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Last Updated: Monday, 24 September 2007, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Producers make 'music for iPods'
By Mark Savage
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Gabrielle
Why is Gabrielle's first single since 2004

Pop star Gabrielle is releasing a mix of her latest single designed to sound better on MP3 players like the iPod.

The "poduction" remix of her comeback song Why is supposed to be easier to listen to on earphones, and combats the loss of quality found in MP3 files.

British producers The Boilerhouse Boys developed the technique after studying records from the early days of stereo - including Motown hits and The Beatles.

"We created it specifically for the way people now listen to music," they said.

VOTE RESULTS
Which version do you prefer?
The traditional mix
 52.91% 
The iPod mix
 47.09% 
3079 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Digital music files such as MP3s, Windows Media and Apple's AAC format contain, on average, only 10% of the information from a full-quality CD recording.

Stripping out this much data leads to a reduction in sound quality - particularly in the treble ranges.

Lab coats

Ben Wolff, one half of the Boilerhouse Boys, says the Gabrielle single has been given a boost in the higher frequencies to compensate.

But the Grammy award-winning production team applied several other techniques to make the song stand out for the iPod generation.

Top 40 charts
Digital single sales are on the rise in the UK
Wolff explained to the BBC News website how the idea came about:

The event that triggered it was working with Gabrielle for the first time in 12 years.

The last time we paired up, I was absolutely obsessed with Motown recording techniques.

Even now, if you're playing at a club and you pull out a Motown album, each of those songs is still louder than any other track cut today.

I started to investigate why, and eventually I found that the real power at Motown was with the lab coats. No record could be released without their approval, whether it was Smokey Robinson or Marvin Gaye.

All of those Motown singles were sent up to the technical department who would analyse it and send it back with recommendations on how to make it louder. They'd say: "Add another tambourine, put in some footsteps", or whatever.

Gabrielle performs on the Michael Parkinson show, 2001
Give Me A Little More Time reached number five in 1996
As a result, when we were recording [Gabrielle's 1996 hit single] Give Me A Little More Time, I followed religiously all the techniques I'd found from researching Motown's musical journey of technology

We had some vindication, in that it did sound different and it did sound louder, and the record did really, really well.

So I was thinking about this when we got back together with Gabrielle earlier this year.

Stereo surprise

Usually, when I'm about to start writing and producing, I turn off the radio and go away for a week with a bunch of cassettes and see how I get inspired.

This time, though, I had an iPod. I put together a playlist of the 50 greatest songs of all time according to Rolling Stone magazine, because I thought was a good yardstick. You've got to aim high, after all.

There were three of us trying to listen to the song on iPod earphones
Ben Wolff on mixing Gabrielle's single
Almost without exception, each of those tracks had incredibly satisfying stereo.

Whether it was The Beatles, the Stones, The Clash, or Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run, you could take out one earphone and hear half of what was going on - then you could put in other earphone and hear something completely different. It was thrilling.

I started thinking: Film quality 5.1 surround sound stereo is great but we've only got 2.0 ears - and most people now consume music like that.

'Inspired'

Then I started talking to my nieces and nephews about music, and I was really surprised at how much "old stuff" - as they call it - they have.

The Kaiser Chiefs
The Kaiser Chiefs are also set to release a "poduction" remix
They loved that they could hear exactly what was going on in those recordings. One of them said you could hear the music as you would see it, and I thought that was kind of inspired.

And young people listen to music so differently now. There is so much choice, it's a testament to a good song if they listen to it right through to the end.

So our "poduction idea" puts all of those ideas into practice. In a way, it's a remix for the 21st century.

But it was very difficult to get it right. There were three of us trying to listen to the song on iPod earphones, even though we were in an 1,800-a-day studio.

I don't think the average fan will necessarily be able to tell the difference - but you'll know which one you like more, even if you don't know why.




SEE ALSO
Scrap soulless Mobos, singer says
21 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Gabrielle rises to the top
31 Jan 00 |  Entertainment

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