This framework will aim to assist in the analysis of three audio recordings in future case studies. To widen the scope of the outcomes of these case studies, the three songs will differ in genre to help me understand the production methods of the main styles I am interested in. Through constructing and utilising this framework, I will have effectively built my own system that will improve my critical & analytical listening skills through practice. If needed, I can refer back to the framework and use it again if there is a particular sound I’m looking for from an already-existing example.
Critical & Analytical Listening – Overview
Critical listening is a skill of paramount importance for sound technicians to have in order to progress and become creative engineers. In order to understand the elements that make up an audio recording, listeners must put themselves in the producer’s shoes – breaking down each element in-depth. Hagen describes critical listening as a skill that assists in developing a “vision for the final outcome”. He also explains that “if you can’t listen to something you like, and know why it sounds as good as it does, then you’re going to be set back a long way in trying to get your own things to sound as good” (2012).
Not unlike critical listening, analytical listening is also important to help the listener interpret the recording. While critical listening is geared towards the technicalities of a processed audio signal, analytical listening zones in on what moods or meanings a sound is trying to create or portray. For example, an “up-tempo rock song is going to give off a particular feel to the audience, whereas a softer acoustic ballad will portray a different feeling all together” (JMC Academy).
This section of the case study will aim to provide the following information about the song.
This section will list the song title, artist, release date, album it is from, album art, and a link to the recording so readers can listen to the track.
Lyrics (if applicable) / Themes
If the recording contains vocals the lyrics will be documented here, along with an analysis of the written lyrics and to explain what the meaning of the recording is.
Observations will be made about the artist’s history (band members, how they came to be, what they are commonly known for and the material that influences their creativity) and also how the recording compares stylistically to the artist’s discography (did the artist want to try something new? Why?).
This section will break down the song to highlight these fundamental composition elements.
BPM & Time Signature
Duration is an important element to consider when mapping out the structure of an audio recording.
Scale & Key Signature
The reasoning behind pitch being a fundamental element involves not only composition but also structure as well.
- What are the different sections that make up the overall structure of the recording?
- Genre influences?
- What instruments/sound sources are present in the recording?
- Where does each one of these occur?
- How is the instrument played? (OR) How was the sound constructed/processed?
- Effects used?
- Which elements in the mix stood out and why?
- Gain/Loudness Levels (Screenshots)
- Use of Automation (if applicable)
- Tonal Analysis Through EQ (Analog/Digital)
- Spectograph Analysis (Screenshots)
- Frequency Chart Comparison (Screenshots)
- Depth/Room Size Measured By Reverb
- Stereo Image Breakdown (Screenshots)
- Overall personal impressions of the recording.
- What was learned using critical and analytical.
- What is the take away?
- How can I apply this in a studio setting?
Dark Horse Institute (2013, September, 28) The 6 Elements For A Perfect Audio Mix [Web Article] Retrieved 8th November, 2016, from http://darkhorseinstitute.com/the-6-elements-for-a-perfect-audio-mix/
Hagen, D. (2012, February, 29) How To Improve Your Critical Listening [YouTube Video] Retrieved 8th November, 2016, from http://youtu.be/8S6ULU3YQ_g
JMC Academy (Unknown Date) Critical Listening VS. Analytical Listening [Web Article] Retrieved 8th November, 2016, from http://www.jmcacademy.edu.au/news/critical-listening-vs-analytical-listening
McLaughlin, S. (2014, April 4) The four essential elements of EQ and your audio mix [Web Article] Retrieved 8th November, 2016, from http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/04/essential-elements-of-eq-and-your-audio-mix/
Owsinski, B. (2009, December, 22) The 6 Elements Of A Great Mix [Web Article] Retrieved 8th November, 2016, from http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.com.au/2009/12/6-elements-of-great-mix.html
Sturgis, J. (2015, July, 9) The 4 Elements That Separate A Good Mix From A Great Mix [Web Article] Retrieved 8th November, 2016, from http://blog.sonicbids.com/the-4-elements-that-separate-a-good-mix-from-a-great-mix
White, P (2006, October) Mixing Essentials | Sound On Sound [Web Article] Retrieved 8th November, 2016, from http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/mixing-essentials