is that your drum samples are the culprit. The crash in particular. It becomes very prominent starting around 0:30 and kills an otherwise well-crafted track.

Having said that, here are a few suggestions to improve your mixes:

Have you tried sidechaining the bass to the kick drum? You’ll have to set very fast attack and release values at this tempo, but it will help you to seperate the kick and the bass.

If your drum sampler allows you to tune the kick, tune it to the song’s key.

Speaking of the song’s key, Google the term “note frequency chart”. Look up the song’s key and find out what its frequency is. The bass will be dwelling on this note/frequency for a good part of the song. Now double that frequency and boost it by a couple of dB (ex. the open E string on a 4 string bass has a frequency of 41 Hz. If your song is in E, boost 41x2=82 Hz by a couple of dB). What you’re doing here is boosting the first harmonic of that note. You’re tricking the brain into thinking that the fundamental (ie 41 Hz) is louder as well, although it isn’t. Plus this will make the bass more audible on systems with smaller speakers (TV sets, laptops, etc).

Once you’ve taken care of the low end, you can now roll back the hi-pass on your guitars to give them more body.

Good luck!

Hey @FullScaleAudio, thanks for the compliment! Yes, those pesky cymbals… You’re not the first to mention it, so it’s absolutely on my list when I return to the track for a remix. I’ve also watched a few tutorials on sidechaining and have a basic understanding of it, but I have yet to use it. It’s definitely worth a try.

I’ll look again at whether or not I can tune my drums, but I’m thinking I can. It’s something that I’ve heard about doing, but never did, and it may be super useful here.

I do have a printout of a frequency chart already, which is always sitting in front of my computer monitor. I refer to it often for various things, and I’ll give your suggestion on boosting the bass as you suggested a try as well.

All good tips, thanks! ,/,

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