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Published

29 March 2022

"As a mixing engineer and a mastering engineer, you have to try to strike a balance that sounds good on a normal system, but it still sounds good on a small system, on computer speakers. These days, people even expect music from the phone to sound reasonable." - Kamal Engels

About the 

guest

Producer Kamal Engels has 25 years of production and engineering experience, giving him deep insight into the needs of the evolving or aspiring artist or the successful musician. In 2011 Kamal produced the album ‘Pure Sounds’ with the Gyoto Monks, which was nominated for a Grammy Award.

The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music

In this episode:

  • Kamal's career as a music professional

  • Kamal's secrets for a great bass sound

  • Miking the cab vs DI-ing the bass

  • Kamal's thoughts on what makes a great-sounding master

  • Kamal's surprisingly simple key element for a good-sounding mix

  • Kamal's take on what makes a good song

Links:

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Extra Content:




Goofing around in the studio. From left to right:

Kamal Engels, Harry the Dummyhead, Jan 'Yarn' Muths

Contact the podcast host Jan 'Yarn' Muths at mixartist.com.au

Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.

Tags:

Jan 'Yarn' Muths or mixartist.com.au, in the studio

Transcript:

(auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error)

Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome to the Production Talk podcast with me, Yarn, of mixartists.com.au. In this podcast series, we celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting, recording at home and music production. So, if you produce your music at home, this is the place to be. Please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends. This is the production talk podcast episode 36. Well, thank you for tuning into a different sounding episode of my podcast today. So just before I start the conversation today with Kamal, just briefly acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land that this conversation is taking place on the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung nation, and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. So, today we are at the art of audio studio with my friend Kamal Engles, and we're recording in a binaural techniques. So you should hear me on my right ear. And on your left ear is my goodness. This, it was just a spontaneous idea because Harry that's the dummy head. He was standing around and I thought like, let's plug him in. Why not? Why not? So we're coming in a binaural sound to you today. So this episode is probably best listen to with headphones, I guess. Yeah. Good. Well, Kamal, thank you for having me and for making time. That's really amazing. Then just introduce yourself quickly and tell us about yourself and your musical career. Maybe some highlights. Oh dear. Well, what can I say? Kamal is my name, Kamal Engels I'm originally from Germany, came to Australia about almost 30 years ago now. And, um, I had a bit of a career in Germany already being a musician, actually. Yeah, that was my core thing. There. I was a musician because I came into music when MIDI was invented. And which gives you a hint all the time. You're talking early eighties here. Uh, yes you do. Um, but that basically for me was the first time that, uh, you know, I could realize musical ideas without having to hire a studio and bunch of musicians. And, uh, so yeah, one thing led to another. Uh, I actually did study. What's called in Germany. Um, Tonmeister, which means sound master directly translated. And it's basically studying electronics and, uh, audio engineering and so on and so forth. And, uh, yeah, I was very lucky. And in the eighties, I was quite successful with my music, which was basically instrumental music. Uh, and I think it fell under the umbrella of new age music. And that was a very new area at that time of music. And, uh, it developed fortunately for me quite quickly into something, you know, very successful. And from there I started exploring other styles and so on and so forth. Then I came to Australia. Uh, I kept doing my albums for first, the German labels and an American label. And, um, then came a time where I kind of like was over it. You got sick of it. I got sick of minor pentatonics and, uh, you know, lush pads. Um, it was kind of, it was an interesting place to be when suddenly you realize I don't want to do this anymore. Yeah, it does. It does happen. Yeah. And, uh, you know, it was also great because it's led me into following a career of being more of a sound engineer and more of a producer and. Yeah, how did it, how did it go on think? Okay. So I came to Australia, I did set up a little home studio for myself in my house and produced for, uh, these labels. And then I started expanding my equipment to be able to record more. So moving away from MIDI synthesized loop based music to actually recording what I wanted to hear, rather than going into the, reaching into the can and pulling out a loop or whatever, or synth sound. And, uh, that has become more and more my passion that I really enjoy recording live music with microphones rather than. Yeah, like this, the standard things that you can, I mean, the, the pallet of what what's available these days in terms of VST instruments, samples, loops, whatnot is just stunning. Phenomenal. Yes. And I can see you still have a keyboard right in the center of your control room. Oh yeah. It's not that I completely, I don't have anything against it. You know, or a philosophy, a friend of mine, also an amazing sound engineer and producer, he says in his studio, everything has to move air. Otherwise it's not more it's okay. No loops and no, uh, no can music. Yeah. And, uh, so over time I built up my career here as a producer. Definitely not only for new age music, but reaching into world music into folk, into, into a bit of rock pop. And, uh, what I particularly like is mixing John was, you know, bringing jazzy elements into rock or four key elements into, uh, into something more new agey, let's say, um, just to broaden the scope and make albums if there's a whole album to produce interesting and eclectic. Not that everything sounds the same. Oh, that's great. Yeah. Excellent. That's the idea. Um, yes. And that's what I'm still doing. I wouldn't know anything better that I would want to do. It's my passion. I love it along. Good sound, whatever good song means, because that is an interesting question in