The Audio Engineer as Creative Mediator

Jesse Kendal ID: 203392 Introduction to the Audio Industry (AUD201) Assessment Task 1: Essay The Engineer as Creative Mediator Page (1 of 8) Jesse Kendal ID: 203392 In the last 30 years, recording, editing and mixing techniques have changed dramatically due to new technology. This allows today’s Audio Engineers to engineer much greater sound vastly improving the outcome of a final mix.

Whether it’s the sound you hear on radio, film, television, or of live bands, or whether it’s the final outcome of recording artists in a studio, it’s the Audio Engineers job to fine tune, edit and master the sound to deliver the best quality sound to an audience. In order for an Audio Engineer to do this, he/she needs certain skill sets such as excellent hearing and excellent knowledge of today’s audio production, editing and mixing technology. It is essential that Audio Engineers be able to work with different clients and have a good understanding of what sound they are trying to create.

Being able to step into any recording studio or live performance situation, and know how everything works, is crucial. Before any recording, editing and mixing takes place there is Pre-Production. Pre-Production is simply the planning process for the album. This includes various meetings with the client to discuss the style of music they want to create. Reference tracks with similar style and sound are analysed to give the engineer a good idea of what the client is after (JMC Academy, 2011).

This is arguably the most important part of the recording chain, as this is where all the planning gets done. It’s not ideal if the artist wants a different sound from different instruments or wants to change the arrangement after everything has been recorded. The Engineer needs to discuss in depth all the creative, technical and artistic concerns with the client (Care R, 2011), such as what kind of sound they are after, what instruments they will be using including digital instrumentation.

This information can be put on what they call a “Track Sheet” which is a chart containing what instruments will be used and how many of each instrument, if more than one. The engineer will also get the band to run through their material and make sure their instruments are freshly tuned. Microphone choice and placement is very important in order to get the best sound out of the instruments. This is something that the engineer should devote serious attention to. Jesse Kendal ID: 203392 Page (2 of 8)

It is really important that the engineer knows how to communicate properly with the client, as this can make with whole project a lot easier. If you where to generalize and say, artists can be hard to work with, it’s because they are very passionate about what they do but can often be quite insecure about what they do. So you have to learn to be extremely diplomatic dealing with them and establish a good repour (Jacques D, 2011). In other words you should never be demanding or a know-it-all even though you may be right.

For example you would not walk up to the bass player and say that the bass sounds bad and way to muddy as the artist could take it as a personal attack which will get you no where. It is good diplomatic skills that will move the musician in the best direction and let them know you want to work with them. A good engineer should agree with what ever is best for the band, and it’s the engineer’s job have them sound their best (EK P, 2009) When it comes to getting the best sound out of the band, it’s not as easy as getting them into the studio, setting them all up and starting recording.

There’s an emotion within every song and to really bring this emotion out when recording the track, the artist needs to be in the right mood and be surrounded by the right energy to bring out the emotion. The psychology of a recording session is very important in order to get the best sound out a song. “I think there’s a ton of respect in the studio. I believe the band respects my opinion and I respect them as musicians to get the best performance out of them and I think that shines through”(EK P, 2009).

Having a good relationship with the client and respect for one another creates a good working atmosphere, which can help bring out the best in any recording. You wouldn’t record an artist in an old, stinky, dark studio if they were about to record an uplifting joyful song (Care R, 2011). Having the artist in the right studio with the right sound, and making sure the right energy is there, makes a huge difference in the recording. When it comes to sound recording the audio engineer has more responsibilities than just recording the sound of the artist.

The recording engineer is responsible for the planning of the session, room set up and microphone selection (Kurlander J, 2010). The planning of the recording session is very important in order for the recording to go smoothly and have minimal mistakes. “Having a target when recording a track or album is an important thing because it focuses the mind” (Platt T, 2006). This is important in order to have a recording session that is going to flow the right way. Having to constantly stop while recording can change the mood and vibe of the session which can change the result of a recording dramatically. The quality of the material has an enormous influence on the mixing stage” (Izhaki R, 2008). When setting up to record, whether its for a live band or in studio, it’s important to get the correct microphones, set their position, prepare the instruments and suggest to the band that they run through their material before starting. You want to make sure all your gear is set up, making sure your gain structure is correct and that you have tested everything and made sure it’s all working. Then you should be able to record a successful take (Jacques D, 2011).

