Squished Down and Turned Up: How a Humble Process Has Changed How We Listen to Music

Compression is the process of reducing the dynamic difference between the loudest and the quietest parts of an audio sample. Photo by Mattieu A

By Nicole Bouwkamp

Have you ever listened to music for a while before suddenly feeling exhausted? Or having to turn your favorite song off because you just needed some silence? Have you driven a long way listening to the radio only to have your ears become sore and sounds muted? Ear fatigue, often felt as tiredness and a soreness, loss of sensitivity, discomfort of the ears, is caused by prolonged exposure to sound.

Thanks to the trends of music and listening environments today, ear fatigue can be experienced anywhere at any time. You just need to turn on the radio and listen for a while before you feel it or listen to music on headphones from a streaming service while in a crowd. Today’s music is part of the equation of experiencing ear fatigue. More specifically, a tool used to create music and broadcast it online and on the radio: compression.

Compression is the process of reducing the dynamic difference between the loudest and the quietest parts of an audio sample – the loud material gets quieter, and the quiet material gets louder. This is why a song may be described as punchy or having presence. The frequencies of the recorded sound are at naturally varying levels, and when compression brings up the softer frequencies and brings down the louder frequencies, the result is a more present and punchier sound (or as I like to say, a beefy sound).

Compression is often used when recording drums. Drums are the biggest producers of transient sounds, meaning that they are a loud sound with lots of attack, but decay in sound very quickly to where there is very little sound beyond that first attack. With compression, the attack is brought down in volume while the sound left after the attack is brought up. Frequencies that are naturally dynamically different are brought closer together, and you get a beefier recorded drum hit.

So, you hear everything better. That would be good with music, right?

The thing is, everything in music isn’t meant to be heard evenly all the time. One of the glories of music is the dynamic range and nuances within it, the little hidden gems of musical ideas that you discover after listening to a song multiple times, or the rise and fall of moments that can evoke emotions of triumph or despair. If there is a part of the music that grows from soft and intricate to loud and powerful, you need to actually (not) fully hear everything in relation to each other.

With compression, everything is louder, and we tend to lose the dynamic range of the music. The small nuances become more prominent and muddy the main melodies and harmonies, the rise and fall of dynamics becomes flatter, and “imperfect” playing is homogenized. This trend has been growing for nearly 30 years now, and no music is safe.

This isn’t to say that compression is bad by any means, it can actually be vital in the recording process to achieve a cleaner signal from a particularly temperamental drum, or to even out the sound from a singer who is not familiar with distancing the mic properly when they sing. Compression when cleaning the recorded sounds in the mixing process can be useful for achieving a better balanced song in the end, but I prefer to control the volume manually.

I will work harder to control the overall dynamics if it means I can keep the more natural dynamic sound of the instruments throughout. However, my ideas on how music should sound are my opinion, I will admit, and the opinion contrary to mine follows the idea of slapping compression on all the instruments for the entire song to get a more even dynamic range. This method has been steadily ruining how we listen to music for decades.

Continue reading “Squished Down and Turned Up: How a Humble Process Has Changed How We Listen to Music”

Strength in Numbers – Stephanie Belcher Launches New Online ‘Business Management for Musicians’ Course

Stephanie Belcher prepares for her new online course, “Business Management for Musicians.”

With an incredible knack for numbers, Stephanie Belcher is one of the music industry’s premier economic and financial educators.

She has an innate ability to interpret and define the complex world of financial management, economics, and tax accounting for emerging and established creatives.

Belcher became fluent in the language of financial management after spending nearly two decades working in artist management, booking, promotions, and marketing. She’s also served as an accomplished business manager, marketing and economics entrepreneur, and tax accountant for 10 years.

“After moving to Michigan and regularly attending concerts, I started to hear there were musicians who needed their taxes done,” said Belcher, who’s based in Livonia, Mich. “More and more people kept coming to me for advice, and I absolutely loved helping them.”

Now, she’s ready to share her music, financial management, and economic expertise with artists, musicians, and creatives through a new online course and mastermind group.

Through the online course, interested participants can subscribe to Belcher’s content, which includes videos, chat sessions, online workshops, and other tools for those wanting to sharpen their financial, economic, and business knowledge while working in the music industry.

“I’ve come to embrace my role as an educator for financial information to creative people, and I enjoy it because it allows me to combine emerging music, financial management, and economics while connecting with people,” she said.

Continue reading “Strength in Numbers – Stephanie Belcher Launches New Online ‘Business Management for Musicians’ Course”

Thank you, ann arbor’s 107one and John Bommarito

Local radio station, DJ inspire my decade-long musical journey

John Bommarito — Photo by Benjamin Weatherston

Thirteen years ago, I flipped the radio dial to 107.1 (WQKL-FM) in my car and haven’t stopped listening to the Ann Arbor-based station that helped lay the initial foundation for my musical journey.

