Kitchen consultation: Jeroen Kerstens – Rise

This consultation has been published with the kind permission of Jeroen Kerstens:

Download or listen to the song ‘Rise’ here:


There are two aspects of the composition that should be looked at: Melody and Structure.

The main melody could do with a lot more shape. I understand the way the low plateau is followed by the steady ascent. The low plateau, however, consists of only three notes. This actually makes it feel restricted and unexpressive. Even adding a fourth note – a flat seventh below the tonic – could make an appreciable difference. It’d give you the scope to give that low plateau a bit more shape and movement and colour without substantially changing the function of the plateau (setting up for the steady ascent).

The other aspect of the melody that could be improved is the timing of the notes driving the vocoder’s carrier. A lot of these notes are actually behind the melody. The singer is using a lot of syncopated rhythms, but the vocoder notes are on the beat. This gives an awkward effect where articulation of the melody is unclear. You’ll find the melody comes across much stronger when the notes driving the vocoder’s carrier are exactly following the singer. In practice, that means bringing some of those notes forward so that they start at the same time as the singer’s notes.

The structure already has a good contour and overall shape. What can be improved, however, is the intensity of the second peak (towards the end of the song). At the moment, the second peak feels just the same as the first. You’ll create more excitement and development if the second peak is more interesting or intense than the first. There are a lot of ways to achieve this. For example:

  • Adding some double-time percussion
  • Adding a melodic or vocal harmony to the main melody
  • Making the main synth part harsher or noisier
  • Introducing a second countermelody (this will work best if you hint at this countermelody earlier in the song).

Also, the buildup at around 2:39 could be more dramatic. Some panned swishes or other motion elements would add a lot – especially if they can be automated to rise or speed up over the duration of the buildup.


Overall, the mix is not bad. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, and you should be comfortable mastering this mix as it is. However, its width and depth can be improved. At the moment, the overall mix sounds ‘closed’ – narrow and shallow.

The width can be increased by adding some extreme-panned background instruments or wider pad/reverb elements. This will be most effective if it follows the contour of the song; rather than being super-wide the whole time, the wider elements should be brought in during the most intense sections (such as the peak at the end).

The mix could also be improved with more depth. At the moment it’s quite shallow – with most of the instruments sounding in the foreground. This is much like watching a movie or TV show comprised entirely of close-up shots! Think about adding some smaller sounds in the background. Also consider paying more attention to ambience.

This kind of music lends itself well to ambience that is long and deep. You can use reverb or delay – use your personal preference. A little bit of ambience goes a long way. You shouldn’t need to apply gobs and gobs of the stuff all over the place – a conservative amount should have the desired effect. You might find that a blend of reverb and delay will work best. Too much reverb can make the mix sound cloudy and undefined, and too much delay can make it sound cluttered and messy.

It might also be worthwhile backing off your mix bus compressor. Mix bus compression can often make a mix sound more shallow – especially if applied heavily.


This is an example of a single Kitchen consultation. If you would find this kind of feedback useful for your own music, get in touch with me.

– $20 will get you one consultation (basically the same as this example, but in private, with your music).

– $50 will get you three consultations or one studio demo (where I do an example edit or mix of your music to better demonstrate how some concepts would apply to your music)

– $100 will get you seven consultations or two studio demos.

The consultations can be for multiple songs or multiple revisions of one song. It’s up to you.

You can read more about the Kitchen here:

When you’re ready, send me an email to kitchen at kimlajoie dot com.


  1. Hi Kim,
    Thanks a bunch for your comments! You’ve said nothing I really disagree with so I’ll try the tips you gave me for sure!


    • Sparqee
    • March 3rd, 2011

    Great musical tips. The Internet needs more people like you that focus on the music more than just the technical. Your suggestions are great and specific. I’ll be sending you the song I’m recording right now and will be interested to hear what you think.

  2. @Jeroen
    I hope it’s useful! Shoot me an email when you’ve published the final version.

    Cheers – looking forward to hearing your song!


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