IPR's Blogging with the Experts: Kevin Bowe

Are you interested in Audio Production, Music Business, or Sound Design? Are you interested in learning what IPR, The Institute of Production and Recording’s Instructors have to say about these matters? If yes, you’re in luck.

New comers to IPR’s “Blogging with the Experts” can expect the following…

In this installment, for example, I (Christian, IPR’s social media and blog guy) approached an IPR Audio Production Instructor and asked him to write a blog post within his area of expertise. There are no set rules, and, if said Instructor should choose, he was given the freedom to pick the topic.

With these, my only request is that said Instructor refrain from colorful explicatives; I’m proud to report no problems in this area thus far.

The opinions expressed below are not necessarily those of IPR, The Institute of Production and Recording, but you may find them both entertaining and educational. Enjoy!

Newer and Older Versus Better (and the hideously over used term “Vintage”!!!!!!)

By Kevin Bowe

I guess my feeling is not that older is better or newer is better, but that better is better. Most people these days who lament the long lost days of analog tape never had the pleasure of paying for, carrying around, storing, or editing on said analog tape.

I’m not saying tape is bad but come on!!!! There are definitely many convenience factors about digital recording, and that’s just a fact. There are also some sounds you could get with tape that are trickier, or, according to some, impossible to get with digital. But…. the advent of Avid’s “Heat”, SoundToys’ “Decapitator” and many other tape simulators have given us
more choices, plus the tape sounds you can get are more varied and controllable.

Kevin Duluth

Front and center: Kevin Bowe

I would say that the main factor in the artistic process that’s changed with the move from tape to digital is not just the SOUND, but HOW we do it and how we THINK about it. Every studio musician nowadays is like a trapeze artist working with a net, even the best of us. Back in the tape days, after the 4th take, the drummer would look at you and ask “did we nail it?”. Now after the 8th take they ask you “you got enough”? The assumption being, right from the start, that one great take is not even worth trying for.

It is assumed we will “comp” everything and fix anything that’s not cool. I definitely believe this affects the attitude that the players, and us engineers and producers, have towards the artistic process and therefor the performance itself. Especially with singers – our goal now is to create a vocal performance that the singer cannot actually sing! (at least with some singers…). Obviously there are things about this that make me uncomfortable, especially when I hear that singer live in a club later on….. oy!

All that said, however, older is NOT always better. Better is better. My favorite is when mid-80’s cheap guitars on Craigslist are pawned off as “vintage”, like that means they’re “good”. They’re not good. They are what they are. And new is not always bad- what’s the VERY FIRST THING Muddy Waters did when he moved from the Deep South to Chicago and got some money in his pocket???? He bought an electric guitar, which was fairly new technology at the time. Is that selling out? I don’t think so.

In the end most people in the business who make sweeping generalizations like “digital sucks”, “music sucked after 1982”, or “country music sucks”, etc., are either showing their ignorance or just posturing to try to promote a certain “image” of themselves that they’ve decided is cool. It’s not. You won’t catch Rick Rubin making statements like that, which is why he’s able to produce Slayer AND the Dixie Chicks.

Art, like people and technology must be judged on a fluid, case by case basis and people need to be willing to change their minds as time goes by- otherwise they run the risk of getting left behind and becoming “vintage” THEMSELVES!!!!

Always remember, today’s dub step is tomorrow’s reggaeton. Think about it….


Please let us know what you thought of Kevin’s post. If you do not, we may think you didn’t read it… and you did… so we’d love to hear from you!


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