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Lizanne Hennessey

Singer Songwriter & Vocal Coach, Lizanne Hennessey - Voice Coach

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Who can put a stop to The Loudness War?

If you are familiar with the term, you are most likely fighting this war yourself.

I am a musician, married to another musician/recording engineer. I am also a listener, a person with respect, appreciation and love for music. The Loudness war has been going on ever since the 1980's and since the introduction of the CD, dynamics are slowly but surely disappearing from music altogether. I, for one, want them back.

Mastering engineers are getting a bad rep for "making music louder". Listeners are suffering from "fatiguing", instruments are so drowned in limiters, compressors, we can barely recognize them, and due to "clipping", music sounds distorted, mutated and just plain awful.

Mastering engineers like Greg Calbi:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do1FJ5BcqSY
And Bob Katz:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Fb3rWNWDA
are speaking up, and taking the pledge to not participate. There is evidence all over the place that the loudness of a song has no effect on whether that song sells or not. Producers, product managers and, sadly, even some artists are suffering from"loudness envy", and music is the victim.

Digital music doesn't have to be louder than loud. Someone can put an end to this war, but who?

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    Apr 19 2013: What happens to the 'crescendo'?
    • Apr 19 2013: It's gone, like any other use of dynamics that makes music so wonderful to listen to and enjoy. At least, on digital recordings.

      Of course, the "Loudness War" doesn't apply to all music! There are thankfully still folks in the industry who want to keep music intact and don't succumb to increasing volume and decreasing integrity. It applies to the majority of pop music, what we are exposed to via the media (TV, radio, internet).
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        Apr 19 2013: I always held the view that if I want to listen to a song it must sound like the singer is sitting across from me, so that I can 'see' the sound. I can feel if she cried last night or felt elated to see someone she loves. All instruments are secondary.
        If I want to listen to instrumental, I shall listen to an orchestra.
        But them I am pretty old fashioned.
        • Apr 19 2013: Then you and I, and I'm guessing millions of others, are old-fashioned as well.

          The sad thing of this trend is that it not only defeats the purpose of digital audio technology, it in no way proves to sell any more records and worst of all, it hurts our ears!
          I truly believe no one wants this to continue except the producers and labels who suffer from 'loudness envy' and have convinced themselves the music will sell better if it's louder. Nothing could be further from the truth!

          A good example of someone losing this battle is Metallica. Definitely not my genre, but it goes to show what can happen if you push the boundaries of digital mastering too far. They released their album "Death Magnetic" in 2008, and apparently over 16,000 people who had bought the CD actually sent it back because they thought something was wrong with it. What they were actually listening to was extreme distortion caused by 'clipping' during the mastering process. And yet, even since then, the war still rages...
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        Apr 19 2013: Cannot agree more about Metallica.
        In any case I don't believe 'pop' is a natural genre, or techno. These are industry made myths.
        You asked who can stop this loudness war. My answer would be: us. There is still honest and good music. Like, say, Adele's. Or Matt Cardle covering her song.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttdp3M2C-2I
        • Apr 19 2013: I agree! But at the same time, I'm concerned that money will always win the battle.
          Like you say, there are still musicians out there who DO make music with integrity and keep their music intact. They obviously have people in the industry around them who support them and invest in them.

          With any extreme movement, there is always an anti-movement. I hope!!

          Thank you for contributing to this, Pabitra!

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