Level-up weirdness - when everything suddenly sounds awful

I had this weird experience the other day, as I listened to one of my tracks that I was about to post somewhere for some reason. It just sounded all stiff, harsh, and synthetic, in a way I never heard it before. I checked some other pieces of mine, and same thing. Everything suddenly sounds so far off that I’m not even sure what to do about it, short of having it all played on real instruments.

I’m not sure what triggered it, or if it’s a temporary phenomenon. I’ve been focusing a lot on singing (opera) and playing (violin and cello) lately, and I’m also checking out some nice violas, so there’s been a lot of listening to singers, players, and instruments of various levels, and it’s like it all just added up and pushed me over some kind of edge. Naturally, one’s “ears” evolve with training and experience, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such an abrupt change in perception.

I mean, I can see how this could allow me to get better results, but I’m also worried it might lead to a lot of frustration and dissatisfaction.

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Can you post a specific example, and point out what (including time markers) and when you feel this and for which reasons?


In this subject Im sure many of you can agree with me that the daily form can make all the difference in the world. Sometimes you just hear every detail and sometimes your just deaf. Like working out, sometime it just flows sometimes you can’t barely move without hyperventilating.:grinning:

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I’ve had it where I’ll do a mix and think it’s good and then come back the next day and wonder what I was thinking. But I’ve never had anything that drastic. Did you hit your head on anything? (joking)

You might be right that it’s from being focused on different styles of music and types of expression, and then coming back to the style you were normally working on. It might just be that it takes a day or so to get your ears back into it. But it might be that you’re hearing things that were there but you didn’t hear before because something about the new music has triggered an awareness. In that case it might be more about incorporating your new experience into old styles of music to make a new normal rather than returning to normal.


Good news is, things don’t sounds as terrible to me today, but I can still hear the issues. :smiley:

Haven’t really analyzed it all deeply, but (unsurprisingly) where it’s most blatantly obvious is with strings. What I’m hearing is similar to these speech “synthesis” solutions that simply paste full recorded words together into sentences. The individual words are (obviously) perfect and realistic, but you can tell something is off, as the flow through the sentences is not what you’d have if it was actually a person speaking whole sentences. My theory is that this is not strictly a speech thing, but will happen with instruments and other sound sources as well, once you become deeply familiar with them. For example, some experienced race drivers can recognize which track a car is on just by listening to the engine sound.

There are also (at least) two levels to this; physical limitations, and musical expression.

Violation of physical limitations is a fairly obvious case. This would be when a virtual instrument does things that are just not possible on the real instrument; playing out of range, vibrato or slides on instruments that can’t do these things; stuff like that. Gray zone: Things that are possible, but ridiculously awkward to do - things you would only do if you absolutely want that specific effect for expression.

Musical expression violations would be playing in ways that are perfectly possible on the real instruments, but just don’t sound correct and appropriate in context. This would correspond to incorrect pronunciation or emphasis in speech or singing. It’s not unrealistic, but just wrong, unless possibly when done intentionally for good reasons. (For example the final “Vinceeeeerò!” in Nessun Dorma - which is not like that in the original version BTW - or indeed, the title phrase itself. Backwards emphasis in both cases, AFAIK, but that’s how it is with lyrics vs music sometimes.)

My main and most specific beef at this point is probably with vibrato on strings, and it mostly falls in the expression category. The root of the problem is that you have virtually no control over vibrato in sample libraries, whereas on the real instruments, is practically defines the player’s personal sound and expression. In more practical terms, you only play continuous wide vibrato, or complete non-vib, when specifically intended, you don’t abruptly flip between vib and non-vib, and you certainly don’t don’t start vibrating at any random time in the middle of a note. Getting it wrong is kind of like singing a diphthong like “I” as “aiiiiiiii” or “aaaaaaai”, or drastically flipping from the “a” to the “i” at some random point - it sounds hilarious and robotic! :smiley:

(I’ll point out some specific examples later. Need to get back to work now. :slight_smile: )