A dissenting opinion about engineering
Old 19th November 2012
  #1
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Thread Starter
A dissenting opinion about engineering

I know I am going against the grain here, but I feel strongly about this, and am going to put forth my beliefs even though I know I will get flamed.


As we all know, the music is what matters most, I think most of us will agree with that, but the question is "how much more does the music matter than the production quality?". It depends on the quality of the music. If the quality of the music is mediocre, then the production quality will be a lot more important than if the music is great. If the music is great (and recorded at an acceptable quality level like say on a DAW with decent mics and pres), it really cannot be improved in any significant amount by gear.

I know that seems like a crazy notion, but if you think about the great albums made, would any decrease in the production quality (short of making it worse than what can be done with a DAW today) make the albums any worse? No, they would still be classic records. No one goes back to "dark side of the moon" and says, oh that album could have been much better if only we had done so and so with the mix. Truth is, that album and many other classics were in no way perfect sonically, but no one cares because in their own imperfect way, they were artistically perfect, and that means everything that went into making it was artistically perfect, including any mistakes or sub par equipment.



Let me put that another way: if the music is good enough, and recorded in an acceptable manner (so as it sounds as close to the performance as possible without getting in the way) then no amount of gear or engineering is going to improve it artistically, and art is all that matters in music, unless its generic or derivative or elevator music. If it's good enough, then nobody, including audiophiles and engineers are going to give a shit how it was recorded or care about the depth of the soundfield or 3 dimensionality or realism or what gear was used, because it will be all about the music. I know this because I can listen to shitty recordings of great music and enjoy it so much more than any top notch recording made of mediocre music. Though if the music is shitty or generic, then creative engineering can be important to making it sound acceptable.

I am not saying engineers do not know that the music is the most important thing, just that most misunderstand the degree to which production value has is on a sliding scale (so please no one say: "no one is arguing music isn't important", that's not my point). Most think that production quality is equally important for any music, and I strongly disagree.

It's like audiophiles who fancy themselves superior to people who can enjoy MP3's. But MP3's are of a sufficient quality, as are even cassettes in my opinion, for good music to be enjoyed. Sure the upgrade from cassette to CD enhances the enjoyment; but that doesn't make the cassette any worse.

Because again if the music is good enough, production quality above DAW level (with decent mics/pres) does not matter. You may be able to make a vocal have more air or shine, or make the drums crisper, or the bass tighter but those are things that do not matter in any way if the music, meaning what the musicians are doing: instrumentation, arrangement and performance are good enough. Yes, most often the music is not good enough, so production quality becomes important, but then again if the music sucks enough, then production quality won't improve it either, because you can;t polish a turd. So really there is only a limited window of quality (though this includes most music) where production quality really matters.

The lesson: become a better engineer/producer by helping the musicians make the music better, rather than trying to use gear to put your own signature on the album. I think engineers today are trying to gratify themselves by imprinting their own signature on the music mostly with overpriced gear rather than enhancing the artists' ability to perform the best music they can. In my opinion a good engineer will never be overtly heard or identified by listening to his work, and will not have any kind of sonic signature.

Yes, this is a forum for engineers, and I am blaspheming by saying this. Everyone want to be creative, but if you are an engineer who is obsessed with gear and creating your own sound, just become a musician. Engineering is a technical, not an artistic field, that is why we are called "engineers". Yes you can make it artistic, and there is a strong need to be creative with whatever you do, but if you have that creative energy, engineering is not the right field for you.
Old 19th November 2012
  #2
Lives for gear
 

i used to think that way also.

but it's flawed.

simply moving the mic an inch changes everything about the tone/sound of the instrument. so as an engineer you become part of the creation.

sure you can make a decision not to be the producer but there is nowhere to hide with regard how you make a band sound.

it's my view that once you accept that you may as well give it your best shot and pick the best gear you can source for the job as GEAR DOES matter.
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Old 19th November 2012
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unfiltered420 View Post
if you think about the great albums made, would any decrease in the production quantity (short of making it worse than what can be done with a DAW today) make the albums any worse?
Yes. Making the production worse would make the album worse.
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Old 19th November 2012
  #4
Gear maniac
 

