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Audible Lyrics - Sea of Mud Sound Quality


Eric Iverson

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As an offshot of another thread, where I found out that the FBI could not prosecute the Kingsmen for obscenity for the lyrics to "Louie, Louie" since they could "definitely determine under laboratory examination" what said lyrics were..

 

I recently went to a battle of the bands where several rock bands were competing, and the sound quality was such sheer mud that you couldn't make out what the actual lyrics were if someone put a gun to your head.. and we all know there are plenty of recordings out there where it's difficult to make the words out!

 

This is fine if you're trying to avoid prosecution for obscenity. But assuming you actually feel you have SOMETHING WORTH HEARING in your lyrics, wouldn't you want to adjust the sound balance accordingly?

 

Just food for thought..

 

Oh, and if you've practiced the tunes to where each part sounds good.. a little careful craftsmanship.. might you not want people to hear the results.. instead of everything being buried in the sea of mud? Oh well, if it's loud, who cares if it sounds good???

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Au contraire...

 

While I personally agree with you, Lee, your jaw would drop at the number of times bands have told me that understanding the lyrics in their genre doesn't matter one bit. Of course, then I get to deal with fans in the audience who bitch about the unintelligibility of the vocals. :rolleyes:

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A lot of times, if you deliver the melody and the rhythm well, the actual words don't matter.

 

As a corrolary, a lot of lyrics that look nice written on the page sound forced and odd when put to music, where OTOH a lot of great sounding stuff, when you write it down is absolutely silly to read.

 

This is next to the situation of playing "wrong" notes with good groove.

 

A lot of times, if you play with good rhythmic sense, you can play almost any note over any chord and no one notices or cares because they get lost in the groove.

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No, lyrics probably don't matter to people who are just out to get drunk and laid; or to people whose only concern is to stare at a fellow guitarist's hands in order to steal licks! (Now I am not throwing stones here... I live in a glass house!) And, admittedly, it's probably a GOOD thing we can't make out the words if the writer has nothing to say!

 

Some songwriters, however, DO write great lyrics.. or at least good, intelligible ones that fit well with the music. Even a guitar nut like me, who is much more likely to buy a jazz guitar CD or symphony than a CD by some earnest folksinger, would miss the Lennon/McCartney words if I couldn't hear them..

 

As far as playing wrong notes with a good groove, yes that's probably better than vice versa, but there are people out there listening who have a good enough ear to tell the difference.. maybe not in your corner bar, admittedly!

 

I still think that, whether you care about the words or not, that the sound should be mixed in such a way that you can clearly what's going on both vocally and instrumentally.. it just sounds a hell of a lot better! Having played and listened in places with good acoustics and a good sound system, and a sound crew that knows what they are doing... and also in places that sound like a tin can/echo chamber.. the former is far better!

 

Unfortunately, most clubs were not designed for concert hall quality sound!

 

But most people I talk to don't seem to care.. am I a voice crying in the wilderness? They can't hear me anyway.... the band is too damn loud!

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Originally posted by Eric Iverson:

Some songwriters, however, DO write great lyrics.. or at least good, intelligible ones that fit well with the music. Even a guitar nut like me, who is much more likely to buy a jazz guitar CD or symphony than a CD by some earnest folksinger, would miss the Lennon/McCartney words if I couldn't hear them..

You can kind of answer your initial question if you listen to some Beatles. The mix is heavy dedicated to the vocals. Any band that doesn't put their vocals up front in a mix is missing the point or has poor singers. :eek:
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Yeah, I've always been curious about why people would want incomprehensible lyrics anyway. Jagger, apparently, says that it's best if don't quite understand all that a singer is singing.

 

A lot of the time, I wouldn't have a clue about lyrics. I tend to get lost in listening to the music and as long as the lyrics are ok as sounds per se, I'm happy enough.

 

At the same time, I get a bit sick of the whole "deep and meaningful singer songwriter" schtick so typical of the 1970s. Sometimes it was good, but I'd rather a good tune with crap lyrics than a crap tune with good lyrics. And anyway, if I don't like the intro music I'll immediately switch over to something else and never mind about waiting for the lyrics.

 

Oh, and I probably prefer some neat "oooohs" and "aaaaahs" than words anyday. If they were good enough for Morricone, they're good enough for me. :) If I really want the whole "words" thing, I'll go see a play, thank 'ee.

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Originally posted by Bluesape:

If I can't make out the lyrics, it might as well be an instrumental.

I don't know that it's such a bad thing. Think of opera. Most people don't know the lyrics and it's certainly not considered "instrumental" music as such. Same goes for a lot of choral music, really. I don't know what Beethoven's 9th says (except for the first line bit about "O freunden nicht dis tonen" or whatever it is). It's still a beautiful piece of choral music. Same goes for gregorian chanting. I wouldn't even know what language they are using (latin?) but it still sounds good.

 

As I said, I'm not sure lyrics are all that important. To me, it's the sound of the words rather than what they mean that interests me. If they make sense and can stand up on their own, fine. But to me, it's not essential.

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I was remastering a compilation by a band called Nunslaughter about ten years ago.

 

Seriously, I never understood what I was hearing. The guy was really very nice, and when I would make a change, he would say something like,"Oh, nice... that brings out the snare...", while I'm thinking, "Snare???? there's a snare????!!!!"

 

Point is, yeah, my preference is to have good lyrics that I can hear. My dad raised me on Sinatra, who is possibly the most precice performer when it comes to phrasing. But different genres of music can require different solutions, and understandable lyrics may NOT be imprtant to some groups.