Listening to the station was a nice distraction while driving to and from my MBA classes at Eastern Michigan University. For a few minutes, I could forget about exams, papers and group projects that temporarily consumed my life and focus on hearing new music instead.

Known as “ann arbor’s 107one,” the station introduced me to Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol, Gomez, Spoon, Ray LaMontagne, Nickel Creek, The Alternate Routes, Colbie Caillat, My Morning Jacket, The Shins, Scars on 45 and others. I slowly built up my CD collection and my musical knowledge because of that station.

By 2008, I had finished grad school and started commuting to Jackson for work five days a week. That allowed me to listen to ann arbor’s 107one about two hours a day. Each day, I looked forward to hearing Martin Bandyke and John Bommarito share their thoughts about different artists between songs.

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Staying POWER — New Events, Entertainment Agency Showcases Detroit Talent at Tonight’s Launch Party

SIAS will perform at tonight’s POWER Events | Entertainment launch party in Detroit.

Detroit-based entrepreneurs are ready to shine a spotlight on the Motor City arts and entertainment scene.

Donna Kassab and Kelly Adolph are celebrating the official launch of POWER Events | Entertainment, a new Detroit-based talent and event agency, tonight at CLUBHAUS Detroit, 6540 Antoine St., in the city’s New Center district.

Kassab and Adolph started POWER in October to showcase emerging music, modeling, acting and athletic talent in Detroit and introduce that talent to local entertainment professionals and businesses.

The two entrepreneurs met at another company in metro Detroit and have spent nearly two decades working in the entertainment industry.

“There really isn’t anyone doing this in the city of Detroit,” said Kassab, POWER co-owner. “We love Detroit, and we want to help people get started. We look for undiscovered talent and provide a platform so they can be on stage.”

That stage will be set for tonight’s free launch party and include a fashion show featuring models wearing designs by Detroit-based clothing store UnitedFront aand music by Detroit artists SIAS and DJ Kobra Kinney as well as New York City-based rock, soul and hip-hop infused band Quantum Split.

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Meet and Greet @ Dream Big: 6/4/16

Meet and Greet @ Dream Big: 6/4/16

Sharing this blog post from “Dream Big, Dream Often” about networking with other bloggers.

Dream Big, Dream Often

Dream-Big

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend at Dream Big!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet n Greet your tails off!

See ya on Monday!!

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‘The X-Files Theme’ – Mark Snow’s Iconic Anthem Reveals Hidden Truths in My Life

The moment I hear the eerie echoes and whistles I’m instantly transported to another dimension.

The dimension I’m entering is “The X-Files,” which features the iconic TV theme developed by composer Mark Snow in 1993.

“The X-Files Theme” represents the hidden paranormal world I find so fascinating throughout the beloved sci-fi series.

It’s only in the last year “The X-Files Theme” has played loudly in the foreground of my life. The theme was always there. I just had to listen closely enough to hear it.

In the late ‘90s, I heard quiet whispers of the theme, but it wasn’t enough for me to stop and listen.

In June 1998, I heard the TV theme and entire score for “The X-Files: Fight the Future” while watching the movie. My husband Brian and I went to see the movie since a college friend was a diehard fan. I enjoyed the movie, but for some reason my interest in the show didn’t stick.

In May 1999, Brian and I played “The X-Files Theme (DADO Paranormal Activity Mix)” during our wedding dinner from “Pure Moods,” a 1997 new-age music compilation album.

Again, it didn’t stick. Not until June 2015.

Continue reading “‘The X-Files Theme’ – Mark Snow’s Iconic Anthem Reveals Hidden Truths in My Life”

The Stratton Setlist Receives Liebster Award Nomination

Liebster Award

I’d like to thank Robin from One Sunny Place for nominating me for a Liebster Award. It’s an honor to receive this recognition and be part of a growing community of bloggers who write about what they enjoy most.

It’s time to pass the baton, so here are my Liebster Award nominations:

Dream4fun

SS&H

Along the Side of the Road

Soundtrack Alley

Parenthood & Passports

Lily Zacharias

Hello Happiness!

Lost in Theatre

Memoirs of a 21st Century Time Traveler

My Groovy Little Soul

The Cultured Traveler

Please see the official rules below for the acceptance and nomination of the Liebster Award.

liebster-award-rules.jpg

1. When did you start blogging and why?

I started blogging in August 2015 to write about my love of music. I’m a frequent concert goer, vinyl album collector and professional writer, so my friends encouraged me to start a music blog, The Stratton Setlist.

2. What’s your greatest strength?

My greatest strength is bringing people together. I’m the one who often organizes social gatherings with my family and friends. It’s natural for me to spend time with several people at once doing something that we all enjoy – concerts, movies, dinners and gatherings.

Continue reading “The Stratton Setlist Receives Liebster Award Nomination”