Song Critiques

If you're looking for some fast, insightful advice on your song by an industry pro, read on...

James Sanger provides Song Critiques and Production Advice over the web to song writers looking for the invaluable advice only an established professional can provide.

Song Critiques are $100 (USD) per song and include 2 or 3 'pingbacks' to help fine-tune things. A 'pingback' is where the artist gets the opportunity to make suggested changes and then send James an updated mix which he can comment on further.

James in "listen mode"

To take advantage of this service you can email us a link to the song on SoundCloud, MySpace or other streaming audio platform - Please: No email attachments - Send us the link at or via the music service Music Xray.

Song Critiques are a very cost effective way of getting professional sounding demos without having to spend the thousands of dollars typically associated with this caliber of assistance.
Additionally, several artists who have submitted music this way have ended up signing a Vibey Development deal.

Here is a sample Song Critique and Introduction with information that James sends to all new clients.. (Names have been changed to protect client privacy, naturally!)

Song Critique Introduction (Sample)

Thanks for your submission and your message. I'll do my best to answer your questions.. but most of all I'll tell you what I think and feel about the song and perhaps where to go from here.

Please feel free to provide Music Industry Professional (specific to Music Xray) feedback if you appreciate the advice you get from me.
It is great to know people appreciate my critiques / advice... I suppose working non-stop in artist development and production has given me a unique perspective for reviewing peoples artistic work. I am happy that people like it !!

I take giving these reviews very seriously...I think this side of the music industry (Music-Xray etc) is a growth industry and even though it is not exactly profitable I can afford to spend enough time each day doing it in the hope that I will build up a loyal group of artists like yourself whose careers I can help shape from a distance.

So please feel free to send me all your songs and don't be shy !
If I suggest changes and you implement those changes, please feel free to send me the track again so that I can make additional comment before you mix it... This is a very cost effective way to make records !!
You can can get a my production advice for less than half a percentile of what it would cost to produce your songs if you were with a big record company !!.. (£12k per song !!!)
Have a think about that for a second...... this is something that few people have really begun to appreciate yet....

Conversely there are some people who send me follow up material outside of Music Xray.. perhaps to get out of paying anything at all - which I really discourage... partly because I just don't listen to demos sent to me this way..and partly because if people don't respect your advice enough to pay a few dollars.. then they don't value it anyway...and my experience is that they don't take the advice anyway... we are only after all talking about the price of a couple of coffees and a donut at Starbucks!

So please continue to use this medium... I don't make much money at it.. but I hope that in the future it will grow into something great for you and for me ! Anyway, now to the song...

Song Critique: Sample One

First Impressions

What a great intro.. full of forebodance..and looming drums/.. nice production.. It feel like it is in the right key for your voice and it is at the right tempo for the meter of the song....
The bridges feels like a bit too much of a drop.. and then the chorus doesn't come in with enough pizzazz..... (actually which bit is the chorus?.. is it the blinded by the love bit... probably.. or the section after the drop bridge?) "XXX by your love/guided... --> bridge "I never see love again"...--- what section?

Yes... so in answer to your question there is something wrong with the arrangement in my mind... I think you have to approach it a bit more ''literally'. You need to clearly mark the sections.. at the moment the bridge feels like a chorus and the chorus feels like it could be a slightly bigger verse section..

In the middle eight there is a fairly 'blue note'.. where you do a major/minor move with the chords.. I think it is a mistake to sing the flattened third on that part... it brings too much attention to the key change.... I'd suggest you sing the fifth - just stay on the same note...

Second Listen.
I really like the moody intro section.. it is a shame you dont use it later on.. I think perhaps you should use it again (perhaps just half of it).... perhaps after the first 'blinded section'.....

Third listen.
I'd really like to hear more of your songs... Perhaps you would consider trying out some of these ideas and re-sending it. In regards to the songs relevance.. I think it is relevant.. perhaps with the production of someone like me and a young artist performing them... however at the same time I dont think your production is un-competitive.. actually it is really good.. and you should not be ashamed of your loft !!

Song Critique: Sample Two

First impressions.

Very nice feeling at the beginning intro section... drums a little loud and vocals not loud enough.... Your voices harmonise really well.... At the 'Sunshine Down'... section don't you every feel that the songs still has not started?.... I think this is because there are still elements from the intro still cycling... So what I think you should be is cut the Intro guitars from any section apart from the intro and re-into etc.

The Sunshine down section... is the chorus.. it has a good feel.. but you must get your vocals to be louder and clearer... perhaps sing them 'closer' compress them more and make the performance more 'druggy' and feeling full. .. do you understand what I mean?

