Jump to content

When is technical ability/obsession a hindrance to our musical creation?


Makzimia
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • Members

Hi all,

 

I ask this question, because I have seen a trend since computers became so much a part of our industry for recording. I remember back in the days of tape, we did what we did, it was either sounding good, or it wasn't. If someone hears a song, likes it, but then something sounds a little different than they expect, put it through some program and go, oh yeah, that's off by... insert whatever... are we doing ourselves, and others, any favours?. It translates to sound the same on any system as your studio feel was. If it sounds good, you enjoy it, isn't that enough?.

 

Thanks for input,

 

Tony

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 86
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • CMS Author

The way that most music is produced these days lends itself to nit-picking. Few people bring a band into the studio, play some songs, maybe fix a couple of rough spots, and then go off to their gig to make some money. When you assemble a song from a bunch of scraps, you have to work harder to get them to all fit together and make something that sounds like music.

 

But that's OK, because mostly it'll get heard as a bit-reduced stream, while the listener is doing something else, but he wants it in high resolution because he has $600 earphones plugged into the smart phone.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

So, let me play devils advocate, if the people who like your songs like them, who cares whether a seriously competent engineer thinks something could be subjectively different?. I am not saying we put out stuff that is just sloppy trash, or that hurts your ears at certain frequencies. My point was, if it plays well on all devices and everyone that heard it likes it, isn't that the whole point really?.

 

Tony

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

On my album Smoke all of the instrumentation was done in-the-box on the laptop using virtual instruments, so there aren't any 'mistakes' as such. However, I did the vocals pretty much first take, having had a run-through first. There are several dodgy moments but I thought 'Sod it, that's the way I sound'. Result of Chance, from the album, is the best example of this. A case of the rough (my voice) with the smooth (the backing track)

 

Are you from the UK, Tony? I noticed you spelled 'favours' with a U. The way it should be spelled ;)

Edited by Mark L
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Hi Mark, I think a lot of why there is so much emphasis on perfection is because of loops and virtual over live miced music. Anyway, yes, I'm from the UK. I just thought this was a good topic for us all to discuss, and maybe make some headroom for myself to stop sweating the stuff that never used to matter. If it feels good, people dig it, it's golden, no? :D.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • CMS Author
I am not saying we put out stuff that is just sloppy trash' date=' or that hurts your ears at certain frequencies. [/quote']

 

Oh, but we do put out stuff that's just sloppy trash, and (for possibly different reasons) does hurt the listener's ears. That stuff shouldn't be put out or should be improved before it's put out. But there are defenders who say that this is "creativity" and people have a right to hear it. I exercise my right to not hear it, and don't really worry about what I'm missing because there's a few lifetimes of music out there that I enjoy. Much of it has stood the test of time and is as enjoyable today as it was 50 or more years ago. The new music that I enjoy follows the path and has the characteristics of the music that I enjoy, I remember, and that doesn't hurt my ears.

 

My point was, if it plays well on all devices and everyone that heard it likes it, isn't that the whole point really?.

 

Is there a song that everyone who has heard it likes? I doubt it. Some people, believe it or not, like music because it hurts their ears. Some like songs that make them cry. Some like songs that prompt deep thinking. Some like songs that they can never understand. There is no universal song or format or minimum standards of production quality.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

All totally valid reason Mike :). I guess saying specifically the obvious, to me, of music being shaped specifically for a genre. I am well aware of diversity in music, and lots I definitely cannot stand listening to, whether done right or not. Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • CMS Author
The line I always use at workshops is "all that matters is the emotional impact on the listener' date='" because people listen to music to have an emotional reaction. Sounds obvious, but people don't listen to music because they want to evaluate whether a guitar sound is an amp sim or a miked amplifier.[/quote']

 

If that was true, we'd have an awful lot of emotionally impacted people a lot of the time. I have music playing around me a lot, yet I rarely get emotional about something I hear. It fills the silence and occasionally catches my ear for a moment. But when I have a radio program playing and I'm doing something else, I can't tell you what the last song played was. But I'd miss the music if it wasn't there.

 

However, unless someone specifically asks me, I never listen to music to try to figure out if it's a real amplifier or a simulator.

