February 26, 2024

Stereophile has an article up about how Digital is killing music. (I see these like every week or so)

“A few engineers talked about superstar vocalists who record literally hundreds of takes of a single song, then leave it to the editors to assemble from these a single “perfect” performance, a fraction of a second at a time (footnote 1) Pardon my snark, but imagine how much better records by James Brown, the Beatles, or Led Zeppelin would have been had they had Pro Tools in the 1960s and ’70s. Sadly, it’s a tool that some artists can’t resist using to the point that there’s nothing left of the original performance.”

For me, I still think some of the best recordings are live. Michael Brecker is way better live. The Buddy Rich big band? Live is the only way to go. Thad Jones? Yep, live. Something about the sound, and maybe the mistakes or glitches that happen. Those are the things that make it better. Sinatra singing perfectly in tune? That would be better? Hardly. Or maybe Cannonball, Charlie Parker, or Coltrane having a flubbed note fixed? Or a squeak removed digitally? That would be better? Nope.

Heck, I think we have too many tools in the tool box nowadays. Using less EQ, Compression, AutoTuning would be the way to go. When I do my student CDs, I don’t auto tune it, I add minimal EQ, and a slight room reverb (since we are recording close mic’d). That’s it. Even though I have a TON of plugins, and could use Melodyne to fix the pitch. But every time I hear a new CD, usually smooth jazz but sometimes straight ahead, I hear way too much reverb and compression. Probably some auto-tuning in there as well. Pity really.

2 thoughts on “The Deflavorizing Machine

  1. I was recently listening to some Dave Brubeck Quartet at Oberlin recorded live in the late 50’s. You could hear the Room and you could hear the Band, everything sounded clean and balanced. These players just ooze talent, each note placed as they desired. The drums weren’t compressed for punchiness fer shur!
    It probably isn’t the tools in the box, but rather the mechanic using them.

    1. Man, recording was so simple back then. You placed a single microphone (or two if it was going to be stereo hi-fi) and you recorded. That was it. No punching in a take on a different track. No fixing pitches. No time fixes. Nothing. It was what it was.

      I sorta really miss that. When I mixed down a big band project that I was apart of, I really really hated all the little fixes everyone wanted. The timing issues, the pitch here or there. My main job was to get rid of the audience rumble (it was part of a dinner thing, so there was a lot of chit chat) which involved cutting out the “space” when people were not playing as the microphones would pickup the chatter.

      It would have been nice just to have a simple stereo recording of the bad….so much more natural.

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