Jesse Kendal ID: 203392 Page (3 of 8) A lot of artists have a vision and an emotion they want to portray through their music. Want it to really connect with an audience and for the audience to see and feel that vision and emotion through their song. It’s the engineer’s microphone techniques that capture the vibrancy of the band and their performance (Bartlett & Bartlett 2009, pg 5). The techniques the engineer uses to mic up an instrument will determine what sounds the microphone will pick up and send.

This procedure is very important in receiving the right tone from the instrument. How far or how close the microphone is, at what angle the microphone is, and where the microphone is set up in the studio whilst recording will determine what sound the microphone will receive. But most important of all is what type of microphone is being used. Each microphone has different characteristics and dynamics, as do instruments. This being the case, there is a microphone suited for every instrument, to enhance its sonic characteristics (JMC Academy, 2011).

There are many ways to set up microphones when recording an instrument or vocal. Some ways are better then others. “The longer you are prepared to experiment with positioning microphones, the more successful your recording is likely to be” (White P, 1995). Page (4 of 8) Jesse Kendal ID: 203392 Once the artist has been recorded it’s the engineer’s editing and mixing that will shape the recorded song into what the audience will hear. Editing, as well as the mixing process, is generally done on a digital audio workstation, also known as a (DAW).

This allows the sound engineer to edit each separate track, if need be, by cutting and deleting any unwanted noise or gaps, replacing bad notes with good ones, creating rhythmic loops, correcting bad timing and much more (Bartlett & Bartlett, 2009, pg 252). The editing stage can involve a lot of work; some tasks will require more skills than others. But this can all be done with a handful of easy to use editing tools and of course the creative know how of the sound engineer (Inglls S, 2011). The mixing process is where the recording is fine tuned by applying different effects, plug-ins and applying equalization.

Some engineers say mixing is an art and others such as Declan Gaffrey say it is a performance. Mixing is a creative process whereby what is recorded evolves into what the audience will hear. What the audio engineer is trying to do in this process is portray the feeling or emotion in the song, set the scene and have the audience really connect with it (Jacques D, 2011). Engineers use different effects, plug-ins that can enhance and/or change the tonal sound of an instrument or vocal making it sound fat, thin, muddy, tinny, clean, dirty and much more.

Delays and reverbs can be used to create an atmospheric texture (Gaffney D, 2009). During the mixing process it is essential to maintain a sense of balance. The balance is where the instruments sit in the mix, making sure other instruments are not too loud or too soft or interfering with other sounds. When mixing, it’s not just about making something louder, it’s about how the whole thing grab you, and being able to listen to what all instruments are all doing together. At the end of the mixing process the final step is the balance of the track or album.

Working on the volume of each separate instrument, arranging them so they all still well in the mix. This is called the mastering stage. Mastering includes enhancing and/or tweaking the sound to make it more powerful, louder, softer or cleaner, depending on what the artist wants. Mastering the audio is not changing the tonal sound of the instrument, which is done in the mixing process, it is altering the volume of the track and the overall volume of Page (5 of 8) the song. Tools are used in this process such as compressor, which allows the engineer to control the sound threshold of an instrument (Saulner J, 2010).

