The fixation of a performance by means of a phonogram, or as we all know by now, a master, requires three key players in order to arrive at a finished product, the record company, the artist and the Music Producer. All three contribute essential elements to the creation and exploitation of a recording or master. The revenues derived from the subsequent sale or making available of sound recordings as cd’s, records or downloads and/ or the broadcasting of the recording constitute the often sole source of income for these three players. Ever since the introduction of the WPPT two of these players, the performing artist and the record company, have been awarded a status under the neighbouring rights treaties and national European law. The Music Producer, however, has been left out for dubious reasons.

Whilst every effort has been made to avoid the use of technical terms and jargon, it is sometimes inevitable and the following is designed to clarify some of the terms and procedures undertaken in the modern recording process.

(i) Digital and Analogue Recordings

A digital device records sound as a series of binary digits or pulses, which are either on, or off. These pulses are then read from the tape and reassembled to play back the original sound. Each pulse is a part of single 'snap-shot' or sample of the sound and the device is capable of recording more than 44,000 samples per second. If we imagine the digital 'on' and 'off' pulses to be represented by black and white, a digital recording might be represented by an irregular network of black and white squares. An analogue device records and plays back sound on a continuum of variable electronic waveforms - and an analogue recording might be represented by an area of smoothly changing shades of grey.

One of the main benefits of digital recording is that no additional hiss or noise is added to the playback by virtue of the recording medium itself, which is not the case with an analogue system. To illustrate this point, consider the process of recording 'silence' on to each of a digital and analogue tape. When both tapes are played back, the digital tape will play silence, but the analogue tape will play a hiss or noise produced by the device itself.

The second main benefit derived from recording digitally is that further digital recordings can be made of an original digital recording without deterioration. This is not true of analogue technology.

The first digital recordings available to be played by the consumer were Compact Discs (CD's), introduced to the public in the 1980's. Prior to their introduction, only vinyl analogue records and tapes were available domestically, even though the original performances may well have been recorded on digital equipment.

{ii) Sequencer/Sequencer Software

A sequencer is a device for recording all characteristics of a musical performance as a series of numeral (digital) codes. Each characteristic, be it the pitch, duration, strength, time and treatment of each musical note is stored as a single event. The device allows the performance, once recorded, to be modified (edited or corrected) in great detail. The process of inputting musical information into a sequencer is known as programming.

'The sequence of digital codes can be transmitted via a connection system known as Musical Instrument Digital lnterface (MIDI) to other devices known as sound modules. These modules synthesise the sound characteristics of musical instruments using various electronic methods. Other devices known as samplers can also be addressed via a MIDI connection.

A sampler can:

  1. provide access to a digital recording of a 'real' instrument or a natural sound, which can then be manipulated to create a new sound, which can be made to respond to a keyboard performance.
  2. provide access to an existing recording or a part of an existing recording that can be manipulated, copied and repeated to extend its playing time and thus be utilised to form the basis of a new recording. [Where samples are used in a new recording, the contributors/owners of the original recording and the creators/owners of the underlying musical work are (often) entitled to participate in revenues generated by the new recording.]

One of the benefits of recording music on a sequencer is that any sound or synthesised instrument can be allocated to any performance right up until the very last moment before the final mix-down or mix. (See below.) A Music Producer may choose to change the sounds of the instruments as the process of recording progresses. It is not necessary, and is sometimes a disadvantage, to commit the sequenced recordings to magnetic media although it may be that a digital fixation of the performance has already taken place once it is saved within the computer.

A single sequencer may be able to record a large number of musical performances on separate tracks which, when played together, can re-create a complete multi-instrument ensemble. The set of recorded performances, sequenced or otherwise, that comprise the instrumental part of a song are often collectively known as the backing track.

(iii) Multi-Track Recording and Mixing

A multi-track recording is one, which allows the discrete recording of separate elements of a song to be stored on separate tracks within a single piece of magnetic tape or in the memory of a sequencer.

One of the principal facilities of multi-track recording is that it enables a recorded work to be built-up over a long period of time. Discontinuous recording is normal procedure in most recordings of 'pop' music and many studio recordings of orchestral works are also recorded discontinuously on multi-track tape formats and then edited to ensure that the best elements of each performance are combined to produce the final released master.

Additional performances by principal singers, instrumental or vocal ensembles, specialist musician's etc., may be added using multi-track technology. Each element can then be separately treated and balanced to form a cohesive mix. The control of such balancing and the application of any electronic adjustments that may be thought necessary and also the application of any auxiliary effects thought appropriate is usually handled by an engineer following the instructions of a producer or a Music Producer using a mixing desk or console.

'The mix is the stage in the recording process when all the different performances making up the song are blended and balanced to create a cohesive, usually stereo, recording. The final mix may be called the master and overall responsibility for what the master comprises, its balance and its artistic direction falls to the Music Producer.

(iv) Lead Vocals

The principal melody and lyric of a 'pop' song is contained in what is known as the Lead Vocal which is incorporated into the final mix and is sometimes the most difficult to record. A singer knows that the quality of the lead vocal will have considerable impact upon whether or not the recording is successful. It is the job of the Music Producer to elicit the best possible performance from the vocalist. The Music Producer responsible for recording the Lead Vocal has priority in circumstances where there is a claim for royalty income relating to a remix or re-use of an existing recording as a part of a new recording.

At any level of presentation, be it for demonstration purposes or for incorporation in a final mix, the prominence of a lead vocal usually warrants special attention. Various electronic treatments such as echoes and delays will be added to enhance its apparent quality.

(v) Treatments – Auxiliary Effects on Instruments / Voices

It is usual for special treatments or auxiliary effects such as echoes and delays to be added the final mix-down stage of the recording process. 'Treatments and effects such as echo reverberation and compression can be applied to individual tracks within a recording or to the overall recorded sound. The satisfactory creation and application of electronic treatments requires a great deal of musical sensitivity as well as technical knowledge and is not restricted to any particular musical genre, however, nearly every musical recording will require such treatments to convey how the intended finished version should sound. The design and creation of the audio picture which best suits a particular recording is almost invariably the responsibility of the Music Producer.

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