Music Production vs. Sound Engineering

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Thread: Music Production vs. Sound Engineering

  1. #1

    Join Date: Oct 2008
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    Music Production vs. Sound Engineering

    The album Who's Next by The Who has been on my playlist a lot lately.

    One of the most striking aspects of the music is how it triumphs to the point where any imperfections in the sonic tapestry become insignificant. The drums sound like they were entirely recorded at a distance- a move which would be considered unforgivable in a modern rock recording. Still, here I am, not giving a damn, because I'm feeling it. (Coincidentally, it wouldn't be the first time this has happened for me with an album from that era.)

    I've been thinking about how this relates to modern digital recording and the online culture that surrounds home-recording. If you go to the Recording Studio section of this forum, you can find many guides that pertain to making things sound a particular way or to fitting into a particular aesthetic. Likewise, there are many well-intentioned posts giving perfectly valid advice about how to improve the sonic quality of one thing or another- something that I've participated in, too.

    But here's a question: if you, at one point or another, were one of the individuals giving feedback about some aspect of the recording quality of a submission- and if all your feedback were taken into account and all the sonic deficiencies of the audio rectified- would that make you care more about the music at hand? Would it transform the music into something you'd want to come back to, again and again?

  2. #2

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    Great music is still great, even with lackluster production. Great production can't make terrible music better.

  3. #3

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    Great songs can excuse terrible production (or less than optimal production, anyway). Most modern metal is exactly the other way around; Ridiculously clear production (thanks mostly due to the 110% digital and synthesized instrumentation) but songs that my 7 year old could have written by throwing his fucking xbox down a flight of stairs.

    EDIT: Ninja'd by Chris. Dick.
    Recording. Mixing. Mastering. Editing. Re-Amping.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris View Post
    Great music is still great, even with lackluster production. Great production can't make terrible music better.
    I was thinking of something to say, and this was what I was thinking but I didn't know how to say it. Thank you Chris for making it easy for me!

    EDIT: And Mattayus. Thank you, too.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris View Post
    Great music is still great, even with lackluster production. Great production can't make terrible music better.

    I think sometimes people listen to great older albums, notice the imperfect production, and conclude that the imperfect production is part of what makes it great. That might be true in some cases, but I don't think that it's true as a rule. I can think of tons of classic albums I enjoy in spite of the production and the way they sound. Mercyful Fate is awesome, but one of the reasons I generally prefer King Diamond's solo stuff is because those albums have more modern production. Everything sounds thicker, the guitars are chunkier - it all just sounds better to my ears.

    That doesn't mean the Mercyful Fate albums sound bad - they sound like heavy metal recorded in the '70's - but I think sometimes the music comes before the technology that would allow the songwriter to get the best sound for it. Gear and techniques are developed in response to the music people are writing. High gain amps didn't exist until dudes started writing music that demanded lots of distortion, etc. If we could somehow take Melissa and update the production, guitar tones, etc without changing the quality or character of the performances, who's to say it wouldn't be even better?

    That said, people can definitely get hung up on doing things the "right" way and copying presets/gear/processes from others instead of experimenting or doing what's right for their own music, and that sucks. I think it's also true that there are some albums that are enhanced by aspects of the production that resulted from technical limitations or people not knowing what they're doing or whatever. Plenty of classic black metal albums that probably wouldn't be classics if they were crystal clear recordings made in Pro Tools with AxeFx and Suhrs and Superior Drummer.

  6. #6

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    Beatles records are a prime example of how songwriting trumps production. George Martin threw the entire drum mix to the left channel and those songs still hold up today.

  7. #7

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    Agreed with everything that's been said here.

    My buddy just had a listening party for a record he wrote, recorded and mixed entirely by himself over 9 months. He's not a sound engineer at all, nor is he a drummer. But what was so cool to me, was that he hadn't taken any shortcuts, it was 100% analog instruments, and the whole thing was just dripping with personality. Everything from the amp tone to drums to soundscapes and rhythm loops sounded like nothing else. It was incredibly refreshing to hear that one broke newb could make such a powerful record, when a team of pros with top dollar gear often sound so generic.

  8. #8

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    While I agree with everything said, the mix on some albums renders them pretty much unlistenable.


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