Music Has Always Sounded Like Shit

I wrote and posted this bit back in July 2015 after Neil Young announced he was pulling his music off of streaming services because of sound quality. I wanted to put it back here as it’s a nice precursor to a piece I’m finishing up abour vinyl albums.

To note: Neil Young’s music is currently available on all the streaming services. Guess that Pono thing didn’t work out as well as he thought it would. that being said, he’s still on his damn soapbox.

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Opium Winter: Making the First EP, Part 3

This entry is going to cover the editing/mixing portion of the recording process and my thoughts along each step of the way. This not going to be a step by step entry that covers every EQ setting and compression ratio on each track. 


The recording process began in early April 2018. All instruments and vocals were tracked by the end of the month. The plan was to release the debut Opium Winter EP by the beginning of the summer. Instead it was officially released April 1, 2019… almost exactly one year later.

What happened? The answer is simple: Mixing.

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Sellout

I’ve done football commercials; I’ve done everything; commercial and noncommercial: My attitude has been that they’re both the same. Why is it better to get a check every week from a university than to get royalties? Of course I’m a sellout. What else would I be?

– Phil Glass; New York Times.

Opium Winter: Making the First EP, Part 2

With equipment rented and drum tracks completed, it was time to move on to guitars, bass, vocals, and synth.

This was going to be a little easier as the basement in our house came with pretty excellent sound treatment. The previous owner had a home theatre setup down there and added decent insulation in the walls and installed a dropped ceiling complete with acoustic insulation tiles. Both the main room and the back room, which has become my home office, has that slightly “dead” feeling you get when walking into a pro studio. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not pro level perfect, but it’s more than I could ever ask for and I’ve been making good use of it.

My home office has a small closet that I’ve converted into a makeshift isolation booth. I stuffed a small Ikea mattress against the back wall and hung up some fabric to help cut back on reflections.

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DL&D Addendum

In my last post about cutting back/giving up on Social Media and the Internet in order to get back to being creative, I mentioned that I’ve been learning music production on my own. My reasoning was “there are no audio engineering teachers that offer lessons like a guitar or piano teacher would; I’d have to enrol in an audio engineering course at a college somewhere. I’m simply not going to put that kind of time or sink that kind of money into something that is merely a hobby.”

I thought I’d expand a little on how I’ve been tackling learning something like music production using the Internet.

1: Download and print any user guides that are offered by whoever makes the digital tools you use. If they have an online how-to video repository, bookmark it and use it for reference when you get stuck.

2: On YouTube, figure out who has good advice and continue to watch their videos. Then figure out who is simply blowing smoke for sake of getting more clicks and forget about them. You’ll be able to tell pretty quick which is which.

3: Glean the basics from those channels you do end up watching. Don’t take what they say as gospel! Try their instructions, shitcan what doesn’t work and keep what does.

4: Watch interviews with well known producers and listen to them talk about their careers and how they worked on certain songs and/or albums. If you really listen to what they’re saying, you can pick up little tidbits here and there and incorporate them into your workflow.

5: Keep a burner email or two handy because if you find a site that offers multi-tracks for download, grab them and practice with them. The same goes for free plugins; download them and play with them. Sure some are crap, but there are some decent ones out there if you look.

6: Just do it. Set up and record, even if it’s just you playing an acoustic while recording with one microphone. Mix and remix over and over. Try things. Break things. Try things again. There is no right or wrong. Find your own voice.

7: Don’t overly focus on what gear is being used or suggested in the videos you watch. Not everyone can afford a U-47. Learn how to use what you have access to.

8: Don’t overthink. Keep it simple and always serve the song.

Minimal

… build things to suit your taste. There’s endless options out there; start with minimal pieces of gear and learn it. Give yourself time. If you start off in an endless search for newer pieces of gear, better pieces of gear, things to add, “this is cool”, you lose the focus you have when you’re working with a minimalistic setup. Once you learn that, and you work very hard to get variety in your work using a limited source of options, that’s when you really refine your skill.

– Kim Rosen – PLAP Interview, July 2019.

Unicorn

It’s quite easy to be super artistic and it’s relatively easy to be really, really pop. There’s this little tiny piece in the middle that meets that very few people ever get to where … it’s a song that speaks to millions and millions of people, not just on the pop side but also on on the artistic side.

It’s actually very difficult to be an artist in the sense that people often confuse self indulgence with artistry. There are a great many people out there who are behaving with immense self indulgence believing that it’s art when in fact it’s something that’s highly forgettable and will only resonate for a short time with people who confuse self indulgence with art … where the people who are capable of expressing themselves through a medium and are legitimately artists are few and far between.

… the people who are able to marry art with commerce in a way where they’re able to touch people, to resonate with them, and make something that’s enduring? That is a unicorn.

– Michael Beinhorn & Warren Huart – PLAP Interview, 2019 .

Opium Winter: Making The First EP, Part 1

Opium Winter released our first EP on April 1. You can grab it on Bandcamp or stream it via the usual suspects (Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, etc). We’re pretty proud of this work and hope everyone out there enjoys it as  much as we enjoyed making it.

I’d like to take some time, over a couple of posts, to go over how this EP came to its final form.

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