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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.