I think there's a lot of good stuff in there. IMO the most important things that go into making good music are the following in this order:

1 - Good songs
2 - The right musicians (not necessarily the 'best' or 'most professional')
3 - The right instruments (again, not necessarily a '59 les paul or a '59 Bassman, just what sounds/feels good for the song)
4 - A great environment to record in (this could be a garage or abbey road depending on the vibe)
5 - An engineer/producer with great ears and an open mind
6 - Studio gear, mics, preamps, convertors, tape whatever
Old 19th November 2012
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unfiltered420 View Post
...recorded at an acceptable quality level like say on a DAW with decent mics and pres...

...short of making it worse than what can be done with a DAW today

...production quality above DAW level (with decent mics/pres)...
What does that even mean? DAW is not a level of quality. DAW quality could be anything from singing into an iPhone to the latest Radiohead album.

Quote:
...so as it sounds as close to the performance as possible without getting in the way) then no amount of gear or engineering is going to improve it artistically
Do you have any idea how high the level of engineering needs to be to even approach "as close to the performance as possible without getting in the way"? There is almost nothing harder to do than disappear entirely. You need almost infinite engineering skill and the best equipment to even try to do it. So less engineering is always an increase in "getting in the way". Throw a single mic into the middle of an untreated band practice room. Try to listen to it. The total lack of engineering is totally in the way.

Engineers get complexes over this shit. It's one of those jobs where the better you are at it, the less you are noticed. Drives a guy batty, it does!

Remember: Shitty engineering is not the same as too much engineering.
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Old 19th November 2012
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petermiles View Post
I think there's a lot of good stuff in there. IMO the most important things that go into making good music are the following in this order:

1 - Good songs
2 - The right musicians (not necessarily the 'best' or 'most professional')
3 - The right instruments (again, not necessarily a '59 les paul or a '59 Bassman, just what sounds/feels good for the song)
4 - A great environment to record in (this could be a garage or abbey road depending on the vibe)
5 - An engineer/producer with great ears and an open mind
6 - Studio gear, mics, preamps, convertors, tape whatever
Every single thing on that list from #2 on down is production. Everything on that list from #3 on down is directly engineering.

So yeah, engineering and production are fundamentally important to the final product.
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Old 19th November 2012
  #7
Gear maniac
 

Touche! Though I think plenty of us are guilty from time to time of obsessing over #6 at the expense of the other 5!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
Every single thing on that list from #2 on down is production. Everything on that list from #3 on down is directly engineering.

So yeah, engineering and production are fundamentally important to the final product.
Old 19th November 2012
  #8
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
Yes. Making the production worse would make the album worse.
Yes, but if "Dark Side of the Moon" had been made with, say, worse mics, would it not be the classic it is? No one would even know unless the production was so shitty that it made it unlistenable or harsh. And in fact the album was in no way perfect, there are subtle mistakes in there and room for improvement, but no says that or cares because improving it "sonically" would not improve the album artistically at all. It is an artistic masterpiece, and the imperfections add to that.
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Old 19th November 2012
  #9
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Who decides what constitutes an "acceptable manner" of recording music?

Many musicians, who write good songs, are keenly aware of production values, and want their music recorded to sound as good as it can because it's a part of their artistic statement, so they hire engineers who care enough about the craft to gain the expertise to make it sound better than the next guy. The musician could settle for "a decent recording," knowing that the song and performance won't be any worse for it....but why assume they don't want it to sound as good as their time and money and patience will allow?

Same thing with filmmakers. Kubrick's "2001" could have been filmed on 16mm and still been a great movie (in my opinion at least), but he wanted it to look as good as he could get it, so he filmed on 35 and spent an enormous amount of effort to achieve the look he wanted. Should movie DPs just settle for filming something in "an acceptable manner" because they're resigned to the fact that a marginal improvement in visual beauty doesn't really make the movie any better? What director would hire that DP?