itself. Open discussion to be had. Yeah. So you've got your beautiful studio here up in the Hills and the east coast of Australia have set up as phenomenal. Sounds ridiculous. Beautiful in here. So you're literally set up to do live bands, smaller life bands here. Yeah. I'm in the studio where we're just sitting here. I mean, I had live bands in here, but they're simply generally speaking to set up a whole band and let them play. The space is too confined for that. You need larger rooms for the sound has to breeze, which is also something that I didn't know and actually realized it when I once had a singer from Tibet. And, you know, the, the Tibetan singing style is, comes from a tradition where literally the people had to yell from one valley to another valley. Okay. Over literally over kilometers. That's where this high yelling type of vocalizations come from. And they have incredible voices. They are loud and intense and piercing, and at the same time haunting and beautiful, but I realized having that person in the studio here, it was too much, you know, everything that bounced off the walls, although there's acoustic treatment to year the was just too much for the, it felt contained and constrained the sound and. I think I would have liked to recall her outside with a microphone on the other side of the valley. Prominent, not quiet, but it needed space at the end. Oh, how did you solve that? How did you fix it? Um, I didn't really fix it at that time. It was something that, uh, I came to this idea of going outside later and by then the person had to leave, go back to Tibet. So, no, I didn't solve it. Okay. There, the recording you made, it turned out hard. I wanted it to it didn't feel like I did the, this particular style of singing justice. It wasn't great. So that's not a highlight, but, you know, isn't it that, you know, sometimes our mistakes that we make, you know, I actually, the points where we learn most absolutely isn't that the case as well that's so that might still be a highlight from that angle. Yeah. And that, and it was just a learning, you know, like, like it still is, uh, every recording is in a way certain challenge or at some stage I come across something where I go like, Hm, maybe I try this differently. Or I have to find a particular solution to a particular problem that wasn't standard. So back to the highlights though, what are my highlights? Yeah. Well, I guess the big highlight, although at the same time, Occurrence in itself was that I produced an album, uh, with the guitar monks of Tibet here. And it ended up being nominated for Grammy. It didn't win the Grammy, but there was a lot of, um, a lot of fuss and big, yeah, it's, that's also what I realized that, wow, this is, this is pretty big, you know, that to have that opportunity to be nominated, uh, the album was nominated, but I was the producer, the producer of, of a Grammy nominated album. That's huge. That's huge. And I can see there's a shelf with quite a few awards on there as well. Yeah. That's the small local awards from, uh, from Australia, from, uh, music halls and from the dolphin, the boards here. And I also have quite a few from America. They're from. From the industry there. Yeah. But, uh, wow. That's, that's quite a story already. Yeah. I don't know what to say. Okay. That's fine. It is. I have a range of questions that I want to throw at you. You can just move into that direction. That's okay. Look, is it you, you're a bass player. I am. Yes. And you're also a singer. I do sing, I wouldn't call myself a singer, but I do think, um, you know, I've listened to it, the songs and produced, and you know, your singing is still much better than quite a few others. I've listened to it before. So, you know, that's definitely really, really good work. But if it's okay, maybe let's just talk about bass for a moment, because I think, you know, the base is one of my favorite. All I love mixing base. I don't know how to play a bass at all. So I have very few insights on this end, but, um, what would a bass player need to know in order to produce a good sound in a studio? What columns takes have you come across that need to be prepared for, or, you know, what, what needs, what would it basically have to do so that the tone comes out really nice in the studio? I think, uh, one of the main qualities of a, of a bass player in the studio. So let's say a studio musician is besides, you know, being versatile to the point in Jara, you know, what kind of music to be, uh, to have an evenness in tone, you know, that. What I come across quite often, also in my, in my own plane when I go back, when I record and I see like, oh, you know, some notes tend to be very quiet, some notes jump out. So one of the qualities that's, I find important, although it will be helped with compression and, uh, you know, maybe clip gaining, uh, and so on and so forth. But as a, as a general trait for bass player is to when, when you play baselines is to have an even tone at each note matches the energy and the vibe required. That doesn't mean that you cannot play soft and, and hard on the country. You know, that makes, makes the, the, the scope and the, the colorfulness of, of the performance. But, uh, So things that I come off and across is that I get a base Trek where some, uh, where for instance, the instrument has dead notes. You know, where let's say the, I don't know, the, the age for some, the eighth string for some reason is, has not the same TA the same quality as the other strings. So they fall flat or they stick out, which mostly has to do with a base that is not properly adjusted. So that's okay. Action. That we talk about the distance between the neck and the string. Um, yes, the action, the relationship to the pickup. Uh, and, uh, yeah, that's, that's the simple thing, but then also to a great extent, if the playing itself is uneven, you know, if there's not the, the discipline or the skill to be able to produce, like, you know, if you play for instance, like eight, eight notes, you know, just on one stream, You know, you want to practice or get to be able to produce that as a very even signal or have control that you can go. Bubba, Bubba, Bubba, Bubba, Bubba, Bubba, Bubba, Bubba. Excellent. John, as a force. So that is, is kind of the main thing in terms of sound itself. That's a tricky question because there's a million sounds. There's so many different sounding basis per se, you know, from the design, from the pickups, from the electronics, then the next element is of course the, the bass amp, uh, if not a bass amp, there's a DIY box at