R.A.P. Interview: Jay Rose

JV: Seems like it’d be more accurate to go and zoom in on the wave form.
Jay: What if it’s a pop song? Lyrics are never quite on the bar line. They’re always ahead of it or behind it a little bit. What if there’s no drum, no “beats” to see on the screen? What if it’s a string quartet? Classical, choral, pop music? Here’s what you do if it’s pop, and the singing is not on the beat – because the singing almost never is. Any good pop artist is going to play with that bar line, even though the music’s still moving on the bar line. You mark the bar line, and then slide the edit to pick up the word. If you can make the beats work, nine times out of ten, the music will work in the edit, even if the chords are out of left field. It’s more important to get the beat to work. If the chords are out of left field, you’ll hear it, and you can usually fix that with a cross fade, or perhaps those two chords just don’t belong together, so you take a different bar two bars later.

I was editing a piece, audio only, for a chain of stores called Talbot’s — very high-end women’s clothing. There’s a good 400 stores, plus the catalogs and the website. I was doing a piece for them, and I needed to cut the music down to 60 seconds. It took about five edits to get this three-minute song down to 60 seconds, to fit the way I wanted it to against the voice. I made every edit on the fly, without ever zooming in, just by listening to it, tapping the marking buttons, and then jamming the marks together. Yes, a simple edit, and they all matched. It sounded perfect, even when I’d solo the music.

The book talks about that technique and gives some examples. I included an audio CD with the book, rather than a CD-ROM. Because with an audio CD, you can play it on anything, including your best speakers in the house, and with a CD-ROM, you’re usually limited to the computer speakers. So for the sections on equalization and compression, I wanted people to be able to play the examples with high quality. For the section on music editing, DeWolfe gave me permission to use quite a few cuts from their library to demonstrate the edits.

There are practice exercises in the chapter on music editing, where you’re editing stuff without drums, where you’re editing vocals, where you’re editing a classical piece, where you’re editing a folk song, as well as typical pop and rock sounds. In the chapter on music editing, I also included a diagnostic section, where there are a dozen or so examples of bad music edits that you can hear they’re wrong, but tells you exactly what the mistake is on each one. On this one, the out-point was too early. On this one, the in-point was too early — that kind of thing.

JV: More chapters: Working with Sound Effects, Equalization, Dynamics Control, Time Domain Effects, Time and Pitch Manipulation, Noise Reduction. I think you’ve got just about everything covered here.
Jay: There’s even a chapter called After the Mix, because there’s still things you want to do afterwards. When you think it’s finished; it’s not. The first thing you do – well, obviously, you get it onto the station server, or you dub it, or whatever you’re doing with it. You get it out of house because there’s a deadline. And of course you make sure it’s technically fine – obviously, you’ve got to look at levels, and if you’re going to be compressed for some media, you’ve got to compress it, but I’m not talking about that. Creatively, the two most important things are one, you play the spot or the film track or whatever it is for somebody who’s never heard it, and you watch them, and you watch their face and their eyes and their body language. And the places where they’re listening intently, ahh, you did it right. The places where they break into a smile, you did it right. The places where they’re fidgeting or they’re not quite with you, hey, you’ve got to do better next time. You’ve got to do better with the mix, with the design, with the way you did the edits.

JV: It could have been the copy, right?
Jay: Yeah, it could’ve been. But if you wrote the copy, that’s your baby. And if you didn’t write the copy, you’re still trying to pour what you can into it from your own skill set. That’s the one thing you do. Get somebody who’s never heard it before – and you don’t ask their opinion, you just watch them listen.

The second thing you do is, six months later, you take it off the shelf and listen to it again — completely clear and new. It’s the first time I’ve heard it in six months. What did I do that I liked? What was a happy accident that I can try again next time? What didn’t really work that I fell in love with so much when I was doing it?

There’s actually another aspect of mixing… I’m assuming somebody reading this book, somebody working in our industry, is going to do the editing, and possibly directing the talent, and the sound effects, and the music cuts, and all that, and the mix. In the film business, it’s different. In the film business, you look at the credits crawl by the end of a movie, and there are 400 people who worked on the soundtrack, and a guy’s got a credit for just recording the footsteps. Not making the footsteps, but just recording them. Somebody else edited the footsteps.

It is so specialized in Hollywood. One guy will record dialogue in a studio for ADR, for a dialogue replacement. Another guy in a different studio built a different way will be a specialist in recording the voiceover, which is different from recording voices in a studio. Of course, that’s totally different from recording voices in the field, or on a film set in a studio. They too are specialized.

I’m assuming that you either get a script or you write a script, and minutes or hours later, you have to hand somebody a finished piece. The most important things I could do there, if it’s been an edit-intensive piece -- you’ve really worked hard on building those tracks — take a coffee break, go out to lunch, before you mix. Because if you’ve worked hard making a little montage sequence work, or, gosh, you came up with that perfect music ending where not only did you get the three-minute song down to 59 ½, but it buttons right against the voice in three places, and it always hits the same note on the client’s name, and all those other wonderful music edits, when you start mixing, you’re going to mix the music too loud, because you really like what you did with the music edit. The spot’s about the copy, not about the music — unless it’s a concert spot, and that’s a different thing. So give your ears a break. When I’m working with clients in the room, I will stop the clock and tell them, “Okay, go out to lunch, or at least let me. I’ll stop the clock. You don’t have to pay me for the next 20 minutes. I’m going to sit back and have a cup of coffee.” I don’t smoke. If I smoked, it would’ve been an ideal time to take a cigarette break. So that when you come back and you start moving those faders, you’re listening to the whole spot, and not just the music track or the voice track.

JV: Jay, you’ve got a tremendous amount of information for the people in this book and in your head, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. We won’t wait so long for a return visit. Where can they get your book?  Amazon I assume?
Jay: Right. There’s a whole lot about my book on the website, including downloadable samples. And if you click the link on the bottom of the page on my website at Dplay.com, it’ll take you to the best discount sales at Amazon. I’ve got a lot of stuff you can read and download, or just listen to online.

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