Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Tarekith
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by Tarekith » Wed May 13, 2015 5:19 pm

For sure. I don;t think a lot of people realize how many hats your average solo producer has to wear when creating a song, especially one that not only sounds good but is well written. It's a much longer path in many ways than being a successful musician (ie, playing only a single instrument). Huge range of skills involved, often learned on your own.

Well, with the help of some blogs too I guess ;)
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beats me
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by beats me » Wed May 13, 2015 5:53 pm

Tarekith wrote:For sure. I don;t think a lot of people realize how many hats your average solo producer has to wear when creating a song, especially one that not only sounds good but is well written. It's a much longer path in many ways than being a successful musician (ie, playing only a single instrument). Huge range of skills involved, often learned on your own.

Well, with the help of some blogs too I guess ;)

Which brings on my :x when “music lovers” don’t think any song is even worth a fucking dollar.

I often get so overwhelmed about the potential hats I may have to put on to produce (mix) a song that’s up to the public’s expected standards that I don’t even bother starting. :x

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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by Tarekith » Wed May 13, 2015 5:56 pm

I'm balding and have to wear a hat, no choice.
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LFO8
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by LFO8 » Wed May 13, 2015 6:09 pm

Tarekith wrote:I don't think a lot of people realize how many hats your average solo producer has to wear when creating a song, especially one that not only sounds good but is well written. Huge range of skills involved, often learned on your own.
I started out only 6 years ago, knowing nothing. I just always wanted to make music that could have the effect that so much music out there had on me; make someone feel something.

Ironically, in the very beginning when I knew nothing and just winged it, I wrote music with great speed and did not overthink things. Then one day (about a month or three after I started) I made two tracks that made me think: "Hey, maybe I can do something with this. I want to seriously develop this". "Right, it is time to do this the right way and start learning it up about music theory, songwriting and music production techniques".

Boy, did I underestimate the self-defacing, humiliating, trials and tribulations and confrontations with oneself and ones demons that lay ahead! It seemed like the more knowledge I gained, the further away I got from that initial musical intuition. I had to be it all: A good songwriter, A good Sound-designer (because who uses presets..blegh), A good mixer, etc.

Super super overwhelming experience that had almost ground me to a total halt and near insanity till about a year and a half ago. There is just so so soo much to learn every day about this stuff that you can keep moving forward and going and going everyday without taking the time and realise how much knowledge in all areas you have assimilated already, let alone thinking in a positive way about the stuff you make!

I know that everybody is different, but I also have read a lot of very similar stories from people going through the same thing. These days, like Tarekith said, you have to wear all the friggin' hats. Unless you can get together a team like they did in the 'olden days' where one guy is the songwriter, the other a musician, the other the producer, mix engineer etc. More often in these type of productions the end product was truly greater then the sum of its parts. Dare I say Thriller? But good luck with that today.

In some parts my rambling like complaining, but it is more an acknowledgement to what you said Tarekith about how many people do not realise how many hats you have to wear (and the skill involved and the time it takes to learn it all) when trying to cut it alone. And there is no going around that. You can still have gone through all that and learned it all and create stuff that is still mediocre in the grand scheme of music and touches absolutely no one...

Would I want it any other way? I don't know... this is the kind of stuff that people can say to some one who is just starting out, but it would not hit home. It is something that you would have to go through in order to fully grasp. I can't say that I would have even done things differently had I known what I know now. It has to d with the person that you are with all your shortcomings and all the strong qualities you have and all the small choices you make along the way that will determine your path.

But I am still here and doing it because I can not help myself. I am still doing it and I am a person who gets bored quickly. But there you go, six years on and still not bored and I can see myself still doing it 10 years from now. Who knows.. maybe one day I'll get good.. :wink:

beats me
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by beats me » Wed May 13, 2015 6:34 pm

There’s one universal truth. Get yourself a female vocalist and you will get a lot lower pass threshold on overall production quality. :x

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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by Tarekith » Wed May 13, 2015 6:39 pm

Good for you LFO8, sticking with it is the right answer.

I'm not at all trying to put people off of the joy of making music, but I sometimes think people have too high of expectations for what can be done in certain time frames. I get TONS of people emailing me wanting to know why they don't sound like famous artist XYZ, when they've been writing music diligently already for 2 years. :) That's just a drop in the bucket really, it takes years and years to get good for most of us not naturally gifted at it.

