Dynamic Range Day - Loudness War Protest

Production Advice

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Discover the dangerous, destructive, delicate delights of distortion

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I love distortion.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

Now that might surprise you, coming from the founder of Dynamic Range Day, but it’s true. Some of my favourite songs simply wouldn’t exist without it – like the sublime example in the video above, for example !

Distortion has been an integral part of the sound of recorded popular music since the very beginning, and it always will be.

And I love it.

So how can this be true ?

How can someone who bitches almost daily about the squashed-flat, distorted sounds of most modern releases, someone who has developed a plugin specifically to make sure people can hear exactly how much damage the Loudness War Sound is doing to their music – how can I claim to love distortion ?

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Music Tech Fest – 100% inspirational

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Technology is an amazing thing.

A two-edged sword, sometimes – but an amazing thing.

And music technology is no exception. As proved by any one of the following paragraphs:

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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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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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Ian Shepherd

BBC Radio 4 Interview

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Ian Shepherd from Production Advice discusses the Loudness Wars