The Conversations Sound Engineers Find Themselves In…

Hello people, I am a sound engineer currently studying a music production degree course. Every now and again I find myself in conversations debating the virtues of music. I will hereby present an insight into one of these.

This is a two-way conversation with one of my best friends who I will refer to as Anonymous, I can’t help but feel that some people will get, if nothing else, amusement from this transcript.

(Originally a Facebook messenger conversation)

Yeah, my guitar teacher played some stuff

I really think you should record him

He can be on your label etc

Get it organised and I’ll speak to Jim


He’d love to do it

Yeah can do definitely

I get 8 hours a week as is

Cool let’s organise it

So, you could set him up?

And then we can record some tracks??

In theory, I can do whatever I want in there

No restrictions really

Just a limit of 8 bookable hours a week in blocks of 4

8 hours is more than enough

I guess not all in one session?

Potentially but it depends on other bookings etc.

The schedule

Yeah so 2 hours I think would be cool

In 4's

So, a 4 hour block is a session

Also, I’ll have to be using them the next 4 weeks for projects I must hand in at the end of then

Yeah, no rush

but just occurred to me

I reckon he’s got loads of personal tracks

you release his album

then license agreement with him for free recording you can use loops of his stuff

and produce some new music with his work

But if you ask him to have a think about what his recording approach would be, if he’d want drums or synthesised drums, if he’s just guitars and wants some it might be a case of demoing guitars as just guitars then adding drums and re-recording the guitars etc.


I think he’s happy to play solo


let’s just do that first

some straight forward recordings

keep it simple

then look at if he wants extras

first thing just to meet you and see what he can do

Best thing he could do is make a reference cd, stuff he likes with reasoning as to why

What he thinks are good approaches etc.

The way you reference emancipator etc.

That way it gives indication as to what he would like to try

That’s kind of standard form

Any studio where you show up with a reference cd will also see you as being more efficient and professional

It’s better than saying “Like this” and the producer not knowing the work

yeah but just for recording for now

not adding anything to it

Yeah but mention for him to consider these things on my recommendation as a fully realised project means the difference between merely capturing a performance like a much better dictaphone would and it being an album people would be curious to hear

Technical playing ability alone would only tweak the interest of people with an air of snobbery regarding play ability

Recording is the first step, producing an album is something else, he might want to do that

I’ll ask him if he wants to record first

he has nice music, not just technical ability.

It would tweak people who like guitar

not necessarily snobs

and nothing wrong with some other person with technical knowledge appreciating the technical ability of another?

Exactly, so it would alienate those that aren’t arsed about guitar whereas good songs won’t


you don’t make music to try and please everyone

obviously if he’s playing guitar he’s playing to that audience

But I don’t make music for sample based hip hop fans

not talking about you!

talking about recording

arrogance doesn’t need to come into this

There’s no arrogance

but isn’t your music sample based hip hop?

I don’t understand what you’re trying to say

Having a flat recording and a developed piece of music are 2 different outcomes entirely

of course, they are!

we’re talking about just recording though

Yes, it is but I don’t make it for them

you’re bring all this extra stuff plus judging listeners before we’ve even approached any of it in reality


forget it

you’ve got too much of you in the way of yourself

we’re not talking about you you you

just recording for someone else

not you making music for snobs who have technical knowledge

or you making music for sample based hip hop fans

Wow you have a naive impression

just asking if you think it’s possible?

no ?

you have too much arrogance

and judgement

Of course, it Is

How so?

you just fear people that know more than you about something!


and you just let it erode you

instead of stepping up and plugging your knowledge gaps

What the fuck of course he knows more about guitar than me!


Of course


“Technical playing ability alone would only tweak the interest of people with an air of snobbery regarding play ability”

it’s just irrelevant

you’re always attacking someone somewhere when you talk about music


whenever you speak about technical knowledge

That’s just good advice

or someone with music theory knowledge

you put them down as snobs

because you don’t have it


there’s no need to say that about it

“Technical playing ability alone would only tweak the interest of people with an air of snobbery regarding play ability”

its just not true

I stated there’s a difference between a good recording and a good song

because music that has sound foundations sounds good to anyone

but taste is something else

music out of tune etc just is obviously bad to anyone listening

that’s not what you said though

that was a separate comment

Not necessarily

Drone music’s good

just saying somewhere in the middle of this you made it about snobs with technical knowledge



it just wastes energy

Drone music is the name you mong,

Of a genre…

Just this

“Technical playing ability alone would only tweak the interest of people with an air of snobbery regarding play ability”

it’s your prison

And I’m equating that the people that care about “how good” somebody is playing are missing the point

but to you they are!

but to them that have knowledge can appreciate too

it’s all appreciation

just not what you’re appreciating

And by default, usually to a degree ‘snobs

acting like you’re the purist musician in the world just puts you in one place, isolation

I don’t

why the fuck is someone a snob!?

for just appreciating technical ability?

