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Sound Words from a Sound Engineer


Alan Meyerson, who has previously worked with Hans Zimmer and others, is in town to record the Babelsberg Orchestra with A. R. Rahman. He generously shared his expertise and opinions during an interactive Q/A session at Yash Raj Studios.

Alan Meyerson’s fame precedes him. This was evident from seeing how numerous students, engineers, musicians and others flocked to attend and participate in Meyerson’s discussion session, which was organized jointly by Yash Raj Films Studios, the Audio Engineering Society of India and Aditya Modi of Modi Digital.

But first, a little introduction is necessary for those of you who don’t know the man who makes the magic happen behind the scenes of many a movie. You may have seen such blockbuster films as “Inception”, “The Dark Knight”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Gladiator” and “Blackhawk Down.” Hans Zimmer, the music composer, has even won the awards for many of these. And on all of these, it was Alan Meyerson who handled the mixing and recording duties. And now, Meyerson has been brought to India by A. R. Rahman to help record his live collaboration with the Babelsberg Orchestra, as a part of the ongoing Indo-German socio-cultural exchange.

It was A. R. Rahman’s idea to organize this interactive session, the very day Meyerson landed in India, to let Meyerson share his experience and expertise with everyone involved in the music industry in India, and the organizers were extremely glad to set it up for one and all. The whole session, though scheduled for maybe 2 hours, went on for almost 3, as Meyerson, accompanied by his assistant Satoshi, generously answered each and every question in detail, showcasing not only his sense of humour, but also his patience and his spirit of benevolence. We would like to share with you all some very useful snippets of information from the exchange, as follows:

– “Music is objective, and it is all about opinions. It isn’t about good or bad – it’s about what sounds right to you.

– A sound engineer’s job is simple one, but an intricately hard one at the same time. In Alan’s own words about mastering – “My job is to ensure that I make the mixing as fool proof as possible, so the idiot down the line from me doesn’t screw it up for the listeners.

– “All the ear wants is a different perspective. Sometimes all you need to do is lower the volume instead of turning it up. Try it. You’ll notice a difference.

– On enhancing spatial effects for drums and optimizing channels – “I often shift the snares and toms to the right hand channel, while keeping the bass on the center. This will provide a more realistic sound.”

– On subs and woofers – “Ideally, you should try to ensure your mixing such that you don’t have to rely on woofers at all. 90% of the woofers out there don’t work properly, so you ought to work things around them.”

– Common sense, but still – “You CANNOT just copy paste right onto left.”

– Alan is a proponent of the 80/20 rule and Okinawan dietary philosophy, when it comes to mixing. “When you find out that you have achieved the sound that you want, lower the settings by 20% to see if you can get away with it. Because if something sounds right at 100%, it won’t sound the same when everything else is incorporated together. Obviously, nothing sounds great when everything is at 100%

– On maintaining healthy hearing, he jokes – “Don’t do anything and everything I did.” But more importantly – “It is good to take a break every so often. Always keep the hearing volume below 85db.”

– “Always wear earplugs to concerts or while recording.”

Though a lot of the questions were thoroughly technical in nature, Alan did his best to answer them with certainty, and even explaining certain concepts in layman’s terms, so much so that it would make one re-consider acoustics, destructive interference, resonance and other concepts learnt in high-school level physics. One could see how audience’s interest levels increased throughout the three hour long discussion, as there was no end to the questions being asked. Alan too, answered each one as elaborately and patiently, without betraying any signs of jet-lag fatigue.

This exchange of ideas and opinions via Meyerson is sure to benefit the upcoming representatives of the Indian music industry, all thanks to A. R. Rahman’s vision, and the eager cooperation of all the organizers.

Stay tuned to as well as The Score Magazine as we bring you more updates from A. R. Rahman’s upcoming collaboration with the Babelsberg Orchestra! We have the inside scoop!

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