 

[video=youtube;7fJmmDkvQyc]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

As a musician, I don't feel a part of the general listening population. Stripped down to the bare essentials (maybe actually overly simplified) I listen for 1) craft and 2) invention. Not a technical wonk at all, but being a music wonk, I believe that not enough musicians are concerned enough with honing their music skills.

 

I remember maybe 15 years ago reading on some keyboard forum guys talking about measuring the decay of the lowest "A' on the digital piano to determine if it was worthy. I've never played a low "A" on the piano in any piece of music. I believe there's something akin to "male testosterone induced hot rod syndrome" when it comes to souped up sound.

 

Of course, I am an outlier.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members
Hi all,

 

I ask this question, because I have seen a trend since computers became so much a part of our industry for recording. I remember back in the days of tape, we did what we did, it was either sounding good, or it wasn't. If someone hears a song, likes it, but then something sounds a little different than they expect, put it through some program and go, oh yeah, that's off by... insert whatever... are we doing ourselves, and others, any favours?. It translates to sound the same on any system as your studio feel was. If it sounds good, you enjoy it, isn't that enough?.

 

Thanks for input,

 

Tony

 

 

Well, I am a perfectionist and a minimalist and so I make music targeting my own critique. It has to sound natural.

But there are a few lines I will not cross, I will never use Auto Tune, and have never used it. I also try to stay away from compressing my vocals, except if I am willing targeting a specific result/sound. Or at the Master stage.

 

I used a DAW like a tape machine, I also do not use loops. So I play all the parts from beginning to end, this way I have a natural velocity and feel and I can alternate patterns.

 

My ultimate go is to do less in the box.

 

Please note: Nothing I stated above is indicative of good music or hit music, it my personal preference and to each his own.

 

Given I am not certain how some or all listeners my consume music, I simply target my own taste, hopefully someone will like it.

 

But to answer your question, I think the times have changed and the world has changed, it may appear as if people are obsessed with the technicalities of music production but I see it differently. I think Computers and Music making on computers have proliferated and become so ubiquitous, this can make it seem as if people are obsessed with the technology but I think it's because the technology is simply there.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

So how about the case where the crowd says they like some recording, but the studio engineer has a negative opinion about the same recording.

 

It's way too simple to say, "forget the engineer, the people have spoken." The crowd might like it more if the engineer's advice is heeded.

 

There's no single standard here that can be referred to as the final word. It's no use pitting the production pros against the listening public, saying "who is right?". They can both be right, both be wrong, or one right, one wrong. It depends. Engineers can certainly be over-fussy. The crowd can like perfectly wretched material. Happens all the time.

 

If there's a final word on the issue, it's the musical vision of the original artist, right? Some musical visions include a high degree of technical perfection - some don't. I don't listen to Dylan to hear technically amazing acoustic guitar work - but a crack bluegrass band better have precision chops or they will totally fail.

 

So, if you're the artist, and you're feeling harassed by some picky engineer, forget using the crowd to justify your beef with the engineer. Use your own artistic instincts. If it's good enough and you know it, then just say so.

 

nat

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members
This whole thread could really spawn another...

 

How many artists would have never been noticed if not for Good/Inventive engineers?

 

 

 

 

Engineers, or producers, some are both of course. I am not debating the need for sanity checks, I just think we do have too much information overload sometimes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members
End listener hasn't the choices of the engineers.

 

who might be frustrated fashion designers...

 

 

 

Classic... but seriously, I think it does become a case of taking the process too seriously some times. We want to do the best we can, but is our best too far sometimes, I think so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I believe the focus of how we obtain 'perfection' has changed over time, and today we are just seeing the latest iteration. A long time ago, before recording even began, the 'perfection' was achieved by numerous hours of practice with our respective instrument (voice included) and, if part of a group, working together to achieve the perfect sound. The perfection came from the tireless effort to be perfect in our playing. This carried into the initial recording era when everyone was crowded around a single microphone. You still had to get it right it right the first time.

 

As time went on, we developed multi-track recording. Each performer had to get it right, but if you messed up, you could get a 'do over' thanks to new technology. It also allowed you to expand the sound, as you could add things by recording new tracks or additional instruments. The group didn't even need to be in the same room at the same time.

