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Critique Please – Saddest Day In September


Hello Reviewers!

Please provide feedback on the recording of this track. It’s fine if you are not a fan of ambient/new age music … I am looking for critiques regarding the balance, quality of the recording, use of effects, and so on. I am the flute player, so feel free to include comments there as well. Thank you in advance for your time!

Cari Live

Saddest Day In September

17 thoughts on “Critique Please – Saddest Day In September”

  1. may as well opinion it in as well,

    yep cut between 100 – 200-250 dip it, but only on the pads.

    also those pads are messed up – properly – whats going on – they are overlapping, either because youve got some crazy long release going into the next note or some mega reverb. The reverb maybe whats causing you to need a dip at 200

    My suggestion is
    1.stop those overlapping pad notes – they are a no no, they are causing the melody to malfunction.

    2.that will stop a lot of this low rumble just by sorting that out – you may need to cut it a little but mainly stop those overlaps.

    3.turn up the flute – slap a limiter on the flute also.

    4.did i mention the overlapping notes ?

    • Thank you Adam! I am planning to review all the suggestions here this next week and make some adjustments. Often I go with my ear, what sounds good to me and now there are new ways to listen. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to listen and share your comments!

      Thank you!


  2. This is my first Critique here. I’m a relative newbie in the composition/production game, but I’ve been a live sound mixer for 20 plus years, and spent many years teaching live sound, so I am pretty familiar with this concept.

    I agree with Rob (Cruciform) and darkstar. It is really nice, creates a definite mood. There does seem to be a problem with what I call a frequency band “pile up.”

    I see you were not quite sure what euca meant by 250Hz. Here is a quick lesson:
    The fundamental of each note vibrates a certain number per second. We perceive that as pitch. You tune your flute to A 440. The wave vibrates 440 times per second, or cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz).
    Therefore, your A = 440 Hz
    Doubling that to 880 Hz sounds almost an octave higher
    Halving the to 220 Hz sounds almost an octave lower
    And so on.

    Look at this E.J. Quinby’s chart called “Musical Pitch Relation Chart”, it is very useful for translating frequencies to musicians:

    Imagine the 88 keys of a piano.
    Circle the range of the flute part in “Saddest Day In September”
    -Now circle the range of the harp part
    -Now the strings ….
    -and the delay on the flute (yup you have to count that again, it’s a new instrument ;~)
    -now the reverb, yup, a new sound source …

    When I did this I had several overlapping circles. I heard a big frequency pile up between 500Hz and 1500Hz (1.5 kHz)

    A common solution for this is to us an EQ to thin out that area.
    You could try putting an EQ after the delay output and cut out a chunk of that band. You will still hear the high overtones of the flute, and the echo, but the echo won’t be in the original flute’s turf quite as much. The same holds true for the harp. Note, the parts you EQ probably won’t sound very good when solo’d, but it’s the forest we are looking at, not the individual trees.

    On a compositional note, by the end all that “pile up” made my ear ache for some high frequency shimmer to balance it out. Maybe some sparse cymbal mallet rolls, chimes or bells at some phrase peaks? Just a thought.

    I need to put something up here for a critique. But I’m chicken …

    • Thanks AlanF! A wealth of information and I am excited to dive in and work with the ideas you shared!

      “… the parts you EQ probably won’t sound very good when solo’d but it’s the forest we are looking at, not the individual trees.”

      I love knowing that now and being able to work with that concept. Most of what I’m writing is what I think sounds good, or at least what I want it to sound like. There are times I want the blur or special effect sound, a swirl to disorientate the listener. Certainly, it isn’t good to do this all the time!

      Loved the chart and again, thank you for taking the time to listen and critique! Looking forward to hearing your work!


  3. +1 to everything Hysteria, Rob and Darkstar mentioned. It really is lovely and ironically we had lost cable and internet due to a freak snowstorm in my area, so we had a marathon of Lord of the Rings, it would have fit in their perfectly.

    If your reverb plug in has an EQ, you can cut from 250hz down, that could clear it up a bit. Also pulling that frequency down on the pads would help to bring the flute out. Just a starting point and suggestion.

    The flute is beautiful.

