How can you – as a musician or a producer – ensure the end result of your production will be amazing?
Try to be clear about and communicate your musical vision!
Sometimes, I feel the fronts between Audio Engineers and Musicians are a bit hardened.
Why do you need an Audio Engineer, when nowadays Recording Equipment is so affordable?
Why would you need someone who treats Audio Engineering and Mixing as art, when all you want is having your music recorded “just as it is”?
And why does that mix not sound like I wanted it to sound?
I believe the main reason to ensure an amazing audio product is a good communication of your musical vision!
With the rise of Digital Audio Technology, recording music and sounds in a good quality has become more affordable than ever before.
Digital Audio has huge advantages and makes music making so much more accessible!
Yet, a lot of people think that modern recorded music sounds rather unexciting, generic and dull.
But what might be the reasons for this? Is it the “magic” of analogue recording which makes the real difference? Or are there specific tricks that only the big artists back in the day knew?
Communicating your musical vision
I think, that the key is proper communication about the vision or feeling of a project and finding an engineer who understands that vision. An engineer that will just pull up faders without a goal in mind will only ever achieve a mediocre result.
And with a misunderstood musical vision, even big bands with a big budget run into problems! And either their producer, they themselves or their audience are going to be disappointed with the end product.
I guess, one of the best recent examples of this “vision communication” probably gone wrong is the lately rerecorded album “Clayman” from the Swedish Melodic Death Metal Legends “In Flames”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY-KFWxB_00
This rerelease of that old classic song got a big backlash from In Flames’ own fanbase (just look at the Like/Dislike-Ratio). Not because they don’t like this song any more, it is THE SAME SONG! In fact, they still love it. They just hate on it because of the type of – or even lack of production!
But still, I am pretty sure, that most Audio Engineers out there would agree when I say:
From a purely technical standpoint, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this release! In a good listening environment, as an audio professional, you can listen to this mix and even be amazed at the clarity of the individual instruments and the seperation of the tracks!
The most obvious thing that comes to my mind when thinking about what people describe this as “lackluster production” is:
There is just not so much saturation going on!
Which can lead to a track sounding less “exciting” and more “dry” than you probably want it to be for a Metal Production! It won’t get the musical vision across!
Who knows, maybe this is even what In Flames asked for when they remade this album – maybe they went to their producer and said:
“Hey, we want a ‘raw’ and rather ‘natural’ sound for this record, because after all – back in the day, we didn’t have all these technical possibilities like nowadays!”
And in the end, what you hear in the end is a great example of how a rather “dry” and “less processed” track with not much Mastering sounds like when you don’t add the right amount and type of saturation – it may just feel less energetic, which could be an avoidable reason for fans hating it!
But what is the point of me rambling on about this?
My point is:
Understanding the vision of the artist and communicating about their excpectations and maybe even questioning it to get to a good end result is a KEY PART of the job!
I have made the experience, that as a performing music artist, one often lacks a professional third perspective.
Somebody who tries to understand their musical vision and helps refining it.
Somebody who tries to bring forth the intended emotion in your music and set the right leads when needed and give constructive guidance when in doubt.
And somebody who has the proper technical knowledge aswell as a broad view on the possibilities to get your desired sonic result, while keeping your vision in mind!
Every single step of the journey from an idea to a finished audio product is responsible for a great and professional sounding end product which is still believable and carries emotion which resonates with the audience.
And that is why I think that Audio Engineers as well as Music Artists should try to communicate better and try to understand the other parties’ intentions as accurately as possible.
PUT TRUST in each other’s judgement! The artist, the producer and the audience will be more than thankful.
Cheers, I kind of had to get that out of my system 🙂