Recording Analysis: How the Record Shapes the Song, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Recording Analysis

How the Record Shapes the Song, 1st Edition

By William Moylan


576 pages | 66 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2020-03-10
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Recording Analysis: How the Record Shapes the Song identifies and explains how the sounds imparted by recording processes enhance the artistry and expression of recorded songs.

Moylan investigates how the process of recording a song transforms it into a richer experience and articulates how the unique elements of recorded sound provide essential substance and expression to recorded music. This book explores a broad array of records, evaluating the music, lyrics, social context, literary content and meaning, and offers detailed analyses of recording elements as they appear in a wide variety of tracks.

Accompanied by a range of online resources, Recording Analysis is an essential read for students and academics, as well as practitioners, in the fields of record production, song-writing and popular music.


William Moylan’s authoritative work on the craft of record production has become a foundational resource for music scholars who seek to understand the myriad processes that shape records. This new contribution, Recording Analysis, offers a comprehensive interpretive framework for the serious listener, illustrating clearly how to account for the sonic materials and aesthetic values of recorded popular song. His analytic toolkit and practical approach will engage readers—interested in songwriting, musical performance, and recording technologies—who wish to explore their own affective connections to this powerful cultural medium.

Lori Burns, Professor of Music, University of Ottawa

In his most recent book, Recording Analysis, William Moylan’s central concern is "how the record shapes the song." He provides a comprehensive, insightful, and refreshing exploration into the many dimensions that shape our experience of recordings. The book masterfully synthesizes work on popular music from across a number of disciplines, providing a useful overview that is richly supported with detail throughout. It is a must-read for any popular music scholar.

John Covach, Director of the Institute for Popular Music, University of Rochester, and Professor of Theory, Eastman School of Music

In Recording Analysis, William Moylan offers a substantial study of the qualities of recording which enable us to hear the music we hear. It is theoretically sophisticated but highly accessible throughout and, although of principal benefit to the student of recording, there is so much here that will increase the understanding, and pleasure, of anyone who enjoys the listening experience. And don't be put off by the term 'analysis' - Moylan's approach to the topic by means of everyday questions to which we can all respond greatly demystifies the process.

Allan Moore, professor emeritus in the Department of Music and Media, University of Surrey, and author ofRock: the Primary Text (third ed., Routledge, 2019) and Song Means (Ashgate, 2012)

Moylan’s new book marks another large and important step in the literature of the evolving musicology of record production. This systematic approach to analysis creates a whole new toolbox for those practitioners and educators who are passionate about understanding how and why recordings work.

Simon Zagorski-Thomas, professor at the London College of Music, University of West London, and founder of the Art of Record Production conference, journal, and association

Table of Contents

Part One.


1. Recording Analysis: Domains, Disciplines, Approaches

2. Overview of Framework: Principles and Concepts, Materials and Organization

3. Domain and Elements of Music

4. Domain of Lyrics: The Voice of the Song

5. Observing Elements of Music and Lyrics in Records

Part Two.

6. The Recording Domain: Elements, Listening, Notation, Rhythm

7. Timbre and Pitch in the Recording Domain

8. The Illusion of Space as an Element of Recording

9. Loudness, the Confluence of Domains, and Deep Listening

10. Analyzing Recording Elements: Their Contributions to the Record

Appendix A: Praxis Studies



About the Author

Dr. William Moylan has worked with leading artists across the genres of classical and popular music. An active producer/engineer and educator of recording, music, and critical listening, Dr. Moylan is Professor of Music and Sound Recording Technology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and is the author of Understanding and Crafting the Mix (Focal Press, 2014).

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