If a recording artist thinks the engineer is dicking around too much trying to get his "signature sounds" stamped onto the project and is holding up the musicians' creative flow, you can be assured the engineer will be directed to get on with recording the music. The real pros are the ones who know what their task is, get the great sounds FAST, make the artists comfortable and let them do their thing. Many find that high quality tools help them do just that.

These recurring thought experiments about how much better or worse a classic record might have been with a better or worse recording -- and then from that extrapolating generalizations about how important the craft of audio recording may or may not be -- are kind of silly.
Old 19th November 2012
  #10
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
What does that even mean? DAW is not a level of quality. DAW quality could be anything from singing into an iPhone to the latest Radiohead album.

Do you have any idea how high the level of engineering needs to be to even approach "as close to the performance as possible without getting in the way"? There is almost nothing harder to do than disappear entirely. You need almost infinite engineering skill and the best equipment to even try to do it. So less engineering is always an increase in "getting in the way". Throw a single mic into the middle of an untreated band practice room. Try to listen to it. The total lack of engineering is totally in the way.

Engineers get complexes over this shit. It's one of those jobs where the better you are at it, the less you are noticed. Drives a guy batty, it does!

Remember: Shitty engineering is not the same as too much engineering.


Anyone with a DAW and a few decent mics can create a recording that on paper has better specs and sounds cleaner than any recording made before the advent of DAW's. It is absurdly easy to record music in which the production value doesn't get in the way. For recording to sound like the performance is child's play. Now maybe your idea of "getting in the way" means not sounding like top notch audiophile quality, but that is way, way more than just not getting in the way.

I can put up a stereo mic in a room with drums, bass and guitar or horns, run it through a mackie interface into Logic, and still hear all the instruments clearly and legibly. That is not ideal, but in no way is anyone going to hear anything but the music. It will sound like a live performance. It might not sound like you are in the room with the instruments, but it will not sound like anything but the music, so nothing is getting in the way.

I agree DAW is not a level of quality, but it has democratized music by allowing access to a recording medium that allows each instrument to be heard clearly without noise. That is a level of quality, crude as it may be.

Don't get hung up on that, though, that has nothing to do with the essence of this thread.
Old 19th November 2012
  #11
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor View Post
so they hire engineers who care enough about the craft to gain the expertise to make it sound better than the next guy.

That is my point, this is an artform, not a competition. If you are trying to sound better than "the next guy" you will end up sounding like "the next guy". And competitive engineers have made it into a competition, to the detriment of the artform, (see loudness wars).

My main point is if the music is good enough, then after a certain level of quality (which I define to be the ability to hear each instrument clearly, and which DAW have pretty much guaranteed) nothing will really improve the music itself artistically. Technically, maybe, but not artistically. It's like augmenting a canvas after a painting has already been done. Or framing the painting. Yes, it does improve the presentation of the art, but it in now way improves the art itself. No one is going to bad mouth a picasso for not being framed correctly or being on the wrong type of canvas. Sure if the canvas is tainted with dog shit, or the glass in the frame is dirty, it will hurt the experience, but as long as you can clearly see the painting, that's all that matters.
Old 19th November 2012
  #12
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Tha Govna's Avatar
 

Well, I agree with you sir!

I'm not entirely with you line for line, but the sentiment of this post is legit and spot on in my opinion.

There is no reason to look for fault in your post man.

Anyone who does has had this post hit home in an unflattering way.

*shrugs*

I will add that many engineers are basically being asked to wear both the engineer and producer hats more than in the past.

The roles are merging.
Old 19th November 2012
  #13
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Thread Starter
[/QUOTE]Same thing with filmmakers. Kubrick's "2001" could have been filmed on 16mm and still been a great movie (in my opinion at least), but he wanted it to look as good as he could get it, so he filmed on 35 and spent an enormous amount of effort to achieve the look he wanted. Should movie DPs just settle for filming something in "an acceptable manner" because they're resigned to the fact that a marginal improvement in visual beauty doesn't really make the movie any better? What director would hire that DP?

