Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - September 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Precipice Vertigo Accomodation and Music

   I hate analogies except when I'm pondering them. Sorry.

 There may be a French word for the concept I'm about to present, I don't know.  When a person takes on a new challenge, in some cases before the person makes the decision to "jump" they may find themselves in a moment of cognitive dissonance.  They're mentally confronting for the first time embracing the scale of what they're about to do.

 What's interesting to me about this is how radically different humans treat circumstances that are similar, what they seem to tell themselves, and how they prepare.  In the case of music, there are ample "precipices" one can encounter.  The decision to try to learn a new genre; the decision to learn all of the music of a particular artist; the decision to learn a new technique; the decision to join a band; the decision to learn a new instrument, etc.

 I have been producing a student's solo project for the past few months.  For him, it was one of those precipice moments to take on the idea to do such a thing initially; as a learning experience I think it's been very potent, as his ability to approach making a song as become much more facile and efficient. 

 Now it's time for him to start thinking about the final product, and the idea of mixing down the work.  So he goes,

 "What is mixing?"

 He's on the precipice of deciding to do the mixing himself, or "another option".  He's not sure what's over the edge of the cliff, but he's peering over it to assess. 

 Which is wise, given the time he's invested so far.  On the other hand, weighing what there is to learn has to be taken in as well. 

 I'm contrasting that with another student.  The other student wants to eventually become a "singer-songwriter/performer" guitar player in a Certain Large Music Town. 

 This student's gung-ho attitude serves him well, he is charging into battle.  I'm not sure if he realizes the sheer scale of the battle he's joining.  The skill set required is greater than I believe he sees at the moment, so his approach is going to be fraught with moments of frustration when obstacles become evident.  Obstacles that were always there and visible, but inseen for the moment.

 The question is, does he maintain his course at each one of these obstacles, or does the gung-ho attitude dissipate?

 Does the first student look over the cliff, and decide "nope"?

What I've learned myself, is that in both instances I have to let them both "free wheel".  Which is to say, coast under their own momentum into whatever it is.


 People are people.

 I've learned that  there isn't a one-size-fits-all way of "teaching" or "learning".  There are some general categories (as posited above), but you can't force a strategy on someone when it's conceptually against the grain of who they are. 

 It just doesn't work.

 It makes me mad, because I know now, fully, just how corrupted and wrong the U.S. education system is, and how much the world could be better with just a little bit of optimizing.  Many problems in our society are the result of people that were "misfit" for the public education system, not of their own fault.  It's both wasteful and inefficient that this goes on.

 I think most people would agree with me on the following anecdotes:

 We all know someone from grade school that had no problem studying 24/7 and made perfect grades.

 We all know someone that didn't have to study at all, that still got by (... ahem..).

 We all know someone that was smart, but out of control in a classroom.

 We all know someone that wasn't particularly smart, but did seemingly quite well.

 We all know someone was too busy trying to get other's attention to do well. 

 We all know someone who wasn't particularly smart, except they could game the system.
 ... and so on.

  Within each of the above frameworks, these archetypes stand out because of the forced process of the "30 person per 6 classes period" generic system.  It's only optimal for one of the above students, obviously.  From my experience, that would be literally one person out of 1,000. 
Everyone else is a misfit to some degree. Meaning, the reader of this.  In a perfect work there would be schools tailored to each mindset; or a more flexible system from the outset.

 From a music standpoint, I try to teach within the mindset of the student.  I can't go about things with the first student above as the second.  I don't expect it to work that way, because it simply doesn't. 

  The flip side to this (I write about this in my book to a degree) is that people should know, as a human being, the "how" of how they themselves learn.  I've seen big mismatches, and it's to their detriment.  This is a concept I wish I had learned when I was a child, because from my point of view I wasted a lot of  time "not learning" when I could have been learning.  It wasn't my fault because I was bored, but because the process itself had zero to do with the way I learn.

 If for no other reason than to discover this principle I'd suggest "take guitar lessons" until you understand what I'm writing about.  I think it could probably be life changing.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Famous Record by an Ultra Famous Band (Remix): Observations

 (This is the expurgated version.  I was hoping I would like the rest of the remix of this Famous Album as much as I liked the sound of the first song I heard, so I though "hey, I can write a positive observational run down of this".  Unfortunately it turned out not as positive as I had hoped, so it's now up to You, Intangible Reader, to figure out what group and album I'm referencing. 

