A Musical Production Musing

John Scalzi

So, as you know, I’m fiddling around a lot with music at the moment, because it’s fun and also it’s a hobby I can do in my basement, which is convenient for my purposes. As it’s a hobby, there doesn’t have to be a particular metric for it, nevertheless I find as I go along I kind of have goals or at least a minimum standard I’m aiming for.

As an example, I’ve determined that I would eventually like to have my music sound as if it’s professionally produced — but not professionally produced as it would sound in 2023, which is, you know, a lot, but like it was professionally produced in, say, 1981. This both conforms to my own basic musical aesthetic (hey, guess the musical era I grew up in!) but also my actual competence at this point with the tools I have with me.

“1981” as a descriptor still covers a lot of ground in pop music — that covers everything from Kraftwerk to Ozzy Osborne to Journey to the Go-Gos to the Rolling Stones — so above you will find the 1981 I’m talking about: The basic but undeniable synth noodlings of a very young Depeche Mode on the Speak and Spell album. It’s not overly complicated nor (for electronic music) overly produced, and I like the sound. I can, in fact, probably make something like this in my basement with Logic Pro and a bunch of virtual synths (although, as a professional writer more than three decades older than Vince Clarke was when he wrote these songs, hopefully I’ll be a slightly better lyricist).

So that’s the goal, for now. Simple! But as I’m finding even as a hobbyist, not necessarily easy. I’m having fun getting there.

— JS

5 Comments on “A Musical Production Musing”

  1. You should redo the lyrics for Self Preservation Society from the original Italian Job movie for your book The Kaiju Preservation Society.

  2. It’s the early 90s for me, with guitar based alternative rock, specifically something like a cross between the production styles of Sugar (a la Copper Blue) and Alice in Chains (their self titled third album, but icluding all their newer stuff too) are what I aim for…

    But, I think, more important for me is getting the hang of these tools and techniques so I can subsequently develop my own sound – which I can then automate to give all my productions a particular “feel”!

  3. Yeah, I have been fiddling with music stuff at home, at a smaller scale than you, but anyway, and something like 1980s production values seem if not attainable but close enough.

    I’m a software developer, so my playing is mostly getting away from the digital and doing analog, so things like quantization or autotune don’t seem too interesting to me, for a hobby. Obviously if I record, it’s digital, not analog, but I can for example skip guitar effects on the computer and just use pedals, and not use click tracks.

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