These recurring thought experiments about how much better or worse a classic record might have been with a better or worse recording -- and then from that extrapolating generalizations about how important the craft of audio recording may or may not be -- are kind of silly.[/QUOTE]


I never said engineers should settle for "acceptable", just that anything more than acceptable doesn't really matter if the music is good enough. I try to get the best recording possible and go to great pains to stay completely within the analog domain. This helps a lot when the music is not that great, and less or not at all when the music is great.


Again most music is not good enough or bad enough to not be susceptible to improvement with engineering and gear, but at both the extremes of musical and artistic beauty the engineering and production quality are not going to make a difference in the impact of the music. Again, I am NOT saying engineering or gear is not important, just that the importance varies and becomes irrelevant when the music is good enough to where the medium has no bearing on the artistic expression of the music. Just like with video, people watching a Blu Ray only notice the great quality for a few seconds before getting engulfed by the movie and completely forgetting about the quality, that is if the movie is good enough.

And they aren't really experiments, just questions. Ask yourself how much gear or engineering matters in any of Bob Dylan's recordings? His voice isn't even that great. But the music overall is great, whatever the reasons, and any improvements in production quality are going to be trivial.
Old 19th November 2012
  #14
I have to agree with the OP about the message that was in line with the following sentence:

"A bad song with great production is still a bad song."

Proof of concept that some of the more well known pop songs still work very well with a really different low-end arrangement:





Old 19th November 2012
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor View Post
Who decides what constitutes an "acceptable manner" of recording music?
Engineers. Tracking engineers, specifically.

Quote:
Same thing with filmmakers. Kubrick's "2001" could have been filmed on 16mm and still been a great movie (in my opinion at least), but he wanted it to look as good as he could get it, so he filmed on 35 and spent an enormous amount of effort to achieve the look he wanted. Should movie DPs just settle for filming something in "an acceptable manner" because they're resigned to the fact that a marginal improvement in visual beauty doesn't really make the movie any better? What director would hire that DP?
Exactly.

Quote:
If a recording artist thinks the engineer is dicking around too much trying to get his "signature sounds" stamped onto the project and is holding up the musicians' creative flow, you can be assured the engineer will be directed to get on with recording the music. The real pros are the ones who know what their task is, get the great sounds FAST, make the artists comfortable and let them do their thing. Many find that high quality tools help them do just that.
Yup. Like I said, getting out of the way and disappearing is hard to do, and you need a pro to do it.
Old 19th November 2012
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unfiltered420 View Post
Yes, but if "Dark Side of the Moon" had been made with, say, worse mics, would it not be the classic it is?
No. It would not be the classic it is. It might still be classic. But it would be worse.
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Old 19th November 2012
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by unfiltered420 View Post
Again, I am NOT saying engineering or gear is not important, just that the importance varies and becomes irrelevant when the music is good enough to where the medium has no bearing on the artistic expression of the music.
Sometimes true, sometimes not, depending on the song, genre, etc. Different songs have different requirements when it comes to production. You can't generalize - it becomes meaningless.

An album like Dark Side of the Moon for example - the production was an integral part of it's creation. Had it been made in a DAW it would have come out very differently and maybe not nearly as good.

The tools we use leave their mark on the art we make. No avoiding that...
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Old 19th November 2012
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unfiltered420 View Post
Anyone with a DAW and a few decent mics can create a recording that on paper has better specs and sounds cleaner than any recording made before the advent of DAW's.
No they can't. Rooms are everything. Rooms are hella' expensive.
Quote:
It is absurdly easy to record music in which the production value doesn't get in the way...
I can put up a stereo mic in a room with drums, bass and guitar or horns, run it through a mackie interface into Logic, and still hear all the instruments clearly and legibly. That is not ideal, but in no way is anyone going to hear anything but the music.
That is either a lie to yourself or a lie to us. Any recording made with a single mic that doesn't pull the listener out of the experience due to bad quality requires untold weeks of rehearsal, enough money to rent a real room, enough knowledge to know what room to rent, work with gobos to bring the room to where it needs to be, and careful, careful placement of the mic.
Old 19th November 2012
  #19
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

You seem to think production is only about sonics. Well, it isn't. Perhaps that great tune wouldn't have made such a great record if no one had coaxed the best out of the performers and comped the vocal to good effect.......
Old 19th November 2012
  #20
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Although in my heart I agree 110% with everything the OP has stated, in my mind I feel that in 2012 (pretty much since 1990 really) production matters a GREAT DEAL MORE than musical talent/originality/vision !

