Need Criticism and Feedback on New Trance/Techno Track

Hi all, after about 20 years of writers block or whatever, I finally have made music a priority. And not without the help of Jason Timothy’s The Mental Game of Electronic Music. But I digress.

I’d really love feedback on my first effort. Let me know what you think, what strikes you as weird, what works, what it needs, and what it reminds you of. I’m not a stereotypical trance guy - whatever that means - but that may have been very well what shot out my fingers when I wrote it. I originally tried to pin myself to some limitations - not too many chord changes and I stuck to VPS Avenger on pretty much all tracks minus percussion and some assorted FX.

That’s all for now. Thanks so much, Aaron

Hey there Aaron,

Took a listen to your track, nice arrangement & progression, was a bit surprised about the deep synth sound introduced after the break giving me the feeling that the track was completely changing style, but the transition effect works and it’s keeping interest. So nice progression there :slight_smile:

In terms of mixing, the mix is very loud IMO, you’re clipping & distorting above 0 dBFS in this one, which brings a lot of saturation to the track when you push it hard. You could easily reduce the levels by - 3 or -4 dB in this one I think.

SndCld is not normalizing track with algorithm when you upload them ( Like it’s done on YT, Spotify, Tidal…etc ) BTW, so your mix won’t suffer of getting the levels down.

There’s also a drastic change when switching from stereo to mono while listening to the track, might cause issue if the track is gonna be played back on mono PA systems. Wonder if you did your mastering using M/S mode techniques or used a stereo image widener on the all mix or per track with effects or return channels, but yea, while the stereo listening sounds really full and nice, switching to mono brings a much more “thin & centered” sound which makes me think that you crank up a lot on your master bus, but I might be wrong too, just based on my listening experience here.

Definitely watch out for levels anyway, for the rest it’s a nice trance track, reminding me more the Psy-Trance genre.

BTW, if you are into this kind of sound, perhaps check the Protoculture tutorials series here on S.A website if you haven’t done already :wink: Protoculture Artist Profile - Watch video tutorials with Protoculture

Cheers !

Thanks for the feedback. Appreciate the input on the levels. Somehow I started writing at very low gain levels knowing the tendency to not leave room for anything once an arrangement starts to fill out. And yet, here we are. :slight_smile:

Are there any recommendations on Mono testing? I seem to recall a Protoculture segment where he uses VPS Scope to test, but I’m not sure I operationalized any of what he said. As for the mixing, the eq, stereo treatments and levels were all done individually for each track. After that they all go through a couple of utility busses (to enable dynamics/no dynamics toggling and output routing). The final mix got sent through Ozone 8 with an Electronic preset I believe I’ll have to check. I’ll see if I can’t dig for the tutorials to help me.

Is there a way you’d recommend getting wider feedback on quality of the track as well without being that guy in the forum asking everyone to listen to his soundcloud track? I’d like to get some raw data on overall quality.

In any event, thanks a ton for your input.

Back to levels : IMO it’s a good habit to start mixing at low levels, 2 main reasons being that you want to keep headroom for the final mixing/mastering stage and that many effects plugins are modeled after analog gears, therefore they are waiting for audio input signal around -18 / -20 dBFS ( digital world ). Real world console and analog gears like compressors & such are often based on the vu-meter scale and 0 dB Vu matches -18 / -21 dBFS.

So if I follow your mixing workflow, you started right, then you have to take care that you processed each track following this effect input levels rules. At that stage, we are often tempted to compensate the levels using the effect output gain, but you have to take care to keep your levels in this vu-meter range, this wil help to have a more consistent mix.

The problem here for levels might have been that you processed too much each tracks to compensate the initial low levels and when the tracks sum them all on the mix bus and hit the Ozone 8 preset, ozone limiter & compressor are receiving too much signal and therefore crank up & distort the overall level.

Working with vu-meter, or using K -14 or K -18 metering or the LUFS metering is the solution to take care of those levels and the relative loudness of your track. Not using this generally leads to your ears tricking you ( that’s basically what always happen when we start to level up things, it’s seems to sound better but it’s really not in fact ).

So you want your Mix Bus to have a consistent & well balanced audio “image” of all your tracks but still with a relative low level. You still have dynamics & clarity at this stage and lot’s of headroom to hit the mastering chain and the final Ozone limiter.