Last step for the engineer is formatting the audio track(s) ready for manufacturing on CD, digital, vinyl or cassette; each one of these has a different format. Jesse Kendal ID: 203392 The sound engineer plays a very important role as the creative mediator throughout the recording process; he/she acts as the nuts and bolt of the project. Audio engineers need to be able to communicate well with clients. They also need be able to create an environment that will bring out the best in every performer. Manipulating frequencies to get the desired sound from n instrument or vocal, and balancing the mix so everything sits well, requires excellent hearing and listening skills as well as the creative knowledge to do so successfully. Page (6 of 8) Jesse Kendal ID: 203392 REFERENCES. Bartlett, B & Bartlett, J 2009, Practical Recording Techniques, Fifth edn, Focal Press, Burlington MA, USA, pg. 5 & 292 Care, R 2011, Introduction to the Audio Industry AUD201, class week 5, JMC Academy, Melbourne. Gaffney, D 2009, Secrets of the Mix Engineers: Declan Gaffney, by Paul Tingen, Sound on Sound, <http://www. oundonsound. com/sos/jun09/articles/itu2. htm> Inglls, S 2011, Audio Editing in DAW’s – tips and tricks, Sound on Sound, <http://www. soundonsound. com/sos/feb11/articles/editing-1. htm> Izkahi, J 2008, Mixing Audio, First edn, Focal press, Burlington MA, USA, pg. 31 Jacques, D 2011, Jesse Kendal interview: FOH Engineer Dave Jacques, <http://www. zshare. net/audio/890893079fddf506/> 22 March 2011. JMC Academy, 2011, Introduction to the Audio Industry AUD201, Production Considerations, Melbourne, Accessed 10 April 2011, from <http://myjmc. edu. u/mod/resource/view. php? id=5043> Noble, B 2009, Interview with Phil EK, Hit Quarters, accessed 27 March 2011, <http://www. hitquarters. com/index. php3? page=intrview/opar/intrview_Phil_Ek_Interview. html. > Platt, T 2006, BBC classic album under review – AC DC Back in Black, (you tube video), from <ttp://www. youtube. com/watch? v=WSAcpL8rZLs> Page (7 of 8) Jesse Kendal ID: 203392 Saulnre, J 2010, Maor Applebaum (Mastering Engineer) Interview with Jason Saulner part 1, (youtube video), <http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=mHTPBjWzv14>

White, P 1995, The art of miking acoustic instruments – tips and tricks, Sound on Sound, <http://www. soundonsound. com/sos/1995_articles/sep95/mikinginstruments. html. > BIBLIOGRAPHY Bartlett, B & Bartlett, J 2009, Practical Recording Techniques, Fifth edn, Focal Press, Burlington MA, USA, pg. 5 & 292 Care, R 2011, Introduction to the Audio Industry AUD201, class week 2 to 6, JMC Academy, Melbourne. Gaffney, D 2009, Secrets of the Mix Engineers: Declan Gaffney, by Paul Tingen, Sound on Sound, <http://www. soundonsound. com/sos/jun09/articles/itu2. tm> Inglls, S 2011, Audio Editing in DAW’s – tips and tricks, Sound on Sound, <http://www. soundonsound. com/sos/feb11/articles/editing-1. htm> Izkahi, J 2008, Mixing Audio, First edn, Focal press, Burlington MA, USA, pg. 31 Jacques, D 2011, Jesse Kendal interview with (FOH) Sound Engineer Dave Jacques, (Audio Recording) <http://www. zshare. net/audio/890893079fddf506/> 22 March 2011. JMC Academy, 2011, Introduction to the Audio Industry AUD201, Production Considerations, Melbourne, Accessed 10 April 2011, from <http://myjmc. edu. au/mod/resource/view. hp? id=5043> Page (8 of 8) Jesse Kendal ID: 203392 Nixon, N 2011, Audio Technicians Need to be Smart and Social, NorthOrion, <http://www. northorion. com/careers/arts-design-fashion/audio-technicians-smart-socially-savvy-0739/> Noble, B 2009, Interview with Phil EK, Hit Quarters, accessed 27 March 2011, from <http://www. hitquarters. com/index. php3? page=intrview/opar/intrview_Phil_Ek_Interview. html. > Platt, T 2006, BBC classic album under review – AC DC Back in Black, (you tube video), from <ttp://www. youtube. com/watch? v=WSAcpL8rZLs>

Roos, D, ‘How Recording Engineers Work’, How Stuff Works, <http://www. howstuffworks. com/recording-engineer2. htm Saulnre, J 2010, Maor Applebaum (Mastering Engineer) Interview with Jason Saulner part 1, (youtube video), <http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=mHTPBjWzv14> Scott-James, K 2011, Audio and Acoustics AUD202, class study, weeks 4 & 5, JMC Academy, Melbourne. White, P 1995, The art of miking acoustic instruments – tips and tricks, Sound on Sound, <http://www. soundonsound. com/sos/1995_articles/sep95/mikinginstruments. html. >