It is very common that the work of the audio engineer in a musical production is judged based on the quality of interpretation and musical creation of the band. Most people do not differentiate between the individual parts that form a recorded musical piece since they listen to the final mix in its entirety (or mastered disc) and rarely separate the music mix. It is necessary to understand that the job of the recording, mixing, or mastering engineer is more than balancing, equalizing, compressing, etc.
The engineer must be prepared to fulfill many more functions. In fact, musicians commonly expect the engineer to help them define various musical aspects that are not directly related to audio engineerings such as the concept of the song, the melody, lyric, rhythm, and harmony. One would think that these elements are normally the responsibility of the band. However, it is precisely these elements that can cause the listener to judge an excellent mix as bad.
Of course, if the musical composition and the band are bad, it is not the engineer’s fault that the musical result. However, commenting in this sensitive area can be dangerous to the health and safety of the same. However, it is precisely the engineer’s ability to give sound opinions about musical aspects that make them the most contracted engineers. In fact, there are engineers who are so good in this aspect that they end up becoming producers, and in fact, it is the job of the music producer to take care of all aspects of a musical recording: From the lyric and melody, through the harmony to the recording, mixing and mastering.
The reality is that most of the time there is no music producer present, either due to lack of budget, or lack of knowledge of the musical band, and that is when the engineer must fill this position.
The concept can be defined as the combination of all the elements, that is, the essence of the song or the primary message. It is generally defined as “Mood” or the feeling or idea that is expressed constantly and vigorously in the song. In some songs, the concept is very powerful and united, while in others, it may be non-existent. As an engineer, you can suggest ideas that help make the concept stronger and more united.
For example, identify whether the guitar or phrasing effect of the guitar helps to unify the concept that the rest of the elements have already raised. Discovering how each aspect relates and contributes to the union of the entire song can reveal a lack of consistency and deficiencies that often need adjustment. In this area, the engineer can help by pointing out if any part of any instrument is very complex or very predictable, if it is memorable or not, etc.
Telling someone about the melodic line can be especially dangerous, so any comment has to be made very tactfully. The engineer can point out if a melody is too ornate or too simple, but in both cases, it could be what the band or group really wants. So any comment has to be made taking into account the general concept of the song. Positive aspects of a melody may be that it is memorable, “humming,” cute, or interesting. The negatives may be that it is overloaded, simplistic, annoying, or chaotic.
It is not necessary to have a lot of musical knowledge to detect if a rhythm is too complex or charged, or if it is too simple and boring. If you’re sleeping, you can probably use something to season it. If you can’t stand it, the pace may need to lighten up a bit.
The engineer can be key to detect if the rhythm of one instrument is in conflict with the rhythm of another. In such a case, it is necessary to change the rhythm of the parties in conflict since these types of problems cannot be fixed in the mix. The engineer can also help check that the rhythmic variations between sections and sections of the song are working correctly. For example, you might suggest that the drum pattern should change a bit in the chorus or on the bridge. A change in guitars might be appropriate for stanzas, etc. On the other hand, it is a good idea to check that the tempo of the song is appropriate for the concept you want to convey. One aspect to consider is whether the voices are heard in a hurry or too slow.
If the engineer has knowledge of musical theory and harmony, he will place him in a fantastic position in the labor market. For example, if, when analyzing the song, the engineer can point out harmonic errors or suggest improving the song by suggesting investments, tensions, or modal chord exchange or based on its timbral color, the members of the musical group will consider it a genius. Many times when recording beginner bands, they do not have a deep knowledge of harmony, and the engineer can help by reviewing the number of parts and their placement in the composition.