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In the studio. Problems with flow.

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Tames, Aug 29, 2005.

  1. Tames


    Dec 31, 2002
    Decatur, IL, USA
    So my band is recording just a simple 3 song demo with a guy we know locally. We've heard some recordings he did for a few other bands and they're amazing. WAY better than any other "local" recording we've ever heard.

    With a background myself in being an engineer and "producer" in some cases, I used to be the go-to guy for my band when recording.

    This time around I felt the syndrome of being a musician AND engineer. It's impossible to find a good CD sound when you write the music, then try to record and mix it yourself. So I just said "to hell with it" and agreed that we all go to someone else, where we're all in the same boat of just being musicians, where the most work was tracking. Easy, right?


    It SEEMS as if what we've been doing is just a disaster. The guy we're working with seems to be the most stubborn ADD ridden guy I've met when at the controls of his studio. (Note: I have ADD so that wasn't a shot at anyone else with it.) He keeps telling us all over and over that if we don't like something just let him know and he'll do what needs to be done. GREAT. The ONE complaint I actually had about any part of the recording (naturally) was my bass.

    He seems to think that NO MATTER WHAT, my bass must be at least a bit distorted. To humor him, I track a song with the distortion on. To those who wonder, I was using a Russian Big Muff. Yeah. Pretty chunky to be "slightly" distorted. I say "well honestly I think this part would sound A LOT better with no distortion."

    Ooh ouch. Now comes the "iffy" feeling.

    OurGuy: Trust me dude. Seriously you have no idea. Every bass you've ever heard has at least some distortion on the tracking.

    Me(inner monologue): I can name MANY that don't. In fact my first favorite band... Incubus. Hmm.

    I digress and let him have his way becuase what I did was partially trusting that he'd make everything sound great. The part that wasn't trusting was basically so he wouldn't turn into a dick and say "FINE have it YOUR way" and just stop caring about what our stuff sounded like.

    The only reason I'm afraid of this is becuase the guy is only 19, like me... and I KNOW he's not as deeply educated in recording as I am. I HATE to sound pushy with this considering I'm nowhere NEAR professional. (being my reason to post... becuase so many of you guys I respect very much for your knowledge)

    It just seems iffy when someone tells me how my bass is supposed to sound. Age has no demeanor when finding the "right" bass sound. I don't even need to begin on tone here. :)

    Now that I'm done ranting to the community that I feel our guy is on a slightly un-educated power-trip, how do I solve it?

    This goes beyond engineering and knowledge of sound reproduction and mixing. I need to know how to personally deal with this without pissing him off. I don't consider myself a mean person, but what can I do to make it clear that I am not happy with what he's wanting? What's the most professional way to tell the person in charge of your recording that this is not how you want people to hear you?

    In his defense, he may look at us as the "common" musician who comes in and basically tells the engineer how everything is "supposed" to sound while listening over his shoulder at the board. How do I basically say no without sacrificing a great demo?
  2. If you don't feel like outright telling him NO, I don't want distortion, tell him he's welcome to split the signal and run you two tracks - one clean, and one he can dirty up. Then at mixdown simply say you like the solo clean track, the distorted track isn't what you want. That way you've appeased him and listened to his idea. I like to ALWAYS end up with a clean track in addition to whatever effected track I may be recording. This gives you options and costs nothing.
  3. Droog


    Aug 14, 2003
    I make a living as an engineer and I can remember doing sessions when I was 19, but...There is no excuse for this guy to be making judgement calls on intrument tones, suggestions yes, but not what he is doing. I would never INSIST on an effect, as said before if he is dead set on it, double tracking is the way to go. You did not hire him to produce and sculpt sound, his job is to capture your band how it sounds be it good or bad, the best he can. The problem is that he is trying taylor your sound to his taste, which unless that is what you are paying him to do, is a no-no in my book.

    You are in a tough spot because he is so stubborn, not to pat myself on the back but I may have not known a whole lot when I was 19 but at least I did not act like I did. That being said, people like that are a pain in the ass because he won't back down with out throwing a fit and then forget about the rest of the session. The best thing you can possibly do is keep your cool. If it comes down to it, simply tell him, calmly and not in front of other people, that it is apparent that your musical tastes are different, but ultimately its your money and your music and if you are shooting yourself in the foot by not distorting your tone then that is the choice you are making. If you stay cool and he flips out, I would find a different facility/engineer.

    Fortunately its a small project so quiting in the middle of it is not a huge deal, unfortunately because its a small project you probobly don't have lot of money to throw around. So you pretty much have to either deal with it and hope he will compromise, or take your business elsewhere.

    I have to repeat though, staying calm is absolutely necessary. As soon as you or your band get pissed and aggresive towards him, you may as well call it quits. You put that guy on the defensive and you are screwed.

    Well keep us posted. I am interested in how this plays out.
  4. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    Bump. Is there an end to this tale of woe?
  5. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    If this guy is an engineer, then he has no place getting involved in the production phase unless you ask him. And if you ask him to stop butting in then he should have no problem with that. You know what the band sounds like, it is his job to get that recorded.

    That's an opinion but it is also backed up by both experience and the definition of engineering. A lot of what passes for "engineering" is really production and post production. If you want good source material with which to enter the production phase, tell the guy that is what you want. Imposing his idea of individual instrument sounds on the master tracks is bad policy unless you are specifically saying "do what you think sounds best". And if you did that then I hope that you are OK with the outcome.
  6. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    You say you chose this guy because his other recordings sounded fantastic.

    Did they feature overdriven bass sounds? Call the bands that did those albums and find out if the engineer you're using was in control of all those sounds or whether someone else was producing, even if an uncredited bandmember.

    If they all said "it was all the engineer" then sit on your hands and give his methods a shot.

    Honestly, in this day and age, the line between engineer and producer blurs a lot, since the owner, engineer, and producer (and janitor) are all the same guy.

    The best thing you can do is hire someone based on good recordings they've already done, and then try to let them do their thing.