I kind of chuckle now at all this. I started making music wanting to be a guitar player like Joe Satriani, or Steven Vai over 20 years ago. Very quickly I realized not only how much work that would take, but how long it would take as well. I'm not saying that's what drove me to get more into electronic music and producing in general, but when I think how good I could be at just the guitar after 20 years of the same effort I put into learning production techniques, song writing, sound design, critical listening, etc. Well... :)

Not saying I'm great at any of the above things either, just that they all take a lot of time to learn. It's ulitmately a more liberating way of creating music, being able to shape it from start to finish just the way I want, knowing that what I hear and the end user hears is likely pretty damn similar. But there's been many times over the years where it's hit home how this is a lifelong passion and skill to learn, and not something you can force into a time contraint that fits some goal you set. Well, within reason anyway, hard work and practice always helps. :)
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LFO8
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by LFO8 » Wed May 13, 2015 6:45 pm

Yeah, I have given up on wanting to play the piano 'decently' because it would simply take too long now and draw to much time away from the other stuff I want to learn as well. I do have to pick my battles in fear of losing focus and becoming a Jack of All Trades but Master of None.

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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by Machinesworking » Wed May 13, 2015 6:49 pm

Tarekith wrote: I used the phrase over-engineering because here there was clearly a goad to take that decision out of the hands of the end user. An attempt to make things easier by making them automatic. Thus, over-engineered compared to just putting a fan switch on the wall instead.

God I miss my fan switch....
As someone who rents part of their house out and had t0 wire the fan to the lightswitch outlet in order to only partially remodel the bathroom instead of gut it etc. I was talking to a friend whose family have been landlords for a few generations and his response was "Good! that way the tenants have to have the fan on when they shower, no mold... "

An apartment with a fan that stays on that long is engineered by a landlord that wants to force air circulation at the expense of your sanity. I would wire a simple on/off switch into the fan, something simple you can remove all traces of when you move out. :x

irrelevance
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by irrelevance » Wed May 13, 2015 10:21 pm

Tarekith wrote:Image

New post from my blog:

One of the more interesting aspects of living in Europe compared to the US, is how differently they build things. Lots more concrete, no drywall, attention to air quality inside, more stringent energy saving devices, etc. Of course, sometimes better is not always better.

Case in point. The bathroom in our new apartment has a fan and vent system that’s tied into the overhead light. When you turn on the main bathroom light, after a few seconds the fans in the vents start. This provides not only fresh air, but also helps get rid of any moisture in the air after say a shower, preventing mold building up and the like. It’s a great idea on paper, however the people who designed it over-engineered the concept because said fan will stay on for up to 30 minutes after you turn off the light. Even if you only turn on the light for a few seconds. And it’s very loud, so loud you can hear it in all of the other rooms. To the point where it’s extremely annoying, and it basically creates a larger problem than it solves.

As a result, instead of being a practical solution we appreciate having and use frequently, my wife and rarely use the overhead light in the bathroom and instead use the much dimmer one built into the wall. The point of this post isn’t just to whine about my new bathroom though, because I see music producers doing the same thing all the time when it comes to writing music.

For instance, people will be working to make two instruments sit together better in a mix by using some EQ on both parts. They’ll go to great lengths to create these radical and steep EQ shapes that precisely isolate specific frequencies, and yes the sounds do fit together better afterwards. But at the same time, they also lack any warmth or presence, making the mix sound thin and anemic. They’ve in effect not just fixed a problem, but created a worse one in the process.

Read More: http://innerportalstudio.com/over-engin ... solutions/

Not over engineered at all, its just the timer circuit that needs adjusting which should have been done at point of install (commission/test before sign off). To keep in line with your analogy better sounds should be picked and tested pre mix.

Stromkraft
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by Stromkraft » Wed May 13, 2015 10:29 pm

jbw wrote: As for composition, I'm not too keen on the whole concept of loops in music, and instead use the term "phrase" when describing a snippet of music.
Exactly, as a "phrase" is like a full musical sentence expressing feelings and conveying an idea, for example. A "loop" is more of a technical term and can really contain any snippet of sound that can be repeated and mangled.
Make some music!

irrelevance
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by irrelevance » Wed May 13, 2015 10:32 pm

However i do have to challenge the notion of anemic mixes because of heavy eq cuts. Successful sound design should make that cutting process invisible to the listener. I'm thinking FSOL who always maintain audacious use of eq to fit things in. A shit mix is a shit mix but sounds blended with eq filters is something else.

jbw
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by jbw » Wed May 13, 2015 10:35 pm

Angstrom wrote:I don't think the issue is limited to EDM, its a plague which spans most current genres.

