Recording session nightmare

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by hbarcat, Jun 14, 2019.

  1. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    My friend (I'll call him Tim) is co-owner of a recording studio in Chicago and last week I had a chance to visit while he recorded a singer client. I acted as "gofer" and a second pair of hands.

    It was a female singer and she was to record vocals for three original pop songs which were on pre-recorded tracks. Her producer/boyfriend was with her and had booked two hours of studio time.

    Tim asked if she had her voice warmed up and suggested she use the ten minutes that he was setting up for tracking to do so if she needed to. She responded that her voice was fine so why should she need to warm up her voice.

    She was clearly inexperienced at vocal recording and Tim had to slowly explain to her how to sing into the microphone while wearing headphones. He showed her the two knobs in front of her that controlled the volume of the backing tracks and her vocals and that they could be adjusted independently so she could hear both in her headphones.

    They started tracking and she was just horrible. Everything was bad, from off pitch to missed timing to moving all around the microphone and making noises to just not having anything close to the ability to record useful vocal tracks.

    And she complained the whole time. Tim did his best to keep a smile on his face and present a positive attitude and struggle through to get at least something vocally down on the three songs. But she kept saying she couldn't hear herself and that the headphones and the equipment "must be broken" because it sounded terrible in her ears. It sounded terrible because she was hearing exactly what she really sounded like.

    Her boyfriend agreed with her and complained that the studio wasn't professional enough and wanted to renegotiate the price. This was about 1 hour and 50 minutes into their 2 hour session and they had just finished a final take on the last song.

    I could see Tim struggle to stay polite but I know him well enough that I could see he was imagining himself throwing them both down the stairs, head first.

    After they left, Tim told me they were easily the worst clients he's had to deal with since they opened the studio 3 years ago.
  2. dbase

    dbase Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2008
    South Jersey, USA..
    I would scrap the session... no charge, but they don't get to keep the tapes.
  3. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Kudos to his professionalism. Those guys would have had to face the harsh reality of the studio even worse in a higher-scale recording environment, I assume.

    And producer/boyfriend? So mich for objectivity. Ah well, it's their money innit.
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    The truth sometimes stings. We're there any prior home recordings where she sounded significantly better?

    No, I would not return any money. If you burn a steak, you don't get money back from the butcher department.
    Mili, Kevan Campbell, lat and 18 others like this.
  5. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    love it :D

    there's a difference from being in your car or shower to studio booth or stage...

    in a live setting, i've witnessed people who are supposed to be "a great singer", but had no idea how to sing into a microphone, couldn't understand monitoring, were totally thrown by stage volumes – etc.

    a lot of it is experience, but bad pitch / timing is something else!
    Beej, JMacBass65, JimK and 2 others like this.
  6. crguti


    Feb 14, 2011
    any chance of hearing the horrible voice?
    Fretless1!, filmtex, Krizz and 11 others like this.
  7. I too, kinda wanna hear it :laugh:
  8. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Nearly everyone who has a small studio has encountered this. But talented or not their money is the same color. An old friend of mine told me he had booked time to record his duo. I said nothing, knowing that the primary ingredient for a good recording was woefully absent. Seeing him months later I inquired how the session went. Several hundreds of dollars were spent and nothing usable resulted. Unlike the diva in the OP, he knew where the problem lay.
    Beej, JMacBass65, Mr_Moo and 6 others like this.
  9. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois

    Nope. I don't have access to the recordings.
    PennyroyalWe likes this.
  10. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois

    The thing is this is a good sized studio, with top $$$ equipment and a steady supply of professional musicians making quality records there. But they have decided to make their place accessable to anyone, within reason. They give price breaks to less affluent clients but they aren't about to give away their time for free.
    Haroldo, Mr_Moo, BOOG and 4 others like this.
  11. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Further proof that no good deed ever goes unpunished.

    Predictable however. Lack of experience and professionalism on the part of a performer combined with an overprotective SO “producer” lurking in the wings is a classic prescription for disaster in a studio setting.

