All about producing and mastering audio for disc, the web and beyond

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Original Thinking

Original see the challenge is:

I need to understand what it is that you are interested in. I can sit hear and write about technology trends or the cultural implications of the democratization of the music business or which kind of pantyhose works best as a pop filter but I don't have a hi degree of confidence that any of those topics are really going to speak to what you are all write me, let me know who you are and I'll try to address some of the topics that are hottest for you.

The second part of the challenge is to write something original. I mean you may not need that but honestly the net is full or articles extolling the virtues of vintage mics or neat tips and tricks about using compressors. Does the world need one more? I guess you'll let me know.

My goal is to give you some real info about the real world when it comes to recording tech and practice.

So next month I'll dive back into some specifics but for now I would like to talk about what makes a really great recording great, assuming that's our common goal. So before arguing ad nauseum about whether POW-R or UV-22 dither sounds better I propose the following list of what it takes to make a great recording:

1 Great music
2 Great musicians/Great performance/ Great programming
3 Great instruments
4 Great recording acoustics
5 Great monitoring acoustics
6 Great monitor speakers
7 Mic placement
8 Mic type
9 Clean Signal path

And so on...

Notice that the equipment used to make a great recording DOESN'T EVEN MAKE THE TOP 5!!!

Of course you CAN overcome some of these issues, and some records have nary an acoustic sound on them but even so you can't violate ALL of the first 5 conditions I set up above and hope to come away with a recording that will inspire your audience to part with their hard earned money, or maybe even inspire them at all. We get so hung up on recording techniques and gear it is easy to lose sight of the main ingredients of our stew.

Ultimately, everything that appears in this column is designed to help you serve the goal of creating the best possible recording, for artistic and/or commercial purposes. So when you’re getting caught up in the minutia, step back, and take a moment to use wider view and as you’re sweating the .1 db boost at 20kHz, see whether the first 9 things on the list have been tended to…..drop a line, I’ll be listening.

Jonathan Wyner ( has recorded, mixed and mastered more than 5000 records during the last 23 years, spanning every musical idiom (and some nonmusical idioms as well!). He is a professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. His credits range from the extremely well known (James Taylor, David Bowie, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Kiri Te Kanawa) to the idiosyncratic and independent artists/labels. A 2007 Grammy nominee, his most recent production began airing on PBS in March 2007.

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