Category: Workflow

Keep the performance in play

John Hampton (not to be confused with Scott Hampton) in Tape Op, on the extra-sonic benefits of analog recording:

Going back to analog is making me a happy guy…. For performers with analog it’s, “Guess what dude, you have to sing it.” I’m not going to cut and paste your vocal. You have to sing it.

Scott Solter in Trust Me I’m a Scientist:

Solter, who has worked extensively with analog tape, praises the inherent restrictions of that medium. “You have to start making confident, and in some cases, final decisions in the moment as you’re working; Things like submixing, to free up new tracks, really cause people to live very clearly in the moment with the work that they’re doing.”

“Sometimes the computer, because you can keep documenting without any consequence, pushes a lot of crucial decision-making back in the process. Then, all of a sudden, you get to mixing, and you’ve got, like, 80 tracks…There’s something cool about really committing to stuff…It makes people pay attention—it really does. It’s kind of sad that it’s taken on a negative quality – [when I] think it’s actually a positive quality.”

He remembers an anecdote about composer Morton Feldman, who, late in his career, did all his composing in pen. “It made him think longer and harder about the decisions he was making.”

Like I said: The biggest advantage of recording to tape comes from the commitment to performance (and decision making) that it demands. But how can those of us without a Studer sitting in the corner get some of those benefits? One idea: Throw playlists/take management out the window, turn off your big screen, and control everything with something like this. Or even simpler: Remove your inserts and sends from your mix window view, throw your edit window on a second screen, then turn that screen off.

Dashboard: More Than Just an Orange Calculator

While there are a number of music related Dashboard widgets that range from somewhat useful (and apparently now MIA) to not at all, I’ve recently taken to making a few of my own “web clip” widgets for tasks that I found myself repeatedly opening the black hole commonly known as a web browser to accomplish in the past. (Seriously, show me the front page of Wikipedia and you might not see me for a week—not the greatest for productivity.) Best of all, they can be whatever you want, take two seconds to make, and you never need to be updated. Some favorites:

Continue reading »

Ethan Winer on Perception

Ethan Winer in Tape Op, on how the limits and fallibility of human perception cloud our judgments about sound (or should I say sound judgment?):

Hearing fallibility has implications beyond doubting our own mixing decisions. It’s the main reason audiophiles believe the sound of their hi-fi improved after replacing one perfectly competent AC power cord with another, or after raising their speaker wires off the floor on special “anti-resonance” cable lifters. Understand that I’m not talking about real differences, such as the sound of modern digital recording versus analog tape or vinyl records. Those differences are real, and are easily measured using the standard metrics of frequency response and distortion. Skilled listeners can easily identify which is which every time in a blind test. Rather, what I’m addressing are differences that are perceived but not real—the placebo effect if you will, or perhaps wishful thinking.

Bob Clearmountain chimes in the next issue’s letters section:

Hats off to Ethan Winer! His article, “Perception—The Final Prontier” echoes my sentiments exactly. It’s great to see that someone in this business has the balls to apply intelligence and reason to the science of audio…You can make a great record from pretty much any recording and mixing device, if you have four things: 1) a great song, 2) a great performance, 3) great production and 4) a great mix—in that order. And the last two aren’t even necessary if the first two are incredible. When it comes to the gear it’s more important that the recordist, mixer, producer and artist are comfortable with it and that it doesn’t get in the way of getting a great performance.

In other words: Get your hands on some decent tools, learn how to use them quickly and effectively, then promptly and completely forget about them, so you can focus on, ya know, the music.

Pretend That It’s January (But Be Thankful That It’s Not)

Ten wonderfully snide yet astute New Year’s resolutions from Mike Monteiro. Don’t let the fact that he’s a web developer stop you from taking these to (your cold, jaded, studio-tanned musician) heart. Examples: “Stop stealing crap.” “Get comfortable arguing.” “Stop trying to save bad work.” The one about your mom is less pertinent, but the accompanying photo is priceless.