One could argue that the entire pop musical culture of today is based around slick, deceptive production carried out by a team of well payed engineers who "define" the artist's sound, with the actual talent/soul/spirit/vision of the artist being something that is either mediocre at best, or completely non-existent at worst.

IMO even many famous major artists since the 1990s owe their fame almost exclusively to a team of hired engineers/producers with an ever expanding bag of production gimmicks that have almost nothing to do with the actual artist's ability; in other words, remove the slick production gimmicks from the records and the cliche triviality of the musical ideas would become blatantly apparent. If I named some of them here I would probably get flamed until the end of time.

The saddest thing of all is that I believe the modern consumer has been trained so well by slick production of mediocre ideas that when they think of music they hear production first, and music/art second.

OP, you are likely a musician/artist yourself, so you would like to believe that the majority of human beings feel the way you do about music. I say you are in a very small minority and are living in a fantasy world. Turd polishing is pretty much the norm today; in the pop world it's basically all there is left of it.

Today we have a culture of music that glorifies the endless rehashing of the most worn out cliches from the past concerning actual musical content. We basically have witnessed the death of music with "nostalgia tours"; old worn out rock stars who should long ago have been doing their nostalgia gigs at dive bars are actually filling stadiums where people are paying $300 for a ticket to hear songs that were written 20/30/40 years ago !!!!!

Why ? Because most of them had their heyday in a time period where the artist had to actually be capable of writing some decent music. And if the music scene wasn't completely dead, then there would be a fresh new crop of great songwriters doing the big stadiums and the old dinasours would be in the dive bars where they rightfully belong.

Old 19th November 2012
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unfiltered420 View Post
That is my point, this is an artform, not a competition. If you are trying to sound better than "the next guy" you will end up sounding like "the next guy". And competitive engineers have made it into a competition, to the detriment of the artform, (see loudness wars).
You haven't met the upper level guys yet. Yes, it gets insanely competitive. But the competition at the highest level involves maintaining the healthiest creative atmosphere and getting into the client's head to solve his specific wants to his specific tastes.

Time is money. The time has to count. The client has to be happy, comfortable, and unconfined. If not, why would anybody come back?

The engineering skill needed to do the above is enormous.
Old 19th November 2012
  #22
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
No. It would not be the classic it is. It might still be classic. But it would be worse.
You don't understand what I am saying, or what you are saying for that matter.

Maybe if you were to go back and re-record the entire album with worse mics, yes it would be worse because you would have a frame of reference, but it was recorded the way it was, and it is what it is, a masterpiece, albeit an imperfect one. It may have been better or worse technically, but it would be the same artistically. It is a classic because of the material not because of the production value.
Old 19th November 2012
  #23
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
Any recording made with a single mic that doesn't pull the listener out of the experience due to bad quality requires untold weeks of rehearsal, enough money to rent a real room, enough knowledge to know what room to rent, work with gobos to bring the room to where it needs to be, and careful, careful placement of the mic.
That is bullshit, I have shitty 10th gen hissy cassettes that I wouldn't sell for anything because of the material. I hear the hiss for about 10 seconds before I get engulfed into the music. You must be listening to shitty or generic music. I can listen to good music in mono with earbuds and still enjoy it, if the music is good enough. I may not be an audiophile, but I make my recordings for audiophiles, and I can still enjoy mp3's or even crappy youtube videos of the right music much more than any top notch recording of worse music, even if it's decent. Maybe that's just me, but the material is EVERYTHING to me. That doesn't mean I don't use solid gear or techniques, just that It matter way less if the music is right.
Old 19th November 2012
  #24
Gear Head
 

