Updated: Aug 30, 2021
Let’s get right into the core. Understanding and absorbing a song is one of the most gratifying aspects of the life of an Engineer. An Engineer should develop himself to be multifaceted. He should have the ability to approach and listen to a song from the spheres of a critical listener, a musician, and even that of a layman.
If an Engineer can exist in all these dimensions while listening to a song, an ocean of opportunities will open up for him where he will be confronted with new concepts, that would enable him to make good records.
The Analysis of a Song
At the first listen, let yourself go and enjoy the song; enjoy it thoroughly. It has been written that most of the iconic Engineers don’t pay attention to the lyrics in the initial stages of their listening. They might be looking at it from a completely different perspective. Their focus may be on something else in the song, like the arrangement, the treatments, etc.
Going further, we break the song down in our minds. Playing it over and over in our heads. This awakens the musician and the technician inside us. The longer we do it, the more we get into the zone of the song. Thoughts will start running in our minds. Thoughts about the placement of particular elements in the song, the way they fit into the song, etc.
The genre is the guiding light to the sound of a song. It is the history of the genre that decides how the recordings and the mixes of the song should be. In some genres, the mixes are transparent or invisible, for example, jazz, blues, etc. While other genres might demand mixes that are more apparent in their nature, eg: EDM, trap, etc.
Placing ourselves in the context of the genre decides what direction we will be taking with the song.
On a side note, understanding the genre of a song will help us to take decisions on matters such as the tone of the hi-hats, corresponding mic placements, etc.
We can either play it safe and stick to the conventions (refer Chapter 4), or we can go down the unconventional route and do experiments to leave our own signature (The choice is yours).
It is commonplace for Engineers to ponder whether the things we do or the decisions we take are right or not. We may wonder whether we are analyzing the song the way it is meant to be. In such stages, listening to a variety of music, and understanding the roots and the culture of the genre, can come to our aid.
An Engineer has to be versatile. Let’s take the case of a Jazz pianist and a Drum & Bass producer; more often than not, the musical tastes these two share will be vastly different. They will be focusing on their respective genres.
However, for an Engineer, each genre must be within our RADAR. Yes, it is true that each person will have their personal preferences but an Engineer shouldn’t be hesitant to venture into new plains and explore new terrains. Unlike an Artist, who may need to focus on a particular genre to hone his skills, an Engineer needs to have some knowledge of all the genres to excel in his field (basically learn the science of sound).
Learning to trust oneself, helps an Engineer to develop an instinct to relate to any reference and take the right calls on what works and what doesn’t. The foundation and the confidence boost provided by this instinct are huge. With the help of a killer instinct, the Engineer goes on a quest for his signature sound. The craftsmanship of the Engineer lies with this ability to adapt instantaneously and instinctively.
The Bottom Line
Put the engineer attire aside and enjoy the song. If it makes you happy, rejoice. If it makes you sad, get in there and feel it. It’s not a good practice to always run your mind on things like what plugins to tweak or what compressions are done on the song, etc. Yes, it is an occupational hazard for the Engineer to think like this.
But above all this, we are human beings and it is only human to listen to and enjoy music. Our subconscious instincts will guide us to our sound. But know that it will take time. Our patience and perseverance can reap beautiful results.
So this is the 10th chapter of the Grantha. Are you thinking that we’re stuck in a loop? Are we talking in circles?
Of course!! Why? Well, basics take time to set in. Knowing each and every minute detail of the recording plane requires more than a lap around the track.
So with this chapter ends the Recording Producer series of Pocket Grantha
The next series of the Grantha steps into a new dimension. See you there!!
We may love the sound, but give the sound a chance to love us back.
· An Engineer should develop multiple skills.
· Approach a song from every possible angle.
· At the first listen, enjoy the song.
· Play it multiple times to get into the zone.
· The genre is important in deciding the sound of a song.
· Listening to a variety of music helps an Engineer with decisions.
· Give the sound time, you will be rewarded.