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Recording in a guitar-centric world

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Tosya, Oct 11, 2002.


  1. Tosya

    Tosya

    Oct 11, 2002
    MOUSA
    Hi guys!

    I just happened on your site from the link at the SWR site. What a great forum!

    Here's my problem: I play bass in a two-piece rock band (the other member is a drummer). We have been trying to record a CD for over a year now and the studios and producers we've tried to work with so far have not been able to grasp the concept of what we're trying to do. They balk at the idea that rock music can work without a guitar and try to come up with ways to fill out the sound with loops and samples. We feel that our sound is unique and full in its own way -- I split my bass signal 3 ways: one is clean, the second is distorted, and the third is effected differently depending on the song. I also do the singing, so the female vocals fill up the higher end of the sonic spectrum. When people hear our music over the internet they don't guess that there's no guitar, and our live shows (including one with Kings X) have gone over really well.

    So any thoughts on how to go about finding an engineer or producer who might find our unusual setup intriguing and not threatening?! Do you know of any studios that might be more "bass-friendly?"

    We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this!
    :)
     
  2. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Greetings,

    Sounds like quite an interesting project. What popped into my mind when you mentioned producers is this - their job, in general, is to make the music more "accessible", as it were. If you already know what you want it to sound like, have you thought about producing the CD yourselves?

    As for the engineers, so long as you break out the P-Bass, they'll all be happy :p
     
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Tosya,

    just checked out your site - will be back to listen to the sound-stuff later. Sounds like a fascinating project (especially given your bass influences...)

    for a sound like that, I would certainly look at doing it yourself with an obedient engineer - someone who'll get good sounds but do what they're told! Producers can be great for bringing a different perspective, or for bringing clarity/focus to a project, but as you're not into what people have tried to do to your music, then perhaps it's because you have a clear enough vision of what you're trying to do.

    I'm in the UK, so the scene is very different - is your desire for a producer to do with sound or credibility? I guess I focus solely on sound, and then let the music speak for itself, rather that going for 'named' producers or whatever to try and get the project noticed...

    Having said that, if I was working on a band project I might work with a producer who had a proven track record with the sound I was going for...


    Finally, I'm trying to imagine what the stage must've looked like with your rig and Doug Pinnick's both on there!!!!! That's a serious amount of bass gear... :D

    take care - stick around, there's a lot going on here...

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  4. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Does Enginierus Obedientus even exist outside of the zoo? :D
     
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Tosyer,

    have you spoken to Doug Pinnick about production? You say that you've opened for King's X, and Doug is a bit of an expert when it comes to that split signal thing for bass - I've just had a listen to one of your MP3s (good stuff!!), and reckon Doug would do a great job of it at the PoundHound...

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  6. Tosya

    Tosya

    Oct 11, 2002
    MOUSA
    Thanks so much for the responses! Sorry it took me a moment to respond, but I've been trying to get our site updated.

    Thanks, too, for taking the time to listen to a song, Steve! Those demos were recorded at our home studio a year and a half ago, and although they capture the basic idea of what we're trying to do, they also illustrate our production shortcomings. After buying all kinds of recording equipment, we realized that in our case, the recording of our music would be best left to someone who knows what they're doing!!! Although we did record an "acoustic" album at home last fall that was primarily me singing over my acoustic bass guitar which came out nicely, we think.

    Your point about reasons behind choosing a producer really hit home. It gave us pause for thought and made us realize that maybe we had been on the wrong track all along when searching for someone to help us record. When we embarked on this we knew we were on uncharted territory, and after the 100th person said "you can't do that" we started to lose confidence and felt that we needed the name and expertise of a big-time producer to bolster our cause. Your posting has given us renewed confidence that we just need to take charge of the project again and impart our belief in the music on those working on it with us.

    Unfortunately, the night we opened for Kings X they were having massive technical issues, so everything ran late and we didn't have the opportunity to speak to the band. We'll have to contact Doug and see if he has any thoughts!

    Thanks again for taking the time to write and listen!

