Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monkeys and Whisks

I once complimented a composer on his guitar playing, and he said that he was afraid it wouldn't sound so good if it weren't for the plug-ins he was using.

I told him that it didn't matter if he used a monkey and a whisk - it was only the end result that mattered. (Of course, thinking about it now, that conjures up quite an image.)

This brings up the discussion of two schools of thought when approaching music production: Purists vs. Perfectionists. The purist approach is more one of the documentarian. Their goal is to capture the reality of a performance. They tend not to use a lot of gadgets and tricks to make things sound hyper-real, but rather are interested in the reality and honesty of a performance and recording.

The Perfectionist, however, is interested in making things hyper-real: a level of perfection not found in nature that can only be achieved through massive amounts of technology.

These two schools of thought have no common ground and each tends to think the other is in error in their approach. But both positions do have their place in the world of music. Not every performance (or genre) benefits from one approach or the other. It would seem the genre and purpose for which the track is created must be taken into account as well.

While I do tend to lean toward the Perfectionist camp, I’ve used both approaches, and you’ll see plenty of representation of both camps in the Omnimusic libraries. Ultimately, we do what we need to do to serve our clients’ needs.

But boy, that monkey sure can play the whisk...

-Dave Hab

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Five-second Rule...

The five-second rule applies equally well to both food and music - that is, not at all. Germs and copyright infringement are transferred in exactly the same amount of time: instantly. That's right: contrary to popular belief, there is no safe amount of time to leave your food on the floor and no amount of music that's legal to use without permission.

There, we've busted two myths with one metaphoric stone.

(For more copyright info, check out our “Copyright Q&A” at

-Dave Hab

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Annoying, but Necessary

While we’re on the topic of making things better:

My wife is a print editor and I am a music producer. I have discovered that these are basically the same thing, only in different media. I have also discovered that both are fairly annoying but necessary roles.

Every time I write something (in words, not music,) she’s got her $.02 about how to make it better. It doesn’t matter that she’s always right. It’s still annoying. (Maybe that’s WHY it’s annoying.)

I would imagine our composers feel the same way about the $.02 we’re constantly sticking in about how to make the track better for our clients. Hopefully, they understand that we’re less interested in the esoteric artistic “greatness” of a work, and more interested in how it serves our clients’ needs.

Sure, we love great art as much as anyone, but we can never lose sight of whom and what it is we are creating for. Some composers understand this; others decidedly do not. The ones that DO understand this write for Omnimusic.

When we make changes to the music, hopefully we’re always right. Either way, I’ll bet we’re annoying.

-Dave Hab

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Better vs. Different

I mentioned in an earlier post that the Broadway Cast album mix was a whole other story. It's the story of people who can't make a distinction between "better" and just “different." You know who they are - I'm sure you've dealt with them at some point. Well, we had three of them on this project, and each had their own perspective on how things should be done. I'm sure now you understand why this project was interminable.

“Better” vs. “different” is a murky gray swamp of an area, and one producers swim in every day. Making a change that makes the track better is one thing, but at some point, you're making minute changes that no one but you could ever notice, and you're not making it better - you're just making it different. To some, making the distinction is a bit like understanding the difference in quantum spins, but in a creative project it's an important distinction that can mean the difference between greatness and insanity.

-Dave Hab

Friday, August 5, 2011

Water and Hard Drives Don't Mix

The fact that water and hard drives don't mix should be self-evident to anyone who's ever used electricity, but I once witnessed first hand the outcome of such an ill-advised marriage.

We were six weeks into a Broadway cast album mix (no, it shouldn't have taken that long, but that's a whole other story.) We were a few days from finishing (in theory) when a clogged storm drain flooded the studio with six inches of water. Of course, the computer containing all of the automation from the mixes was on the ground, and was now doing its best impression of Jacques Cousteau.

With horrifying visions of having to repeat the previous six weeks (to which prolonged dental surgery would have been preferable) we sent the hard drive off to be dissected in a clean room in a mysterious black ops facility somewhere in California. Funny how in certain situations money becomes no object.

In any case, it all turned out fine in the end. The microchip magicians burned some incense, waved their wands, recovered all of our data, and we finished the gig. I guess the moral of the story is "Don't place computer equipment on the floor of flood-prone areas unless you have nothing to lose or money to burn." (Or some kind of sick need to repeat your work.)

Words to the wise.

-Dave Hab