least, you know, that's the absolute minimum for an electric bass player that opens a can of worms. I would like to dig a little bit deeper. Can, can you, can you produce a good bass sound just from the eyes signal? Is there a certain limit that you can't get the house unless you have the proper and well, um, let me say contrary to what probably most people would say. Uh, I think I can, at least that it is to my satisfaction. Generally speaking, generally I would record an electric bass through my bass amp, which a gives me monitoring because as a bass player, I don't only hear a bass. I feel it, you know, I want to have a little kick in the butt when I plucked a trend or a sibling or a big one. And the other thing is going through a it's a, it's a true band. So there is a bit of a collaboration in, in, through the tube, uh, stage that I find pleasant. Then usually in the recording stage. Uh, either already in the recording chain or later on, I put it through a nice, uh, uh, vintage pre-emp like the V 76 or something like that. Uh, and push it a bit. So I get a bit of grunge into it, a little bit of harmonic distortion, and that usually gives me a really good, really good bass sound. Okay. Having said that, what, depending on the track where it's used, I find myself from time to time actually putting the base into a reverb to give it, to give it kind of like specific. I see spatial placing. Would you do that in recording or later in mixing? Definitely later on. Okay. So you wouldn't track through a reverb and recording the river baked into the it's definitely not because that depends solely on, you know, where things end up in the mix that I have to find the place and, you know, just a little bit of a bounce off the walls and in an artificial student environment. So that, of course I wouldn't take like a huge plate with verbal, like large reverbs it's it's rather more ambient. Um, I actually do use mostly for things like that. Uh, the ocean way studios from UAD because it emulates so beautifully a wheel environment. Like we a studio, you know, and I can go as close or as far away as I want. And it's quite uncommon for base also to. Sometimes engineers, you don't have the bass player in the corridor for instance, or, or have, or have the bass player in the studio, but leaves the door to the corridor open and put a mic somewhere in the corridor. And they get a certain coloration or certain spatial, uh, you know, like a little delayed verby thing going that gives a different context to really otherwise quiet, you know, quite a clear monitor signal, so to speak. I mean, you know, these, even the practice to, to monitor frequencies below 60 Hertz, you know that there is no stereo happening below 60 Hertz, you know, that can be part of mixing can be part of mastering, uh, to tighten up the low end. You know, you don't want things waft around, uh, on the left and the right in base simply because often the wavelength itself is. Something that has different nodes, you know, between the left and right channel, so to speak. Yeah. Um, so you want usually pretty tight, but uh, depending on the bass sound, it's nice sometimes to add a little bit of air around the space. Yeah. Yeah. Okay, good. That's that's lovely. When, when it comes down to, to bass amps, you just mentioned now you like tube AMS because they've obviously changed the sound they add a certain gloss to it. Is, is that right? To say to the tone of the base, certain smallness? No, w I wouldn't call it a gloss. There's a, you know, there's a bit of a, yeah. The harmonic overtones, you know, basically distortion, you know, to put it by the end of the slide, but there is a bit of, you know, a bit of bite into it. And, uh, again, it depends, there are so many bass sounds around, you know, some. I have almost no high end in it, you know, and some have, uh, I'm just reminded of Grover Washington, you know, like, uh, this album come from, when was that? There was also in the eighties somewhere. Um, I hear the crystal raindrops fall, man. The beauty of it all. And, uh, the bass in there, fretless bass, I think it's, is it Abe? Laboriel I think so has this bass fretless bass that, I mean, it's less singing in the top end, you know, it's like buzzing and singing, but in a very smooth and clear, clear way, way, you know, it's almost like a guitar, but plus the low end. So it was quite a dip in the, in the mid range, but a lot of top end slapping again, you know, you, you some bit, or you slap it, you get a lot of top end. So, you know, there's so many ways to record them. I mean, electric bass. Yeah. Yes, of course, which brings me again, because I kind of said that I do really like acoustic recording and that is definitely true. My favorite is acoustic upright bass in that sense, although I don't even play it myself, but I do mean programming, but, uh, there, I, um, I definitely, basically right now how I would record an acoustic upright basis have, um, maybe, um, you 47, are you 49? I put sometimes on it as a model mic, but then I use my Royal SF 24 as a second mic because it's a stereo ribbon mic again, to have stereo. I love got everything in stereo. And so the, the single model, Mike gives me the kind of like snap and punch that I want. And the stereo ribbon gives me again, spatial information and the very warm round, nice tone, you know, that, uh, takes it easy on the top end, but, uh, you know, versus a condenser, which is a bit more aggressive, usually in the, in the high end. Yes. They can get a bit harsh. Yeah. It sometimes is just, I mean, unfortunately I can't, I don't have an endorsement from Royal, but that, that microphone, since I have, that is absolutely stunning. The stereo live and Mike it's, you put it on front of anything and it sounds amazing. And the particular thing is, it sounds natural and I have done even lead vocals with it. You're right. Okay. And then you just literally monitor sound left and right channel. Or did you keep it in stereo and you had movement would come across as, and put the people in the cost, you know, you're, you're calm, you can't dance around too much in front of a steer. That's true. So you have to have a certain discipline if that's supposed to work. Yeah. Okay, cool. But yeah, back to your base. So that would be for acoustic upright bass, and that's a song that I really appreciate. Okay. And when we then move on to the next stage of production, let's talk about know mixing and mastering. Um, a lot of people say that mixing the bottom and the base and of a song is one of the hardest things to do. Or we could also say