By Rick Sherman
I once experienced a situation that showed me the importance of dealing directly with the end client-the person making final decisions on a project. I had composed an original composition for a 30 second television commercial promoting "the Yellow Pages" directory...
(This was way back in the day when only one company was making the ubiquitous directory.) The video director asked that the music have a 1940's "Big Band Era" feel to it. When the director heard the finished music, he was quite happy with it, and was certain the client would like it. However, he was wrong, and the client told the director to "find a different piece of music".
I suggested to the director that before I went to the expense (in time and money) of composing and recording an entirely new piece of music, it might help if I knew just what it was about the present composition that the client did not like. At my request, the director set up an appointment so I could meet with the client at my studio. During this appointment, I played the piece again, and I asked the client if she could tell me what it was that she didn't care for in the piece. She said she didn't know much about music, but she knew what she liked and what she didn't like, and there was just something about the song she didn't like. It was just something "in the sound".
This led me to conclude that maybe the problem was not in the style of the music, or in the tempo, but possibly the orchestration of the piece (the combination of various instruments used to perform the music). The music used multiple instruments on separate audio tracks, which enabled me to play various combinations of instruments for the client, while muting other instrument tracks. After playing the full instrumentation, and confirming that the client was hearing "something" she did not like, I played the piece again, while muting all the tracks except for piano, bass, and drums. Suddenly, the client smiled, and was tapping her toes to the song, and said, "Well, this is actually quite nice". I played the song again, adding the brass section (trumpets and trombones) to the mix, and she said, "Wow, this is even better". Playing the song one more time, adding the reeds and woodwinds (saxes, flutes, clarinets, etc.), yielded a "Very nice!" from the client. Finally, I added the last track, which I now suspected was the culprit. This was a track of muted trumpets, which have a distinctly different sound (timbre) from un-muted trumpets.
As I played the song and added the muted trumpets, the client dramatically shouted "There! That's it! That's the sound I don't like!" For her, apparently the track of muted trumpets was like fingernails on a blackboard. She just had not been able to describe in words what the problem was, until the music was "broken down" for her. Finally, we watched the spot with the music added back in to the mix, minus the offending muted trumpets, of course, and the client was delighted. Last minute crisis averted!
Thanks for listening.
Sherman Sound Suite
About the author:
Based in Orange County, California, Rick Sherman divides his full-time musical career into two very different, yet musically related categories: live musical performance, and music and audio production, including composing and recording music for video, film, and multimedia (as well as providing several other audio services for the media industry). You are cordially invited to explore both sides of composer, keyboard musician, entertainer, sound designer, and recording engineer Rick Sherman at his website http://www.ShermanSoundSuite.com/