Writing music can be a challenge creatively. With today’s tech you have a plethora of options available, thousands of sounds and the ability to layer instrument tracks and apply processing beyond anything you could have even dreamt of back in the 1990’s when I was working with midi and tape (DAT, ADAT).
I am 2 to 3 years into getting back to composing and producing music, so I am still relatively inexperienced when it comes to new music production techniques, but I am enjoying the learning process.
I can say there is a significant change over the years with production and loudness. While trying to improve my production standards on my own music, I am running into some interesting situations that I will most probably share on this blog.
Today, I am ripping my remaining CDs to WAV (not the typical mp3). I am doing it for one reason only as I only ever consume music via streaming these days and will never really listen to these CD albums.
Basically, I am using a set of tracks as a production reference for tonality and loudness comparisons. Mainstream music is generally produced by some of the best producers and best studios, so it makes sense to use them as a reference for your own production.
The modern way seems to be to make music as loud as possible. Some of the older albums sound flat and quiet in comparison. For me, this is very interesting because quality is often lost in the pursuit of loudness. This seems odd as the equipment we now have can produce fantastic quality, but the trend seems to be to push the production compression and limiting to extremes.
If you train your ears to hear it, you can hear distortion all over modern music and to my astonishment, a lot of music is clipped. Some severely.
If you are not familiar with what clipping is, it is simply where there is no more volume available and the track distorts.
Often, the music is that loud that the distorted bits can go unnoticed by most people and can often be masked by other sounds. However, once you know what you are looking for, you start to hear these things. And, if you are a bit of an audio geek like me, you then go and have a look at it too 🙂
I may do more of these posts, I will see how it goes, but for now, here is exhibit one. Michael Bublé – You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You
This is a great track, so feel free to listen to it all, however, if you listen carefully at 1 minute 36 seconds and many times after the kick drum creates a poppy, ploppy distorted sound. This is because the track is already maximised heavily by the producer and the strong transient nature of the kick drum pushes is over the top.
Obviously, this has not held Michael Bublé back and is probably not even noticed to anyone enjoying the album. Also, I am not having a go at anybody, it is just an observation really. Having finished a couple of tracks recently where I pushed the production too hard, I am genuinely interested in what other producer find acceptable. Also, I have a very eclectic taste in music and I am trying to vary my output. This requires treating different music genres differently in terms of production and learning from other music is a great way to do this.
Many things are subjective in music, but a technical fault is a fault. At some point in the history of music production, probably in the quest for increased loudness, these once impermissible faults seem to have become acceptable.
If you don’t believe me, here is a screenshot of the waveform. As you can see, it is severely clipped when the kick drum comes in. Understanding this as fair use and I have also provided a short section of the file for you to study. As this is someone else’s work I am only putting a very small section here, for education purposes only and this may be removed if the owners ask me to do so.
If you found this interesting or helpful please let me know in the comments. Also, tell us all about your own experiences/views.