  Which record it is should be pretty easy to identify, despite renaming said persons involved. )

 I'm going to listen to the Martin Brundle remix version of Famous Album (Special Edition) for the first time as I write this.

 SONG 1: "Eponymous"

 Immediately I notice the "Famous Album's harmonic coloration" as I think of it missing, just on the crowd noises on the intro.

 That's pretty profound right there.  One of my earliest memories is of playing _Psychedelic Cool Key Changing Progression Song_ on a 45 found on the floor of the garage, on an ancient record player also in said garage. It's a curious memory, because my parents did not listen to pop music of the time (they were somewhat throwbacks, caught in between being Boomers and the Greatest Generation).  I was probably around 4 or 5 (yes, I was very precocious) and it would have been exactly that many years since the record was made.

 What I remember, even now from then, was the narrow bandwidth.  How "small" and specifically distant all of the sounds were.  The crackly, primitive record itself added to this effect.  Combined with the music itself, it yielded something I perceived at the time as "spooky", actually.  I don't think ghosts should have full bandwidth voices.

 The "smallness" of the sounds I've always equated to that album, and in a sense "that era of the Ultra Famous Music Group".  I attribute that effect to bouncing 4 track recordings, that wasn't done on this project.  As holy as tape saturation has been elevated to these days, I think this is going to be a flag for NOT having tape saturation/harmonic distortion.

SORRY FOR THE DETOUR.... back to our regularly scheduled program.

SONG 1 "Eponymous"

 Woah, drastic bass guitar extension!  Almost comes off like modern metal guitar effect.

 Much more clarity!  I would say that the "spooky, mysterious" coloration is completely gone.  I prefer that, but at the same time I would same that specific effect is part of the record's history.  I'll have to (and will) mull over that later.

 (Having to back it up a few times... very interesting!!!!)

 I like Brundle's conservative eq decisions.  The staccatto guitar is much nicer sounding, not just over the top ice-picky.  Nice toms, much more depth and weight.

 Hmm... vocal compression yields "this is a modern "transparent" compressor" vibe, almost too slick and controlled.  Sounds like maybe eq compression. But very well done.

 Chorus sounds like more "transparent" compression but now on the mix bus, low end shuts down in favor of level. Mid/side going on I believe. Hmm.  I do like the how loud the guitars are.

 If feels like bass is being left out of the right channel, save below maybe 98hz?  Interesting and bold.

SONG 2 "Locating Assistance from My Compatriots"

  Ah, now the bass is in the center>right channel.

 Interesting tom attack.  Mix bus compression has a nice rhythmically slow release time.  I wish it'd had a bit less ratio.  Overall - in all of the new crazy "remastered" releases I wish they'd use digital dynamic range for LESS compression.  They never do, though.  I know this is not the same thing, but, I would like to have heard the front end of the snare more, and the vocals a bit less clamped.  Regardless, it's nicely done, it's not "crushed" like a lot of "modern" recordings are.

 Interesting, I do miss "small" tape distortion harmonic color on the "do you need anybody" part.  The BV's need to be distant sounding to invoke the "this is the mind asking the question" effect.  Sorry, I know that seems crazy, I'm an artist, not a scientician.

 Also occurs to me it's drier, from less hard compression?  Tape distortion on reverb is now a concept to me because of this.  "That" sound is "old, 60's" to me.  It also makes reverb an effect, instead of a "natural part" of the sound.  $.10.  Yeah, I want to hear more reverb tail on the BVs.  And I'm also missing the tape distortion sound on the reverb, but it still sounds nice.

 Hmm.  Timing.  "....anyboDY......" - the reverb tail is part of the rhythm IMO.  Whether it was compression serendipity or not I don't know.

SONG 3: "Psychedelic Cool Key Changing Progression Song"

I don't like the speed of the panning on the Lowrey organ. It's distracting and fast, I'd prefer languid, less drastic, and a polyrhythm 4 against 3 timing.  "Chip, you're too critical!".  I know.  Sorry.

 Groucho's vocal needs flange or Leslie IMO.

