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Is Modern Music over Produced?


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This is a question that has been niggling me for quite a long time, because to my ears a lot of CD's sound mushy (maybe that has something to do with CD's, and I should go back to vinyl, but I don't think that's the real answer).

This was highlighted to me last week after watching an acoustic performance by Dido (never a big fan of her) on the Jools Holland show, and she was rather good, good enough to make me check out her album on Spotify. Well to say I was disappointed is a bit of an understatement, the album versions of the songs she played sound totally lifeless. Check out the video here:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDDJb_IJW_c& feature=youtu.be


There is always something pleasing about an acoustic performance, but I just think more artists should think about recording their music live, what are your thoughts?




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Hello Ian!


If I was 1/100th as good as - let's say - Warren Haynes, I wouldn't need all these effects I am using.


That's the case with "over-produced" contemporary music too, I guess.


Cheers... Bence

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I think a lot of it is over-produced. There are so many effects, and digital tricks available to engineers (and home recorders) that sometimes I feel they use them "because they can" and not necessarily to benefit the sound.


I am very old school, but really like material to sound the same when performed live, as it sounds on the recording.

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I might venture to mention the example of The Beatles...


Who were so brilliant and tight they sounded exactly the same live or on vinyl LP...


Then they went all arty and studio-y with loads of effects


And set the bench mark for many followers...


Obviously a good song helps...


Strong enough to be delivered with a single instrument + voice... [thumbup]





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Country has gotten to the point that it is mush. With the anyone-with-a-pretty-face talent, token-fun-song songwriting and auto-tune production, it is mostly drivel. Pop isn't any different (Taylor Swift live is like a cat in a wood chipper)


I saw Dwight Yoakam recently, no fancy rig, just a guitar going into an AC30.


I think that is why I am into The Black Keys, the sound is much more organic. I also listen to a lot of Punk, just a guitar and an overdriven amp.

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All that multitracking.


I blame Les Paul.




Seriously, though. Twang Gang makes the point that there are so many effects used merely because they are there and not because they acually help the music.

What I mean is the likes of The Pink Floyd would take up residence in a studio for a year and would come up with amazing stuff; the likes of which had never been imagined - let alone heard - before. These effects would all augment the music they were creating.

Nowadays some sections of the Music Biz seem to try to come out with new sounds just for the novelty value of it all.


It's all a far cry from the (other) Fab Foursome, The Rutles. I quote;

"Their first album was made in 20 minutes. Their second album took even longer..."



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IMHO, YES! It's way overproduced! Which is one reason, there's no "guts" or "soul"

to it, anymore. They take all that out, with effects, over-sampling, and over compression.

They're into perfect recordings, as opposed to awesome music! Sure, there are always

examples of both (or, near enough so), but those particular artists, would sound great

no matter what!


I recently saw a band (Blackberry Smoke), in OKC, which was really good "Live," but

sounded nothing like, their CD! The CD actually sounded a lot more main stream

"Country," and their live versions, of the songs, were more like a really good

"Southern Rock" band...in both sound, and performance. MUCH preferred, them "Live,"

than their overproduced, and "image altered" CD! I actually felt like their CD was

misrepresenting them, but not in the usual way, where they sound better on CD, than

Live. This was just the opposite...IMHO.



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This is my point, I've seen some really good bands live but the albums sound like mush. Pink Floyd are a different kettle of fish, the production on their music is part of what you expect. What happened to good old Rock & Roll?

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There a real danger, and injustice, posed...by "perfect" recordings.

That is, not only does the artist have a hard time reproduing that

kind of "perfection" Live...although it's getting easier, with all

the auto-tune, pitch control, ect. But, their actual performances

don't have the opportunity, to "re-do" it, until it's as perfect as

their CD's. Also, as in Film, things can be done digitally, that

took some real talent, and a LOT of hard work, to produce analog,

and/or "in camera," in the old days. So, the real "appreciation"

much less knowledge level, of the average consumer today, is much

less. They tend to just take all that "perfection" for granted.

Someone, earlier, mentioned "The Beatles," and their "studio tricks,"

on later albums. What wasn't mentioned, was that was ALL Analog,

and physical work, to get what can be merely "sampled" today, for

the same effects. How many people, nowadays, have any appreciation

for what The Beatles did, and how they did it? I once had a young

friend tell me, he didn't understand what all the "fuss" was, about

the film "Blade Runner!" UNTIL I explained that all those effects,

were done analog, and "in camera" and NOT on green screen, or via

digital mapping. THEN, he WAS suitably impressed...as he should

have been. It wasn't his fault, per se...he just didn't know, or

hadn't been exposed to the differences. I see that, more and more,

nowadays. In ALL aspects, of creativity, and even the more mundane

areas, of our lives, these days. "Technology," IS a wonderful thing,

tool...IF it's used responsibly, and Honestly!


Your forum "Luddite," [flapper][biggrin]



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As CB pointed out over compression has quite a bit to do with it. Levels are all maxed out in the same proportion which takes a lot of the dynamics out. Crappier sound systems like those in vehicles make this even more of a glaring issue.

