Thursday, July 10, 2014

Britney Spears no Autotune: Why to believe the producer William Orbit

So, if you haven't heard the Britney Spears song "Alien" with no "autotune" its worth a google, but it's been a bit tough to find since the label has been systematically removing them.

Here is Britney's producer's response to the leak.
Dearest Music Lovers, I have heard that Britney vocal link that everybody’s been discussing. It has been impossible not to as there have been many comments directing my attention to it. [I won’t re-posting it here]. I'd like to affirm that ANY singer when first at the mic at the start of a long session can make a multitude of vocalisations in order to get warmed up.

Warming up is essential if you’re a pro, as it is with a runner doing stretches, and it takes a while to do properly. I’ve heard all manner of sounds emitted during warmups. The point is that it is not supposed to be shared with millions of listeners.

A generous singer will put something down the mic to help the engineer get their systems warmed up and at the right level, maybe whilst having a cup of herb tea and checking through lyrics before the session really kicks off. It’s not expected to be a ‘take’.

I think that 99% of you reading this will totally understand.

Whomever put this on the internet must have done so in a spirit of unkindness, but it can in no way detract from the fact that Britney is and always will be beyond Stellar! She is magnificent! And that’s that.

Sincerely, William"""

Now that we have that out of the way, let's really understand what happened. THIS IS JUST A RAW VOCAL SCRATCH TRACK to get timing and system levels. This is not real, nor Brittany's real take. 

Two pieces of evidence point to this: 

1) The background music is not produced at all. In fact, it sounds like 1987 Casio midi instruments. This is because it is JUST a scratch track. There is no polishing of the background instruments. If this was meant to be a final take, then they would have the background instruments more polished so that Britney could convey more emotion in the take. 

2) There is clearly no emotion in the take itself. Emotion is a bit tougher to pick up. You can detect it with variations in a performer's melody lines. There will be more energy during important words and during the chorus. This "leak"obviously lacking energy which again points to it being a starting point in the process. 

So people ask me "why was this even recorded then if it was a practice take"?

With the advent of digital recording, we as recording engineers tend to RECORD EVERYTHING because now we have the space to. We would do this with tape but it was really expensive to use tape media and not very practical to record an entire 8 hour session and then go back and re-edit it just to find the correct parts. Now with computer recording, we have almost unlimited space with unlimited ability to document our session. So we record practice takes, because sometimes, just sometimes... we get that magic moment that goes on the record. This can also lead to mistakes like putting the wrong take on the rough mix or having the wrong material "leak out" to the media. 

I want to ask this however, when you are at this stage of the recording process, only 3-5 people have access to the recording session files... The engineer, the producer, the assistant engineer (protools operator), the artist and maybe the publicist... so who leaked this? 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It's Ok... The Audio Engineer is Still Relivent

A new post by Fast Company posted that the Music Industry is about to be turned on it's head again due to a new software by LANDR is about to hit the market offering automated mastering.

"LANDR is a new service that's likely to rattle some cages by providing recording mastering online and automatically. Traditionally, mastering is a skilled task performed by a recording engineer, but LANDR uses a sophisticated learning algorithm in order to eliminate the manual, human-powered work." 

     Let's take a small history trip back to the year 1996. ProTools free offered a full DAW for free with 4 channels of recording and mixing. In the 2000's, Sonar, Cakewalk, ProTools all offered limited editions which allowed for 24 track recording under $5000. In this day in age, Garageband is now a valid DAW.

     Today, the audio engineer/producer's roll is still important, but it has evolved since then. That's the beauty of our art. We change and mold according to the needs of the market and industry. 30 years ago, it was valid to just be a studio engineer, now you must be a studio engineer, field engineer, producer, composer, mastering engineer, broadcast engineer and roady all in one gig. This isn't a bad thing, but it is hard work. It requires you to possibly be a freelance engineer and contract income from multiple sources, but it's still possible to make a living in this field. What we have over the machines is the ability to network and communicate effectively with the artists to draw out the best emotional performance possible.

     So with this said, LANDR is not a bad thing, as everything depends on which perspective you choose view it at. We now have more tools at our disposal. One thing that is not disposable is the well trained engineer. As software is making the process more automated, it only re-enforces the need to have well trained people to operate the software to make it sound "professional".