Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is Hay Que Trabajar, by Oscar de Leon and Tito Puente. 🎵
I have a deep, technical post in the works about differences between SQLAlchemy and Ecto (they're both great for very different reasons even though I'm a "raw SQL" kinda guy) but it requires research and effort so y'all are getting domestic ramble posts, maybe forever.
I've gone from "never log in to Twitter, write-only" a month ago to logging in once or twice a day and still seeing some some fantastic shit on it. Today it was this:
this is absolutely the worst solo i have ever heard by any instrument
This reminded me of this tune, which is a joke between my brother and I (the title translates to "that little sound"):
My brother shared it with me on Facebook in… 2009? 2010? He shared it with a caption that was something like:
There's just something so funny about a bunch of moderately looking guys hitting a single note on a cheap keyboard over and over again
And while he's right, he accidentally struck gold with the phrase "bunch of moderately-looking guys," which I've found infinitely useful in the decade since.
This song is a great example of inter-sibling humor (in our large extended family, it's cousins too, who are mostly of comparable age); I don't know how popular this song is broadly, or how general the amusement for it is, but Robert and I share it, and I love that we do. Karen (adopted and an only child) once asked me how it was to grow up with siblings and I responded with "I've really enjoyed it. I came into the world and there was someone there with an example to follow, and who knew all the rules. It was like having a fellow inmate who fast-tracked you on the rules of the prison," then made a mental note for my next therapy session to investigate why my brain reached for that metaphor.
While looking for that YouTube clip, I got reminded of a funny moment in an audio engineering class I took in college, called "Using the Recording Studio as a Compositional Tool" (great time to remind everyone that I have a Music degree but can't play instruments lol). It covered the basics of audio hardware, software, and did a tour of mixing techniques; my final project was a scene from a radio play.
That class was an absolute blast (shout-out to Jim Moses, legendary professor) and it changed how I hear the world. We'd learned about how to use effects to make things sound better, and to test us he said "I'm going to play you the same clip twice, and want you to tell me which you like better, and guess what I did."
I'll do the same thing here for you, using Francisca Valenzuela's Flotando. Listen to the first:
now the second, and guess what adjustments I made:
All but two of us liked the second one more. A few of the guesses:
- Equalizer boosts of the mid-range: our ears hear (and value) the range where speech falls much more carefully.
- Hi-pass filters and/or low-pass filters: similar idea, this can help remove "cruft" from the sound since again, extreme highs and extreme lows tend to be where extraneous sounds and accidental overtones enter.
- A lot of us guessed a light compressor to make the amplitude peaks softer; this was a good guess for the wrong reason, and I suspect we landed on it because we'd just learned about it (and learned that "most songs are compressed to death on the radio").
- Other guesses: a "de-esser," or maybe a change to reverb in the echoes/room we heard, but that was likely because we were desperate.
Nobody got it entirely right. No, the answer isn't "they're actually the same" lol. Scroll down for the answer.
"The second example is 2db louder."
That's it. Most people just like things that sound louder. It's a devlishly simple hack, just like "add more salt and butter" can make your food taste closer to restaurant quality.
The reason a compressor is a good guess is because it usually brings additional gain: while a compressor lowers volume at the peaks, most compressors have a gain slider that gets bumped up to make up for the lowered peaks, increasing the average volume. Your ear is better at detecting average volumes than peaks anyways. Watch the first few minutes of this to see how this happens, and why it's the sound of "radio voice."
The fact that people like things so much louder is also why there's no dynamic range in pop music: it's just LOUDNESS, ALL THE TIME. If you change to your local classical music station, it always sounds so much quieter than the music on the other stations because their music has to respect pianissimos and fortes, so they play at something that is, on average, softer than the music on most other stations.
Those first 30 seconds of Flotando? They have this waveform:
but the whole song has this waveform:
I made blueberry cupcakes last week, they were awesome.
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