Some people are

They just are

“Technical playing ability alone would only tweak the interest of people with an air of snobbery regarding play ability”

Remember I’ve been around a lot of these peoples

what you said is ‘only tweak the interest of people with an air of snobbery”

like just becuase someone is playing with technical knowledge

it attracts snobs

just not true

every artist you listen to I bet is applying some theory at certain points

and if they’re not they’re probably doing it without knowing

maybe you have

but it’s a sweeping statement

come hurry up I want to continue arguing!

If you ate the “finest caviar” would you know it? No? Do you think that the people that regularly eat the finest caviar would not see you trying it and think that you don’t know the value of it? Of course, they would! This is my point, people that care, CARE about ability are missing the point, that is music is an emotive expression, therefore know what you want to express and come prepared and have just a vague idea that can be formulated into a decent expressive piece

but I don’t see how that came into any of this right now

because he has technical knowledge doesn’t mean he’s not playing from the heart

and the same is true for the listeners

Ok granted but there’s a difference between a recording and a song!

yeah agree

you just come across as being generally aggressive to anyone with technical knowledge of music theory, when all I can see is how useful it would be to you plus all the stuff you already know

People that care about how well it’s done in opposition to how good the song is

it would be like completing your knowledge

plus, your love for sincerity in music

is a good combination

No, you got offended because you’re currently trying to gain technical and theoretic ability

and just like you think like that there will be many others, I imagine there are very few people that play music throughout their lives and just do it with no emotion no matter what level they’re at

no, I’m not offended at all I’m not, you brought it up

Nah disagree

it was your anger first

I wasn’t angry I was stating facts

putting down others, snobs, because of appreciating technical knowledge

Whys it a put down?

all of it was condescending to those people with technical knowledge

calling them snobs

Not at all

and being unable to appreciate music like you do

People that value it over expression

They are

People who like, like.

People who don’t care if it’s never been performed in a concert hall — snobs

Albert hall Manchester alright ok, royal Albert hall London — probably an element of snobbery

How are you equating this to me and not just accepting that this is the way it is?

maybe you just don’t understand what it is they are appreciating when going to the royal Albert hall

because every time you mention technical knowledge you find a way to put down people that know it

in whatever angle you can find

Because you only mention it in this capacity

if you had more technical knowledge then you would have more room to criticize it

but since you don’t it’s like you’re just judging without knowing what it is they’re appreciating

Thunder cat can play bass better than most

I mean you do have knowledge obviously

A true virtuoso

but in terms of classical technical notes and all that shit, to see someone pulling some of that off

might be impressive, to someone with that knowledge

but you couldn’t know if it is or isn’t genuine because you’ve not been there

you’ve not been them and had their education etc

so it’s just a blind judgement

unless you have specific examples

Kamasi Washington is at the forefront of big band composition bringing back the feel of the greats of old like john Coltrane, Duke Ellington

but even you wanted to go and see who was it someone from a band playing with an orchestra

so now you are name dropping

that sounds snobby to me

what you just said

I’m saying that merit and expression are equated

Not merit and ability

I have no room to comment on what you said because it made no sense to me, so based on that if someone talks about music theory around you, you might think they’re being snobby because you don’t understand it, just like I thought then when you said that

but you’re not necessarily being snobby

just I don’t know what you really said

but you do

if someone knows that you don’t know about music theory for example. And they just keep telling you about how you should play in a key and put your notes in a tonality. And kept doing it then yeah, they would be being snobby. But appreciating something for its technical merit alone is still a valid form of appreciation. But someone who knows you don’t have some knowledge they have and rubs it in your face that is snobbery.

(Mutual acquaintance?) is a much better guitar player than you are! Understands it all! But would look down on you as he CARES about ability! He doesn’t write songs because expression isn’t his motivation, being good is! He likes Kaki king, other really GOOD guitarists that write songs with good guitar that are un-dynamic songs, or complete emulations of “the masters” works

Like an old girlfriend’s brother once did with me, using words he knew I didn’t understand, so I ask him what it meant and he paused and smiled some intelligent smile and said ‘oh sorry bud, it’s erm it means this ……etc etc.’ that I found snobby. But him appreciating the complexity of what he was saying even to me who didn’t understand it I don’t think is snobby.

so now you’re saying I don’t care about ability? haha

No I am saying you shouldn’t

Shouldn’t care about ability

Care about the song

“But would look down on you as he CARES about ability! “

what does that mean then?

That he would look at your attempt and would probably think I could do that easy — therefore I will not appreciate the fact it’s been written to emote this or that

but what’s wrong with caring about ability? I just don’t get it.

you need to get good at something

to play

Only caring about ability…

and all a guitar is, is, years of musical knowledge

Only ability

Only caring about ability





So, if you want to access its full potential you got to know it

but how do you know?

he doesn’t feel emotion when he plays?

he never writes his own stuff?

He would listen to somebody obsessively

Like seasick Steve

Then write a seasick Steve variant

Fuck knows what he was feeling

But it was not organic

but does that make him a snob then?

Organic and measurement like ability are not mutual

If a measurement matters you’re in the wrong world

Like any art


the guitar teacher said to me before, there are two rules in music, 1st. be in tune, 2nd forget all the other thousands of rules

as in even forget the be in tune part

so even what comes from classical origins

There are no rules anyway

there are

There aren’t

there are though


Says who

well some shit just sounds bad

That’s not a rule

and you’ll generally find as I’m learning that that’s because there are two notes for example next to each other

that are totally out of key

Some stuff is bad

and everyone hears it as rough

like shit that’s totally out of rhythm

rhythm is like a rule.