that, you know, especially in home setups, it's the most likely thing to go wrong is that you're experiencing. Yeah. I mean, I've, I would say I would totally agree. You know, it's, it's difficult because of the, uh, the studio situation per se. You know, you have, you have nodes in a room, you know, you, you, you can literally see that when you, if you play back on your monitors and you move back a meter, the bass sounds different, uh, than a meter forward. Uh, and two meters back, you know, this there's a standing waves in the room that hopefully you can remedy that with room treatment. And, uh, the other very helpful thing I find was to using, uh, uh, basically a room calibration software that finds the, the weaknesses and strengths and resonances. In my particular listening position and then does a volume and phase corrections for that position. So gives me at the end, uh, you know, very, very balanced, uh, sound. Is that something you're using in your studio or are you recommending that for, for people at home? I recommend for anybody because okay. These days, how did anybody can, or even once to build a purpose built studio? Yes. First of all is very expensive to do that, especially if you do proper base treatment. Yes. You know what I mean? Here in the studio you see in the, in the top edges of the ceiling and the walls, you see the ubiquitous, uh, uh, foam, um, baffles to, to treat the corner, the problem with bays. Um, but you know, if. I want to do it properly. I would need another two meters at the end of the room and just have the two meters with, um, absorption material just to absorb the base. That's tuned to the room. Yeah. And that's obviously very expensive. It's expensive. It's, you know, basically you have to purpose, build a room. Yeah. And who does that? Each place? Yeah. Good. Um, you mentioned standing waves earlier and you know, that's a phenomenon where a certain frequency gets loud in one spot in the room, but quite an another. So usually there's an up and down for that. Which also means that, you know, if you move, you mentioned that when you move around, then the tone changes and that's exactly that. Yeah. So some frequency suddenly can get really loud in one spot and or another frequency gets quiet and so on. So that's one downside of the room, correction software. That can really compensate for every place in the room. We just for, you know, usually the listening position. Is this, that one? Yeah, that's correct. Okay, good. Can I, there's no way around it. Yeah. I mean, it, it, that addresses basically one of the main issues in mixing at all, which is like, it's almost impossible to mix sound that it sounds good everywhere because these days, you know, where it's quite simple, people listen either on, uh, with headphones, which is probably quite, quite a lot of people do that these days for the habit running on. You on a stereo in the living room or in the, in the room, whatever, you know, which is usually smaller systems. Yes. Or these hos, eh, and yeah. And the really big thing where people listen to music is cause no. And then also one of the best selling playback devices is actually monitor Bluetooth speakers yet. That's one of the best selling devices these days. So, um, there was a time in my life when I told everybody to ignore mano compatible mixes, mixed stereo. And if, you know, somebody loses and monitors, they won't forward, but I've backpedaled from this quite a lot because the listening environment has changed so much and the way people listen. So I don't, I no longer do that. I always make sure that it sounds, you know, it's still okay. It came on for, for that reason. Well, that's, that's basically what you've mentioned earlier. You know, that even if you move inside a room, even if it's calibrated and so on, it sounds in one normal. In different places, different. Yes. And that will always be the case. So as an engineer, as a mixing engineer and a mastering engineer, you have to kind of like try to strike a balance that it sounds good on a normal system, but it still sounds good on a small system on computer speakers, on how these days, even, you know, people expect that when they play back music from the phone, it sounds reasonable. Yes. Because you know, low end bye-bye to a point. Um, but you also don't want to ignore people who have really good systems. You know, you want to sound good on a really good system as well. So it's a tricky business meaty. Yeah. And the main requirement for that is that it's not something that comes out of the box. That is something that comes with experience. You know, you, as an, as an mixing engineer and mastering engineer, you have to establish a listening environment that you learn, how it sounds by listening to a lot of music and listening to reference music, listening to, uh, let's say, successful music for, for lack of a better approach, uh, and go like, so does that sound good? You know, if you, if you, if you take somebody, let's say lady Gaga, you know, big artists bouncy or whatever, uh, you know, a lot of money goes into those productions. A lot of top everything's top. So you can at least expect that what comes back from there hits a certain. Level of quality and at the same time, because of the hugeness of the artist, uh, a lot of people have been trained to here to find that as this is the, this is the, the hip sound right now. And, uh, so you, you, you can find the scope of different reference music, not only from the present time, but also historically, because there was incredibly fantastically mixed music in the fifties and sixties. And especially if you consider the technical limitations of those times. That's right. Yeah. Extremely good examples. Uh, when you see the documentary, the Beatles get back, you know, you see them sitting in these cluttered studios with dozens of Mike's. And then just sit down and play, and then you listen to the, um, to the recorded version, even the recorded version that they recorded on top of the apple building. And it sounds amazing, you know, so it, it can be done. Yeah. Yeah, that's right. That's right. Well, um, I just, uh, watch the Quincy documentary on Netflix warmly recommend that Quincy Jones, what a legend, you know, admire that that guy has so much. And, uh, there were some images of him with Frank Sinatra and those days, you know, Sinatra recordings, I think they're all phenomenal. They're ridiculously good. And they literally, in many ways they mix the orchestra with their feet. So you're a bit too loud, three steps back, you know, you're a bit too quiet, two