Joe The Engineer: Taking Your Questions So We Don’t Have To Take Music Critics’ Names

Lucas Jensen | January 22, 2009 2:00 am

One of my No. 1 pet peeves in music criticism is how little attention is given to the process of recording music and how it affects the final product. Lyrics are treated as sacrosanct little pieces of artistic genius, and there is usually some discussion of songcraft, insofar as hooks and song structure is discussed. If production and engineering are entertained in a review, it’s usually a cursory mention of overall “feel” or a regurgitation of a PR line (“this record was made in a cabin with no hi-hats!”).

Certainly, a piece of music should be discussed on the macro level and taken in and hashed out as a whole entity. But that whole entity includes instrument/arrangement choices and production/engineering decisions, which are often as important (if not moreso) to artistic intent than the last-minute lyrics the singer scribbled on a phone bill envelope at practice. 90% of what you hear is discussed 10% of the time. Some of it may be the fact that the some critics themselves are not musicians or have never recorded and are unfamiliar with the process itself, but I don’t buy that as a whole. And if it is true? Bone up on this stuff. It’s important. If I have to read one more misuse of terms like “polyrhythm,” “mastering,” or “compression,” I’ll die.

This is why I was so excited to conduct two interviews with hip-hop/pop engineer Joe The Engineer. Joe laid out a lot of information on the recording process in lay terms, and he has agreed to come back to us for a regular series wherein he answers questions people have about recording music, not just pop and hip-hop, though those are areas of expertise. Want to know more about ProTools? Curious about Sound Replacer? MIDI got you down? Joe’s the guy to ask! Have at him!