Wednesday, 4 January 2012

It's An Art, Not a Science

(from previous blog - 26 September 2011)

One of the issues facing a modern recording musician is the immense plethora of tools and techniques available these days. Open the pages of any music technology magazine and you are instantly bombarded with all the latest "must have" software and hardware gizmos, and stern warnings from the so called "experts" about getting things wrong in your production. You are made to feel so inadequate and amateurish if you do not instantly rush out and buy these new toys and remix everything you've ever done using the latest techniques.

I've just got back from a session with the chief archivist at Sony Music (who also happens to be my brother), playing him the latest version of "Soundscapes" as part of my preview programme before release to iTunes later this week. His job involves listening to music releases all day and so I really value his opinion as to the quality of the mixing and mastering. But by the same token I was dreading what he might think and what holes he would pick in it.

But I forgot one important factor - he is also a passionate music lover. So he listened as such, as a listener rather than a technician. And he loved it. Not a single one of the little mix problems that were burning holes in my perfectionist ears was even mentioned. He complained that one of the tracks went on a bit too long (which has since been corrected) but otherwise we spent most of the time chatting about the influences, drinking a few beers and enjoying the music. That doesn't happen very often these days when most people like to keep their music to themselves funnelled directly into their ears from their iPods.

I came away from the session feeling a thousand times more confident than when I went in, because something had dawned on me. It's not about the technicalities, it's about the pleasure given to the listener. It's the same reason I have never (and never will) submit my music to the music production press for review. Although it can be a great source of publicity, they generally rip it to bits in terms of technical production and never sit back and just listen to the music. As a producer myself, I fully appreciate the need for the technology, and believe me there are some fantastic tools out there, but at the end of the day the important thing is that your listeners enjoy the experience. Do they care whether the mastering compression threshold needed a couple more decibels?

Of course not - as long as it makes a noise that they like

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