I was rewatching a Classic Albums, on Pink Floyd, and that band made a lot of full-spectrum noise, but as they played each of the instrumentalists knew how to vary their playing to leave holes through which the other members could be heard. It's something which derives naturally from a few people jamming together, each learns to choke notes, or minimise what they are playing in a certain section to let the song shine through the other player.
The recording of that album was simply takes of them doing what they did live, then polished up.

These days a song's "guitar riff" or whatever, is likely to be 2 bars of comped together loop of all the best chosen parts the guitarist did, compressed, spatially enhanced. The produce simply re-uses that slab over and over, in a loop. Perhaps the volume of the guitar track is attenuated when the singer sings, or perhaps the mid range is "carved", but the actual fluidity of restraint and agression is not there.
Pretty much hit the nail on the head in regards to my being annoyed by the whole loop based approach to music making. Seems like a lot of it, if not most of it, is being driven by software designers looking to sell more copies of their DAW. The idea being, if music is easier to make, more people will buy their software. Then they can also sell loop packs, and so on and so forth, I think everyone knows how the story goes.

Bleh, don't even like to think about it. Not only does it usually result in bad music, it also potentially gives people the false idea that they are somehow musicians.

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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by jbw » Wed May 13, 2015 10:45 pm

Stromkraft wrote:
jbw wrote: As for composition, I'm not too keen on the whole concept of loops in music, and instead use the term "phrase" when describing a snippet of music.
Exactly, as a "phrase" is like a full musical sentence expressing feelings and conveying an idea, for example. A "loop" is more of a technical term and can really contain any snippet of sound that can be repeated and mangled.
I suppose I need to be careful in distinguishing things here, because yes on the one hand looping and applying effects can indeed be done well, but on the other hand simply pasting loops over a timeline and saying "hey look at me I made a song!" just doesn't seem right. Probably because it's not right, and I'm using the extreme example just to try to make a point.

Kind of reminds me of the case made for and against sampling. If done right it can be it's own form of musical expression, but when there is no effort or no thought involved, it needs to be called out.

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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by H20nly » Thu May 14, 2015 12:37 am

LFO8 wrote:in the very beginning when I knew nothing and just winged it, I wrote music with great speed and did not overthink things. Then one day (about a month or three after I started) I made two tracks that made me think: "Hey, maybe I can do something with this. I want to seriously develop this". "Right, it is time to do this the right way and start learning it up about music theory, songwriting and music production techniques".

Boy, did I underestimate the self-defacing, humiliating, trials and tribulations and confrontations with oneself and ones demons that lay ahead! It seemed like the more knowledge I gained, the further away I got from that initial musical intuition.
this :x

i used to whip up drum patterns in record speed for a visiting guitar or bass player. working by myself, i can spend 30 minutes on a kick these days. by the time i get to the bass line, i'm mentally exhausted and i hardly even care anymore. i started making music as a place to express the thoughts i'd put down as lyrics. i can't get a track made fast enough to continue to feel the music enough to even want to approach the mic anymore. the hours of hearing it loop bleed all the excitement out of me. :(

Angstrom wrote:It's like trying to design a tree versus letting one grow - the outcome takes more man-hours and despite all the hard work seems devoid of personality. What should the bark texture be? How deep? What colour? How many branches? How different is each one?
i really like this analogy in its context.

fishmonkey
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Re: Over-engineering Musical Solutions

Post by fishmonkey » Thu May 14, 2015 4:39 am

Angstrom wrote: Meanwhile, take a listen to a good recording of "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck. It's just 4 microphones in a room. What mixing there is came from the mic positions. The EQ too, is just room, and mic choice. It sounds great.
Image
yep, Take Five on a really good playback system sounds fabulous. you can even hear the spatial relationship of the tom toms during the fills...
badbrainz wrote: I'm a drummer, so I'm already at an intellectual disadvantage here

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