Friday, May 23, 2008

Audio Engineering

I love checking out music I've never heard before. One of the reasons I've moved to Zune from Rhapsody (as opposed to Amazon or iTunes) is so I can continue to subscribe to an entire collection of music and take it with me on the go. As a result, I listen to a LOT of bands. It can take time to find music I'd like to give a spin, but I've been trying to listen to at least one or two new bands or albums per workday since ever having Rhapsody (started using it in 2003, switched to Zune Pass in March 2008).

From listening to all of this music, I've developed an opinion about something that I'd like to share: the drums are too loud. Ok, not all the time, but a lot of the time.

Check this out:
  • The drums should not be louder than the singer.
  • The drums should not be louder than the hook.
  • Drumming does not make a melody.
  • And by the way, I used to play drums.
Let's take guidance from the greatest drummer in the world, Neil Peart. Are the drums too loud on Rush albums? No. Where does the core "hook" of a Rush song like Tom Sawyer come from -- a song that prominently features the drums at the beginning? It comes from the keyboard, guitar and Geddy Lee's singing.

Take this band that I'm checking out called The National. I actually really, really like their music. I was in my car both yesterday and today listening to the album The Boxer, and enjoying some songs while the drums are overpowering on many songs. I thought to myself, "Ok, the drummer in this band has to be the brother of the singer or something. There's no other explanation for this prominent, annoying drumming." Sure enough, he is! He's brothers with the guitarist. And my opinion on the best songs -- the ones without overpowering drums -- jives with the "top played" list on Zune. Quelle surprise.

So there you go... the easiest mistake to make when mixing an album is making the drums overpowering. Sure, they get people's attention, but no one ever bought the single "Who Can It Be Now?" by Men at Work for the initial snare drum.

No comments: