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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

There's style and then there's music and then there's what's inside

This week I get to wear a hat that's a bit different from the one that I wear sitting in the mastering room. I am in Germany working to help Deborah prepare for a performance with L'Arpeggiata...a cross genre ensemble that brings together exquisite musicians from different countries, geographic and stylistic. I was sitting at breakfast talking with a Paraguayan harpist and we were talking about how musicians can become trapped in their 'genres'. It's not uncommon that when you spend alot of time practicing scales and the finer nuances of a particular style, you lose sight of the bigger picture which is really the music itself: the larger musical idea and expression however it is manifest.

DUring the conversation I was struck, once again, by how some musical concepts cut across musical styles. As a producer, recording, mixing or mastering engineer it is important to understand what is important to the style and preserve/enhance or feature those components. It's also surprising to notice that seemingly incompatible genres share attributes.
For instance, classical music relies heavily on the preservation of dynamic range. The difference between fortissimo and pianissimo, not just in the timbre but also in the sheer difference in the movement of air between the two is essential to make the music expressive and effective....and the same is true for hard rick. Without enough available dynamic range, the kick drum in a hard rock tune would not be able to have the impact it would need. Hyper compressed hard rock sounds flat and two dimensional. There may be no better example of this than ACDC's Back in Black. If you haven't heard the tune, go listen and see what I mean.
So whether we're talking about Vivaldi or Tool we need to know what's important in the music and how to showcase it....and we may be surprised to discover that in some cases, it's the same thing.


  1. Tool = Vivaldi....dynamic genius

  2. What's interesting about this is that I think Vivaldi's use of dynamics is not really that unlike modern rock. He relied on density of arrangement and contrast between sections of the pieces rather than gradual shaping of individual phrases.