Autotune has become an effect in pop music instead of a slight correction like you may or may not have noticed in the 80's etc.

The production values the public has become accustomed to demands perfection, singers spend days recording the same song in the booth with their tracks being manipulated (often heavily), unlike years past where vocals for an entire album might be done in a day or less (this is still probably done where budget and time constraints are forced).

As to current pop music, some heavy cues are taken from 70's disco, 80's pop etc. Heavy electronic instrumentation, "4 on the floor" beats, the list goes on. I rarely listen to anything on the radio nowadays, it's all become a standard formula for each niche and almost spastic in the case of pop (possibly catering to the prevalence of ADHD?)


These are all observations and speculations as I'm far from an expert in recording and professional musicianship. Just a decent guitar player from the armpit of the U.S.

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I've taken the late evening time the past cupla months to click through the music vid stations available on cable where I live.


I'm sure there are plenty of pieces I've missed, but I haven't heard any tunes of any genre that hit me at all.


So, I s'pose you could make a case that I'm just a grouchy old man, which likely isn't too far from the truth in ways, but it seemed that there was plenty of decent stuff, but nothing that really reached out and grabbed me at all.


I have heard a cupla country pieces that forced you to tap your foot but not on TV and I haven't the slightest idea what they are (song names and/or artist) except that they had swing. And as the old song states, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing..."


I think that's true regardless of "popular music" genre, at least in the era of recorded music...


One thing I noted about a local high school "rock" band is that there's something of a standard "rock" drum, but guitar and bass are doing a different set of rhythm and the vocal takes yet a third rhythm. I dunno how you can easily dance (swing) to that.



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You know what...my actually "feeling" about what's (too often) produced,

these days is...it feels, and even sounds "robotic!" And WAY too "cookie

cutter!" Everything seems "homogenized," into one din of perfectly sampled

"music," that sounds too much the same, from "artist" to artist. Today's

"Country" music is especially that way. "Pop" music, too...all too often.

It's really a form of "brainwashing," IMHO. And, I don't mean that, in any

paranoid sense, but just in the dumbing down, while at the same time, maxing

profits, from those same brainwashed consumers.


A very good friend, of mine (now deceased) was a cinematographer, in Hollywood,

for decades. He told me, time and again, how Today's "Hollywood," has no real

creativity, but just recycles old story lines, and such...by only changing the

actors, and/or the location, or "time frame." Independent cinema, is much more

"creative," due to budget constraints, and the need to tell actual stories, and

not rely on "Special Effects," as much (if, at all). You can say the same thing

has happened in the Music Industry. I mean, how many "Transformers" or Taylor

Swift's (no disrespect intended), do we really need, or want?! LOL



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(Taylor Swift live is like a cat in a wood chipper)


Hysterical! and sadly, more than true.


I blame things like American Idol, but it started well before that, and perhaps what gave birth to that sorry-pathetic idea of a show.



the simple fact is everything can be "made" into a product. who can forget "the Monkeys",, "Partridge Family"..

other examples exist,, sure it was a different time, but - sort of the same...



there's just more "Arteests" out there that have to rely on gimmicks rather than throw real talent at it. (I've heard enough auto-tune this year alone to last me a life time) and if I have to watch that pinhead Beyonce jiggle her way thru another commercial for something, I think I will vomit in my living room. (THAT sort of crap IS the problem. She stinks... badly...)


you used to have to have something to offer, (a good voice, good hands, good song writing, and if you were really smiled upon by the Gods, you had all three, McCartny, Elton, two good examples.. they don't make em like that anymore I guess)


Now, all you need is a purty face, and someone with a bank roll to turn what ever it is you're trying to sell, into a product that everyone must have. who likes hop hop? rap? don't get it, but there ya go. this is probably some of the worse times for music, but if you pay attention and look, some many that are still doing it right. You just need to cut the top layers of fat that the main stream assaults us with to find it.


a few examples off the top of my head

Tedeschi/Trucks band

Government Mule

Joe Bonnamassa


Satch (just released a new album yesterday, I haven't played it enough yet to give a good opinion.)

there's more, you get my drift...


search for the truth, you'll find it,


what were being spoon fed, is mostly tripe.


it has to be over produced, other wise it would sound like, the cat in the wood chipper.. (I love that...)

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I agree with what seems to be the consensus here. That effects are so readily available now that they are abused. I would add that they are abused live too. I played at a fund raiser concert for a school and all of the guitarists in this one band abused effects to the point where the acoustic rhythm player sounded like, well, about the best I can describe it, someone passing gas in a tin can; sort of a plinnnt, plinnnt, plinnnt. I actually wondered what the heck that god awful sound was until I figured out it corresponded with his hand movements, then I thought, "oh my gosh, it's coming from that Taylor acoustic!" (must have been plugged into some effects pedal, but I didn't see it).


