Live recording phenomena

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by hdiddy, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Is it just me or is it always like this:

    You play a gig - everything feels and sounds absolutely great. The energy is wonderful and all your bandmates sound really good. Like you could bottle the energy and sell it in a recording.

    Two days after the gig you listen to the recording and it sounds like crap. The lead player is out of tune, the comper's solo sounds like he's tripping over himself trying to get his ilnes across and every rake and attempt you tried on the bass sounds like you're rushing or making clams.


    If course when you play the recording for a 3rd party, they tell you they don't hear anything wrong. It sounds good to them.

    Certainly bad audio gear does have an effect on playback. It seems that listening on a set of headphones - you lose a lot of presence but it somehow exposes all the ltitle nuances that make your recording sound bad.
  2. Chris Symer

    Chris Symer

    Dec 13, 2009
    Sounds perfectly normal to me Huy. The nice part is that after a month or two you can listen again and it may not sound so bad, and listening to gigs you thought were "bad" tends to reveal some nice moments a month or two later. Of course that all tends to be pretty hard on any trust you can have in your perspective of how things are going in the moment. I've had to accept the fact that my perspective on things is no more reliable in the moment than it is a day, a week, or a month later. I am either liking what's happening or I am not, and that's about as far as it goes. Whether I think the playing was "good" or "bad" has no bearing on how my bandmates or the audience felt about things either, so at this point I am just happy for any gig that "feels" good. If at some point it turns out that it actually sounds good to me recorded is like a bonus. It would sure be nice if those two lined up more readily.
  3. alcohol. :p
  4. Plus 1 to what Chris says.

  5. C2H6O

    (as Schlyder said!)
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    My teacher Joe maintains that the difference between when you feel like you're playing your best and when you feel like you're playing your worst is minimal. But a couple of other stories...

    Milcho Leviev, when he was playing with Art Pepper, noticed that there would be nights that the rhythm section woud think things were just burning, but Art wouldn't feel good about his playing and would think that **** sounded terrible. But on nights that Art felt like he played well, no matter how mediocre the rest of the group felt the playing was, Art thought they sounded great. Point being, the experience is just the experience. The music remains the music.

    Second was from Elvin Jones, he talked about a record date that NOBODy was getting along with anybody else, everybody felt it was a drag, nothing happening. As soon as the session was finished, everybody splits as soon as they get the bread. Cut to a few years later, Elvin's at somebody's crib for a party and he's walking into the apartment and hears some music playing. As he gets closer to the stereo, he's thinking "sounds nice, swinging", as he gets a little closer "man, that drummer's copping my **** GOOD", a little closer and "Man that cat REALLY sounds like me" and then finally "****, that IS me" and it's the "drag" session that was recorded a few years back. Point being, the experience is the experience and the music is the music.

    Trying to get to a point where you can objectively assess what is happening while it is happening is hard. Most of the time it's easy to fall into the subjectivity of how good you feel, it's harder to stay in that space where you're aware of what's happening, but not emotionally attached to what's happening.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've had similar experience - so I've mentioned how every year I go to a great Jazz Summerschool and have been doing so for more than 15 years now.

    When I first started going, it was a great experience to meet some new musicians and get to play with some really nice players at the nightly "Jazz Club". So I bought a minidisc recorder and started recording some of those performances. There were some where I thought it was going really well and the large-ish audience really applauded .

    But when I got back home and listened to the recordings through my Hi Fi speakers. it was all disappointing and full of mistakes and misjudgements! Then I remember talking to a guy who was a pro Jazz drummer and very good singer about this - and he convinced me that it will always be a disappointment and that it's always about the "moment" that you can never capture what it all meant to you at the time - people drinking a lot, the atmosphere, the friendship and so on - so after that I never bothered again.
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    With Ed's Elvin story, I'll go into my next gig and tell everybody to play like ****. That way it'll come out beautiful. :p

    Funny thing, listening to one of my gigs from a couple months ago. The first tune we did (Stella) sounded better than the rest of the tunes but I distinctly remember being uncomfortable for the first tune and comfortable for the rest. I also remember feeling like my bandmades (sax & piano) sounded better later in the gig. The experience is the experience....

