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Is your music beautiful? Is it exciting?

A post by David Mellor
Tuesday April 10, 2012
If your music is neither beautiful nor exciting, then it is unlikely to find an audience. We hear many recordings at Audio Masterclass that are professional. But mere professionalism isn't enough to get you noticed. A professional-sounding recording can be useful as an album filler, and even in the age of the download there are album-fillers aplenty being bashed out in pro studios. But to make an impact and achieve true success, your work needs to be beautiful. And if it isn't beautiful, then it needs to b
Is your music beautiful? Is it exciting?

Here's an interesting experiment... Go to a website where ordinary musicians and home-studio producers can sell their work to the public. Take a listen to sample tracks and previews. Typically you will easily find work of amazing professionalism. But will you buy? Will the general public buy?

The problem is that achieving professional-sounding work is seen as the objective by many home recording studio owners. True professionalism is hard to achieve, and when you get there, then it seems that some kind of laurel wreath of victory is warranted. Yes, wear it with pride, but you're not done yet. You have only made it to the first rung of the ladder.

I have been thinking long and hard about what it is that the general public really want from their music. Music that they will be willing to pay for. I'll certainly pay good money for a piece of music that is beautiful. Anything by Sade will fit the bill for me, for instance. Adele, also for instance, seems to fit the bill for a younger audience.

But music doesn't have to be beautiful to sell. If a track is exciting, then it can sell well too. It doesn't have to be beautiful, and in fact quite a number of ugly-duckling recordings have sold massively simply because they generate excitement.

Grass roots beauty/excitement

I was playing with a new compression plug-in the other day on a drum track. "Wow, that's an exciting sound!" I thought. I could tweak the settings from hardly any difference at all, through a little bit exciting, to really exciting, to it's-all-too-much-to-handle. It wasn't hard to find a sound that really was over the top.

What I found, which of course I knew already but hadn't thought about recently, is that there is a point where the excitement is just at the right level. But then there's a point just beyond that where the sound is really exciting!

It occurred to me that perhaps I have myself concentrated too much on achieving professional sounds from all of my instruments and vocals, and maybe I should be a little more adventurous and try adding excitement at the recording stage, to each instrument and to each vocal. Of course there are more ways to do this than with compression, but my feeling is that if excitement is added, or at least considered, in every stage of production, the result should be a really exciting song at the end of the recording, mixing and mastering process.

I could of course apply the same logic to a song that I wanted to sound beautiful. If the multitrack recording is packed out with beautiful sounds, how would it be possible to fail?

New punk recording

I was about to summarize that professionalism should be taken as a given, and excitement or beauty added on top of that. But then I thought back to the punk era where many musicians - or should it be 'musicians'? - could hardly play their instruments. But boy they made an exciting sound.

So maybe music production has gotten a little too professionalism these days. Perhaps we need to get back to basics. Exciting sounds or beautiful musicianship, and who cares about a few rough edges?

If anyone would like to send in their new punk recordings, I'll be happy to feature the best in these pages.

A post by David Mellor
Tuesday April 10, 2012 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)