Wisdom from the Red button.

"If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer."

Confucius
  • Give yourself headroom = leaving some for others

  • The more distortion you have, the less width your sound has

  • Physics shall always best you. Work it to your favor; don’t fight it

  • Play hard ≠ play loud

  • Sound statements, not fillers

  • Concise arrangements are your studio’s best gear

  • A great recording of a poor performance won’t impress anyone

  • Playing ‘tight’ encourages dynamic processors (comps, gates) to enhance your mix

  • Leave knobs alone, control your sound as if you were playing acoustically

  • Honey gets more out of your engineer than vinegar

  • Speaking your mind professionally will get you respect

  • Silence presence in Music is as important as its absence

"Space is the place"

Sun-Ra

Big versus Loud

Most (it’s a disease) perform music like angry Youtube commenters. All in caps. WITHWORDSSOMETIMES allclumpedtogether….

Annoying, right? Now imagine 4+ people doing the same thing together, all demanding ‘more me’ in the cans. It’s like being a ref for an idiocratic debate. The Tao of Recording prevails; fitting in harmoniously flatters your performance more than any EQ/Verb/Compression EVER will. Live with it!  Just like your everyday speaking M.O. uses subtle intonation for subtext and emphasis, music behaves dynamically as a reflection of our own humanity. So don’t Bogart the bandwith, it’ll make everyone sound worse, including and especially yourself.

Path to Enlightenment

No matter how long and articulately you may describe ‘Chocolate’ to someone, tasting it is the one and true epiphany. Whenever with client, we feel it is our duty to showcase symptoms whilst providing solutions of dynamic issues. We are but wizards, not magicians :)

Playing in Crescendo will yield a very different musical perception from your listener than ramping a volume fader up, regardless of observer’s musical acuteness. Our brain understands physics on a much deeper level than we may accept… You know how we can imagine a face when somebody is smiling over the phone? By subtle sounds, and how our ear/brain picks up all signals from our interlocutor. Singing with a smile provides a very unique perception, just as a picture of someone smiling would trigger a particular reaction from someone looking at it. Therefore you don’t want to fix anything in the mix. Do it at the source.

Dynamics

Let’s think ‘automotive’ for a second… What happens to your car engine when you’re driving a constant 6000 rpm? Does it like it? Do you like it? Does it sound comfortable? No?

Q:: why on Earth would constructors even allow for the engine to rev up there, then?

A:: Just like in music, motors/instruments function with…. *drum roll* :: DynAmicS ! You need strong extremes to float a cozy middle-ground. Always allows for acceleration, and make a statement whenever using it.

Moreover, instruments are powered by musicians’ muscles, prone to stress and fatigue. When tired, chances are you will sound as such; instruments often communicate more than we’d like to let through.

Instrumental dynamics

Piano

Piano is one of the most complex instruments to capture. The way a (non-upright) soundboard projects is astonishing. You have to consider that waves rise and bounce off the lid incidentally, as filtered (by wooden board) waves of air move past the soundboard downward, and flood the space from the bottom up. Also consider that harmonic scape is comprised of waves interacting ‘socially’ at a distance from their source, taking in account reflections of the acoustic space and the physics involved. Pianos produce very rich sounds, even if only single notes.

Space

One common redundant audio struggle occurs while mixing a vocal take being in the same range as the lead piano part. Aargh! Songwriters/piano players, open up your hands!!! Pianos cover the whole orchestral range, make use of it, don’t clutter and fight yourself. Stay clear of lead vocal range (mid-section of the piano). It’ll help you sing better, with more control, and less fatigue, while your instrument gains girth and breadth.

 Dynamics

Although stringed, the piano is an instrument working on percussive principles. Which means it’s too darn easy to pound the poor thing until all turns into mush, fingertips included. When recording, you may have microphones both inches away from the hammer, as well as at the other end of the concert hall. Guess what, if you’re Neanderthalizing the keyboard, distance won’t matter, it’ll still suck!

I’m bringing this up because most aren’t familiar with a ‘real’ piano’s touch, a vast majority of people have to deal with gnarly uprights, or electric keyboards. The later skews the physical relationship of cause and effect regarding natural sounds. If you have an upcoming session involving a baby or Grand piano, I urge you to contact studio and nicely ask if there’s any time where you could weather yourself on it. Get a feel for the beast. Come prepared.

Sense

Tuning. Can’t stress enough the value of this. Imagine a well tuned piano (regardless of its temperament) as a jigsaw puzzle, each key being its own delicate and unique piece, fitting with all others. Screw the tuning, you have a giant paperweight. Long story short.

Guitars

We’ve all at some point felt that strange yet so familiar emotion flirting in-between anger and pity, directed at the bloke who strums aimlessly strings so dead they stopped caring six months ago, while said subject over-sings a tune approaching the status of butchered goods. We loathe that guy. And there’s one for every open mic (and never knows when to stop either). This guy probably never had the chance to be taught how to listen! Here are a few pointers to save you being the next dart board at a forthcoming Irish Pub venture.

Electric guitars

Electronics are implemented to  work for you. Give yourself headroom, back off a bit on the volume knob, it’ll give you space to work pedal crunches and pre-amp sections while dialing up your studio tone.

Your rhythm hand is your best dynamic friend. You can get a very percussive-slappy tone without brutalizing your instrument. When recording, touch is everything. Palm muting sections helps open up the mix, if your chorus is 100% balls-out, what are you going to play for the other sections? If you don’t change it up a bit, your parts’ impact will plummet.

Main point is :: your tone will primarily emerge from your hands! Dynamics can be ‘photoshopped’ a bit, within limits, an always less than satisfactory dearly cost. Aim instead for an honest take. Don’t be a hater, don’t clutter…

Acoustic Guitars

When you’re playing and singing with your instrument, what YOU are hearing from your ears’ location is VERY different than whan someone sitting 5ft away would perceive.

Your ears are vertically 3+ feet above and slightly behind the soundhole, and just behind your other soundhole, meaning your mouth. You are only monitoring partial reflections and indirect sound. Imagine you are holding a torchlight at an audience. For you to see what’s going on, you are blinding and annoying a roomful of people!

Once you consider this, you will train your ear to listen from a another’s perspective. What you are hearing isn’t what you sound like. Once you adapt, microphones will be 100% friendlier, and your mix won’t need wrestling.

"A better musician is a true musical teamplayer; not the one with most skill and knowledge."

To Be Continued…

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