    And first time recording in a professional studio is always an educational (and generally very humbling) experience no matter how good you or your sweetie may think you are.
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Tim should have used autotune. I wonder if that's what the producer/boyfriend wanted, but just didn't know the right vocabulary to ask for it? "She sings in tune at the other studio!" ;)
  13. This.

    Many people haven't actually heard themselves perform properly, and don't realise how much they've been making their friends suffer. I can be an eye-opener alright. :laugh:
    Beej, MynameisMe, Mili and 8 others like this.
  14. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    You may have nailed part of her issue. But she also had bad mic technique and wasn’t careful about extraneous noises either. Autotune won’t help her with any of that.

    I think she may also have never been in front of a top drawer vocal mic going into a SOA mic preamp before. No place to hide any gaffes singing into a setup like that. :laugh:
    retslock, Mr_Moo, okcrum and 3 others like this.
  15. RichardW


    Feb 25, 2016
    near Philly
    I think they got video...

  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Running a studio is no fun.

    A friend of mine, a drummer who owned a small studio where I was cutting a band demo, was amazed when our drummer tuned up his heads. He told me his regular clients never did and he was always fixing the awful tone in the mix. He also told me a story of a death metal band that showed up for vocal overdubs. As he was dialing in the mikes as the track played they started singing those low guttural sounds and he began laughing. They stopped singing, stared at him through the glass and walked out of the studio and never came back, nor did they ever pay him!

    Another friend, a bassist who specialized in live recordings, had worked on an album for a band where he spent about 100 hours doing edits on the upright bass tracks because of bad timing, poor intonation and clams. The result was incredible, it made the band sound much better than they actually were. My friend billed by the hour and the bass tracks ended up being about 90% of the bill.
    Vooter, Mr_Moo, L Anthony and 3 others like this.
  17. Compression and a good noise gate will, though.
  18. Cave Puppy

    Cave Puppy "Humph Bo, he's wond!" - John Lennon

    Jan 13, 2015
    I have another recording session horror story - I was laying down a bass track for my band at the time at an excellent, small studio here in town, paid for by the BL. I knew previously the other members were bringing their SOs, kind of making it like a party. I was dreading that as the drummer and his new GF were very handsy and kissy ALL THE TIME. I tried to track at the same time as the drummer but he couldn't concentrate on his part with me playing along (??? WTH? One reason I quit). I tracked after him in the control room while everyone was talking and blabbing so I gave the big SHHHHHHH! They thought I was joking but I wasn't. I was totally distracted by all the folks there. During my tracking I kept hearing lip smacking and wooing noises so I turn around and not 3 feet behind me, in two different office chairs, were the drummer and his girlfriend, her legs propped up on his, phones in hand, kissing and laughing ... I have no qualms at all about PDAs but not IN THE ******* RECORDING STUDIO!! I quit shortly after that. The studio engineer/owner asked me, while we were enjoying a post session doobie, why I was off my game and I told him in no uncertain terms how much all the people at the session and the ******* PDA put me way off.
    Mili, Mr_Moo, mexicant and 1 other person like this.
  19. I expect this is correct. There are a handful of tools that are available nowadays to make a poor singer sound better, but it's hard to make a really awful singer sound really good.
    Aqualung60 likes this.
  20. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    That all depends. At least based on my own experiences.

    Compression helps with levels. Up to a point. But it can also boost unwanted noises. And heavily compressed vocals usually don’t sound that great. So there’s only so much compression you’ll generally want to use anyway.

    Noise gates can help when you’re not singing. But they won’t block noises you make while you are.

    Best bet is to do it as right as possible on the raw track and not rely on magic boxes to fix what’s avoidable, assuming they even can. I mean sure, with today’s gear virtually anything is probably fixable after the fact. But it takes gear and time. And in a studio that means money.

    Like we say in the IT world: Don’t expect major miracles unless you’re prepared to pay for them.
    Haroldo, miljoneir, Mr_Moo and 3 others like this.