    But seriously now, I wonder what would happen if we actually played a gig and not cared so much about every little minutia and neurosis about ones performance. Probably would come out twice as good and a more relaxed feel.
  9. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    im going through something like this myself as right now a part of my lessons is to record myself practicing and listen back. i quit the bass 3 times last week.
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I have both kinds of experiences: the kind described in the OP, and the kind described in the Elvin story. For me, that knowledge is liberating, since it means I should just drink a nice warm cup of St. Foo and play the bass and let the dust settle later. :)

    My story: The first time I played with drummer Mike Hyman, I had no idea who he was. Here's this guy subbing on my regular Wednesday gig playing all of this insanely intense stuff, but i can't find one in anything he's playing. Or two, or three, etc. So I just dig in like crazy and lay it down, keeping time with the sax player and basically blowing Mike off all night. I thought the band sounded randomly terrible. The next day I get a call from the sax player telling me that Mike really liked my playing and wanted to work with me again. I expressed my curiosity, and Jacob says, "you don't know who Mike is??? Look him up on Youtube playing with Joe Henderson". So I did. :eek: Anyway, after that I pulled up the recording from the gig the night before and listened, and damned if it didn't sound pretty happening. Today, he's one of my favorite guys to play with, and the recordings bear it out even when the moment might be something I don't understand or feel yet.

    Of course, the opposite happens as well, but i think it's important to keep in mind the *overall* sound of the band and not nitpick on my lines/grooves/solos. I think that's more what the average listener does in the moment, and that there's something to be learned there.
  11. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    It's just you Huy, and yes it's often like that. It's your learning experience...I think it happens to everybody at all levels of skill. Cliche' example..Pablo Casals was never satisfied, and practiced forever because of it. A while back you mentioned that you looked forward to making mistakes on the bandstand so that you'd have something to work on later. Dunno if you still feel that way, but the part about identifying the performance flaws and having things to work on..sounds like you are there. It's normal.
  12. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Every single time. Oddly, I've found the opposite to also be some times true; I feel horrible about a gig, but at some point consent to listen to the recording that someone made to see what I can learn from it. It's almost never as bad as it felt.

    We just need to hire some studio musicians to record our jazz trio album for us...and maybe outsource our gigs to India.
  13. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Happens in the studio too. I'll often be working on parts or arrangements and not feel it is right at all. Keep working keep working still not right. At some point still not right turns into still-not-right-but-my-gut-says-stop-and-give-it-some-space. Come back 5 minutes or 5 hours later. And there it is, the perspective I needed.
  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    ...and when I do happen to get a recording that I like, it tends to have a shelf life of weeks or months for me before I can't stand to listen to it.
  15. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Recording is definitely a telling experience. About 4 years ago I had to do video recordings for a classical summer program I was applying to. I was playing the required excerpts that were outside of my comfort zone, recorded until I ran out of memory on the camera I was borrowing, and went home feeling horrible about the process. I quit playing bass a few times that night too. The real learning was what I was seeing in the video. All of those technique things that my teacher had talked about were very obvious. In the practice room in front of a mirror they seemed to disappear but they definitely came back for their video debut, along with a couple of other things I didn't realize I was doing. I spent a lot of time after that working on those things, and borrowed the camera again to make sure they were improving. They were, but sure enough I had some other bad habits. Every once in a while I still do a video session like that, and it really helps.

    As for strictly audio live performances, a little time away from it and perspective is great. Listening to my old recital recordings, I played a Baroque sonata with harpsichord that I felt horrible about on stage, but it was one of the best recordings I got out of that night. I find that the recordings tend to level out to a pretty similar place, regardless to how I feel in the moment. I keep working on the things I need to work on, have a lesson once in a while to check in on how I'm doing, and try not to get to dragged down by the feeling of "that didn't sit so well." My band records a lot of our rehearsals and shows, and if any red flags come up, we'll spend some time working on them. For the most part though if you get out there and do your thing 9 times out of 10 the audience will be happy. That extra one time usually isn't your fault either. When in doubt, always blame the venue's terrible acoustics.
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That made me think about how the Classical world and the Jazz world feel quite different, for me. I started singing in a choir which performs with professional orchestras and I feel when doing that, I can be much more objective about what is going on and it almost feels the same as being in the audience for a concert.