Fascinating!  I think I can hear the sound of the vocal booth, or the gobos.  That early reflection sound was buried previously, much more low mid now again, bounced-generation loss did curious things. This is the kind of thing I'd hoped to be able to hear!

  Philosophy.  The new mix is much more "this is a rock band" than "this is a piece of art" IMO.  This is maybe my personal history with the song coming to bear on the subject, but the essence of this song is mystery, psychedelia - NOT normal experience.  It sounds great, but it doesn't sound like I'd want it.  $.10.  The chorus like this, as a contrast to a more effected/colored verse would probably have been my choice.

 I really miss the generation-loss reverb sound on the bent-note guitar hook on the verses.  It really yields the psychological impression of "far away".  Seems too dry.  

 Hmm.  Compression made Son of Horse Carriage's bass notes sustain into the & of the quarters, now it doesn't quite make it.  That's annoying. Compression attack clamping on the chorus; I would have preferred the 1/8th notes to poke out more.  Mix bus clamping as well, but not too much.

 Sounds great, but not the effect I'd want for the song.

SONG 4: "Abstracted Object's Improvement Over Nominal"

 Wow, bold guitar level.

 Bass clamped but loud. Interesting, almost over eq'ed narrowly right before "get no worse".  A bit too much, distracting, I'd want less level + wider q.

 Vocal doubling effect a bit thin.

 I love that so far the guitar parts really jump out, and are very transparent.  I also love that the lack of coloration is really drastic - some other weird coloration hasn't been substituted, which is what a lot of people do for "vintage, retro" effect.

 I like the lack of distortion on the vocal during the choruses.

SONG 5: "Repairing the Unwanted Absence of Substantiality" 

 AH, interesting.  Son of Horse Carriage's vocal has a bit of the "Famous Album coloration" on it.  Thinking about it, it's very drastic on the original.  Brundle, or someone, must have noticed it missing - as I have in places above.  This was their line in the sand.  I wish that where I noticed it missing it had been treated like his vocal here.  Or maybe it had been bounced this way on the original and they had no choice?

 Ironically the guitar hooks on the verse don't jump out as much, particularly given the intro.  Hmm.

 Hah, you can hear Flicka's pedal squeak now and then.

Loud BVs.  Sparser blend?  I like the mastering eq.

SONG 6: "Female's Nascent Departure Imminent"

 The clean/uncolored sound should work good on this.

 Yeah, it does.

  Missing the colored-reverb on the response parts of the call/response, again for the above artistic reasons; the voices are supposed to be memory, distant, not "here".  To restrained reverb.

 Lead vocal eq sounds almost perfect IMO. Delicate high end.  I want less compression, but oh well.

SONG 7: "Existence Is Conducive for the Wind Bearing Person's Wellness" 

 Most LCR mix so far?  Kinda clamped down 2 mix.  The "oompah-tuba" bass should poke out more.

 The trippy middle needs to sound more surreal IMO.  Hah, the piano sounds very harmonically colored.

  Again, a very nice "band performance" mix, but not as "psychedelic-carnival".  It sounds great, it's a great mix, but it's not philosophically integrated IMO.

SONG 8: "Inside Objective Pronoun While Lacking Possession" 

 Sounds great on the beginning.  Panning.

 Tabla sounds great.  I'd like more finger noise/slower compression attack.

 Hmm. Is this compression going to tape?  It sounds more dialed into to Harrison, as if the others had these parameters but were being hit too hard.

 Indian instruments sound great.  In fact, it's amazing they got this S/N to tape back then, I wonder if plug-in noise reduction was used on this?

SONG 9: "Future Subjectivity of Existence During Second Half of Life" 

 Again, the sparse band/ensemble arrangement is favored.

 I'm also again missing the coloration on the BVs.  Also maybe some bass length elongation by compression.

 While I'm thinking about it this is also the inspiration for Queen's _Seaside Rendevous_,  if it hasn't been thought of previously.

SONG 10: "Visibly or Metaphorically Attractive Italian Monikered Indicator Reader"

 Hmm. Missing compression/forward vocal.  Little white bOOK seems different?

 Slap on BV seems too subdued.

 Distortion on hats still, curious.

 Mix eq making shakers high end collide with hats?  Crunchy high end.  I would have liked some more bass guitar definition on the end bit.

