That’s a simple statement, but it implies a lot. Let’s dive into it. Emotion is defined as “a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” There’s a few things to note from this definition.
1). Emotion exists within the mind of the recipient — not inherently in the thing causing an emotion.
2). Nevertheless, emotions are “derived” from one’s circumstances — or in our case, music.
Putting these together, for our sake, emotion is defined as “how a listener feels when they hear your track.”
Now I want to pose a simple question to you. How important do you think it is that a listener finds your music emotional?
Via Teresa Sedó Flickr
Unless you have some strange goals with your music, the answer to this question is “extremely important.” Emotion is what makes people care about your track. It’s the reason you can listen to a song and have it bring you back to a time when you were younger — or away on a vacation, or a particular time of year that you love.
Now let me pose a second question to you.
How important do you think the production quality of your music is in regards to your listeners deriving an emotional experience? If you read the title of this article, you already know the answer. Emotion is independent of production quality.
Production aesthetic is important. Style. Feel. Emotion.
Here’s two of my favorite examples:
1). Jack White — the White Stripes. Listen to this track:
Sixteen Saltines by Jack White. Listen to it in your best monitors.
First time I heard this I had the thoughts that the vocals are actually a bit too quiet. The song is strong in the mid-range. It’s not really that bright. The drums are mixed entirely dead center — not much thought or effort there. Only a shaker enters on the right side to add some extra panned rhythm. The left-panned guitar is has some bass in it that most people would probably want to high-pass out and is at moments arguably unpleasing to the ear.
Jack is notorious for having a very quick production stage of his music. Mixing and mastering are quick and when they reach “good enough” they’re done.
Why? Because his performance is raw and emotional. Recording and performance is king. The music has a powerfully polarizing aesthetic that a lot of people happen to derive emotional experiences from.
2). Vinyl on Hip-Hop
This one is obvious. You know that vinyl crackle? That tasty noise? Listen to Fall In Love by Slum Village http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=s732BigTxZk
That sound defines a genre. That sound elicits so much emotion and it’s a result of “poor playback.” I literally fake it in my jazz hop beats. Ableton has a built-in plug-in that creates this sound. People clamor to emulate this sound. Other people absolutely hate when people fake it. It’s that polarizing — that emotional.
Need I say more here? This “error” from a playback medium is very aesthetically pleasing. Again, aesthetic and emotion are king.
If you’re interested in learning more about Emotion and the other two parts of what I deem the “Trinity of Music Arrangement” (Energy and Tension), click here to check out my eBook — “Electronic Music Arrangement: How to Arrange Electronic Music.”
Zac Citron aka Zencha is the author of www.zenchamusic.com, a music production site that explores “beyond the technical” — mindset, workflow, arrangement, marketing, and more. He also drinks way too much tea.”