Meet a Composer/‘Audio Guy’ - Brenden Bytheway

Think of how much sound is a part of your life. It’s almost like breathing. You forget about it until someone mentions it. Some people make their life’s work all about creating sound that brings emotions to the surface. One of these people is Brenden Bytheway.

In this article, Brenden discusses the answers to these questions and more:

  • How can you make sound a richer experience in your life and content?

  • How do you collaborate with someone like Brenden?

  • How can you use audio to enhance almost any experience?

  • What is the deal with listening to music on vinyl?

And if you want a little sonic texture to your read, We've even got an ambient soundtrack for you.

Enjoy!

“I don't want you to listen. I want you to feel.”

-Brenden Bytheway-

‘Audio guy’ is short for:

Brenden is a songwriter, producer, mixer and engineer.

He is passionate about your audio experience. So passionate, in fact, that he develops audio courses for filmmakers and amateur producers — so they can improve your experience in their own work.

Sound is misunderstood

Do you use sound in your industry?

No matter what it is, we bet you do. Maybe it's:

  • The inflections of a salesperson’s voice.

  • Picking a quiet restaurant over a chatty rooftop bar for a client dinner.

  • The music or podcast you listen to on the way home and recommend to your co-workers.

Or one of a thousand other considerations — which on some level, you're unconsciously making.

According to Brenden, it’s all the soundtrack of your life and your career.

And so many of us aren’t conscious of what goes into this soundtrack — our audio experience — but it affects us more than we realize.

As does the lack of it. Brenden touched on the communal lack of audio input through the pandemic:

“I didn't understand just how much of my world was shaped by audio. I love to go to the movies or out to eat by myself. And obviously it's that experience on it’s own but what’s included in that is the auditory experience. There's so much happening in the world around you, whether you're sitting at a Mexican restaurant or a fast-food place, and all of those influence how you perceive the world.”

Brenden knows that “when you understand sound better and you learn how to listen, it can truly enhance your life.”

How can you learn more about sound?

According to Brenden, it’s all about education and slowing down.

To start, Brenden suggests “turning off all the lights and just listening to an album.”

You don't do this to start picking out certain instruments or chord progressions. Rather, this exercise is just to experience the music, and how that music makes you feel — which is not necessarily how you feel about the music.

And don't worry if you're not instantly an eloquent expert. Learning about audio, much like learning about anything else, takes time.

As Brenden says: “I’m no more special than anyone else — everyone can be well-versed in audio, whether you have an innate ear for it or not."

Collaborating with an audio expert

First, we suggest you find someone that cares as much as Brenden does about his clients and collaborators.

From the impractical amount of candles he keeps at his castle-like studio, to going the extra mile on a project so the sound is just right, Brenden is an amazing person to have nurturing your audio.

And Brenden doesn’t just work on his own, he collaborates with Doug May. (Bytheway you should check out some of their commercial music and sound design)

Second, good feedback is always vital — and you want to trust the audio designer to make the change.

  • Tip 1 Music is art but also tied to the artist. “I think the most challenging part with our job is like with art. Someone can come in and look at a piece and say, ‘Well, I hate it.’ and someone else will say, ‘Oh, I love it.’ I think that's the coolest part of the job and also the worst.” When you approach a composer, it's important to like what they have done in the past and see the potential of where they could go with your project.

  • Tip 2 Music is made to build an emotional response. So before you hit play, take a deep breath and focus on how sound impacts your emotions. “I want you to notice how you feel. I don't want you to listen. I want you to feel. And I think one huge problem is people approach audio and music like they would a film, where the information is presented to you as is. Obviously, films can be up for interpretation, but an auditorial experience is limitless.”

  • Tip 3 Keep a bird's eye view. If you want, you can get down into critiquing every note but to get the most out of your custom composition you really need to keep your composer in the driver seat. They are the best person to navigate to where you need the music to go. “The only thing on our mind is how do we improve the sound? How do we make the experience better? So join us in those questions. Be curious.” Go back to Tip 1 to remember the potential that led to your initial meeting.

  • Tip 4 Be surprised. At the end of a project, you should feel a bit of surprise at where you ended up. That will be an emotion unique to you. Brenden loves the approach Hans Zimmer takes when he scores a film, "I am convinced Doug and I don't know how to score your movie. That's how we feel all the time. We definitely have a vision for the end product, but by the time you reach the finish line, it's just as much of a "surprise and discovery" for both client and us.”

Why is vinyl so popular anyway?

Vinyl album sales keep going up? Do you buy into this trend?

Brenden’s thoughts on the question, ‘Why is vinyl so popular anyway?’

One last thing we discussed were the merits of each different medium of enjoying music. We assumed that vinyl would be high on Brenden’s list for creating audio experiences — but it wasn't.

“The purest form of physical media is the CD,” Brenden says. “The purest format of audio though, in terms of the highest fidelity, is still an uncompressed digital.”

Why, then, has vinyl been making such a huge comeback?

It’s a question that Brenden has often wondered himself. He broke down the differences between formats like digital and vinyl:

“There's a whole argument about noise, distortion, crackles, pops and wobbles. Do you prefer an almost living experience? Arguably every time you listen to a vinyl or tape, it'll be a slightly different experience. Whereas something that is so pristine and clean, like a CD, is it too clean to be as enjoyable as something with flaws? Do people have more of an emotional connection to the music because of the imperfections?"

He further speculates: "Even though vinyl could arguably be more fatiguing in certain areas, it's far less than others and there's also a whole rabbit hole of what's called dynamic range (basically, the difference in volume from your loudest points to your quietest points). On vinyl, you have to have a minimum amount of dynamic range or else the needle will jump. With the introduction of CDs and digital media, the dynamic range technically does not matter. And so, it sounds more exciting because it's way more in your face, although in the long run, it can be more fatiguing."

"I don't know if people have grown fatigued of modern releases, and they like vinyl because simply there's more dynamic range — maybe it lets your ears breathe more, so your brain can focus more on what's happening rather than feeling like there's just a wall of sound. And I think that's another reason for that medium resurging because people are tired of a brick wall of sound.”

In the end, though, Brenden loves whatever “is getting you to listen to music and pay attention to it — because that's the end goal.”

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