Music is open source

Just a quickie…

Music is open-source. What does this mean? It means that there are no secrets to what the components of a song or mix are. It’s possible to hear exactly what goes into a piece of music – whether it be composition techniques or engineering techniques.

So, why are there so many people asking ‘what sound is that’ or ‘how did s/he do that’?

There’s a catch! It’s only possible to hear what someone else did if you understand the tools and techniques that might have been used. For example, if you have no concept of extended harmony and chord substitution, you’ll have a really hard time trying to understand the harmonies used in a lot of music. Similarly, if you have no idea how a compressor works, you won’t know why the drums sound so upfront and powerful.

This is why is so useful to be able to ask for advice from more experienced people. They can hear what you can’t hear, and are able to explain what you need to know.  This is why it’s so important to find a platform (such as a community or online forum) that allows a lot of different people to exchange ideas, and for more inexperienced members to learn from those with more experience.


  1. I find trying to recreate great sounding songs is an excellent way to learn. Often, I end up nowhere near the original song. Sometimes I get very close. Sometimes I’ll nail a few of the instruments, but completely miss on the others. Which is fine, because I then often substitute my own sounds and have a very decent set of sounds. It’s always a great learning experience, it tells me what I need practice in.

    Regarding your point about inexperienced members learning from those with more experience, I’ll just quietly plug my website:

    There’s not much to see yet, a few people offering services (such as mixing or feedback). But there are a number of multitrack song packs available for people to learn from. All the packs feature a PDF detailing all the tools and settings used, and the engineer’s comments about why they made those choices. I’m hoping the site will help a lot of people to quickly learn how great music is put together.

  2. @Fabian Aldersey
    Interesting website you’re building there. Hope it takes off – it looks like a useful service.


    • Nejc
    • January 4th, 2011

    In comparision with software development I do not agree with you. We could compare the source with multitrack recording and the finished result with assembly of software. Also most developers will know what’s happening in software, just like experienced producers/sound engineers will. Of course both things can be rebuild from scratch, but without source you are not capable of making small changes (like changing EQ on lead).

  3. @Nejc
    You’re right – ‘true’ open source music would have the original recording available (not just stems, but the raw recordings), and all the gear that was used in mixing and mastering. And it would also include the instruments and performers too (otherwise, how could someone change the notes or performances?). Obviously this is not practical, and like most analogies, it breaks down under close inspection.

    My post was more about refuting the sentiment that there are ‘secrets’ in music, that it’s impossible to work out how a composer or engineer used a particular technique without asking her/him.


  1. January 3rd, 2011
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