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It�s All About The Music.....


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We're editing guitars. I may have a minute....

 

NEW TOPIC.....Well sorta new....

 

Its All About The Music

___________________________________________

 

Someone said this to me the other day: "Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings..." That thought keeps coming back to me. Perhaps it is because I have always felt that I am an artist at what I do...

 

My pal John Klett said something very interesting to me the other day: Dont ever go for some piece of equipment just because its got a better number, or because people say this is the thing to do. I can't get his statement get out of my head either

 

Think about this for a minute... It is possible for the human ear to quickly analyze complex musical sources and sounds far more quickly and much more accurately than any known test equipment.

 

How does this Phenomenon apply to Recording Equipment?

 

This fact has always been fascinating to me. I have talked to highly skilled technicians who will say that when you test music mixing consoles with very sophisticated test equipment, two different consoles will measure essentially the same, yet when you send the same musical sound source through these two mixing desks, our perception of the musical quality at the output of the two mixing consoles will be very different. In fact, I have found this same occurrence to be true when comparing all music recording equipment.

 

I believe this dilemma is a good example of the necessity for us to not place our confidence in either the objective or subjective schools of thought when it comes to judging music recording equipment. In this case what I mean by objective thought, is the comparison of sound equipment as an impartial and unbiased process. The word objective is defined as being characterized by honesty, justice and freedom from improper influence. By subjective thought, what I mean is that our analysis of such sound comparison as an intellectual or cerebral process.

 

This is, as you can see, two sides of the same coin. I think when it comes to equipment comparison, it really goes far deeper than that. To me it really involves our basic instincts and emotions.

 

The reason I am making such a big point of this one issue is that I see a good number of people in our industry who take equipment manufacturers specification statements at face value.

 

I dont mean to infer that equipment manufacturers specification statements are deliberatly falsified. Not at all. Its the fact that there are so many ways to interpret a technical statement that we absolutely must reserve the right to make an evaluation with our own needs, abilities and emotions as part of the process.

 

Please dont let the printed page totally influence your judgement when it comes to evaluating music recording equipment. The specificatons that a manufacturer states as to how his equipment will perform is merely a starting point from which we will select what equipment we want to consider. After we make the initial choice about what equipment we want to assess, we must listen to it with our ears and our hearts and make the final evaluation with our instincts. Making equipment choices must be a very instinctive and personal process.

 

We must develope a willingness to follow our instincts. Gut reactions translated to music recordings are the most believable. This may be more true in our work than in any other field of endeavor. If we have good instincts to begin with, we must learn to listen to that

little voice in the back of our heads, or behind our belly buttons, or wherever it resides and do what it tells us is right.

 

If you analyzed all the frequencies and combinations of frequencies in the tone of a few notes from a violin, and then wrote a program for a computer to indicate that sound exactly, could you tell from the resultant computer print-out what kind of a violin it was? The human ear can discern such subtlies almost instantaneously.

 

The human ear can tell from exclusively subjective means, much more quickly and accurately than any known test equipment. It's like the old musical intrument makers. They didn't measure, they just listened. Stradivarius didn't have a computer. Perhaps his violins would not have been as wonderful sounding if he had had a computer.

 

Craig - How am I doin?

 

Bruce Swedien

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posted by Bruce:

I see a good number of people in our industry who take equipment manufacturers specification statements at face value.

Fortunately, that didn't happen with SACD.

 

Oye vey, what a fraud THAT was.

 

Other than that, Bruce, I hear ya.

 

I find it an admission of defeat on a musical level when peoples look to a gear choice to impart some "magic" to their sound.

 

As my buddy Steve Albini would say...

 

HOOEY!

 

The magic come from the love, nome sayn?

Eric Vincent (ASCAP)

www.curvedominant.com

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Originally posted by Bruce Swedien:

Its All About The Music

___________________________________________

If you analyzed all the frequencies and combinations of frequencies in the tone of a few notes from a violin, and then wrote a program for a computer to indicate that sound exactly, could you tell from the resultant computer print-out what kind of a violin it was? The human ear can discern such subtlies almost instantaneously.