    Amy
     
  7. Tosya

    Tosya

    Oct 11, 2002
    MOUSA
    LOL!!! So true!! And an SVT. Our last producer was mortified that I would use anything but. I've always played through SWR gear, and that's what makes my sound unique!
     
  8. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Hey Tosya,

    I can't say for 100% certain, but from your posts so far it sounds to me like you guys should be doing the production work yourselves. IME, you need a producer if you are going after a certain sound and jsut aren't able to nail it on your own. It's like a musician's style - after a few listens, you start to notice producers' distinctive styles. And it sounds to me like you guys know exactly what you want to do.

    In this day and age I think it is quite possible to do a home recording that is just as good as a studio recording. Out of curiosity, what have you tried so far?

    I guess the gist of what I am trying to say is, if you know the sound you want and someone else tries to tell you to do something else, boot 'em.
     
  9. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    To think outside of the box for a moment...

    I have had very good experiences with a huge live room (it was a church) and two microphones and then played live.

    I had a listen to some of your songs. The bass drums thing works for me but get a bit much why mot exploit the fact that you are versatile musicians and overdub piano (Phoenix? loved it) guitar etc.

    I think that your basic premise is sound but unusual but if it were me I would consider a Warr Chapman stick, double neck bass/guitar and looper, loops anyway and midi pickups or all of the above.

    Where I'm going from as a listener is that I want to hear something that throws me like a sitar sample or a tabla loop or a cello "Tubular Bells".


    I'm just throwing ideas at you. Good whatever you believe in for the album and post the results, please.
     
  10. Tosya

    Tosya

    Oct 11, 2002
    MOUSA
    Thanks for the ideas, Chris! Ironically, we took the path you mentioned a couple years ago. When we first decided to have a band that was just bass/drums, we composed the basic songs on those instruments (the drums were V-drums) then got busy layering all kinds of sequenced parts over them, like sitar, harp, piano, weird sounds, etc. We thought we could record a CD of these songs ourselves, and although we did a passable job, it wasn't anything near radio quality (we tried recording on the Roland VS-1880 and with Cakewalk.) Plus, playing live to a sequencer sort of took all the joy out of it. The songs themselves were pretty cool (if I do say so myself! :) ) but they were leaning in a much more pop vein than what we wanted to do.

    We wanted to get back to a more raw rock sound, so we abandoned the keyboard and decided to start messing with the bass sound itself to fill out the sound. I've tried the Yamaha B-1D with MIDI converter, Roland V-Bass, and the Boss GT-6B but just couldn't find what I was looking for. Right now I just divide my sound and effect it differently according to the song, but we have considered putting in samples and loops in the recording that we could trigger live through my Roland PK-5 foot pedals or the drummer's electronic triggers. We'll have to see how everything sounds on tape to figure out where to fill in the spaces, if at all.

    I appreciate you taking the time to listen to our music and make suggestions! We had a chance to listen to one of your songs -- we really liked the fuzzy distortion, is that you?! Let us know when you have more stuff to hear, too!
     
  11. Tosya

    Tosya

    Oct 11, 2002
    MOUSA
    Hey thrash_jazz,

    Your comments are very encouraging. I think we will try to take the helm and finish the recording as our own producers. If it doesn't work out, we'll come looking for you!! ;)

    As far as booting the people who disagree, we've done it twice so far, so we're probably black-listing ourselves in the industry really quickly! :D Oh, well, musicians are supposed to be tempermental, right?! Or just mental.... We have to have some fodder for our "Behind the Music" segment! :rolleyes:
     
  12. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Tosya,

    i think Chris' post and your reply pretty tidily encapsulate the dilemma here - on listening to your material, Chris, from his own vantage point and set of likes and dislikes and perceptions about what music can and can't be saw it with a certain kind of approach. Every person who hears it is going to bring their own baggage to it.