steps forward. That's, that's how they mixed it in recording basically. Well, other methods as well, but it was actually, yeah, great. Hm. So interesting how some amazing music was made with such minimalistic technology. So what's your take on this? You know, nowadays technology is no longer a limiting factor. You know, what people have in home studios is ridiculously fantastic and probably much more capable than what most big studios had not 20, 30 years ago. So we have no more or very few technical limitations and people can just walk from home and produce a song for however long they want. So I guess my question is in your personal experience with the artists that you worked with, does the length of a production correlate to the quality necessarily does a long production always mean great results? No. No. How would you know, it's. It depends. You know, there are, there are people. See the, for me, the core of music, isn't the performance. I'd rather have a kick ass performance and a crappy sound than the other way around. Yep. I'm still on board with that. I could incorporate more kick-ass performance recorded badly is still a kick-ass performance and will touch people while a terrible performance recorded with the most sublime microphones locations preempts what not will always be a crappy performance. So there's options in production. There's a, there's a point of diminishing returns. You know, I'm all for refinement. I'm all for perfectionism, as long as you consider perfect. To be 80% great. And 20% not so great. Yeah. Well said, because you know, that's a difficult line to draw. Yeah. You know, what, where do you say now it's good enough. We need to move on. And I think I brought this up once before and I actually picked that up from somebody else, but I came across the saying that was around the lines of perfect is the opposite of done. And I've found that very, very meaningful, you know, that's because sometimes you just need to finish up and, uh, and call it a day and move on. So have you get on yet advice on finding that delicate balance when it's good enough or when it's, you know, important to keep soldering on and take that. That really depends on psychology. It depends on the psychology of the artist. It depends on the psychology of the producer, the engineer, and so on and so forth. Okay. You know, it's explained one of the most typical things is that people record and the album is done. And then, you know, like half a year later, ah, man, there's this one spot in that track. It always bugs the shit out of me. You know that, oh, I can't hear it. I can't stand it. Dah, dah, dah. You know, that happens. That there's one element or one little thing, uh, that looking back you wish you would have done differently or it's not as you wanted it. That's of course something that you don't really want. You know, you want to avoid that, let's say, but isn't the question. If that's, shouldn't be, just look at whether that's just the musician. And maybe if nobody else noticed that, exactly, it's actually fine. That's what I mean, you know, that's the psychology of the artist, which is generally as a disposition to close to the bone. If they're that they're too close to, to them use it. Uh, that's why you have the role of the producer is somebody who is committed to the project, but at the same time has a bit of distance and can say like, you know, both ways can say, look, dude, this is not good enough. Or say like, come on, man, this is great. You know, don't sweat it, it's working. It's it's it has something. Yeah. You know, but at the end of the day, it's just opinions. You know, they, there is no, there is no silver bullet to avoid that. Uh, you know, you have to wiggle yourself through the process. It depends so much how. The personal interaction with, with the artist is, uh, you know, it might be easy. It might be difficult, but you know, you, you have to find that groove, you know, you have to find a place to, um, to be sensitive, to be able as a producer or as it sounded you needed to communicate to the artist. Something is not good enough. Uh, you have to have the discernment to, to see if something is good enough. Uh, and you have to also have the sensitivity to know when to realize when it's not possible to get something better out of that artist when you hit the maximum point and yes. And, you know, just, yeah, that's it, you know, and roll with it. And. To come back where we actually started is, you know, the same with what is good sound. It's something you develop over time or you develop over time. The sense of when I produce music in my environment with my equipment and I get the sound like this, it sounds good everywhere. You know? And, uh, when, I mean, I went to, you know, probably half a dozen different monitoring systems and, uh, it took a long time to, to settle on what I have now and, uh, be really a hundred percent happy with it. And, uh, The setup I have now makes it easy for me to get the sound that I want without being in doubt that when I played back somewhere else, it sounds, you know, there are problems, especially in the low end for instance, you know? Yeah. So you basically know your speaker system and your room, like, like the back of your hand. Yes. Yeah. And therefore it makes it very easy for you to identify if there is a problem or if everything's aligned as well. Yeah. Yeah. Cool. That makes makes a lot of sense. Yeah. So, and in your studio, you do recordings, you do mixing and you also master here. Yes. So, um, let's just go through it in reverse order. So let's start with mastering first know, um, do you ever come across music that was clearly mastered at. Do you hear a problem sometimes with released music where you, where you wish that had gone through more professional mastering process? Whether it's difficult to say, because I don't know if the problem, if I hear a problem in, in that, that particular kind of music, if the arrow lies in the recording and the mix on if something has been done in the mastering. Yeah. Okay. That's why my general approach to mastering is that ideally, I want to get the material from the mixing engineer, the end, the artist, where both are completely happy with the sound. Yeah, that means ideally I wouldn't have to do anything other than a little bit of formatting, a little bit of volume adjustment and as transparent compression as possible, you know, just. To the industry standard levels that are required for certain media. Yeah. Be careful with the word required. These. Yes, exactly. They're loud is normalization standards. They