Their lead guitarist, who told me he had been playing for 30 years (but didn't even have a clue what a scale was) had the nicest amp in the room: a Fender Twin Reverb. He was playing an Ibanez Artcore into some kind of huge multi-effects pedal unit into the Fender. He had the reverb set so high on either the pedal board or the amp or both that there was only hollow tinny effect tone and no fraction of clean tone. You'd expect some surf tones at high reverb out of a decent Fender amp, but it was just earsplittingly awful squeaking, like someone hitting an empty 50 gallon oil drum on the seams with a tack hammer. I wanted so badly to just unplug that pedal board and plug him straight into that amp.

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You know...I think part of the problem we have with our own "tone chasing," is that

we're trying (too often) to get what we hear on CD/Record, via just a guitar, amp,

and a few pedals. That will NEVER happen (exactly), as recordings are often heavily

manipulated, and over produced. And, IF/when we do find "that" tone, it's often not nearly as

satisfying, as we thought. Being and OLD FART, I remember playing just a guitar, and

amp (the only pedals we had, were a Vox Tone Bender, and Wah-Wah), and we (or, "I" at

least) had no real dissatisfaction with our/my "Tone!" It was a cranked tube amp,

(Fender, Vox, or Marshall, most often), a guitar and a lot of practice! Both instrumentally,

and vocally! There were no pitch shifter/correctors, or auto-tune, much less all the

effects pedals, that are so prevalent today. Was our "tone bliss" just ignorance, back

then? Possibly, but I don't (really) think so. I think it was, as it should always be...

that basic great tone, from JUST a guitar and amp, and THEN minimal use of effects, for

just their effect, and/or coloring, and NOT to get our basic "great tone!" So, all this

overprocessing, and over corrections, have indeed influenced the entire industry, as well

as us, as individual players. Not sure, it's always been in a positive way, either.


Things were "Real," back then...in both music, it's execution, and audience expectations.

Nowadays, all too often, that is not the case! But..??? [tongue][crying]



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If players already have chops I have no problem with effects driven music. I love some of the things that have come out of more complex and interesting effects. Especially as you get into genres like the post-rock and ambient movements. Bands like This Will Destroy You, Russian Circles,My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth etc. have come out with some amazing music that wouldn't be achievable without effects like flangers, delay, tremolo, fuzz.

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I can only imagine how many tries it took to get a flanged guitar phrase using your finger on the flange of a reel to reel tape player till you got it just right. Now you just stomp a pedal.


Kids got it too good now-a-days...

...And Stay off my lawn!!



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All kidding aside, I think there is a bit of a case to be made to "blame" Les Paul, although had he not existed, some others would have come up with similar processing, ditto the "dirty guitar" sounds of such as Link Wray and messing with his amp's speaker.


I think that we've passed, however, the era of innovation into overuse of a lotta musical "stuff" allegedly to enhance the tone of our instruments.


I blame "us."


Okay, I'm older than dirt, but a half dozen years ago I found myself messing with guitar tones with a multi-effect pedal in ways that, in retrospect, didn't really make the sound better than "guitar," but simply changed it into something that really wasn't as pleasing.


I haven't used my Leslie emulator pedal in years since I had an opportunity to gig occasionally for some blues stuff where the other picker was the "guitarist" and I was the "B3." That still makes some sort of sense, as do various sorts of fuzz pedals functionally to emulate a "dirty" sax player (whether the picker knows that's what he/she is doing or not.)


I think there's less dynamic in pop music. But then, I didn't care for the orchestral backgrounds for Wes Montgomery's jazz records nor for a lotta late 50s "country."


When "desktop publishing" and "PhotoShop" arrived on the scene, we saw a lot of people using every possible tool on their work. "We" had those tools prior, but seldom used them because they simply added "stuff" to what a bit of reading material or image looked like.


As the older pros left the biz for various reasons, the younger school-trained rather than work-trained folks tended to like to use those bells and whistles regardless whether they actually made text easier to read or a photo "better."


I think that's kinda where we are now also with music.


In fact... think about it: It's about where we were in the late '50s and early '60s when there was plenty of talent, but a lot of similarity in U.S. music genres with emphasis on stereo recording and fancy backgrounds with a quality on those "LP" albums that hadn't been remotely possible before.


The LP was revolutionary. But...



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IMHO, YES! It's way overproduced! Which is one reason, there's no "guts" or "soul"

to it, anymore. They take all that out, with effects, over-sampling, and over compression.

They're into perfect recordings, as opposed to awesome music!




I think the over-compressed bit is very accurate. Louder sells more records, isn't that what is said?

To find mucis with guts or soul you gotta dig. Its not mainstream.


Some mainstream music itself is not bad but the engineering bit of it mucks it up.

I'd rather hear a raw tracks than overproduced tracks.


The music that uses a ton of effects is just going to make way for music that's simpler. Simple music gives way to more and more elaboration...

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over produced, under produced, produced just right.... i don't know. sounds like a pretty subjective question to me. from my personal tastes, i like dirty sounds but i also like it to sound clear and articulate. let's just say, i know it when i hear it....

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Too much compression. One thing I hate about most modern records is the drum sound. It is flat, and every drum sound is the same (to me), because of all the compression.


One of my favorite recorded drum sounds is on KISS Creatures Of The Night (the album). You never hear a drum sound like that anymore.

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