    If he'd known what you'd tried, or even more so, been through any of the process with you, his take on it would have been very different. Such is the peril of soliciting opinions in that way. Sometimes one person's take on it can be enlightening and give you an angle that you hadn't persued. More often, their thoughts are based solely on the music, and not on the concept behind the music, whereas you sound the way you do because of the people involved, the journey's you are on and the limitations of how you choose to play - limitations that can be very creative.

    I occasionally get emails from people telling me that they really like what I do, and can really hear some drums going well with it, or asking if I've thought of working with a guitarist or a singer or whatever... ...what they often fail to grasp is that any of those things that come to mind, I do. I've got myriad duet projects on the go at any one time. But that's not what my solo stuff is about. It's about me, playing in real time, my music. Just me. Those limitations are very inspiring for me, make me think about song structure, sound, texture, harmony etc. in a completely different way to what I do when I'm playing with anyone else... that's where the music comes from, that's why it exists.

    So for me to work with a producer on what I do, it would require someone who understood those limitations and what I was trying to do, and wasn't about to say 'hey, I know this great bassoon player who'd sound good on this track...' - empathy is a much underrated requirement for a producer, but one that is utterly vital to the health of the project with a sound as specific as yours is. Good luck steering the right course through all this! ;)

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  13. Tosya

    Tosya

    Oct 11, 2002
    MOUSA
    Hi Steve,

    I feel like I could print out each of your sentences and put them on plaques on my wall! They are such gems of insight. We live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, so sometimes it's easy to forget that there are sane and thoughtful people in the world!! :) I guess we've become reclusive (but not to the point that we've started stockpiling weapons and food!!).

    It's so true what you said about perspective. To us, writing and recording music with just bass and drums is the most natural thing in the world. It is the logical progression in our journey of music-making, and we can't honestly understand what anyone's objections would be. We have a vision, and we can hear the result in our minds, it's just working out the logistics to get there. We were shocked when people seemed so resistant to the idea because, as you pointed out, we've naturally evolved to what seems to us an obvious conclusion whereas they have no idea where we're coming from. Besides, the bass guitar is such a beautiful instrument that I am dumbfounded when people suggest it can't hold its own as the main melodic instrument.

    So our problem now lies in the fact that we feel we can't do our project justice by recording it ourselves, given our limited engineering knowledge. We just need to find a good studio with a great and open-minded engineer who can help us realize our vision. The danger we feel is that if our recording is substandard, it would give the naysayers an opportunity to say, "see, it doesn't work without guitar."

    We both laughed out loud about your producer comments. They are so applicable to our situation, and it's a relief that other people have been through similar situations. We need to have faith in our own ability to realize our vision, and if someone along the way sees it too and can lend a hand, so much the better!

    Thanks again,

    Tosya
     
  14. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I wouldn't give up on the home-spun route just yet... What I'd suggest is that you spend some time trawling for as much advice and information as you can possibly get on recording. It may be that it works out much cheaper to rent some equipment to augment what you already have at home, and bring in an engineer from outside...

    Sit down together and do some scenario forcasting - what are you aiming for? what are your options? what is possible? how do you get there? look at the pros and cons of getting signed or doing it yourself, the work involved, the amount of control retained or surrendered, etc.

    Do you have any friends who are engineers? I am forever grateful to the wisdom, advice and remarkable skills of Jez Carr, who engineered and co-produced my first album, did all that and played piano on our joint album, engineered and co-produced the initial sessions for my most recent solo CD, and taught me just about everything I know about engineering and producing... I watched and learned, and copied what I could...

    Another possibility, depending on how close you are to the nearest city, is to find a music school with a recording engineering course and try to get some time in their studios. often the final year students will have to put a project together to record, and one as indiosyncratic as yours would present some interesting challenges to an engineer, and so long as you arrange to keep the masters at the end, you can take it home, and then mix/master it elsewhere and see what you come up with... I know a few people who've gone this route in London, and it's worked well, but there are a lot of recording colleges here, so it all depends on where you live... it will certainly end up cheaper than paying for studio time, and may be a good way to experiment with sounds without spending too much money...