 

Today, the focus of perfection has moved from the performer to the engineer. The computer has given us the opportunity to 'fix in the mix', whether it is multiple takes of multiple takes to get the perfect riff, auto-tune to correct bad vocals (or even create background/harmony vocals, etc), or to create sounds out of 1s and 0s. Instead of hours working to perfect our playing during a performance, we now spend hours in the DAW perfecting the recording of the performance.

 

So the quest for perfection has always been there. How we obtain it seems to be what has changed.

 

Obligatory video....

[video=youtube;G2Rhh_4GZmU]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
  • Members
Craig wrote: "The line I always use at workshops is "all that matters is the emotional impact on the listener," because people listen to music to have an emotional reaction. Sounds obvious, but people don't listen to music because they want to evaluate whether a guitar sound is an amp sim or a miked amplifier."

 

If people really cared about the emotional impact of music, why do they keep taking out the human element from the recording?

 

The people don't take it out of the music...it's taken out before it reaches the people!

 

But editing doesn't have to take out the human element, it can bring it to the fore...as it has with my vocals. Since I've started paying more attention to the levels of phrases, making them more consistent brings the "human" part of the vocal more to the front, and reduces the need to add compression (which I think can remove some of that emotional impact).

 

Is my finished, edited vocal less "human" (i.e., realistic) than my raw vocal? Absolutely. But I really believe the editing amplifies the human element instead of compromises it.

 

I'll even put in a good word for pitch correction. Since having the freedom to add pitch correction if needed, I sing in a much more free, relaxed, and "daring" way, because I know if I do something cool except for a couple of notes, I can fix the notes and retain the good stuff. That too takes away the human element - those couple of clams - but in return, being more free while singing amplifies the human element.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I just noticed this - so I'm late to the party, and I have and early set-up for tonight's gig, so excuse me for not having time to read all the posts and perhaps I'm drifting out of the current flow.........

 

I think when the strive for near-perfect technology gets in the way of emotionally expressive music, we are caring too much.

 

I've heard some muddy recordings with bad intonation and a lot of soul that are better to my ears than some technically excellent but uninspired performances.

 

Me? If I'm going to record my own album, I prefer all the band members and the vocalists to record at the same time. They should be prepared before the session so that a minimum of takes due to glaring errors are needed (preferably they will all be one-take-jakes - but even with the best of the best an occasional big flub happens).

 

If it can't be recorded in 2 or 3 takes either the band or the engineer isn't prepared enough.

 

The advantage of everyone at the same time is group interaction. The vocalist might turn a phrase, the drummer picks up on it and supports it, whoever is playing countermelody responds to that and supports it either by something similar or contrasting but enhances the lead lick, and so on. These things don't happen when you record one track at a time.

 

Also, the session should be done in the evening, because I think the voice is best after being up all day. I think 9 or 10 PM is perfect.

 

Any technology that kills dynamic expression, intonation, or other human elements should be avoided. If you can't sing without auto-tune, get a day job -- if you can't use mic control to eliminate the need to compress your vocals, get a day job or stick to night clubs. There is an art to recording and The Wrecking Crew, Funk Brothers, Swampers, and the other great studio bands knew how to get a song out quickly with expression and limited amount of the types of technology that kill expression.

 

Not that all technology is bad, we have wonderful new tools, better mics, better FX units and extremely high fidelity recording tools. Use the good tools, but don't abuse the expression limiting ones.

 

I also think most songs go through 3 stages (1) when it is new, it's very exciting, and you are experimenting on what works well and what doesn't work too well (2) you've been playing it a while, you know what works, but you haven't worn it out yet, you soar through the song like you are riding a wave - it's peaking (3) you still enjoy playing the song, but it's past peak. It's comfortable like lunch in your favorite restaurant with a good friend.

 

Stage (2) is when you need to do the recording.

 

------

 

Although I've done a fair amount of session work, I'm predominantly a live performer. Interacting with the crowd through music is the most fun I can have with my clothes on. Due to the rigors of the road, especially doing one-nighers the available technology is less. I use good dynamic mics, a mixer, good fx unit, sonic maximizer and good powered speakers. I have a good saxophone, good guitar, good wind synth, and other instruments. The main thing is bring your energy, your passion, be prepared, and have a good time entertaining the audience. And isn't that what it's all about.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I think that once someone has gotten to the point where they are frankensteining they've gone off the deep end. The Glenn Gould approach comes to mind. Cutting it up into 2 second bits, a note here a note there. As an orchestra player I had some experience with this. In the end, there is something demeaning about it. It's not like anyone was underprepared I'm sure. It's just an approach adopted at the outset to fix even tiny flaws, maybe at the expense of the flow in the process of recording, and in the recording itself potentially.

