Canadian Musician - July/August 2017 - Page 59

RECORDING Albert Chambers is a Montreal-based producer, mixer, and songwriter and the owner of Studio Base Bin. He’s been nominated for JUNO and Felix awards and worked with artists including Dream Theater, Moist, Simple Plan, Debbie Gibson, Coral Egan, and David Usher. By Albert Chambers Know Your Audience Part 2: Tailoring Your Production I n the last issue, we talked about the importance of visualizing who your target audience might be for your music – their age group, the clothes they wear, the kind of foods they prefer… In part two, we’ll be focusing on the pro- duction side of things – the sonic structure of how different genres attract a certain demographic. Sounds of the Times I think it’s safe to say that different eras will attract a specific age group. Most pop songs from throughout the decades have been created using similar chord progressions, and yet most young adults won’t listen to music from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, or even early 2000s. All of these eras carried a particular sonic DNA footprint. As an example, a kick on a bass drum from a pop record in the ‘70s would have a lot less low-end frequency range than a contemporary record made today. During the mastering process, engineers were forced to cut the bottom end for vinyl pro- duction to prevent the needle from skip- ping during playback. The ‘80s brought us into the digital era, teamed with the proliferation of the com- pact disc – a whole different format for play- back that eliminated the concerns about a skipping needle and offered a broader fre- quency range. That meant more top end W W W. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N . CO M and lows than ever before. The digital age of recording also affected the way records sounded. The ability to keep adding more tracks led productions into a sonic wash of somewhat overly-produced-sounding re- cords. Less is more was completely thrown out the window. That being said, our ears were tuned to what was being played at that certain period in time. So you might say, a listener in their late 40s today might be more “for- giving” should a record not have as much 60 Hz in a kick drum than, say, a 20-year-old listening to the latest Lorde track. Then again, even if your track is target- ing that 40-something audience, you have to make it sound modern with all those wide frequency ranges included. A great song sounding dated can make your hard work be all in vain. Dissecting a Production Let’s start by dissecting a production. There’s a reason for why a drum sample library is filled with so many different sounding kicks. They’re often categorized under certain genres. If you’re targeting a hard rock au- dience, you might not want to start with a deep house kick, or vice versa. Then again, if your audience is young and on the cutting edge, mixing it up might not be a bad idea. Maybe start with a hip-hop kick in the verses and than layer it with a more acoustic rock kick building into the choruses. Same goes for the way vocals are treat- ed in a mix. A modern listener will find Auto-Tune to be a fitting and welcome effect in a hip-hop track, but maybe not so much in a modern rock track. Take Dave Grohl for example – I don’t think that a heavily Auto-Tuned vocal would suit the sound of a Foo Fighters record, nor would his fans appreciate it. It’s a perfect example of a genre-specific production effect and technique. Your target audience’s ears are tuned to what they are used to hearing. Even though they can’t explain to you that the knocking thump of 100 Hz, pillowy 60 Hz bass, and 1.6 kHz cutting through the mix is what makes them latch on, it’s something you should be aware of. Your audience doesn’t listen to music like artists, engineers, or producers; they listen and feel on a far more subcon- scious level. Keep an open mind about the way you record and the sounds you choose, but always use modern reference mixes to stay on point and relevant. It’s one thing to be influenced by bands or artists from the past and share certain sonic elements that bring people back in time for a moment. Just make sure that the overall sound of the track isn’t missing any of the key frequency elements that are likely necessary to get radio play and widespread adoption in today’s cutthroat marketplace. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N • 59