How do you keep dynamics interesting?

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RobC
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Post 12 Apr 2020

When comparing songs you may notice that one has harder drums than others. (Just compare an oldschool house song to a modern one for example.) As you listen to the one with harder drums on its own, your ears get used to it, and just like that, gone is the hardness. That way, what's the point of the extra engineering put into modern drums?

I wonder if there are any special ways to refresh our hearing within a song? Sure there are micro and macro dynamics, master filter effects, arrangement tricks, etc. but I wonder if somebody knows a way that really makes a difference? Or out of the ideas I just mentioned, which one would deserve a bit more attention during music production/arrangement?

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selig
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Post 12 Apr 2020

RobC wrote:
12 Apr 2020
…As you listen to the one with harder drums on its own, your ears get used to it, and just like that, gone is the hardness. That way, what's the point of the extra engineering put into modern drums?

I wonder if there are any special ways to refresh our hearing within a song? …
Well, you've already noted the time it takes to "get used to" the new sound, you then would simply move to a new sound for that same length of time and then return to the original sound and it will be "fresh" again, right?

All sound is relative - if you want something to sound loud, you need to precede it by something soft to create contrast. Contrast is what creates the sonic difference, since we all have the same sonic canvas to work with (meaning we all have the same 0dBFS limit, the same 20-20kHz limit, same dynamic range limits etc.

It's the same for brightness, for punchy, transient, dynamic, soft, emotional - everything, really!
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avasopht
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Post 12 Apr 2020

Well, I've noticed that Teddy Riley has a way of really putting a clean sort of punch into his tracks.

Listen to Michael Jackson's albums since Dangerous, it's incredible how unique his approach is.
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Jackjackdaw
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Post 13 Apr 2020

Bitcrush Everything.

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xboix
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Post 13 Apr 2020

Keeping it interesting within a song is mostly about tweaking the instrumentation as the song progresses rather than dynamics. When the second chorus hits or the third verse you tend to either get slightly busier bass lines or percussion lines or perhaps a new instrument joining in. Or if you are writing a Eurovision song then just modulate upwards for the second half of the song!

RobC
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Post 23 Apr 2020

selig wrote:
12 Apr 2020

Well, you've already noted the time it takes to "get used to" the new sound, you then would simply move to a new sound for that same length of time and then return to the original sound and it will be "fresh" again, right?

All sound is relative - if you want something to sound loud, you need to precede it by something soft to create contrast. Contrast is what creates the sonic difference, since we all have the same sonic canvas to work with (meaning we all have the same 0dBFS limit, the same 20-20kHz limit, same dynamic range limits etc.

It's the same for brightness, for punchy, transient, dynamic, soft, emotional - everything, really!
One of my personal rules is, that no sound can play for more than 4 bars at a time without resting. However, the length of resting is tricky. Can't really keep that same length for a dance song, especially in case of kick and bass.

I guess it mostly depends on the arrangement, then. (Ironically, I didn't think of one of the first house songs, 'Can u feel it' by Mr. Fingers, where there's a trick at the beginning with a deep tom giving the beat, then mixing with the kick to create a nice hard sound. But also the simplicity of switching between clap and snare.)

(I kind of hoped there might be some magic trick that I'm missing. : ) That said, these are great eye openers, and much appreciated!)
avasopht wrote:
12 Apr 2020
Well, I've noticed that Teddy Riley has a way of really putting a clean sort of punch into his tracks.

Listen to Michael Jackson's albums since Dangerous, it's incredible how unique his approach is.
I'll check them out, thanks ~ speaking of Michael, I also noticed older songs, like Thriller, how it builds up with sharp, thin sounds, then immediately switches to beefy ones.
Jackjackdaw wrote:
13 Apr 2020
Bitcrush Everything.
Admittedly, I haven't tried that as a master effect yet, just regular filter sweep effects and alike.
xboix wrote:
13 Apr 2020
Keeping it interesting within a song is mostly about tweaking the instrumentation as the song progresses rather than dynamics. When the second chorus hits or the third verse you tend to either get slightly busier bass lines or percussion lines or perhaps a new instrument joining in. Or if you are writing a Eurovision song then just modulate upwards for the second half of the song!
Luckily, since I prefer to create my own sounds, I might find use for parts of a complex/layered sound this way. For example, when it comes to a kick drum, I plan to create a clean kick with from sine oscillator, as well as a harmonic kick with character (based on noise for example). A sine kick is too simple, while a noise based kick will most likely turn out too soft. After some engineering, layering, and tinkering around, once you merge the two, you get the right thing. Who says we can't use our raw sounds, though - so they would be ideal for what you said.

Do you mean an expander kind of trick for upwards modulation?

RobC
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Post 23 Apr 2020

avasopht wrote:
12 Apr 2020
Well, I've noticed that Teddy Riley has a way of really putting a clean sort of punch into his tracks.