 

My parents had a GG recording of the Brahms Intermezzos that I used to listen to once in a while. They always came across as extremely careful to me. It was funny to later hear about his path to 'perfection' and recall the audible moaning and groaning in the recording that came with. :lol:

 

Speaking of AT. I fessed up a while back that I have such a device here. The thought had been that a pain issue keeps me from being able to play for very long and I simply can't perfect before I record like I used to. But even so, there is something soooo not up to the challenge about using it to even fix an odd clam. I just couldn't bring myself to even print a mix with it involved in such a way. Hook or crook, I'm a violinist and intonation is the game. Or at least a very large part of it. You singers can use it all you want though. :p:D

 

Anyway, it's easier for me to adopt a more Gilmore-esque approach. I play fewer notes thereby increasing my odds. :)

 

 

 

Edited by RockViolin
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I think it depends on the artist, the producer, the engineer, and the ability to resist fads. Speaking only for myself, the music I've done past mid-90s lets the emotional impact shine through more than what I did before. BUT - I also don't have to please anyone other than myself, and I've made a conscious effort to find more spontaneous methods to facilitate songwriting and recording.

 

It's taken me since the mid-90s to become as proficient with a computer as I am with a guitar (yes, that's a helluva learning curve). These days I feel the computer is more of a songwriting partner than just a method of transcribing. I've finally understood exactly what "non-linear" recording means, and it's really made a difference in terms of being able to capture ideas when they hit. Even compared to 5 years ago, when I first started doing Neo-, the music I'm doing now feels more fluid and capable of capturing the moment better.

 

I gotta love people like Jack White who keep the old school traditions alive, because they work too and worked well for decades. I used them too. But there's nothing magic about them, the magic in any technology is what the people put into it. There's no reason why you can't boot up Pro Tools and have a band play with gobos and be looking each other in the eye. Eventually, people who were not able to resist fads will realize they CAN resist fads.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I began recording in 1984 on a 4 track Tascam 244. I'm trying very hard to use that same approach to recording now. Worry more on the take, use only what's really needed, and walk away when it plays on many places the same way I hear it in my studio speakers. Thanks everyone for your inputs so far :).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • CMS Author

 

I gotta love people like Jack White who keep the old school traditions alive, because they work too and worked well for decades. I used them too. But there's nothing magic about them, the magic in any technology is what the people put into it.

 

It's hard to get people to believe that. The "vintage sound" was the sound of good musicians and good singers who could play together and, without nit-picking every breath or string buzz, record a song that caught the listener's ear. Sam Phillips didn't have any particularly exotic equipment - RCA and EV mics and Ampex recorders. That, plus his good sense of what was musical and how to get it on tape is what made hit records.

 

Today, moneymaker hits are made in a factory, and individuals just want to get their music out and maybe get a few thousand Facebook friends or YouTube plays.

 

There's no reason why you can't boot up Pro Tools and have a band play with gobos and be looking each other in the eye. Eventually, people who were not able to resist fads will realize they CAN resist fads.

 

And that's another problem - For most people, studios were the only place to record - studios cost money to build, staff, and maintain, and therefore recording was expensive enough so that cost was at least partially a "quality filter." If you were good enough, someone with industry savvy would foot the bill for your recording and hopefully sell some records, or if you were wealthy enough, you could book your own studio time and do whatever you choose with the recording. Today, for $100, anyone can record at home, so they do. And because they're using a DAW, be it Pro Tools or the one that came bundled with the $100 interface+mic package, they don't have to be able to play or sing very well, or put together a group of players and singers to work with them. They can, and do, piece things together using the technology.

 

Like the blind squirrel who eventually finds an acorn, they manage to put something together. Some keep at it long enough so that they have had time to learn not just how to work the technology, but how to record well crafted music, and come up with some good work. But that takes enough time so that most get bored and do something else - maybe make videos???

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share




×
×
  • Create New...