    Whereas when I am playing bass at a Jazz gig, I am totally caught up in what is going on and am totally unable to be objective - I am focusing on little details about what I'm playing and hearing the other musicians, to the point where I can't get the big picture of what it must sound like to an audience, so any recording is always a surprise and usually a disappointment.

    It's not that I'm a better singer than bass player - far from it! :p But it seems to me that classical is just different - does anybody else feel like this?
  17. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I feel that there is a wide variety of performance experiences in every genre, so I'm hesitant to make classical vs. jazz generalizations. Personally, the difference isn't the genre of music I am playing, but my involvement/role, the complexity of what I am playing, and how focused/distracted I am.

    In Classical music, everything is rehearsed and there should be very few surprises. Even those areas open to interpretation are often planned out in advance. If something unexpected happens, you have what you are supposed to do right in front of you, and it's just a matter of getting back on track. You still actively listen to the people you are making music with and occasionally reinterpret things as you go, but it's all there. There are occasionally surprises for better or worse in recordings, but they are pretty predictable. It's harder to be surprised at the results when you are playing music that isn't built around surprises. Likewise, the environment is controlled as well. If you're playing in a concert hall, the biggest distraction you likely have is someone's phone going off.

    Enter Jazz or any other improvisation based music. I'm guessing tunes where you play them pretty much the same every time aren't the ones that surprise you in recordings. You go in knowing what they should sound like, and you come out knowing (a pretty close estimate) of what they sound like. The surprises come when you start getting outside of the box. Maybe your drummer/percussionist puts a different feel on things. Maybe your soloist does something different than they usually do. Maybe you decide this is a great tune to play up in thumb position. Regardless, the music you are making becomes about making choices in the moment reacting to the choices being made by everyone else. In my experience, this is where the greatest discrepancy happens between live situations and recordings. The choices you all made on stage might have been good or bad choices executed with varying levels of success. When you are listen to it, you are not only evaluating the level of success, but the choices as well. I think this is where a lot of people get disappointed. Hindsight is 20/20, and upon repeated listening, we come up with "this would have been a much better idea/choice" because we can sit back and analyse, instead of just react.

    Recordings often don't pick up the distractions that were happening as well. Background noise and that guy that screamed "IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!" in the middle of a ballad show up, but the weird guy at the bar that just winked at you? Your friend doing that weird mix of sign language and charades trying to tell you something in the middle of your solo? They aren't there. You are working with an incomplete picture at the best of times. Two weeks later you probably have forgotten that your friend was trying to tell you he left his wallet in the car, so you listen to the recording and wonder why that solo seemed like it was disjointed and distracted. You cannot be 100% focused all of the time, and when your focus is shifted from "bass solo" to "why is my friend pointing at his butt and the door right now?" that is when the biggest recorded surprises happen.
  18. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Good points. Context is everything.

    I've forgotten that I've actually taken advantage of this phenomena for improvement. Nothing like recording myself practicing, picking it apart, and trying to identify the exact moment that I effed up. This is especially useful when I'm rushing or dragged.

    I'll turn on the metronome and then record on the iPhone while I play a solo and any errors can be flagged. Passages that I came up with that were muffled or didn't come out clearly were slowed down and practiced until they were natural. I can't think of a better way (other than gigging with better players) to work on my time feel. This way I'm analyzing myself playing while not in the moment. And since it's in the shed, I can't blame it on someone else messing me up.
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Thanks for that detailed reply Mike - a lot of good points about the classical vs jazz thing.

    What you say fits very closely with my experience - so as you say the classical usually goes as expected, but where I have most often tried recording, has been at Jazz Summerschool where I have mostly been playing with people I haven't before and the enthusiasm levels are high. Plus there is a feeling of wanting to experiment and try to push yourself, especially as some of the people I meet are much better players than me!

    This means that it feels like you are having a great time and want to preserve that - but the whole experience is never caught on the recording and it inevitably disappoints, especially as you say - the choices seemed good ones at the time...? ;)