are shifting now. So there is no standards. So whatever we do today, that's how this song will last forever. But the standards are changing. Excellent. Therefore, we could have, take that with a pinch of salt, I reckon, but I get your point very clearly. Yeah. Nevertheless, you cannot ignore them either on too loud side. Not on too quiet side, because it makes a difference in the sound itself. Especially if you move into, towards the loud side, you have to usually apply much more compression, which drastically changes the music. Yes. If you, for instance, like in the beginning of my career, I, I didn't compress it. Um, I had no compressor. No, and I managed very well. Yeah. You know, I sold a lot of albums and the music sounds good, but of course, as I said before, at the beginning of my career, I was doing new age music, which is not particularly music that looks for high levels or is particularly impactful or some, you know, it's all very smooth and more, um, more than then rock music, less, less rhythm oriented it. So, okay. So the ideal is for a mastering engineer, you get a fantastic mix and you just do small adjustments, maybe, uh, you know, one Trek compared to another is a little bit lackluster or the other way around, you know, a bit top heavy, a bit base heavy, and then you make slight adjustments to, to, to bring. Together, you know that for consistency, for consistency. Yeah. Cool. Okay. All right. Look, that brings us to the next question. Now, you know, if the master depends on a really good mix, what's the secret for really good mix. Yeah, that is well, quite simply from my perspective. I like it. Okay. That's and that's actually, it might sound a little bit simplistic and dumb, but it's not, it's the reality. Yeah, because for instance, if somebody hires you as a, as a mixing engineer, uh, they don't hire the skill that you can turn a knob, they hire your taste. That's right. That's right. I never release a song or pass a song back to a client unless. Yeah. Never ever. Yes, exactly. I love it first. And then I can show it to the client and then the client goes like, oh yeah, you know, that's young sound or they go, oh, that's, you know, come on. That has the signature almost. And I think that's, that's fair enough. You know, and it's a good thing. You know, there's lots of different tastes around and different ways to do things. Um, and it creates variety and, and hopefully beauty that touches a lot of people. Ah, that's, that's really well said because, you know, in the end, it's not really about my son, you know, if I was the only person to like myself and nobody else would, yeah. I wouldn't have a business, you know, so it's, it's in some ways, obviously about having a good sense of taste of self and loving it, but also being compatible with a large enough audience, I guess. Yeah. Um, you can cut that out if you want, but let me slot in my theory of, uh, why, what happens for the artist and why an artist is successful with mid music and dying to hear? So my feeling is, and because I'm actually coming to the business, so to speak, uh, from the musician side, I was a musician first. So I am a musician first and then an engineer and so on and so forth and a producer. So what's in my own experience. And by now, you know, I'm looking back at, you know, almost 50 years of being related to music, at least, you know, and playing instruments. Is when I make music or when I write music, when I write a piece, what I'm doing is, and that's my personal experience. I put it out, Hey, check it out. If, if that is something in your own experience. So in my experience, I'm balancing myself out, you know, I'm basically expressing something that needs to be balanced or something is intention within me. And I bring it out in music, which by working with rhythm with harmonies, with melodies, kind of like a constant massaging of, of tension and relaxation, let's say, you know, off of dinette, it's dinette, it's constantly moving. It's dynamic kind of draws my interest and lets go of my interest, you know, and before I get bored, it draws interest again and. So, what I'm doing is you could say, um, in a way I'm kind of like balancing my, my psychology, my emotional psych psychological state was making music. Uh, and for me, it's very clear. You see that historically, but also, uh, if you look at different age groups, what they listened to, if you would take, for instance, teenagers, they listened to very often, there's a lot of aggressive music, highlighted G stuff, high energy stuff, you know, that kicks ass. And you know, that kind of like rattled this, the storm of hormones, they experience. And by tuning into that, you know, by expressing themselves, even if they don't make music themselves, but they hear music where somebody let's say has, has the same. In our tensions and conflicts and fears and worries, and, and ambitions and hopes, you know, that is expressed in that music. And suddenly somebody hears and goes like, that's how I feel. You know, it can be in a hook line. It can be in, in lyrics, you know, often short snippets of lyrics, kind of like catapult a piece of music because so many people can relate to it. Wow. Yes know, it makes so much sense. Yes. So here we have somebody who expresses that and then you have the receiving end. So if you have a lot of people who are, have, let's say the same affliction or condition as the musician, potentially you can get very sick. Does that make sense? That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. Come on. That's good. I love it. Yeah. And what also is quite obvious is with advancing age, you know, people, you often, it's a bit of a cliche, all older people like to listen to classical music also, you know, because it, it doesn't as, as, uh, as an aging person that that need for experience and extreme experience is a waning. You know, you don't need, you don't need that much fuss anymore in your life. You know, you're quite happy to, um, you know, to relax, you know, things get more relaxed. Um, so the music tastes changed, you know? And what, what is balanced or what is. Expressed in, in classical music, you know, or new age music, or basically music, that's not as edgy. That is not, that doesn't have that much tension suits, that particular psychology. Um, and that is not necessarily tied to an age, but you know, there's lots of people who love classical music, so are young or middle-aged or whatever, you know, but then that's why I think the overriding thing is what's going on in your psychology at the moment, what we'll use the Qline that explains so much, you know, that basically explains the music that I listened to through out my life. Yeah. Something like that. I really like that. Yeah. It's the soundtrack of your. Yeah, it sure is. