Dr. AIX's POSTS — 20 December 2014


My oldest son is the creative force, guitarist, writer, lead singer, and leader of a “math metal” band called The Great Wall. It’s a quartet of guys…two guitars, bass and drums…that don’t play any measures of 4/4 time. It’s called math metal” for a reason. I’m amazed that these guys figure this stuff out because they just don’t repeat anything! You can check out them out at their FB page. There’s even an album on iTunes if you’re curious.


They played the Roxy last Thursday evening as the opening act for Intronaut’s 10-year anniversary concert (another metal band that has a pretty good following and tours the US, Canada, and even Europe). Christopher has been working insanely hard to get ready for this gig and despite struggles with finding a replacement drummer, a medical challenge with his thyroid gland, and a recent car accident (his second in 6 months!), they put on a great show! My wife and I were in attendance and I’m happy to say that we weren’t the oldest people there. There were other parents there to support their sons.

We sat right in front of the sound mixer’s position figuring that this would be the best place to experience the music. Having been to enough other shows, I was prepared for maximum volume so I brought along my trusty -33 dB earplugs. I wasn’t alone. I noticed that many members of the audience were sporting bright pink earplugs as well. And I know that Christopher has a set too. But I have to ask just how enjoyable the listening experience is when all you hear is the overpowering kick drum and electric bass? The earplugs remove so much of the midrange sound that it’s hard to hear the guitars and vocals.


The Great Wall went on first (great news since I’m not one to stay up late…although I did stick around to hear the opening few tunes by Intronaut. They went on at around 10:30 pm). The sound was an assault…intentionally. I wished I’d brought along my sound pressure meter or downloaded the app for my iPhone because it was really loud. I listened for a few seconds without my earplugs but couldn’t deal with the level. This was an “ear plug” concert. All I heard for three hours was continuous 32nd notes from the double bass drum and a wall of low frequencies from the bass. And I didn’t just hear the music. I felt it as the wall behind me was sympathetically vibrating in time with the music. I leaned back against the wall and was pummeled by the music both acoustically and physically. I’m not a wimp…but it took me a day to recover.

It was great see so many metal fans get to the show early enough to “enjoy” The Great Wall but I’m not sure how many of them actually heard anything but a wall of sound. This is not a genre of music that will benefit from high-resolution audio. It’s all about shifting meters, insane drumming (they should put the drummer up front because he was working so hard during the entire set!), and heavy textures. A recording wouldn’t do justice to this stuff.

I’m proud of my son. He works really hard to pull off his gigs, write his music, record tracks, teach the parts to the other members of The Great Wall, and haul around equipment to rehearsals and gigs. His dedication to his art is not in doubt. He’s been doing it for many, many years and hopes to break through at some point. But it’s really hard to make a living from playing music.


I’m still looking to raise the $3700 needed to fund a booth at the 2015 International CES. I’ve received some very generous contributions but still need to raise additional funds (I’ve received about $3300 so far). Please consider contributing any amount. I write these posts everyday in the hopes that readers will benefit from my network, knowledge and experience. I hope you consider them worth a few dollars. You can get additional information at my post of December 2, 2014. Thanks.

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About Author


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. I never have been able to understand why some bands insist on playing so loud in live concert as to spoil the enjoyment of the event. This isn’t a new issue by far. I remember going to see The Rolling Stones at The Auditorium Theater in Chicago sometime in the late 70’s. The music was so loud and so overloaded the venue that better than half the time I literally could not tell what song was being played. I left that
    night so disgussed with the sound engineering that I would never go to see The Stones again.

  2. Seven or eight years ago, I went to an audiologist to get fitted for a custom pair of earplugs from Etymotic Research. I got them primarily for performing, but ended up wearing them when I went to almost any nonclassical concert, and even just for meeting friends at a noisy bar. They’re not entirely transparent, but the balance isn’t affected nearly as much as through typical foam earplugs. If you are not willing to shell out for those at first, try the

    • Thanks Andrea…I’ve heard of these. But I usually avoid loud concerts, except if it’s my kid playing.

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