Farmer Essay

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am interested in guitar sounds. This means different flavors of sound, electric and acoustic, distorted and clean… and quiet vs. loud. This last aspect is the subject of this essay. Dynamics. In the recording industry today there is a phenomenon known as “the loudness wars”. It is most prevalent in pop and rock music but is also creeping into jazz and even classical music. Specifically the loudness war is the competition between mastering engineers to produce the loudest possible recording in hopes of making the other tracks on somebody’s ipod sound quiet and wimpy by comparison. Basically the ipod shuffle listening technique has hurt our music if you want to be totally direct about it. Pair the ipod with noisy listening environments like the street, the gym, or the subway and it is the perfect storm for compromised audio production. The methods by which “loudness” can achieved are 1) compression 2) limiting 3) overdriving the converters during mastering. The first two are perfectly acceptable and even mandatory. I do them on my own recordings to a moderate degree to smooth the recording a bit. If taken too far the music becomes flat and without dynamics. Specifically if you compress and then limit (hard compress) a signal brutally enough you will have literally no difference in loudness between the “quiet” part of a piece (for example the acoustic intro to Stairway to Heaven) and the “loud “ part of the piece (for example the climactic final section of the same tune). This is a serious problem. Even though when you first hear it a very compressed and limited song will sound impressive and “in your face” in time it will become tiresome and will fall into the background because there is no variation in volume. The emotion and impact of the music will be less than it would have been if there were both quiet and loud sections. To

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