This is a fairly confusing post on many levels! I would argue that engineering does affect how people emotionally respond to music... even if the song is good. Sometimes that means making a recording somewhat shitty to make it edgy sounding... whatever it takes to get the desired response. I could care less about the gear someone records with but I do care about the skill and talent the people recording the material brings to the table. Production is an extremely broad term. I guess to fully examine the point you're trying to make we need to define what is "production quality." Some of my best recordings were made with a handheld cassette recorder. That was very much an artistic decision. To say engineering is solely technical occupation is completely shortsighted and false. If you're trying to say that all recordings in terms of audio quality don't need to sound like a Steely Dan record, I would totally agree. But as a general statement, I wouldn't say that good engineering should be judged by that criteria either. I always judge my work and others by my own standard, does this recording give me an emotional reaction. Or in other words "Does this recording Get Me Off?" Sometimes that means it should be sonically pretty like a James Taylor record or Steely Dan and other times it should be raw sounding like Waaves or punk.
Old 19th November 2012
  #25
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by sage691 View Post
Although in my heart I agree 110% with everything the OP has stated, in my mind I feel that in 2012 (pretty much since 1990 really) production matters a GREAT DEAL MORE than musical talent/originality/vision !

One could argue that the entire pop musical culture of today is based around slick, deceptive production carried out by a team of well payed engineers who "define" the artist's sound, with the actual talent/soul/spirit/vision of the artist being something that is either mediocre at best, or completely non-existent at worst.

IMO even many famous major artists since the 1990s owe their fame almost exclusively to a team of hired engineers/producers with an ever expanding bag of production gimmicks that have almost nothing to do with the actual artist's ability; in other words, remove the slick production gimmicks from the records and the cliche triviality of the musical ideas would become blatantly apparent. If I named some of them here I would probably get flamed until the end of time.

The saddest thing of all is that I believe the modern consumer has been trained so well by slick production of mediocre ideas that when they think of music they hear production first, and music/art second.

OP, you are likely a musician/artist yourself, so you would like to believe that the majority of human beings feel the way you do about music. I say you are in a very small minority and are living in a fantasy world.

Today we have a culture of music that glorifies the endless rehashing of the most worn out cliches from the past concerning actual musical content. We basically have witnessed the death of music with "nostalgia tours"; old worn out rock stars who should long ago have been doing their nostalgia gigs at dive bars are actually filling stadiums where people are paying $300 for a ticket to hear songs that were written 20/30/40 years ago !!!!!

Why ? Because most of them had their heyday in a time period where the artist had to actually be capable of writing some decent music. And if the music scene wasn't completely dead, then there would be a fresh new crop of great songwriters doing the big stadiums and the old dinasours would be in the dive bars where they rightfully belong.