 

The human ear can tell from exclusively subjective means, much more quickly and accurately than any known test equipment. It's like the old musical intrument makers. They didn't measure, they just listened. Stradivarius didn't have a computer. Perhaps his violins would not have been as wonderful sounding if he had had a computer.

 

Craig - How am I doin?

I'm not Craig either, but as I was reading your post, I kept thinking of Jimi Hendrix. Of how, at least a couple of times, I thought I knew what guitar he was playing, only to find out it was a Les Paul :eek:

The instrument is the tool of the accomplished player. Just as an artist, can take a brush and make "his" mark. A musician can sit down at a Steinway and make it sound like "him". An engineer can manipulate the equipment (pretty much any equipment) to produce "his" sound.

I think we (humans) can hear the differences between two boxes with the same specs. But we can also, intuitively manipulate the controls in real time, to compensate for the differences.

It's only after you've studied enough, that you can forget about the brush, box, piano, or guitar. That's when you're free to concentrate on, and make it all about the art. In our case, "The Music".

Hope I didn't run on.

 

Sly :cool:

Whasineva ehaiz, ehissgot ta be Funky!
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I don't know crap about sound recording equipment. But I have had some experience with sound reproduction equipment. To wit:

 

Back in '79, I had finally set aside what I considered a respectable amount of money for a new sound system. But, what to buy? My brother-in-law at the time was(and still is)a "tech-freak", and quickly schooled me in what he considered the important stuff to know when shopping for "state-of-the-art" stereo set ups. You know, db number in this range, signal-to-noise ratio in that range, seperation numbers, Hz and KHz this low and that high and all of that. Gave me a comprehensive guide to consult when looking stuff over.

 

So I schlepped around every high-end audio store in two counties asking for literature of various makes of recievers, amp/pre-amp/tuner combos, speakers and turntables.(yep! '79!) After poring over all the specs with the focus of a medical student, I'd return to each of the various stores and ask if I could hear the particular combos of equipment I concieved would cop me the best sound based on the various specs of each component. Most high-end stores are more than happy to cart stuff from one end to the other if it means a couple of thou in sales. And you know what?

 

They all sounded shitty!

 

I couldn't figure it out. And I was frustrated in both my wasted effort and the growing impatience to get quality sound in the house.

 

In one store, I looked again at the offerings of a company whose components were constructed of unique design. Mostly all the others looked basically the same. So I asked the salesman what more he could tell me about the stuff, and I also told him what I had been going through. He said I couldn't do that with this equipment, because the manufacturer constructed it all to run on four ohms, while all the others were eight. There would be compatability and efficiency issues if I mixed things up. I asked to see any info on the specs. Let me tell you that from everything I thought I knew, this shit had the worst specs of all the components I listened to. Nothing actually fell within any of the ranges and parameters I was told were necessary for a "high quality" sound system. But, I decided to give it a listen...

 

And discovered what was to me, at the time, the richest, warmest and full sounding system I had ever heard! Clean highs without the jangle. Rich, clear lows without the rattle and muddle. And a mid-range so crisp, it balanced the other two into sounding like I was in on the recording session. And all of this in spite of the fact the specs said it should be otherwise!

 

The system was made by Bang & Olufsen. Now, this isn't a plug for B&O, and many out there might have never liked their stuff. All I'm saying is that too careful attention to bench-tested specs CAN be misleading.

 

It was in this case of sound reproduction equipment. It's probably no stretch to imagine it's also true for sound recording equipment, too.

 

Whitefang

I started out with NOTHING...and I still have most of it left!
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Originally posted by Bruce Swedien:

Everybody......

 

Here's a secret web-site about my home studio.

 

http://www.asc-studio-acoustics.com/westviking.htm

 

Don't tell anyone.....

 

Bruce Swedien

Okay I went, I saw and HEY HEY YO!

Cool lanks and lonks for clanks and clonks

I have a couple of new favorites added to my lank clank list.

