Monday, January 26, 2015

Turn it up!

I've been told a couple of times that some of the music in my mp3 catalogue isn't loud enough. Let me address that:

1) Some of the files are pretty quiet--especially if they go back to the first year (2011). I've been trying to bump up the volume on these as time allows.

2) More recently, the general level of the recordings has increased. Still, I'm trying to stay consistent, which isn't easy when you make recordings over a span of years and under different circumstances.

3) Consistent doesn't mean compressed, however. There are really two reasons why some of the music might seem pretty quiet. One is that I want dynamics. If a piece is meant to be soft I want it to come across that way. In that case, you probably won't be able to crank it up no matter how much juice you apply. That's the way it is. That is how the composer wanted it.

4) The other reason is that my recording equipment isn't high-end, and I'm an amateur at this, so even though I have a Steinway-B at my disposal, and a 30-rank pipe organ, the sound quality, once compressed to mp3 files for the internet, will only take so much. My ears are pretty sensitive, and I don't like recordings that distort when turned up too high, so when I started this catalog I pretty much removed that option by keeping the recording output low enough to sound good under most circumstances. Maybe I overdid it. But that was the idea.

Now...if you are having trouble hearing it, what can you do about it?

1) listen to a different piece (some of them are pretty loud!)

2) adjust your volume. You might not realize it, but you probably have more than one volume nob. There may be one on your computer (click on the icon in the lower right hand corner of your screen for instance) which you can adjust; then the player which you are using to play the file may come with its own volume adjustment, and any external speaker you are using also have volume nobs. If any one of these is turned down you may be able to get a lot more juice than you think.

3) quiet the noise in your environment. Many people with desktop computers have their tower units on the desk next to the speakers and if the fan is running on the computer it makes a lot of noise. When our heat comes on at home it makes a lot of noise. There are often many things in one's surrounding that make plenty of noise. If you can quiet any of these, or come back later when the house is quiet, you may be surprised at how much better you can hear the music. This again was a philosophical choice. I had in mind someone who would actively listen to the music, not someone who was doing the dishes and needed mindless noise piped from across the room. Sorry.

4) try headphones. This is actually how I listen to my own files, and, when the house is quiet and I've got the phones on, I can hear some pretty quiet stuff. It may skew my perception a bit of what most of my listeners are hearing, but I'm really listening for every detail that way.

5) I'm a guy with a pretty quiet voice; people who aren't tuned into that don't notice me or ask me to repeat things sometimes. That probably has something to do with the web-extension of my personality. I can also hear things that are not very loud. I prefer not to shout, and prefer when things don't shout at me, either. But a healthy volume isn't bad, either. Hence, what I hope is a pretty large dynamic range in the selections at pianonoise.

It is surprising how much volume different speakers or headphones will generate. You could try finding ones more powerful--I've gone through a couple of sets and it has changed my level setting, though I generally choose one spot on the volume knob and listen to each file at that level to see if it feels acceptably loud or soft. That has remained consistent since I got my last pair of headphones.

Of course, the easiest way to deal with this is just to go somewhere else. I mean, who am I to suggest that you change your behavior or even put additional effort into listening just to listen to files off of one website on the internet? Still, if you are willing to try some things, you might therefore be willing to adapt to other habits or strains of thought as well. And that--you never quite know--that could lead to something incredible.

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