It’s all what you’re doing with what

I’m not saying you must stick to them

but there are certain things existing that work a certain way

that help something to sound good

why who knows

but that’s how it’s manifesting

That’s all genre is

if someone played everything out of time

it wouldn’t even be music

it would just be noise

so surely then you can say that good rhythm can make a good song

by applying the use of the rules of good rhythm

doesn’t need to be exact but roughly


If everyone was playing out of time in accordance to each other and the sounds overall, that would-be music

Some music has no beat

No rhythm

so, you just said basically fi they played out of time in time with each other it would be music

yes, I agree

every form of music will have rhythm

or it’s just noise

Not exactly

give me an example

Some music is just noise

Sunn o, prefuse 73


Delia Derbyshire

this is what I mean though, it’s like you’re in total denial that any music theory is relevant

There’s entire genres built around it

but you don’t have it, I think if you had more theory knowledge you wouldn’t be saying this all the time

I’m not in any denial at all

you know about rhythm

It plays a part

and beats in a bar?

But that’s it

you work towards it in your music

if you know about it or not

just how it works

Music isn’t theoretical

I know it isn’t!

but there are principles that apply

It’s expressive

an artist doesn’t paint with black paint on a black canvas because it wouldn’t’ make a painting!

It’s relevant

you wouldn’t’ see anything!

rule is colour should have some contrast

Not paramount

or you can’t fucking see it!

Some do

Some, actually do.

no, they don’t

There’s no rules in expression

Some really, definitely will have.

I know what you’re saying

Pretentious as it is

But there are no rules

but you deny all credibility of the rules that you follow just without knowing

or without intention.

No, divisive measurements

No I don’t

I just don’t put my art in a basket of rules

I do it because it makes me happy

That’s my main motivation

it’s just the way shit is working, it’s ‘rules’ in the normal sense

it’s just fundamental

like a note, the next note is a certain distance from the first because if it wasn’t you wouldn’t hear it, it would be the same note

It’s applicable not fundamental

you can’t deny that


it would just be stupid to say otherwise

yeah, so it’s a ‘rule’ operating

it just matters

the way sound forms etc.

There’s not a rule, it’s do or don’t

that’s what it’s about

I didn’t say there was

but if you don’t do somethings or you do do some things it won’t be music

it will just be noise

Well that’s what a rule is

A measurement

Or a form of conduct

you might be a modern artist that wants to paint a canvas black and say its art and creative etc but everyone would know this person just can’t paint.

or put a mattress in a room and call it art

that’ pretentious

Maybe they can paint and it’s expressing something else

I knew you were going to say that

maybe they can?

So to say they can’t because they didn’t is wrong

true in this case

But to say they shouldn’t because they can is snobbery

Therefore, the measurement, the rule, is not part of expression

no, it isn’t, I never said it was, I don’t think anyone would ever say it is that way

but you accept then that principles can be applied that makes music sound good or not?

Of course

then why say the rules don’t apply before?

rules is the wrong word.

There are no rules in expression


There are many factored rules in the measurement of ability

but you’ll generally find rules being applied in coherent expression

The two are not family but from time to time sit in each other’s gardens

That’s about as far as it goes

and garden can be overgrown or ordered

both are gardens

Can be complimentary but by no means necessary

but one is easier to sit down in than the other

I like where we ended up

I’ve found this to be one of the longest ever conversations that ended exactly where it started, some nice use of language, metaphors etc

I’m going to go make scrambled eggs soon

Fuck me how’s it 10?


It was 7 about 40 minutes ago

ha it started with you calling technical knowlerdge music people snobs, I don’t think it’s where we started

unless you call them snobs now

then it will be

do it

I know it’s late

that was an hour long lol

Technical knowledge music people! You’ve summed it up! Rather than just people that like music

I stick with it

I’ve met so so many of both.

no I didn’t you did!

I was just talking about recording him playing guitar

And it’s always better to be around people that care about the art and not the level at which it will be measured



And usually the art is more organic and open to interpretation

I might copy paste this text into medium



why not

Bold and Italic fonts — respectively, turn by turn!

it would be a funny starting point

Me and anonymous

I’m sure loads of people would comment

yeah do it

An actual discussion

do it!


people would love it

the crowd will love you like Spartacus

it would please the people

you’d have to get it categorized in music somewhere

so it gets in related peoples feeds

I will I’ll describe that I’m a sound engineer etc that’s currently studying music production

And that this is a conversation I had with my good friend who I love dearly haha

That took like 3 hours

And left me both hungry thirsty and craving tobacco.

And left me seeking Dizzee Rascals Pagans.

This conversation happened for real on Tuesday 14th March, 2017

it reflects only my personal opinions and the opinion of my best friend, And shows that despite our love for each other, and longstanding 26 year friendship, we often do not have the same views on things.

I hope you get both humour and an insight into our friendship through reading this. Peace