 

a LOT of stuff to read, wish I understood ANY of it.. As I read the TECHNICAL JARGON my eyes go unfocused and drool begins to trickle out of the corner of my pie hole..

I ain't a techhead for real. I mean it ain't anything like dodgeing vomit or changin' strangs..

. I can dodge and duck and take one for the team but this tech-stuff is KILLIN' ME!. .

HEY BRICE DUDE!

thanks though for your efforts to enlighten and infuse.

kissey, kissey; love ya', mean it..

Frank Ranklin and the Ranktones

 

WARP SPEED ONLY STREAM

FRANKIE RANKLIN (Stanky Franks) <<<

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Originally posted by Bruce Swedien:

Please dont let the printed page totally influence your judgement when it comes to evaluating music recording equipment.

So to paraphrase another quote: "Reading about a music recording equipment is like dancing about AutoCAD" :D

 

More great insight! Thanks!

aka riffing

 

Double Post music: Strip Down

 

http://rimspeed.com

http://loadedtheband.com

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<

 

Just fine! Then again, it's the kind of thing I've been known to say so of course I'm gonna agree.

 

The specs thing is interesting to me from a writing/reviewing standpoint. Keyboard magazine used to have an AP-1 and Michael Marans did really exhaustive, rigorous, unbiased testing of gear. The only problem was that too many times, specs didn't mean anything.

 

For example, the E-mu Emax was a 12-bit sampler. The Casio FZ was a 16-bit sampler. But the noise levels on the Casio were higher than the Emax! I attributed it to circuit board design, which of course is something that doesn't have a spec.

 

Then there's personal preferences. Today I mentioned to Ken Hughes, one of the editors at Keyboard magazine, that I was really impressed with the purity of the Ultra Analog soft synth. He was disappointed because he LIKES intermodulation distortion (he was much relieved when I mentioned that you could overdrive the filters if you wanted a little grit).

 

Then there's the matter of taste. Back in 1966 I took a guitar compressor design to a Major Manufacturer. I thought compression on guitar was the coolest thing in the world, especially because I'd managed to build it in this little box. I was sure the company was going to flip out and want to go into production immediately. So I set it up, played, and the guy at the company said -- with genuine puzzlement -- "Why would anyone want a guitar to sound like that?"

 

Music software is a whole different thing, because what REALLY matters to me is ease of use. If I don't have to think when using gear, I make better music. Period. (This was the subject I wrote about in the December EQ, to which some people alluded in another thread.) Bells and whistles just aren't important unless you can access them instantly.

 

One more thing, and then I'll crawl back into my hole. The INTERACTION of gear is crucial, and that simply will never show up on a spec sheet. My favorite example: Cables. Some people will swear that a particular cable sounds better, while another will say the same cable doesn't sound different. THEY'RE BOTH RIGHT. A cable on a high-impedance guitar going into a tube amp is going to react very differently compared to a cable connecting two low-impedance sources.

 

My other favorite example is when Eric Johnson got laughed at for saying he thought carbon-zinc batteries sounded better in an effect than alkalines. BUT THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. Their internal impedance is quite different, which can have a major effect on effects with poor power supply rejection.

 

Bottom line: I trust a good musician's ears over a scope. If Eric Johnson say he hears a difference in batteries, I take that at face value and try to figure out why, rather than laugh at him.

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Quick, can someone photoshop Eric Johnson's head on Robert Conrad's body saying "I DARE you to knock this battery off my shoulder"... :D

 

Seriously though...for batteries and other things. It's great to be able to hear the difference, and it's great to make use of that. But, the downside is not to let it cripple you. "I'm not going to record anything until everything is perfect"...which, of course, it never can be.

 

We just mourned the passing of Artie Shaw, who quit playing because he could never be good enough for himself. While part of that is admirable, it's (in my mind, anyway), more tragic than admirable. Okay, some might say, Hoffman, you're comparing apples and oranges...playing skill vs. equipment. Not really...both can creep in to the point where you're hampering your own vision.

 

Okay...now I'll crawl back into my hole...

