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Dynamic Range Day - Loudness War Protest

Production Advice

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Why you want to go to Music Tech Fest, even if you don’t realise it yet

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This Friday I’ll be presenting my Perception plugin at Music Tech Fest in London.

I hadn’t heard of the event before, but the more I learned the more I realised just how cool it’s going to be. And that was before I got my invitation…

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Imogen Heap’s “Sparks”: How to build an album from a collection of songs

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At the most basic level, making an album is about putting the right songs, in the right order, with suitable gaps in between.

Which sounds simple enough, right ?

Maybe so. But the running order has an enormous impact on the way we perceive songs, and their meaning.

For example, Imogen Heap’s new album “Sparks” was released today. I’ve been listening obsessively to it for the last week (because I pre-ordered the amazing “deluxe box-set” version) and it’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

I was worried that it simply wouldn’t hang together as an album, because of the unique way it was produced – but in fact the opposite was true.

Quietly, without us (or herself ?) noticing, Imogen has created a concept album about the end of her relationship – with an unexpectedly happy twist at the end.

And the tool she used to achieve this was nothing more than the order she chose to put the songs in.

Bear with me though, this will take a little time to explain…

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Mastering monitoring – how to choose speakers that are up to the challenge

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speaker


This is the tough one.

We all know that the most important tools we have are our ears, taste and experience, but right after that come the speakers we use and the space we use them in.

In mastering, that’s more true than ever.

The goal is to make your music translate to the widest possible range of replay systems, from the best, to the worst – and sound great on all of them.

That’s a big ask.

If your speakers are too bright, you’ll be tempted to master everything too dull. If they don’t have enough power to play cleanly, they could be hiding distortion you don’t want. And if they don’t have good enough low frequency response, you could end up leaving way too much sub-bass in there… and no-one likes a master with a flabby bottom !

In a nutshell, if your mastering monitoring isn’t good enough, you’re always going to struggle to get great results.

(And if you think it’s OK to just make your music sound great on the “lowest common denominator” systems like Apple earbuds, because that’s what everyone is listening on – think again.)

Every speaker is different, so this post won’t tell you how to choose a set of speakers simply by reading specifications or manufacturer’s blurb – but hopefully it will give you an idea what you should be looking for, and why.

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Loudness War Myths Explored: 2 – Do some genres NEED to be crushed ?

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Sometimes you just need to go with the flow.

The plan was for the second of these Loudness War Myths videos to be about listening in noisy environments – but the controversy over a brand new metal release made this week makes it the ideal time to tackle another myth entirely.

Namely:

Some genres NEED that ‘loudness war’ sound

This one gets trotted out with depressing regularity, even by people who should know better.

Metal and EDM are the most common styles that are supposed to only sound “right” if their level has been pushed up as hard as possible against digital’s brick-wall ceiling.

So, is it true ?

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The Distortion Of Sound documentary: fair comment, misleading over-simplification – or worse ?

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I’m not sure my feelings could be more mixed.

When people first sent me the trailer for a new documentary called The Distortion Of Sound, I was intrigued. Big names, high production standards, and a topic I care about.

But I immediately thought:

“I hope they don’t muddle up the two different types of compression – lossy (mp3) compression and dynamic (loudness war) compression”

Well, now I’ve seen the full documentary, and – they did.

Totally.

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Ian Shepherd


BBC Radio 4 Interview

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Ian Shepherd from Production Advice discusses the Loudness Wars

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