SONG 11: "Better Than Nominal Post-Night Time of Day"

 So far on the beginning the most "integrated" mix.  Still missing slower release on the vocal, which was sort of off time on the original but made the end of lines jump out in a "Famous Album's" way I think.

 Highs colliding on the lead guitar; more clarity on the guitar means less low treble bring it forward.  It still sounds "small", but with less character.

 My dog still finds it entertaining.

 SONG 12: "Eponymous Redux"

 You can really hear the churn on the shaker. Drums farther back.

 Lack of the original compression makes the overall presentation less raucous.  On the other hand all of the bass parts are upfront.  Audience sounds farther back.

SONG 13: "A Singular Selection of Solar Illuminated Hours For Abstracted Person"

 One of my favorite songs, one of the best written IMO.

 Fade in different? Guitar too far back, compression release not bringing in the guitar after each vocal line. Bass notes short, and the compression has changed the emphasis on notes; "I just had to laugh", bass seems a little alone. 2 mix release seems way too slow, the bass was ducked massively on  "had", doesn't return.  Makes me think my memory of the (perfect) bass line is that the fader was rode to keep the high notes,

... hmm.

"out in a car", bass level really drops.  Now, I think the *RMS* level isn't fluctuating as much, or rather there is frequency dependent/crossover compression killing the bass.  "Crowd of people" it drops down..

 I find this highly distracting and not in keeping with the nature of the song.

 Yeah, the guitar gets really thin.

 I like the vocal eq again.  But I haven't noticed it much, because the bass guitar keeps going up and down.


  The count is farther back.  Orchestra blend seems different, horns forward?

 Son of Horse Carriage section: the original compression swung with the music.  Huh.

 Groucho's "ahhs".. volume clamped through mids.

 Well, I'm going to stop there, (wow, bass goes away, piano, bass... ) (build up is already full volume before the half way point?).  Nice C major piano ending, that's better.. LONGER, that's superb, love the fade, that almost makes up for things!

 I'd like the end on a separate track.

 Thing is, that was a hard thing to do: one of the top 10 all time classic recordings.  I didn't hate it like I thought I would (save maybe Song 13).  The clarity is wonderful.  I wish I could have been more positive, in fact now I'm thinking I need to re-title this and remove names.  Ahrgh.


 My thinking now is that serendipity, the Matrix, or whatever, intervened on the original mix.  The overly aggressive compression on the original, the more brash equalization in the low treble, and the distortion all fit the "wild carnival" vibe.  Both of the original mixes sounded more aggressive in approach, whereas this version sounds very refined.  "Refined" is maybe not the way I would have described "Famous Album".

 It's very well done, but with a different philosophy.  Because I actually found the tape distortion coloration annoying on the original, I do prefer listening to this version; but it's not definitive.

 While I know all of that sounds negative, it's in that context. I think Brundle's approach would be fantastic for the records _Manual Radially Loaded Hangun_ and _Vulcanized Intangible Essence of Person's Id_.  I would love that to happen.

 Conversely, I think a less reverent, aggressive approach would suit remixing it again.  The first person(s) that come to mind are Trent Reznor and Flood.

  I like the idea of remixing classics like this, it's fabulously interesting and revealing - in the early 2000's on an online forum I tossed this notion across the plate of a pair of Grammy Award winning audio engineers (this was before Napster/MP3s) but it was suggested to me that "that will never happen!". 

  I think this is going to happen again, it's a great way to get more mileage out of classic catalogs.  I hate all of the "digitally remastered" editions that really mean "we compressed it more and added a lot of high end, and maybe some distortion to boot".  In that sense Brundle is to be commended.  He didn't "crush it" as is the trend today.

   In fact, I would say in some respects what I didn't care for is the result of being too conservative with compression as a creative tool out of fear for getting labeled a Tool of the Volume Wars.  Some things I wanted to hear pump, while others escape the ADSR of "overly careful" compression.  Very tasteful eq overall, but again at the same time maybe some things I wanted to hear poke out some in certain bands.

 The biggest let down is that the production distracted me from noticing the musical revealing bits.  I noticed you could hear lead ins, different little nuance either buried in the mix or deliberately hidden on the original, but I was distracted by the "carefulness".

  Sorry for being overly critical.  If it had been _Manual Radially Loaded Handgun_ I probably would have loved this approach!  Ahrghh...