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I, I'm definitely getting older, but I still, my love my Slayer, but for me, it's also the beauty is it takes the judgment. All of me, you know, I don't have to, and literally the here I don't have to dismiss music. Oh, this is terrible music, you know, it's just, I don't like it. Okay. Yeah. But I know that somebody, at least the guy who's playing this or the group or the people who are playing it for them, it expresses something that's important for them that, that balances them, that he used them. That is pleasant for them. Yes. So, great, good for them. Wow. Okay. And it makes it also possible because as a mixing engineer and mastering engineer, I come across a whole variety of different genres. You know, I don't have. I can dedicate myself to a good sound without having to completely love the music per se. Yeah, I see. Mm, wow. Wow. Okay. That's a lot to take in there right now. Well, thank you for sharing. C'mon that's really good. I'm just trying to steer back to my train of thought. We were talking about, you know, a good sounding mix, what makes a good song and, and, you know, your sense of taste. And now you explained how your sense of taste interacts with music. And that's, that's phenomenal because in some ways it also explains why certain songs are written that way. So it goes back literally to the solo writing. And also, I guess the arrangement, in some ways I find that, you know, the arrangement of a song is probably the most powerful, mixed tool one has. So if the arrangement. Overloaded or too minimal or not suitable mix will never really work. Can you relate to that? What do you, would you agree? Well, definitely arrangement instrumentation, um, structuring of a song is, you know, that's, that's way of, you know, much early on, much more important element of the music then than the mix per se and the mastering, you know, basically there's a certain, the subtleties get finer and finer, you know, towards mastering, you could say, oh yeah, you know, first, first you sit down with, on the piano or with your guitar and dah, dah, dah, dah, you know, six chords, you know, a BBA, Bob's your uncle, but what do you do with that? You know, do you have a. A short C BA or down near you, you can do so many things. Yes. So definitely arrangement instrumentation makes a huge difference. An interesting part of that is, you know, when you have like, we're not artists, uh, you know, they bring out a song and it becomes a huge hit and then they go and sit down and play it. And clucked, you know, sting sits down with this little mini guitar and he still pulls it off without arrangement. Well, no, not without arrangement, but without production. Yes. No, he just sits there with his guitar and it kind of like knocks you off your feet or not. So that's a song that sort of translates, you know, it's a strong song, no matter whether it's a band behind him or to himself on the guitar. Yes. That's a sign that if you can do that, that strong songwriting. The big part is also, you know, the, the, the artist who plays it, even if he plays it just, you know, what he, what the artist is able to bring across with emotionally with the tone of voice, the phrasing and the way how he plays the instrument, or she plays the instrument. Uh, I mean, there are, there are so many cover versions of, you know, hit songs and they're all, you know, like, oh, beautifully done and so on and so forth. Um, you know, I did it myself, as you mentioned, beautiful my foray into, uh, into singing, uh, by doing cover versions of Peter Gabrielle instincts song. Um, so the question then is, do I diminish the original song or do I make it mine? You know, so is this, is this, uh, is this song beautiful because it's distinct song or is it still beautiful? Even if I sing it, who can't sing like steam, uh, don't have this voice. Can I bring something across that contains the beauty of the songwriting of steam, but it's not just karaoke, you know, it's, there's Kamala in it. Yeah. Okay. That's, that's really the deep, so just try to wrap my head around all of this. So I remember listening to these songs. It was a while ago, and of course I recognize the melodies. The coin didn't even drop till later, who I was actually listening to or who the songwriter was, you know, to me, it was you telling a story musically and giving it your own musical phrasing. And you told a story there that to me, sounded like it was very dear to your heart. Absolutely. And that definitely came across and that's what kept me listening and not once did I think about how that measured up against Peter Gabriel at, at no time, it was just your own version of these songs. And they definitely had a very unique spin, a very personal take. And so that's, I succeeded. Yes, definitely. Definitely. Definitely. It was, you know? Yeah, look, yeah. That's had a couple of goosebumps moments as I was listening to these songs. Did you ever publish those officially? They're just like a hobby project for more for your. Well, it's definitely a hobby project, but I have to admit that that's the daunting thing is with publishing a cover song in that fashion is to, to basically get the permissions and so on and so forth. Basically, it's a bit of a song and dance to, to do that, to get it onto YouTube also, you know, and it's actually also, it costs, you know, if, if I release a song from, let's say, let me just shamelessly pluck another episode here, but we just had a Nicki from April on the podcast and she had a lot of interesting things to say about it. We also spoke about releasing cover versions and, uh, my impression was it was maybe not quite as complex, but anyway, look, maybe just a, yeah, that's all I, maybe I, maybe I give her a call. She could definitely help you. It help you with that, but it would be nice to actually have these songs, you know, publicly available at some stage because they were absolutely lovely. Okay, good. Come on in, you've met so many musicians in your life and I would assume that there was some amazing professional musicians among, but probably also a lot of hobbyists, maybe some beginners. Did you ever come across, did you, did you notice any similarities between the beginners who actually go through all the stages and become a successfully, eventually, eventually, or the people who give up and never get anywhere? Is