Listen to Michael Jackson's albums since Dangerous, it's incredible how unique his approach is.
Ha, figured 'Who is it' would be in there! I instantly knew what you meant.

Similarly, a few months ago I looked up 'Oops up side your head' by The Gap Band. Now what they achieved with the tools they had is pretty stunning for me. Heck, it would be an engineering reference song for me, if it wasn't for the vinyl era mastering, which takes away from low and high ends. Definitely another song for analyzing the production, though!

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Kalm
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Post 23 Apr 2020

mainly its just arranging for me. Like Selig said, make moments of contrast so your brain HAS to convey differences.
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BRIGGS
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Post 23 Apr 2020

Parallel compression

Yonatan
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Post 23 Apr 2020

Uploading the track to Soundcloud fixes everything. :) (tired joke)
It is really a craft to get the dynamics right for a song, both instrumentation and leveling. I wish there were an easy way, but I struggle everytime for that special sweet spot, sometimes it gets there a bit faster by "luck" and other times it reach the wall of sound just to start all over again nearly from the beginning.

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avasopht
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Post 01 May 2020

BRIGGS wrote:
23 Apr 2020
Parallel compression
And the other one (Manhattan I think) where your compression does a sort of dynamic pan effect.
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RobC
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Post 22 May 2020

Kalm wrote:
23 Apr 2020
mainly its just arranging for me. Like Selig said, make moments of contrast so your brain HAS to convey differences.
I'll definitely keep that up; and I also used filtering effects, changing the stereo image, flipping channels, etc... but I always want more.
BRIGGS wrote:
23 Apr 2020
Parallel compression
I used to be hugely enthusiastic about that, but when I compared the original with the engineered material, I just didn't like the end result as much. I experimented years with it, though, and it's definitely a powerful process, I admit ~ just not much a fan of it.
Yonatan wrote:
23 Apr 2020
Uploading the track to Soundcloud fixes everything. :) (tired joke)
It is really a craft to get the dynamics right for a song, both instrumentation and leveling. I wish there were an easy way, but I struggle everytime for that special sweet spot, sometimes it gets there a bit faster by "luck" and other times it reach the wall of sound just to start all over again nearly from the beginning.
Yeah, I heard complaints about that. : )

Oh, I had quite a few threads about mixing and engineering, debating the same problems ~ but as we know, if you want to bring out a little extra, there's no way you get away with just mixing a wall of sound and call it a day (I used to, and was never really satisfied with it).
avasopht wrote:
01 May 2020
And the other one (Manhattan I think) where your compression does a sort of dynamic pan effect.
While I don't really like altering the stereo image; this actually does give me some homework to think about.

I used to do something similar, though. Being fascinated by vinyl mastering, I used to compress the stereo 'side channel', which made transient elements of sounds poke out big time. Needless to say, it messed with the stereo image quite a bit.

WarStar
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Post 22 May 2020

selig wrote:
12 Apr 2020
RobC wrote:
12 Apr 2020
…As you listen to the one with harder drums on its own, your ears get used to it, and just like that, gone is the hardness. That way, what's the point of the extra engineering put into modern drums?

I wonder if there are any special ways to refresh our hearing within a song? …
Well, you've already noted the time it takes to "get used to" the new sound, you then would simply move to a new sound for that same length of time and then return to the original sound and it will be "fresh" again, right?

All sound is relative - if you want something to sound loud, you need to precede it by something soft to create contrast. Contrast is what creates the sonic difference, since we all have the same sonic canvas to work with (meaning we all have the same 0dBFS limit, the same 20-20kHz limit, same dynamic range limits etc.

It's the same for brightness, for punchy, transient, dynamic, soft, emotional - everything, really!
Selig and Kalm hit it on the head.. music is about melody, arrangement, repetition, and just enough variation.. sometimes improvisation, not as much in today's music which a shame.. but as Selig and Kalm said music/songs need to take the listener on a journey. It's not too often we take a hike on a barren straight road but rather there's twists and turns And pauses to check out the scenery.

When making music with reason via a computer, its pretty easy to fall victim to the endless options to edit our music. BUT despite this huge amount of options music is still about "feel".. I sometimes think that the ability to arrange tastefully seems to be the "skill" that alot of folks struggle with..

So for me it's about a visual story in my head that the music is taking me on.. I might jump right into it like hitting a challenging trail, something that requires some adrenaline. Others it's a gradual build up. Or we've made some distance from out starting point And now it's time to soak in the scenery. Or maybe you got chased by a bear lol Point being try to "step into" your sonic world and create a story.. easier said than done.

I do believe that if you've been a long time fan/listener of music, that there's plenty of lessons to be learned about feel and contrast in those songs, albums, artists that you've listened too..

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