Dynamic Range Day

19 03 2010

Tomorrow marks Dynamic Range Day!

The day is made to raise awareness of loud music, mainly via the internet by typing in block capitals, LIKE THIS.

THIS IS CALLED “SHOUTING“. PEOPLE SUPPORTING THE CAUSE ARE ASKED TO TYPE IN BLOCK CAPITALS ON THEIR SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES SUCH AS TWITTER AND FACEBOOK, EXPLAINING THE REASONS BEHIND THE CAUSE.

TYPING LIKE THIS DOES HAVE ITS REASONS RELATING TO DYNAMIC RANGE: IT IS TO SHOW THAT “SHOUTING” CAN BECOME IRRITATING TO READ AFTER A WHILE, MUCH LIKE LISTENING TO LOUD RECORDS CONTINUOUSLY CAN BECOME VERY IRRITATABLE TO YOUR EARS AFTER A WHILE.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT productionadvice.co.uk/dynamic-range-day

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Vinyls…

18 03 2010

I found some vinyls in my loft for using in my project (thanks Dad).

Most of them are records that were produced in the 70s and 80s using analogue equipment such as reel to reel tapes. I’m hoping that in the 30 or 40 odd years that have passed, a few of them have been remastered or re-released at some point in the past 10-15 years.

The theory is that the remastered versions should have a significant difference in sound compared to the original version. However, everyone has their own opinion so people may prefer the remasters to the originals. I’m hoping that the experiment can uncover some interesting results for these.

Here’s a list of some of the vinyls I found:

The Who – Tommy (1969)
Led Zeppelin –
III (1970)
Yes – Fragile (1971)
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (1972/73)
Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive (1975)
Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key of Life (1976)
The Police – Regatta De Blanc (1979)
Bruce Springsteen – The River (1980)
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (single) (1982)
Tears For Fears – The Hurting (1983)

As you can see, I’ve tried sticking with popular bands or albums as this will increase the chances of the album having a remastered version. I also have a theory that participants in the experiment will be able to spot the difference between the two mixes if the song is familiar to them.





Update: Week 8

16 03 2010

Had my Crit meeting with my lecturer today. After discussing what I’ve done so far, I’ve been given some pointers to keep me on track.
One of the more important ones was to research more into the difference between compression and limiting. I’ve managed to acquire a Sound on Sound magazine issue dedicated to the use of compression, and a MusicTech “Focus” issue on mastering.

Over the next couple of weeks I’m looking to find some of my dad’s old vinyl records from the 70s and 80s in order to compare them to their later remastered versions.
I will also be preparing for the experiment too, looking for volunteers and making final masters of the songs I’ve written for the project.





Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf

28 12 2009

Here’s an album which has been criticized for it’s “loudness” – Queen’s of the Stone Age’s “Songs for the Deaf”.


I’m not sure whether I’m in any position to criticize it however, as this album was the soundtrack to my teenage years. Bands such as them, Incubus, Foo Fighters, the Mars Volta, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were big influences on me when I was growing up. I’ve discovered that most of them have at least one album with some bad reviews on it’s production, with RHCP’s “Californication” coming under some heavy scrutiny in some circles.

But maybe that’s what teenagers want from their music. Adolescence has always been associated with being rebellious, doing what you want to do and not caring what others think. So maybe that’s what teenagers want – loud music.

This makes me question whether the whole “Loudness War” debate is more a debate between generations, where the younger generation want music to hit them like a punch in the face, whereas the older generation don’t want their music to exhaust them after the first 3 songs.

Where I stand as a sound engineer, I’m not quite sure.





“Vintage”

21 12 2009

A few artists I listen to use different types of recording gear to give them a “vintage” feel to their music. In the era where the majority of music is produced on a laptop some sort of DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) it’s nice to see people going back to analogue equipment but still creating music suited to the 21st Century.

Some artists in this circle include Bibio, Benoit Pioulard, and Bon Iver. Bon Iver is most noted in the public for having recorded his album in a cabin in the wilderness of Wisconsin using basic recording gear, which is noticable in the recordings themselves:

Another artist similar to this is Sam Beam, also known as Iron and Wine. He recorded his first album in his own home studio, but like Bon Iver, the quality of the recording has had some effect on the music itself:





Perfecting Sound Forever

15 12 2009

I’ve recently acquired a book called “Perfecting Sound Forever” by Greg Milner, which tells the history of sound reproduction, from Edison’s phonograph to present day MP3s.

I’ve only read the 1st chapter so far, which details Edison’s “tone tests”, in which he toured the US with his invention and showed audiences the wonders of the first device to “perfectly” reproduce sound. The word “perfectly” here is argued in great detail: Edison believed that his device could perfectly reproduce sound, however we now know that is not the case as sound production has evolved greatly over the years.

However, Milner brings up an interesting point in that because the audience were told beforehand that the phonograph could “perfectly” reproduce sound, they were psychologically tricked into believing that it was perfect, which is very similar to today’s recordings where if a singer uses Autotune in a recording, you would be psychologically tricked into believing that the singer can sing with perfecting tuning. Or that in a song where a singer is whispering or singing at a low volume, yet you can somehow hear them clearly over the sound of the drums, aren’t you being tricked into believing that the singer is louder than the drums when in reality this would not be possible?  (The chorus in the Friendly Fires song I posted in an earlier blog post is a good example of this)

So does this pychological trickery apply to louder records? Do people buy records because it sounds louder than others? Is this the reason why record labels quantity over quality when it comes to dynamics? Do people prefer an overcompressed remaster of a classic record to the original copy because it is simply louder? These are the questions I hope that my project will answer over the coming months.






Pleasurize Music

4 12 2009

I came across a website today called the Pleasurize Music Foundation. The foundation’s aim is to promote the reasoning behind good use of dynamic range to both music industry professionals and the music listening public.

An idea they have come up with is the Dynamic Range Meter, a program that measures the dynamic range in a song and gives it a value, ranging from DR4 to DR14. The DR Value “represents the grade of compression of released music in an easy to understand and standardized whole number system”. A song with a DR value of 4 would have a dynamic range of around 4dB, meaning that the song is very compressed, wheras a song with a DR value of 14 would have a lot of dynamic range.

If the Meter became standard practice in the music industry, then it may be of a huge benefit to everyone from student sound engineers, music listeners, and music professionals alike. However, record labels have been known in the past to be wary of new ideas and technology when creating music (the most famous being their missed opportunity in helping to create a format of distributing music fairly online. As a result, music was file-shared online freely and without consequence for a number of years, losing the record labels millions upon millions of pounds in the process.)