Second listen
Ok.. so the elements of the intro are...arpeg guitar... 'cello sound' (not cello but sounds like it...)

Ok so.. the moment that you start singing... verse one.... cut arpeg. guitar and cello sound !! Then... perhaps bring one or the other in halfway through the verse when you have the 'I dont want you to follow....' words (perhaps the bridge?!)

Ok.... now percussion and drum wise... don't have anything until the tom fill into the chorus.,.so there won't be the clave riff or the kicks/snare part in the verse one !!...

I know, I know.. you are going to be saying but... James !... then there is nothing in the verse...!! EXACTLY !.. I think it should be really sparse in the verse.... and do the same in verse two...cut the clave and maybe the drums.. perhaps not.. it is up to you.

Your focal point for the song should be intro guitars, cello... then just a big loud voice plus vocal harmonies for verse one... then big chorus with everything... ok? Please do that .. and then send it back to me ! :)
Generally the song is very vibey.. lovely singing.. and playing.. but the vocals tend to be hidden under other things and you must try not to do that.... if the vocals are not good enough... or the words are getting dull.. you must improve them rather than hide them !! ok !!??


Song Critique: Sample Three

'Shield' Vocal sounds good.
I think the problem you are finding with the level and the delay side-chaining etc.. is that it sounds a bit messy and 'digitally' you don't have any 'enharmonic distortion' however loud it is it still feels quiet !
Also I think that the piano part is a touch too busy...sometimes the left hand is moving as well as the right hand.. were they recorded separately?

I think that on some of the long notes I can hear a little pitch correction?.. which makes the tone of the vocal sound a little thin?

Second listen.

Yes the vocal sounds a little raspy and thin generally.. and this is because it lacks 'analogue warmth'.. You should perhaps buy a cheap two track reel to reel tape recorder..and record to it?.. and then import the vocal into logic and time it up a bit if you need to.. but essentially you will have that analogue warmth and the embedded 'enharmonic distortion'..... This is a radical idea but it really works....

Yes.. The piano feels a bit busy and it seems to move around too much... cello is nice.... Ok try this..--> Mute the piano !.... and just listen to the song with your voice and cello... You may have to play additional cello parts... then record a very simple piano part...and then slowly bring it into your mix... just so it is just barely audible.
Mute all the delays and reverbs until you have a good Vocal / Cello / Piano balance.... use an EMT reverb at 4 seconds... I'll send you an impulse file if you like... Do you use logic audio?...if so you can load this into Space Designer (load Space Designer and pick IR SAMPLE and then select Load IR, then navigate to the file that I'll send you) and use this reverb on your vocal.

Third Listen

The song itself is good !! :)
The tuning sound is more noticeable in the chorus..
I also think that there is quite a lot of vibrato and ups and downs.. and a 'keep it simple' approach to the performance would be better.... Imagine you are at 11 now.. bring the intensity back to a good 8.5.. ok? onto your questions-->

Q1) What do you think to the vocal balance with the piano? I sometimes think the vocal is a bit too loud? but when I adjust it it seems too quiet. It's hard to get it sounding like I'm standing next to the piano singing. I have mixed a tiny bit of parallel compression in on another channel but other than that its just one vocal channel.
I think this is more to do with the sound of the vocal rather than the needs to have some warmth to make it stand out a bit.

Q2) I have also experimented with side-chaining the delay with compression to turn the delay down while singing but then release at the end of the note. Do you feel this sounds ok?
This is a good trick to do.. but in this song it seems a bit messy with the levels not being right anyhow.

Q3) The reverb is the one thing I spend hours on balancing it drives me crazy :) I can never make my mind up about the tail length, the type and if it needs more or less. How do you feel the reverb sounds on this?
I'm going to send you a EMT 4 second reverb that will suit this song better. Other than that I'm happy with the song and lyrical content and I think I have got the arrangement about right, but if you spot anything wrong I'm sure you will tell me.

The song is great... just need to get the sound of the voice right and perform the singing with a tiny bit less vibrato and ups and downs..also simplify the piano part quite a lot... and bring it down quite a lot...perhaps even just try a pad sound instead of the piano?
Well done Lee !! keep it up !!.. Your voice is great and your songs are really good, sorry if this sounds a bit negative... It is really close..:) !!

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  About James Sanger
Learn more about the man who's vibe has touched 18 Grammy-Winning records.

  Work Examples
Hear examples of James' past projects.

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