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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I think that's what some of us were rolling our eyes at with Eric Johnson...it was like "Eric, we don't care, man, just play!"

 

At this point, you start getting into the bit about how that "certain sound" you're seeking enhances your chops. I think we've all (regardless of our relative skill levels) have encountered it, and we can all relate. And that's a tough nut to crack. You start getting into the whole "psychology of performance" thing. WOW. Man, right there...a topic on which volumes could be written, but I'm not aware of much that has.

 

Anyone know of any books on the topic?

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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Originally posted by Bruce Swedien:

Lee.....

 

That's my beautiful little Harrison 3232c. It sounds so good it makes you want to hurt yourself!!!

 

(It's the same as the console that I did "________" on!)

Ahhhh.... awesome! :) There are too few really great sounding consoles in use these days...
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Originally posted by Bruce Swedien:

...

The human ear can tell from exclusively subjective means, much more quickly and accurately than any known test equipment. It's like the old musical intrument makers. They didn't measure, they just listened. Stradivarius didn't have a computer. Perhaps his violins would not have been as wonderful sounding if he had had a computer.

 

...

Well, we have the best test gear available, and basically the only thing they tell us is whether the audio gear being tested passes signal or not...

 

Each of our audio products gets listened to, in a unique controlled environment, by one of the engineers who designed the products, before it gets packaged. What he listens for is defineable, repeatable, and absolutely due to good product design, but not really measureable.

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Originally posted by Tedster:

At this point, you start getting into the bit about how that "certain sound" you're seeking enhances your chops. I think we've all (regardless of our relative skill levels) have encountered it, and we can all relate....

For me, it was a Mesa Boogie Mark IIB in the early 80's. Changed my fingers to ears to brain relationship forever.
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I think Craig's quote about Eric Johnson's battery preference and subsequent comments about "everything being perfect" are two edges of the same sword.

What I mean is, Eric can hear, feel, experience the difference between a 9V alkaline and a carbon battery. But he's also the poster boy for perfectionism. I remember waiting for months, no, years, for that second album to come out. That guy took forever - it was never up to his expectations.

 

Sometimes you just gotta hit record.

 

I saw that Tupac documentary on cable last night. The guy seriously knew he was gonna die. And there's a part of the documentary where he's yelling at the producer to just record his rhymes, stop wasting time on some beat, get it down on time while its still poppin'. He was like, I just want to put down as much stuff as possible before I die.

So sometimes the mic choice, the preamp, the room is all about the moment. If it sounds like the right tool, it is the right tool. That's what I am getting from Bruce's post.

Thanks Bruce.

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the five senses, while often work in their desing together flawlessly, IMHO can distract when it comes to music, and recording. Unless I need to see something for editing purposes, I keep the video monitors off, using key commands to operate the virtual transports. Often I will spend extended time listening with my eyes closed and feeling my way round the console to make eq, pan or volume adjustments. the lights re always just a shade from being off. I listen from the other room, from outside, and from headphones not on my head. I use the best analiztion tool known to man, I use the God given gift of listening. I listen for the emotion, the passion, the pure, raw energy of a musical performance. Music isn't supposed to be perfect, it's supposed to be human. At least I think so. That's the kind of music I strive to engineer and produce. If it doesn't insight some sort of emotion in me, either it's a bad song, a bad performance, or I'm not finished mixing yet.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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An interesting and different perspective on what Bruce discusses in his initial post here could be that one might blindly aquire gear without hearing it, cheap or expensive, and learn it's strengths and weaknesses inside out. This coupled with an engineer with good taste could produce some colorful and strong stylistic sounds, based on the limitations of the gear.

 

Audio recording is so complex.

Who is to say that a particular tune wouldn't benifit from recording the drums through a mackie and the vocal through a radio shack mic.

The thing is, if you know the qualities of the gear you are restricted to using, it doesn't matter what you have, there is a way to make art with it if you have some forsight and the ability to hear "good" over plain old "bad" or tasteless(which of course is directly relative to what we hear regularly as good or the pro standard.

And you know, i would like to hear more of that kind of art done real well.

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