 

Oh, and there are no swear words or lewd lyrics in Louie Louie... at least, that was the story by the lead singer in an interview that I saw back in the 1970s or 80s. Has he changed his story?

 

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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An interesting debate!

 

There was one famous jazz saxophonist, I'm not sure if it was Lester Young... who said he didn't like to play to play a ballad if he didn't know the words to the song, because he wanted to express what the song was saying!

 

And then Bill Evans, the great jazz pianist, said that he never paid attention to lyrics, and that a singer basically was just another horn to him.

 

But even if you could care less about lyrics, wouldn't we all want the mix to be such that all the voices and instruments could be clearly heard?

And I feel confident most of us have played on stage in a context when you couldn't really hear your bandmates very well..sometimes you can't hear some of them at ALL!... isn't that a royal pain? How can you possibly do quality work in a setting like that??

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Interesting Topic. Trying to cover up bad lyrics or singing by burying them is the mix doesn't work. It only makes it worse.

 

With out a good melody, lyrics are worthless.

 

The last part of a song I notice is the words themselves.

 

I always notice the ryhtym and instrumentation/timbre first, then of course the quality of the singing.

 

Then if I like the song, I will eventually hear the lyrics and hopefully understand them.

 

The greatest songs of all times are the one you can listen to again and again with out having to think too much, but you will always be rewarded with a great gift if the lyrics are meaningful and touch you.

 

Long story short, the singing/singer is more important than the lyrics. The melody is more important than the lyrics. But then again bad lyrics can kill a perfectly good song. That's why god/allah/jehovah/budda/yahwey/Kemosabe created instrumental music.

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Originally posted by Pappadopalus:

Then if I like the song, I will eventually hear the lyrics and hopefully understand them.

Sometimes an odd thing happens to me: I'm listening to a song and I feel as if I understand the lyrics, even though I'd have trouble explaining what they're actually about.

 

And then when I see them written down they're meaningless "oooh yeah, baby" type things.

 

I think there's a lot in how people sing things or in the music that supports the lyrics, a sort of underlying layer of something. And I'm not talking about hidden satanic messages or playing the Beatles backwards, it's more of a gut level thing which I feel when I'm listening to some songs and only then.

 

Does the same thing happen to you guys? I can't think of any specific examples.

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Kramer (Vince):

 

I think the example you are looking for is Van Morrison. That guy can sing some inane lyrics but make them very very meaningful.

 

Songs like Tupelo Honey, Brown Eyed Girl, and Domino. The way he sings those songs add more emotion and meaning to the lyrics than the words do. I can not listen to these songs unless Van Morrison sings them. He ruined them for everyone else.

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Lyrics are only part of the package - and few are worth reading apart from the music as poetry! And yes, they affect me sometimes in a way that doesn't line up with logic!

 

I never was one to sit down and try to figure out what Dylan or the Beatles REALLY meant, or any of that stuff... the hidden messages. I liked the whole package, but didn't really look upon them as "sages of the ages" or anything! (OK at 15 I did, but not in adult life!)

 

But still, I love singing along with songs at clubs sometimes... or even at home... and anyone who's heard me sing suggests I go practice the guitar some more... ain't it touching how concerned they are with my progress as an instrumentalist??

 

Seriously, onstage at times, if it was situation where the whole audience was singing, I'd sing, too.. just not in the mike.. if the lyrics meant something to me!

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A highly literate song is a joy to sing, and a great story is a great story, whatever medium is used to express it. I'd much rather sing good literate lyrics than gibberish and nonsense.

 

I will fully agree that the music has to support the lyric, and that if the music doesn't happen, the lyric won't; while if the music is rocking, you can get away with some pretty shoddy lyrics.

 

That does not detract from the value of a good lyric, however.

 

And you don't have to 'look for hidden meanings or messages' in good lyrics. That is another thing altogether. TELLING a good story means TELLING it, not obscuring it, aluding to it, or obsfucating it.

 

James Taylor tells a good story, for example, and the songs from Hourglass are wonderful. The Gathering Field "Lost In America" is an entire album of wonderful lyrics. Springsteens early songs about suburban and city kids looking for better lives contain great lyrics. There are no shortage of good and great lyrics, and as a somgwriter, lyrics are important to me. I far more enjoy a song with a good lyric, than a song with a bad lyric, all other things being equal.

 

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Originally posted by bpark@prorec.com:

I will fully agree that the music has to support the lyric, and that if the music doesn't happen, the lyric won't...

I am reminded of Steve Martin's bit about not being able to sing sad songs with banjo music; you don't hear banjo songs with lyrics like "Oh death, and grief, and sorrow, and murder". I heard another guy say the same thing with the lyrics "rattlesnake bit the baby, tra-la-la-la-la-la-la"..

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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If the NYC subway/bus strike takes place, which I fervently hope it DOESN'T, there won't be any trainwrecks here. There may be retribution on the transit shirkers, I mean workers, though.... (hopefully not murder), followed by repentance (once the trains are running again at least!)

 

I don't know how it will affect the golden haired cherry-lipped girls, though.

 

Do you feel a song coming on?.... if I can't get to work, I may have time to write one!

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I can't understand the lyrics in half the music I have it seems. Although, I have an ear that has trouble differentiating between individual sounds. But I don't think that suggests bad lyrical content; I've looked up what the singers are saying before (after having thoroughly enjoyed the song) and found some deep or fun stuff. I suppose AC/DC's "Big Balls" wouldn't be quite the same without the lyrics, but in many songs it's more the melody of the voice than the actual words that matter I think... I sometimes feel that in many band's music, it is merely the vocals and the guitars trading solos over the rhythm. I think it's fine...
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