I agree with your assessment of the masses and pop music, but I am talking about good music that has no hype or flash or fakeness. I think we are in agreement that with low quality musicianship, production/engineering can mean everything. Maybe you can't polish a turd but you can put auto tune on it and sell it to the masses.
Old 19th November 2012
  #26
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasound View Post
This is a fairly confusing post on many levels! I would argue that engineering does affect how people emotionally respond to music... even if the song is good. Sometimes that means making a recording somewhat shitty to make it edgy sounding... whatever it takes to get the desired response. I could care less about the gear someone records with but I do care about the skill and talent the people recording the material brings to the table. Production is an extremely broad term. I guess to fully examine the point you're trying to make we need to define what is "production quality." Some of my best recordings were made with a handheld cassette recorder. That was very much an artistic decision. To say engineering is solely technical occupation is completely shortsighted and false. If you're trying to say that all recordings in terms of audio quality don't need to sound like a Steely Dan record, I would totally agree. But as a general statement, I wouldn't say that good engineering should be judged by that criteria either. I always judge my work and others by my own standard, does this recording give me an emotional reaction. Or in other words "Does this recording Get Me Off?" Sometimes that means it should be sonically pretty like a James Taylor record or Steely Dan and other times it should be raw sounding like Waaves or punk.
I never said it was solely technical, in the real world, it is artistic, but shouldn't be unless the music is less than stellar. If the music is great, any quality that doesn't get in the way will do, and any added production value will not go very far.
Old 19th November 2012
  #27
Gear addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by unfiltered420 View Post
Yes, but if "Dark Side of the Moon" had been made with, say, worse mics, would it not be the classic it is? No one would even know unless the production was so shitty that it made it unlistenable or harsh. And in fact the album was in no way perfect, there are subtle mistakes in there and room for improvement, but no says that or cares because improving it "sonically" would not improve the album artistically at all. It is an artistic masterpiece, and the imperfections add to that.
I have about 23 pages of responses to this topic (none specifically pro or con, roughly speaking agree with the 1-6 level of significance with 'gear', generally being an order of magnitude less significant then 'arrangement' and 'mic' being order of magnitude more significant then next closest bit of gear (excluding the 'music generating transducers'))) . . . will, probably, with exercise of will power mostly keep my mouth shut. But using any specific album as an example is fairly short sighted. Declaring 'Dark Side of the Moon' a 'classic' is a cultural determination, and it is still new enough that assessing how well it might stand up in 300 yr. is an open question (I listen to 'modern' Bach, to ancient instrument Bach, & know there is no possible way I can 'hear' the viola gamba suites in the way Bach did, in the way he intended . . . interestingly enough even with 'modern' methods of reproduction I do not see that actually changing . . . but that is a different tangent). Point here is referencing 'Dark Side of the Moon' is looking back on something, believe it or not, for all the vintage analog hoopla it's the engineers job (even more then producer) to look forward . . . a week, a month, six months. One can, & should, reference shit's that been 'done', but slavishly aping it is pointless. No gear is truly transparent (even if that is the client's goal, which typically it seldom is . . . not infrequently they believe they can be 'transparent' all by themselves and want some sort of 'studio magic'), for an engineer/producer to disappear into the process of recording is the art. & to achieve this goal there is no individual piece of gear that is absolutely better, in all instances, then any other piece of gear, even with modern gear that is an order of magnitude more transparent then anything in the past. There is stuff the best gear in the world can not achieve (as far as accurately reflecting a performance). There is stuff the worst gear in the world can not achieve. Those sets are neither congruent nor mutually exclusive. At least until one can plug the most current USB (or . . .) mic into an iPad (or . . .) in any acoustic environment (or . . .) and pass a double blind Turing test with the synthetic results (with regard to original) 'engineering' will remain a critical variable (not more important then content, arrangement, performance, acoustic ambient (when applicable) or even selection of mic . . . but way more important then corporate marketing has been willing to acknowledge for the past 40 yr. (& my soap box is that antares, voice AM/Brit idol, Xfactor, Voice, star search, gong show, ted mack amateur, et al were/are anti-engineering examples . . . the borg rise of gear over engineering)

