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workshed
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Young, inexperienced bands

Post by workshed » Fri Jul 14, 2006 4:09 pm

So my little home studio just got its first real band booking (real, meaning it's not a project that I'm involved in and not a voiceover). The catch is, it's a pretty green band of kids playing grunge stuff. I've heard some live tracks and while not horrible, there is room for improvement in some spots. They've never been in a studio before and I've never recorded a band I wasn't in. So in that sense we are a good fit... but I guess my question, and the point of this long-winded rant, is:

How hard is it to work with teenage bands? In my mind, I am picturing a lack of focus, lots of fart jokes, and an unwillingness to listen to constructive criticism (like, "hey, the drums came in late there..."). I mean, I've been in bands with 25-year-olds where people refused to admit they fucked a part up in the studio and I know how headstrong me and my friends were in our little high school bands.

Should I try to assert some production help, or keep my yap shut and just get good sounds unless they ask for more?

Any other advice?

BTW, this is kind of my initial target market here as I'm the only advertised studio setup in a pretty small town and I see most of my business as being from young bands looking to cut a demo.

Thx,

-Bret

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IMHO...

Post by bewarethanatos » Fri Jul 14, 2006 8:44 pm

I foresee two possible scenarios:

1: The band is unorganized, plays sloppily (is that a word?), then expects you to fix it or do a lot of extra little things that will tax your nerves and you'll want to get out of this business. Oh, and they probably won't have any money to pay you.

2: They'll be so psyched to record that even though they don't play quite up to par, they'll be proud of the fact that they're finally getting their very own recording.

When I was 16, I was in the number 2 camp. I just recorded a band of 18-19 year olds, and they were a mixture of both, mostly number 1. But, i'm assisting on a record of 20somethings that are in the second group, so I think it's safe to say it varies.

If you're just doing a demo for them, and they're not paying much, don't get anal over the production values.

Just prepare yourself for the worst-case-scenario.
I'd just set the mics up and hit record for a demo. If they want an opinion, give it to them as constructively as possible, lest you piss of a group of kleptomaniacs. I dunno, I'm just rambling now.

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Post by Mane1234 » Fri Jul 14, 2006 10:31 pm

Well....There isn't one answer to this basic question. I've worked with teenage bands that were quite good live but totally choked when the red light came on and they ended up blowing half their budget cause they couldn't get from start to finish without screwing up. I worked with this one teen band who I thought was never going to finish on time due to all the in-fighting but by the time it was all over they had a great sounding demo. Be happy that you've got a band to record and make the best of it. I don't ever offer my opinion until I'm asked and then I try to be as diplomatic as possible. I'm kind of doing the same thing only I'm in a big city. Most of the time I really enjoy working with bands who have never been in the studio because I remember how great and scary it was for me the first time. Hope this helps and good luck.

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Post by JGriffin » Sat Jul 15, 2006 1:49 am

At least with voiceover gigs you can be pretty sure you'll get paid. :wink:
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Post by workshed » Sat Jul 15, 2006 2:32 am

Thanks for the responses everyone. Yeah, I think I just need to be an engineer for this one unless they ask for advice. Just record and educate them about the process, which I already did somewhat by telling them how it will work and to get new strings and intonate their guitars if they can afford it.

It will be a small job -- they wanted to do 6 songs in 4 hours. Ha! So I suggested they focus on thier three best songs and spend more time on fewer songs to come out of it with a better demo in the end. I also told them most booking agents won't listen to more than one song anyhow. If that. Oh, and most imporatant, no posession of final mixes until they pay!

The kid I talked to seemed to be pretty stable and nice. They are a three-priece, too, so I am hoping they work efficiently like a three-piece should.

And DWLB, yeah, my voiceover client does pay reliably. They actually bought me one of those sE Electronics Reflexion Filters in exchange for studio voiceover time, which was cool. Should help remove some of the faint room reverberations I was getting in the last session.

