What makes a plugin "musical"?

Discussion in 'Software' started by Voidhead13, Jul 23, 2020.

  1. Voidhead13

    Voidhead13 Newbie

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    There's not really any right or wrong answer, I'm just curious what you guys think. I see this phrase get thrown around a lot and it kinda bugs me sometimes.
    Like there's an engineer I work with who is always going off about which plugins are musical or not. So when I finally asked him what he meant, he just paused for a minute and said, "you know, not cold and sterile. Something that's warm and alive". Okay. But I've also heard him call one of the most lifeless Kontakt libraries I've ever heard "musical" too. And a basic stock EQ. :dunno:

    So what's it mean to you?
     
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  3. Satai

    Satai Rock Star

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    When talking about EQ, "musical" usually means the curves are broad and (possibly) weird in some useful way. You dial it up and woah, it's musical as opposed to the same-old result you may have expected from that EQ move using a regular EQ.

    Other than that, it's just another buzzword, don't let it bug you too much.
     
  4. Voekit

    Voekit Ultrasonic

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    For example, BAX is musical. Although you can achieve a similar effect on almost Pro-Q 3, when you simply turn the knob, the sound changes. In addition, some compressors can make the drums biter, make the keys softer, and meet the expectations of human-hearing. This is also ‘musical’.
    Maybe it's hardware or software topology design, maybe it's from harmonics and phase & frequency distortion.
    Perhaps the essence of'musicality' is 'good-sounding'.
     
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  5. Rockseller

    Rockseller Producer

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    when it has no pulse it is probably dead. a plugin is just a damn plugin.
     
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  6. Rockseller

    Rockseller Producer

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    my grandmother is musical
     
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  7. recycle

    recycle Audiosexual

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    We are talking about a totally personal concept, nobody can have a clear point of view on what it means. I always try to avoid these unprofessional words in such a technical job as a sound engineering. Below is a list of undefinable and therefore useless terms (in my opinion) never to be used when we are at the mixer talking to the back-seat producer while describing a sound:

    • Airy
    • Boomy
    • Groovy
    • Sloppy
    • Warmer
    • Squashed
    • Heat
    • Harsh
    • Crush
    • Pop
    • Cold
    • Presence
    • Neutral
    • Musical
    • ...
    feel free to add
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2020
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  8. The Freq

    The Freq Guest

    Musical I thought means it can add to the music, not detract from the music and definitely not subtract or change from the music's intent.
    Whether it is an instrument plugin or a processing plugin, for me, it has to do the above.
     
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  9. jamzprod

    jamzprod Noisemaker

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    I always think of it as something that makes your sounds more expressive.

    Obvious effects as tape machines or even certain compressors are deemed musical because it adds something that is noticeably better and can be part of the identity of the song itself.
     
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  10. Olymoon

    Olymoon MODERATOR Staff Member

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    This "musical " term is often used to describe compressors that are supposed to add a something that is opposed to surgical or cold, which is often a mix of distortion and eq.
    It's also used to describe distortion that is useful opposed to distortion that is awful .
    Same thing for some eq.
     
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  11. vsuper

    vsuper Member

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    short answer - "YOU"
     
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  12. anonymouse

    anonymouse Kapellmeister

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    EQ and harmonic distortion = musical, warm, analog emulation etc.
     
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  13. Valnar

    Valnar Producer

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    It's just bullshit salesman lingo, don't waste your time overthinking it :yes:
    The engineer lacked the means of properly expressing himself and instead used buzzwords from plugin commercials, thats what he meant.
     
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  14. vsuper

    vsuper Member

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    Get Fabfilter and learn your craft, there is no magic plugins
     
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  15. PopstarKiller

    PopstarKiller Platinum Record

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    Inaccessibility. The more money it costs, the more CPU it consumes, and the more screen space it takes.
     
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  16. Piano Piano

    Piano Piano Member

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    What makes a plugin musical is the great composition coming on its input.
     
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  17. korte1975

    korte1975 Guest

    i use softube focusing eq all the time nowadays. it has that set&forget nature, lp/hp filters and saturation which also compresses, minimal cpu hit. plugins are musical for me when they are out of my way and with minimal effort they sound great.
     
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  18. _wildpineapple_

    _wildpineapple_ Member

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    the term musical came from using the analog hardwares . analog gears treated the source in a different way than digital hardwares. most noticeably how it handles the source if you can cranked up the input of the source then the hardware would act differently than it would in a lower input. which was also noticable when something had great transients and the higher peaks would be treated differently than the lower peaks and it would add harmonics differently depending on that . and it was totally up to the gear and its circuitry so it was randomly added . even the hiss sound that the hardwares had would change. it's almost like they had their own thought process. this is where the plugin technology is still catching up. most plugins that claim to emulate or model a specific hardware couldn't make this happen properly. instead the harmonics or the ' sound ' of that specific gear was just put on there and it didn't react the same way the hardware would react . but some great plugins manufacturer were able to make an algorithm that would make the plugin act the same way an analog hardware would. and that's what great engineers means when they say that a plugin is musical
     
  19. Xupito

    Xupito Audiosexual

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    The definition is relatively easy.
    What people consider or not musical in practice is where the mess begins.
     
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  20. No Avenger

    No Avenger Moderator Staff Member

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    In terms of EQ, this usually means a proportional Q (rather than a constant).
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2020
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  21. 23322332

    23322332 Platinum Record

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    Music in your hands, not in the plugins.
    In fact, more plugins and hardware - > the crappier music we get in the end (in most cases).
     
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