Very good insights about those levels in this course BTW Understanding Loudness and Metering with Kirk Degiorgio | Tutorial 01 - Plug-in Gain Staging Metering Device

About MONO : There’s many ways to check out your mix in Mono, some audio cards gives you a dedicated button, many metering and loudness metering plugins offers that too, then you have the visual approach with tools like iZotope Ozone or Insight or Mastering the Mix Levels to name a few.

But again, it all start with taking care of each track and IMO using mid/side EQuing is a good approach and also using frequencies filtering ( for example to prevent some low end to hit a reverb or an effect. So it’s like sound sculpting & placement, you control what should remain in mono and what could be spread in stereo with M/S Eq.

A final mastering Eq with high pass & low pass filtering before anything else to get rid of unwanted frequencies as well as a final Mid/Side mastering EQ can also help on the master. Then I can’t recommend enough to A/B your mix against reference material to check where you stand. It’s trial & errors and probably the most difficult part if you’re trying to get a so call “home mastered” track yourself : so easy to ruin a mix at this stage just abusing of a few knobs :slight_smile:

About Feedback : There are some mixing/mastering people that offer this service ( paying most of the time ) you have to search for this on the web, just Google this “mix feedback service” and you’ll find many results.

Recently some new online applications like “Pibox” became famous and are been used by people like Marc Mozart to offer a mix feedback solution. Being part of audio communities & platforms like “Blend” can also be a way to get some feedback, there’s also the collaborating side of things and again new software & platforms following the Pibox approach can help. Tom Frampton ( head off “Mastering The Mix” ) has created “Bounce Boss” to help with collaboration & feedback and he’s also offering mixing & mastering services.

Many platforms such as “Landr” are offering Cloud Mixing/Mastering solutions too, is that reliable ?? Some people like that, some do not believe in it at all, but anyway it all start with a good sounding mix by your end before thinking of “virtual” or real human mastering of course. IMO, platforms like Landr can help to balanced or leveled a mix, but they won’t make magic like a Mastering engineer of course. Some of them offer digital delivering services too, so it’s another thing to take into account.

That’s some insights & tendencies according to what’s going on in the cloud & internet era :slight_smile: but back to the root and taking time to learn & practice and to reference your work against reliable tacks, to A/B as much as you can when using effects and to keep in mind that it takes time & implies frustration, one can get there and achieve very good results in the box and with nowadays high end plugins used accordingly.

And last words are : keep the fun while making music !! That’s probably the most important, don’t let those frustrating moments take it out from you, there’s a time for creativity and to feed & being fed by your muse, and there’s a time for the technical part and get it sounding right, don’t let the 2nd one kill the essence of it all :slight_smile:

Cheers ! ( and sorry for long writing BTW ) :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


Nice one. Interesting things going on there. I think you broke your writers block. :wink:

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I feel like the bassline and first apreg that comes in are fighting each other for listening space. The build from the break is nice. I really like that bass one shot and it all builds up nice with the melodic elements. The drop is very cool and has longevity in the groove. I could of listened/danced to that for longer. I had a I want more feeling. I feel like the chords that come in on that 2nd break kind of come from no where and it made it feel a bit like a different song if you know what I mean. My ears where expecting it to go back to the bassline led drop from before and it kind of went off somewhere else. I think the best way to explain it is you know when some one kinds of goes of on a tangent and your like woah where is all this coming from. Everything in this track sounds good but I feel it has to many different parts and could of been a 15min track. Really cool track though. I hope any of this feedback is helpful to you.
About getting feedback on things this is something I struggle with to. But what has helped me is joining reddit and finding producer subreddits also joining a discord is very helpful as well. I am a mod on a trance production discord if you would like to join. But there is plenty of discord servers out there for lots of different types and it’s all in real time so helps a lot with connecting with other people and getting the crucial feedback.


Very detailed & helpful comment, nice to see people getting involved in the “Track Feedback” forums section :slight_smile:

Might be very refreshing from my only 2 ears & way of writing & provide feedback on member’s tracks :smile: :sunglasses:

I really would love to see more users using this area on the forums, it happens for time to time but this section is quite underrated. So thanks again for your comment & getting involved here :wink:


@CtrlAltDel Craig, I can’t thank you enough for this feedback. Ever wonder when you are writing whether your instincts about what’s happening are correct or whether you’re lost in your own head? Your comments about how randomly the chords show up “out of nowhere” and the busy-ness of the bass and arp together were both concerns of mine. I’ll work on them a bit more. I’ll take a little more time to digest the rest, but didn’t want to wait to say thanks.