In any case there is shit on top of shit that I hear in 'Dark Side of the Moon' that I would have done differently . . . the better (not referencing audiophile living rooms here but studio control rooms which are a very different thing) the listening environment the more 'shit I'd change' I hear. 'Exile on Main St.' is another 'classic' . . . one on which nearly everyone intimately involved at least half assed agree's would have benefited form an at least slightly different technical approach . . . that would have, at very least, changed its appeal. Additionally (for the the respect I have for T-Bone Burnett I would not consider myself a 'fan') I recently listened to two Leo Kottke albums back to back on vinyl (then shuffled on CD) from late 80's & early 90's was struck by sonic differences between Burnett produced one & not-Burnett produced one . . . I genuinely prefered the sound of the Burnett one (this is not a specific judgement on absolute quality of album or even recording process was simply momentarily arrested by fact that I genuinely 'liked' the sound of one more (at least subtly) then the other). Another example is Steve Earles' 'Townes' album . . . mostly recorded in Nashville with Ray Kennedy @ controls, elements recorded elsewhere 'sound' distinctly different. More or less deliberately did not listen to it for more then a year after release, stumbled into decent room where caught part of a song with just acoustic guitar and immediate reaction was: 'Damn! That's how acoustic guitar is supposed to sound' The reference being that on 'pop' (which is not a genre but marketing reference) records it so seldom does. I don't think R. Kennedy is the only engineer that can get acoustic guitar to sound like that, not assume that it requires Ray's gear to achieve a decent acoustic guitar sound (though it doesn't hurt), but 'we' (as engineers) frequently make decisions (for what ever reason) to eschew that sound. Sometimes producing momentary commercially successful classics. Music, recorded music, is a system that to be successful (in anything but quarterly short term) has to be greater then mere sum of it's parts. Variables (content, arrangement, instruments, performance, room, gear) have to functions of each other. Making 'process' extremely non-linear . . . near chaotic at best.
Old 19th November 2012
  #28
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by unfiltered420 View Post
....Maybe if you were to go back and re-record the entire album with worse mics, yes it would be worse because you would have a frame of reference, but it was recorded the way it was, and it is what it is, a masterpiece, albeit an imperfect one. It may have been better or worse technically, but it would be the same artistically. It is a classic because of the material not because of the production value.
Assuming you're still talking about DSOTM, as just one example, it's regarded as a masterpiece of recorded rock music for the music itself, for the performances thereof, and for the production value. Pink Floyd were very much into all of these things as a complete artistic statement.

Might the greatness of that album have survived "worse mics?" Yeah, probably. But they chose Abbey Road with its stellar acoustics, technical excellence and world class equipment for a reason. Clearly the sound of the record mattered to THEM. And since they were the client, whoever was engineering (i.e. Alan Parsons) had to care about the actual recording as much as the band did, and go the extra mile to do an outstanding job, not just an acceptable one in his estimation. But I don't imagine Alan Parsons was sitting there thinking about how much better the music was by virtue of his work.

It's the engineer's job to make a recording sound the way the client wants it. And the client relies on the engineer's skill to know whether that requires one microphone or 20. The engineer has to continue striving until the client says "that's good, that's what I want." Acceptable is in the eyes of the client/artist/producer.
Old 19th November 2012
  #29
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sage691 View Post
Although in my heart I agree 110% with everything the OP has stated, in my mind I feel that in 2012 (pretty much since 1990 really) production matters a GREAT DEAL MORE than musical talent/originality/vision !

One could argue that the entire pop musical culture of today is based around slick, deceptive production carried out by a team of well payed engineers who "define" the artist's sound, with the actual talent/soul/spirit/vision of the artist being something that is either mediocre at best, or completely non-existent at worst.
Just so we're all clear on this: The 50's and 60's productions that we all know and love were huge ordeals. We have NEVER had predominantly simple productions rulling the landscape. It's not like they just threw up a mic and said "screw it, just play". The pressure on the session guys was enormous for one. Play a killer take in one or two goes, or else! Production is a ton more than just post, you know.
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Old 19th November 2012
  #30
Gear Head
 

Please explain what you mean by "production value." I think there's a middle ground here that we'd agree on but I really think you speak too broadly. There is a very large range of acceptable engineering choices, many of which are as correct as the next. To say the recording or the song doesn't benefit from the collective of these choices, I would disagree with. You also speak rather broadly about the quality of the song being all that really matters... by what criteria do you judge song quality by? I would argue that Dark Side of the Moon IS a better record because of the engineering decisions made throughout the recording/ mixing process. The sound of the record is HUGELY effected and colored... that's a major part of what I love about it. If that engineer or producer had only been a technician, that record would not have been as cool. Now, if you were to say that as engineers we should never put our craft before the performance of the artist, I would agree. But also as engineers we are tasked with the responsibility of realizing the artists vision of a recording and sometimes that means pouring all of your artistic soul into something and coming out with a collaborative piece of work that is better than what the artist would have ever imagined on their own. I think you'd be doing the artist a major disservice to just sit there and press record when you have an artistic idea that could help the artist express his/her vision more clearly.
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