Monday, May 17, 2010
TECHNICALITIES IN MUSIC: MIXING AND MASTERING
There is an aspect of music production which many people so blindly ignore. It has to do mainly with technicalities of sound so not many people really understand it. Have you listened to good music through good speakers and have become baffled by the fact that you can hear a certain instrument in the left speaker but you cant hear it in the right speaker and vice versa?
This aspect of music has been seemingly ignored because of the technicalities. You know how we all love computers and internet yet some of us know nothing about gigabytes and disk space and hardware what what? Our only care is that it should come on and must work flawlessly!
In Ghana, we know our musicians, producers and managers. The musician sings or raps and may double as a song writer too. The producer is in charge of churning out beats for the record. After all these, another sound engineer comes in to perfect the voices and the beats. Some producers do these on their own but it is usually advisable and professional to leave this aspect of production to another professional.
This aspect of music production is mixing and mastering. As per the Wikipedia explanation, mixing, and specifically audio mixing is the process by which a multitude of recorded sounds are combined into one or more channels, most commonly two-channel stereo. In the process, the source signals' level, frequency content, dynamics and panoramic position are manipulated. This practical, aesthetic or otherwise creative treatment is done in order to produce a mix that is more appealing to listeners.
Audio mixing is done in studios as part of an album or single making. The mixing stage often follows the multi track recording stage and the final mixes are normally submitted to a mastering engineer. The process is generally carried out by a mix engineer, also called mixing engineer, or mixer, though sometimes it is the musical producer, or even the artist who mixes the recorded material.
Mastering on the other hand is described by the same source as a form of audio post-production, the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device (the master) which is the source from which all copies will be produced via methods such as pressing, duplication or replication. The format of choice these days is digital masters although analog masters, such as audio tapes, are still being used by the manufacturing industry and a few engineers who have specialized themselves in analog mastering.
This is a lot of technical write up. Now to the easy going simpler write up. I needed this entire introduction so that it will help us in appreciating the personality, Hubert ( Ubeatz ) Kofi Anti the more. Hubert is a mixing and mastering engineer. He does some beat production but he mainly does the work of perfecting records.
Hubert has been doing this longer than the inception of hiplife in Ghana. The young 34 year old engineer grew up on his father’s keyboard and a DJ’s set. He loved the moments when his friends (Tic Tac, Ded Buddy) would come home and play on these instruments and climax it with eating all of his mummy’s bread. Of course his mother never appreciated these moments.
He has been in active music for thirteen years now. Initially, as was common in the early 90’s in Ghana, he wanted to be a rap artist but his dad, who was a one time manager of Ghana Films did not agree. He however became friends with one Mr. Kwakye, the resident engineer at Ghana Films at the time. One of Hubert’s unconscious ways of learning had begun.
Much concerning music did not happen during his days at Akosombo International School. At St Aquinas, the interest started building. He had been dismantling electronic gadgets when he was young but he never thought that would form part of his love for electronics and such technicalities.
The very first studio he visited is owned by Nana Poku of Virtual Sound Equipment Store. At this stage, he really was interested in beat production and so he learnt the art and technicalities on his own. He undertook a course in computer hardware (City and Guilds part 1 and 2) he could not leave his first love so he went back to the studio and produced The Lifeline family which included JD, Mensah, Yogi Dogi, T-Blaze, Abrewanana and two Liberians. He also produced other musical records as well. When other producers noticed his sound quality, they started engaging him to mix their records. He has worked on some of Soul Tee, Jackie Ankrah, Maame Justine and a lot of others’ records.
After a while he moved from Virtual Studios to Hush Hush Studios in 2000. His advantage at Hush Hush was that they have Pro Tools while he had mastered the use of it from Virtual Studio. It was after he had mixed and mastered Talal Fatal’s Forgive and Forget that he decided to focus mainly on the engineering aspect, other that the beat production.
Hubert’s works have traveled far and wide. His technical judgments on music have made him a monarch in his chosen field. Mention any music producer and you will be sure that some, if not all of their works have passed through Hubert. From a record by Zaap Mallet to Hammer, Appietus, JQ and a host of others, Hubert has had a lot of intimacy with their works before the records finally come out. Eric Antonio and Hammer of the Last Two are his all time clients and he works on their stuff right from recording to mixing and mastering.
On why it is advisable for producers to allow another producer to mix their beats, the answer is that when one produces and mixes a beat, the likelihood of overshadowing his preferred beats with those he does not like is high and as such, can create distortions in the sound.
From burgher hilife, to hiplife, to contemporary highlife, Hubert has worked on genres by such artists at different times. Now in addition to mixing and mastering, he does studio setups as well.
In appreciating music, it will be next to great to acknowledge not just the front liners. We should be able to understand that music goes through so many people and machines before it becomes what we love. Good music, that is. Hubert is one of the bench holders. In the recent past, Ghanaians did not really appreciate song writers but as per the situation now, we are gradually responding to the issue of division and professionalism in music. Hopefully, we will get to appreciate professionals like Hubert the more.
Hubert works at the HMA Studio at Lartebiokorshie in Accra.