    If you do go the home route, check out Computer Music and Sound On Sound - both very very good british magazines on the subject... a wealth of info, and stocked in most borders/barnes 'n' noble in the US...

    good luck!

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  15. Tosya

    Tosya

    Oct 11, 2002
    MOUSA
    That's definitely food for thought. I guess at this point we've basically been trying to record an album one way or another for the past three years. After failed attempts at home using a couple of different recording methods, we thought we should give a studio a try to expedite things and to take advantage of their equipment and expertise. With that came the problem of working with people who weren't enthusiastic about the project. The old rock and a hard place scenario! At least we've tried a variety of options; we just need to decide what will work best in the end. Thanks for all of the suggestions -- we've learned a lot these past few years, now it's up to us to make it happen!
     
  16. i have been trying to start a band with just me playing bass and singing and my freind on drums.we figured out if we were like a grindcore metal band or like heavy fast riffs it sounds good.i dont want to be metal so that wount work.we could be a dub band that would work.but i cant make up my mind.iam trying to figure like the sound or style we want,so we know what to come up with.


    iam feel like i have many people in my head part of me wants to be funk,rock,punk(real punk not blink,i know punk is dead),reggae,jazz like we love so many styles and cant decied what to be.
     
  17. I just noticed this thread and looked at your website and I have to say, I like your band concept and the songs on your site are really cool, finally something that sounds unique.

    About the producer issues I guess the best route would be to produce the album yourselves but this has already been said.
     
  18. Tosya

    Tosya

    Oct 11, 2002
    MOUSA
    Thanks! I think the biggest compliment that I could receive is that our music is unique.

    Which goes to what you wrote, warwickben -- we have a ton of influences, too, and love to listen to all kinds of music, from classical to jazz to System of a Down to Duran Duran. At first all those disparate genres seem like a hindrance, but if you take the parts you like best from all the styles you love, then you can come up with your own, unique style. For me it's easy because my style of songwriting doesn't involve thinking, my fingers just start playing and out comes some crazy part that is a conglomeration of all of my musical influences. But I know a lot of people approach songwriting a different way and want to establish the style, mood, feel and so on before they get started, and use a more technical, theory-based approach. However you go about writing, I would just say play all those styles you mentioned that you love and try to incorporate bits from each one into your music, creating your own genre. That's what makes music fresh and original, and I think the world could use a few more bands like that!!! (IMHO!)
     
  19. I've been checking out this site and forum after someone here posted a link to it-

    http://recpit.prosoundweb.com/index.php

    lots of horror stories about recording sessions/ production & engineering tips, guidelines etc.

    "Mixerman"'s diary of recording with a mystery new 2million-dollar signing act in L.A. makes very interesting reading- if it's true.
    (nice story about drummer breaking control room window :D )
     
  20. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    Replying to stuff backwards, yes that was me playing fuzz distortion :oops: I play guitar in that band (bass in a local church). I've always been torn between bass and guitar which probably colours my view on the role of the bass.

    I suppose the best way to explain where I'm coming from in regards to live/studio would be to listen recorded work by the band Gomez and then see them live. They are masters of making studio and live arrangements that are very different yet remain true to the song so you dont feel let down listening to the 'other' version.




    Steve

    Having had a recent funbamental change in how I perceive the way that music should be made I consider the use of the word baggage to be slightly unfair. However I'm not going to sulk or get a refund on my Basscentre ticket. As you know from conversations I question everything.

    When composing/arranging a piece of music what are the key elements and what are the extras?

    Back to Gomez-live they have an extra keyboard player, percussionist and sax players who walk on and off at various points. This is where I'm coming from. The key element may be Steve Lawson and a bass but why not use a percussionist? If not live, then on an album?

    I'm not going to Lindfield you by arguing over 4 pages.

    Closing point, a lot of people on this thread have fairly defined personal visions and goals for their music. Even if we disagree on what it should be, we still have a goal which is better than drifting.



    I lied re the closing point-to end a hugemongous post...

    What days are you and Michael Manring playing Music Live? My attempt to go Saturday has been sabotaged.