Understanding Records: A Field Guide to Recording Practices

Understanding Records: A Field Guide to Recording Practices
by Jay Hodgson

Bloomsbury Academic, London, 2019
272 pp., illus. 120 b/w. Paper, £26.99

ISBN: 978-1-5013-4237-0.

Reviewed by
John F. Barber
January 2020

The revised, second edition of Understanding Records: A Field Guide to Recording Practices, by Jay Hodgson, is unique and recommended for several reasons.

First, it is a comprehensive resource to the practical elements of music production. Second, information is presented and illustrated in a style easily comprehensible to those with no previous knowledge. Third, Hodgson presents the recording process in chronological steps, each sub-divided into easily understood facets. Finally, everything is explained using accessible language that clarify the associated terminology and/or technology.

The result is a solid introduction to recording practices, beginning with tracking, the actual recording, and then proceeding through signal processing (manipulating the original audio files), mixing (combining and relating multiple audio source files), and mastering (preparing the audio file from which records will be made).

Hodgson is himself a recording engineer and certainly shares his knowledge of recording practices. But another value of this book is his inclusion of numerous print and video interviews with other recording engineers and sound designers talking about their techniques and practices. He provides online playlists and videos that can be considered separately but are best considered as introduced in concert with the text.

This revised, second edition of Understanding Records updates information about recording practice and musical references and should prove valuable for teaching, learning, and creative practice, especially as hardware and software bring fully featured recording studio technology and capabilities to computers and mobile devices.

An essential focus is learning to hear recording practices, as listening is useful for instruction. Text can begin the learning process, and Hodgson provides clear and straightforward explanations and definitions of recording practices. But, he adds value by educating readers through experience.

Understanding Records is then not just a field guide for recording, producing, and/or listening to musical performances and/or records. It is also a transdisciplinary inspiration for anyone wanting to record sound(s) as part of a research, scholarship, or creative practice. The steps and techniques explained and made accessible by Hodgson will be valuable to professionals, educators, and interested readers as well, who will find this book, a worthy read and listen, both engaging and informative.