    • Euca,

      Lord of the Rings? Can someone who knows someone let them know I’m available for a Lord of the Rings score?! (doesn’t hurt to ask, right?)

      “If your reverb plug in has an EQ, you can cut from 250hz down, that could clear it up a bit. Also pulling that frequency down on the pads would help to bring the flute out.”

      I will look for that, but really don’t know what you are talking about! Back to the manuals. Thanks again for the critique!


      • Hi Cari, No problem. I wish I knew someone with that power!!

        If you open your reverb plug and go to the EQ section, you can put a shelf also known as a high pass filter on the lower frequencies. I usually cut everything below 250hz in my reverb plugs, really no need for those frequencies as they build up and make the verb muddy. Another trick is to add a pre delay, this is also located within the plug. If you set that at about 50ms, it adds a nice richness to the verb.

        I see you did a review on Ableton 8, if you google ableton reverb or something similar there are a bunch of tutorials you can check out.

        I hope this helps, I know it can get confusing with everything that is possible and all the terms but after experimenting with different settings it gets easier and it all seems to click at the same time!!

  4. Lovely piece. The sound is beautiful, no issues there IMO. Recording is clean. I think the instruments are balanced well.

    My only nit is sometimes it seems like there are a lot of different threads competing for attention. The flute and harp(?) go together well but sometimes the backing pads (strings?) seem to occasionally clash.

    Well done overall, my only suggestion then would be looking at how some of the lines are harmonised, and it’s only at a few points.

    As a side note, I find this sometimes in my own work and often it’s as simple as cleaning up just the reverb/delay at those points rather than addressing the underlying writing/recording. Verb and delay are backwards by design, they say what has happened, rather than what is happening. And what has happened might clash with what is happening. Hope that makes sense.

    • I’ll agree pretty much with all Rob’s comments. The flute is really lovely, but yeah, those pads and strings seem to clash on occasion. It’s often a case of what you need to leave out, that makes things work. Likewise it’s easy to over do reverb and smother everything. That flute needs more space, it’s the key selling point, make it stand out.

      • Darkstar,

        Thanks for your comments – I will revisit the clashing … can you tell me how to give the flute more space? The reverb is not my friend?! I use it a lot – can you suggest an alternative to a reverb junkie?


    • Rob, first thank you for taking the time to listen to my sample. Great advice about the competing lines. I get the delay thing, and how it can clash with the next idea. I’m still experimenting and looking for the best way to offer my musical ideas. Until “Cari Live” came into the picture, I have always written in traditional notation, following the rules and such. Never worked for me.

      Thanks again for your suggestions!


  5. I can definitely hear the sadness element to the track and it reminds me a bit of the lord of the rings. Im listening on headphones thru my laptop, so not the best way to judge quality/effects etc but to me the track sounds good apart from at times there seems to be a lot going on and some of the sounds are clashing. A bit of EQ could probably fix that. theres a small pop near the end too. (im not sure if that matters tho) But its a good track. good melody and great emotion in the song. lovely flute and harp. Just my opinion. could be wrong 🙂

    • Hi Hysteria,

      Thanks for taking the time to listen – I’m starved for feedback and friends/family are way too nice …

      Can you give more detail about the EQ suggestion? The pop at the end is bad … did not hear it and will fix asap!

      Thanks for the flute complement and I love the harp synth. (Lord of the Rings? Cool!)

      (I don’t think you are wrong!)

      • Hi Cari, EQ is the process of eliminating troublesome frequencies or boosting quiet frequencies to suit your song/mix. heres a link to a bit of info on Ableton’s EQ


        I was listening to your song thru headphones so I cant tell where you need to cut frequencies exactly ( or if the clashing is being caused by EQ, or too much reverb or delay) but what Euca said about cutting below 250hz in the reverb plugin could help. Best way to find out is to experiment/explore with the reverb/EQ/delay until that area in the song sounds cleaner. Good luck!

        • Cari, if two sound sources share the same dominant frequency, engineers will often carve that frequency out of one of the sounds to make room for the other. For example, if the beef of a kick drums sound is at 80Hz, they will notch 80Hz out of the bass guitar. You might try this if some of your sounds are fighting each other.


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