FWIW, this is pretty much what I joined Sonic Academy for. Consider my decision to subscribe validated. :slight_smile:

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Thanks very very much for your feedback and input too. Believe it or not, I’m still digesting your earlier comments as well. More to come.

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@Tekalight I will for sure try to be more active here. Getting feedback seems like such a difficult thing. Lots of people are asking for it but not giving it as well. Like you say as well providing feedback helps you with your own productions as well.

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@aaronrosenberg No problem mate. I’m glad that my feedback helped. I absolutely understand being lost in your own head. I feel like most people trying to do a creative thing on there own understand this.

for me the main problem is that this song has no goal. everything is nice and sounds good to me, but somehow overall it does not sound like a song. it’s just nice sounds without much development and without much of a memorable theme. more a tech demo than a song.

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Dude. Very serious thanks for this as well. Blunt, but well taken. There’s not a super strong melody/hook to speak of and I suppose it’ll lose it’s interest and can feel a bit generic. After listening enough to your own tracks long enough - you begin to start bouncing and whistling along to things that to fresher ears may not be as strong and interesting. I’ll take a little more time to think on this. In the meantime, thanks again.

i know that feeling and even after over 20 years with that at times pretty obsessive hobby i didn’t really find a solution for it. obviously the solution is to take regular breaks and not to work on one song for hours at a time. but how can you do that when you’re (in your perception) are creating the most awesome piece of music you’ve ever composed in your life? and you fall in love with things nobody else can hear and you take decisions that only make sense to somebody who listened to that song as often as you did.

This line still sticks with me. In the meantime, i’ve written a second track albeit in a different style that tried to put a strong theme forward.

Hey again Aaron,

OK, in “Night Owl” :new_moon_with_face: mode tonight so, thought I would try to go through this one in details… :sunglasses:

So, first thing first, the arrangement is better structured IMO ( comparing to the other track ), but it still retains some linear flow and some parts are confusing my ears during the first play.

The track is very busy in terms of elements, and if those are recurrent in the track and if they lack of variations, then it creates that linear flow I’m trying to point you at.

OK, here is an example to start with, at 0:12 in the intro, you introduce that percussive sound and you’re using a repetitive pattern for it. So yes, it creates a kind of atmospheric feel like somebody is walking, but because of this pattern, it’s catching all the attention of the listener and it takes over the other nice elements you have there. There’s already a drum fill & a nice higher frequency percussive sound ( between a bell & a very high tom ) + the synth part.

Why not just dropping this darker “walking” perc sound just once, with more reverb and a longer delay at around 0:29 to give a kind of drop effect that will introduce the 1rst verse ?

Sometime less is more, subtracting elements & introducing blanks can help to create interest & surprise for the listener.

Now something else is happening with this bass synth you’re introducing at 0:29 in the 1rst verse, again, it’s quite a dominant sound in the track and it doesn’t stop until 2:14. A break around 1:30 for this sound would be welcome. Even if this bass synth is following some nice chords progression, it is a very percussive sound with a lot of transient cutting through, so again because of the sound and the pattern, it catches all the attention and IMO it’s not the nicest sound to listen to when I hear all the other nice & more subtle elements behind it. So again, less notes, some blank parts for this sound and maybe some longer notes to introduce variation, but this part doesn’t work for me.

The same is happening in the 2nd verse though this time it’s a bit less obvious because of some variation with this bass synth.

Now the radical change you’re introducing at 3:30 is really confusing, still because of this percussive bass synth. There’s so much going on in the track at this moment, I’m not sure that you need this sound to be so much dominant.

At 4:25 there’s a very tiny detail of something finally nice happening to that sound : it’s ONE HIGHER note, and IMO that’s exactly what this part is missing in the track. A call & response pattern with the use of higher notes or a second layer using a different octave to use as the response and create variation for this bass synth.

The use of arpeggios in the track is nice, though still the same story, don’t overdo it in the duration, the listener’s brain needs time for 2 things : recovering from a catchy change in the progression ( so that’s where you have to use audio markers to clearly identify the different parts ) and also the brain needs to be “lost & surprised” when getting used to a progression and almost sure to be able to predict what’s coming next ( that’s the frontier between maintaining a progression listeners can follow but without getting bored, and that’s difficult in arrangement ).

Again subtracting elements can help, placing subtle fx right on time can help too, you did that with the Fx, but for that tempo and kind of track, it’s not enough, you need to be kind of progressive in adding & taking away elements. If you still have a catchy arpeggio going on when you drop the transition Fx and switch to next part of the track, the signal is not strong enough for the listener brain.

