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Find out what modern recording has in common with pig lips, birthing canals and orphans by considering the following proverbial question:  what difference does it make?

 

By Chris Marion

 

Perusing through the flow chart above might leave you with a depressing conundrum – what difference does it make? In this magical mystery tour through modern recording, your masterpiece is birthed through over a half million dollars of the best recording hardware and software on terra firma, only to end up being squashed into a $1.99 mp3 and listened to on a $12 set of factory iPod ear buds. Oh, the madness! This is not the musical nirvana you fantasized about as you sold platelets, pimped your girlfriend and convinced your mother to refinance…for the second time.

 

Let not your heart be troubled, embattled grasshopper. Your entertainment sensei will guide you back to creative bliss and in the process, you will either find out what difference it makes or the futility in asking proverbial questions.

 

Garbage In, Garbage Out

 

All of the world’s best recording gear can’t change the quality (or lack of therein) of what you record. Making a difference always begins with presenting quality material in the first place. Strive to record your best and most polished work that is ready from prime time. Bright red lipstick can’t change the overwhelming fact that you’re slapping it on the lips of a pig. Save pigs (and potential fans) the frustration.

 

Coming Soon To A Birthing Canal Near You

 

Look at the recording of your musical masterpiece as a birthing process. In this irreverent analogy, your studio of choice would be the birthing canal and the gear you use to record would represent the various birthing tools and instruments. While being born in the trappings of a barnyard manger makes for a compelling Christmas story and robust immunities, most prospective parents would choose the most high-tech, advanced maternity facility available to insure that their creation bounces into the world as a pink, healthy screamer. Doesn’t your recorded offspring deserve the same beginning?  Don't let your material suffer the "forcep" marks of novice or deficient recording gear and technique.

 

It makes an astounding difference to the sonic "viability" of your recording to choose the best facility and gear available. Don’t let your musical progeny sound like it was born (or recorded) in the back seat of a Greyhound bus rolling down Highway 41 – no offense to rambling men around the world.

 

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

 

Just as that curly-headed optimist, Little Orphan Annie, sang, each day brings a new sunrise… and usually a newer version of yesterday’s technology. Take courage!  Your fans might be listening to your creation on a cheap-ass pair of iPod ear buds manufactured by underpaid, pre-teen Asian kids today, but tomorrow, they’ll be enjoying the same music on the 2.0 version of cheap-ass ear buds, now endorsed by an aging, one-time rapper for quadruple the cost.  Sorry, capitalism might not breed optimism but it does tend to net new and improved products, at least in packaging.

 

In all sincerity, audio technology for sound duplication and digital audio itself has advanced exponentially since the early days of its inception. Gone are the days of unsightly earphones and curly phone cords. The consumer-grade in-ear-monitors that are widely accessible to teen-age girls at Hot Topic are light years ahead of the first set of iPod buds in frequency response and clarity. Likewise, the mp3 has come such a long way from the early days when a German professor was trying to figure out how to transmit 20 seconds of a Suzanne Vega song over an ISDN digital phone line without distortion that made the song unintelligible. What the function?!?! The very future of digital music depended on hearing a Suzanne Vega song? Let us give thanks to the gods of rock for their gift of distortion...

 

Seriously, the encoding and compression scheme that goes into creating an mp3 continues to advance and improve the format for clarity and reproduction. Annie is right – the sun will eventually come out for better quality digital audio and improved ear “thingies” for her and Sandy, the dog, to listen on.

 

Considering these three unorthodox perspectives on the difference "it" makes might not compel you to rebook your session at Abbey Road Studios. Still, it makes sense to exert as much control as you can over what you create. Don’t let your creative cream curdle before it ever rises to the top. Commitment to quality will always make a difference… even on a Suzanne Vega song.

____________________________________________________

 

Chris Marion is an American musician best known as a member of Little River Band and for his contribution to the gospel, rock and country music industries. Although graduating college with a B.A. in Psychology, he is a classically trained pianist and has worked in the music and recording industry professionally for over 35 years. A resident of Nashville, he tours globally with the classic rock's Little River Band as a keyboardist and vocalist.  For more useless trivia and minutiae concerning Chris or to contact him directly, feel free to visit his personal website www.chrismarionmusic.com. 

 

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