there anything about the musical talent? Is there any character traits, any demeanors that successful musicians have in your opinion? Well, Yeah. So of course there's this personality traits, you know, I mean, one is, one is, uh, I would say is tenacity I'm in generally, I would say I believe. And I emphasize, I believe, um, that anything that you feel passionate about and you stick with will very, very, very likely lead to success and with success and not necessarily mean that it becomes, you know, like a, like a business success, but a success that you, that, that person, that it brings you deep satisfaction and fulfill. Um, well, because I know that I know amazing musicians who don't have it. I mean, it's the classic, you know, the starving musician is, is, is an archetype. Um, and I know, uh, I know musicians who are very inexperienced and who lack a certain level of craft, you know, let it be their voice or their instrument. Well, hugely successful. Yeah. And, um, that is, let's say unpleasant to watch from the outside. No, because I wish for the, for the person that I deemed to have great talent and skill and, and, and, uh, I wish them success. No, I of course produced several albums that I find. Absolutely fantastic. And I think they're worth be heard by everybody. Yeah. And, uh, on par in terms of artistic expression and execution, meaning production and sound, you know, that can be up there with the best of them. And yet nobody has heard of them. Okay. Is, could that be the lack of, let's say marketing and distribution skills? Yes. That's part of it. I mean, particularly now, because these days, you know, the, the whole industry is still in such a flux and, and change that. Uh, and even the concept of an album is basically out of the window. You know, all the people who stand behind a final product, you know, a song that you can be on Spotify or YouTube. Uh, I basically don't exist anymore in the consciousness of the current. Um, you know, you can be lucky that, uh, somebody who plays your song, that he likes, if you remember, he remembers the artist, he might only remember the, the song title and have no idea who the artist is. Let alone no idea who, the producer, who, the engineer, who the musicians are, you know, all the people that were usually on the back of a vinyl album, or at least in the booklet of a CD. And then there's the other aspect is also that yeah, you say something particularly with one song, but usually as a musician, you know, you have more than one song. You know, you, you have phases where you write phases of your life, that where you have a particular style or expression, and you put them together on an album. And there's a story, not only within one piece, but in the succession of the piece, You know, there's, there's an arc of storytelling. Oh, there's an arc of drama. You know, you start with something upbeat, you know, and then the next piece you put something that's even more copied and the third piece is even more bombastic and then you drop it and fall into something smooth and soft or only to jump into something very rhythmic or so, you know, so you can create a Johnny yeah. A whole journey. Exactly where each piece is a small journey in itself. And that is unfortunately getting a bit lost. Um, you know, plus the deserved acknowledgement for, for all the talents that make it possible in the end to listen to that music. Yeah. Well, oh, that's some deep thought here. I can definitely relate to that on one of the few dinosaurs left, who still listen to albums, start to finish if ever. But yeah, there's definitely a lot to be said there. Say, come on. Um, if somebody is interested in one, wants to find out more about you, where could they go? Have you got a website or social media? Where would somebody find you the usual website out of audio.com dot a U and out of audio? One word, no spaces, no spaces. The art of audio.com.com start to use it. So we should probably clarify this, make sure that we get it right. So it's out of audio.com dot a U. Yes, that's it. And I'm also on, under the same name on Facebook and Facebook as well. Excellent. Yeah. Good. So if anybody needs any help, they can reach out to you. Just maybe want to have a chat with you. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. I would also like to invite everybody to maybe join our production talk podcast community group on Facebook. If you want to reach out to me, I answer questions there and, uh, yeah, if you want to listen to all the other episodes as well, there were a couple that we touched on today, so I'd like to point out what episode 10 and episode 17. We had a couple of, you know, uh, similar points here. And then of course we also spoke to Talia and, uh, from 301 mastering with a lot of amazing things to say, and you know, so come on, thank you so much for being with me today and all listeners and sharing all your amazing wisdom. I really appreciate that, man. My friend. Thank you. Come on. I thank you for having. Hang on one second, please. I think it would be nice to give a little blurb about the binal. Yes, yes. We just mentioned right at the beginning that we are playing back by normally today. But yes, come on, please explain what's going on. Yeah. So, uh, usually, you know, you have people sitting in front of you, each one has a mic in front of them. So today we recorded this just because it happened. Uh, I have something, a remnant from the seventies, which is a dummy head, um, and a dummy head is literally how it sounds. It's like the head from, uh, from mannequin, but just the head. And it has some quite real shaped Silicon ears on it. And they're inside the mannequin skull. Sits actually in Mike. So there are two mikes in inserted into the dummy head and it's creates, uh, when you wear headphones. And that's important to remember, you have to wear headphones, um, a very natural perception because it's very realistic. Yes. Because although we only have two years, we are able to perceive more than two directions. You know, we don't only have, uh, uh, the left and right. We have, uh, the front, the back, the bottom, the top. So it's, uh, it's a very rich experience. That's the natural, for instance, when I'm, uh, when I'm moving around here, now I'm on the right side of the dominant head. That was my son. That was your side. But also for instance, if I saw, there you go, I was in the room and if I dropped something. That sounds realistic, realistic and stereo for me. Like this is wonderful, amazing steps from our thank you.
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