So here are things that could be done to make that track progression more interesting IMO, now mixing wise, I was missing a bit of low end and the overall track is very mid range with quite a lot reverb but that’s another thing, the main thing not working for me is about the progression.

Ok, that said, it’s critical feedback, it’s based on my own listening experience and as discuss before, the track is new to me, I didn’t spend hours tweaking it, so my judgment might sound harsh but that’s not my point here. I’m just trying to give honest feedback when I discover & listen to other’s tracks.

So like I always try to say, take this feedback easy, don’t be disappointed, try to listen back to what I try to underline in the comments, that’s the all purpose of this section on the forums.

Hope this could help, cheers and keep on the good work !! :wink:

Thanks for the massive first impression review. The feel I suppose has a bit of Boards of Canada, Orbital and Georgio Moroder going on. I’m generally trying to improve the subtraction element of composition. Generally, I think the mixing and EQ separation could be improved, some mud cleaned up and more room for the track to breath. By linear and the need for greater progression, do you mean that the track grows boring and doesn’t develop over time for you?

Hey again :slight_smile:

There’s definitely a feel as you intended in the track, that was the good point comparing to the previous track.

Yes, there’s mixing issues that makes the track not breathing as it should. Last night I was listening on headphones and listening again on monitors today reveals more of this. Your main bass-synth or lead, the one I mentioned in my previous comment, is taking over all the other elements and masking them.

So yes as a result the nice progression you tried to give to the track can’t really be heard, that very transient & percussive synth takes really over and we’re loosing all the nice elements behind it.

How to explain that… Let’s say that quite rapidly when listening to the track, all I hear is that synth rhythm : Ta–ta, Ta-ta-ta–ta----Ta–ta, ta-ta-ta–ta…etc. Don’t know if you get the picture :slight_smile: But yes, I have to concentrate to hear the other elements, which is a shame because they are in there :slight_smile:

With subtracting, I was trying to point you at using slight amount of elements and fine tweaking their duration. IMO in some parts of the track, just a few notes of the nice arpeggios would do instead of letting them play during full bars. The same goes when reaching transitions, stopping elements at different points in time and even using silence ( you can then compensate with noise or fx that will make the transition more distinctive ).

But yes, listening again on monitors today reveals that this bass synth is too loud, it’s transient starting point is really cutting through. Maybe trying to reduce the attack and gain stage the mix again could help, or trying another sound and you’re right about the mix being a bit muddy, that translated better on headphones, are you mixing on headphones or monitors BTW ?

The track really develops over time and this arrangement can work good IMO, it’s just that at the moment, you can’t really appreciate it because of the above issues. So yes, tweak that main rhythm synth, re-balance your levels & then fine EQ your elements so that they sit well together in the mix. Getting a more balanced mix & gaining clarity will definitely put you in the ballpark :wink:

I had to go away and come back to appreciate this. I worked pretty hard on that track, but I absolutely get now what you’re saying. I’m keen to keep moving, but I will at some point come back and rebalance. Probably sooner than I think now that I’m typing this. Hah. :slight_smile:

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That’s often the result of working hard and for a long time on the same track, the closer you get “inside” your mix could lead you to think that everything is working fine & sounding great, because at some point you got “caught” into the track and the way YOU hear & feel it. That’s where having a second listener opinion or taking a long break from one mix and doing something else to refresh your ears & perception can help IMO.

At some point I will stop working on a project and save it under a “Temp Projects” folder, I’ve been surprised many times that when reopening many of those after quite a while, I would immediately pin-point why it didn’t work out and make straight decisions & changes that I wasn’t able to hear & see while working on the initial project during many hours or days, and many times I also immediately decide to just trash the project for ever asking myself, “OMG… What was in my mind that day ??”

I think that this happens to all of us since music is very subjective to our moods & state of mind at a time we’re crafting a song, some producers even set some timing goals for themselves, some boundaries like : don’t tweak that effect for more than 5 minutes, don’t try to get that sound for more than 10 minutes, don’t try to get than arrangement done for more than 1 hour…etc.

It’s one thing to spend hours & days to mix or master a track ( preferably using only audio stems that you’re happy with but that you can’t tweak by changing the preset, effect, or the midi anymore ) just to polish something you were already happy with, but it’s another one to spend too much time on the initial project.