-Bret

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Post by snuffinthepunk » Sat Jul 15, 2006 2:53 pm

you could always ask them ahead of time if they want you to point out things that aren't quite right. that way if you notice somethin you can say somethin and they can't get pissed. besides, you're just tryin to help them. for instance, a guy i know was recording a band and this one part was just wrong because the bass player was playing the wrong note every time, he was playin a note flat. inexperienced kids will do stuff like that...i'm sure they'd appreciate something that sounds better.
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Post by theBaldfather » Sat Jul 15, 2006 4:07 pm

I've worked with alot of newer bands and I've never had trouble with them taking advice as long as you leave them an option and they know it's in their best interest. I usually phrase any advice in a "what do you think about this part?" type of way. They'll listen and either be so worried about any percieved inperfection that they'll fix anything I have concerns about, or not hear it and ask me what I think in return. Then I can explain and it usually works out pretty well. If a band is difficult, then there's no point in pushing it. Their name is on the cd a whole lot bigger than mine is, so I suppose it's their choice unless I have a label breathing down my neck.
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Post by jjbohn » Sat Jul 15, 2006 10:15 pm

I've noticed a lot of younger bands actually take criticism extremely well. They seem to usually realize that they are young and inexperienced and take almost any advise you can throw at them. Poor playing really isn't anything you can help, it's up to them to get their skills to where they want them to be, and I far as grunge bands go, that's not always a plus for them. I mean, if Cobain was a killer player, would Nirvana ever gotten huge? Not to mention about 10% of a player's ability seems to get checked at the door of the studio.

I'd just let them have as much fun as they can while making a good record. Usually it's better for them to make a few fart jokes because then they'll relax and ultimately play better and have better concentration.

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Post by cgarges » Sat Jul 15, 2006 11:36 pm

I would think that if they want to do a bucnh of tunes in a short amount of time, there's not really gonna be much room to be nit-picky.

Go into it with an open mind. Just because they're young doesn't mean that they're automatically immature or can't play. If they have issues, then they'll hear it on tape and hopefully try to improve the next time they record and/or realize that things usually take longer then it might seem.

I think one of the worst things an engineer could do to a young band is to point out every little gitch in what they do. The last thing I would want is for me to be the guy who turns a young band off from recording. If they've saved up money or even if they've been given money to do something like this, it's their money that they're choosing to give to you and at this point, they're probably doing this simply "because they like it," moreso than many older clients. Let them have some fun with their time. If they want your input, they'll likely ask for it. Otherwise, try to be cheerful and supportive. Find something cool about them and hopefully you'll have fun as well.

Good luck!

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC

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Post by syrupcore » Sun Jul 16, 2006 2:27 am

echoing chris (usually a good bet) - don't assume they're gonna be idiots. perhaps mentally prepare for it but they might be awesome/excited/interested. The bands you played with in highschool might seem silly now but I doubt they did then.

I've found with young emo bands that they assume green day is actually punk and record those records in a day and it comes out sounding like that. I'd plan to continue what you've started with education and keep trying to get them down to three.

And with all bands I don't know (and even those I do), I try to give them a realistic time between when they get there and when I expect to hit record - I don't want them to spend all their energy in anticipation. I know some people disagree but I'm all for setting up basic mics (or at least running cables to stands) before the bands gets there - I consider that 1/2 hour before and 1/2 after part of the price. Makes everything smoother and is totally worth it to me.

have fun!

Will

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Post by sears » Sun Jul 16, 2006 8:08 am

jjbohn wrote:Usually it's better for them to make a few fart jokes because then they'll relax and ultimately play better and have better concentration.
Exactly.

I limit my suggestions to transitions and dynamics.

I also try to make sure my "weird note" smile is the same as my "this is really cool" smile.

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Post by workshed » Sun Jul 16, 2006 9:14 am

Hey everyone, thanks again. You've all actually helped me big time with a reality check. I think I was trying to expect too much from these kids and really, the last thing I want to do is imbibe them with a case of studio anxiety. That's one of the main selling points of my home studio: a comfortable, casual environment that is low-stress and fun to record at.

So with that, my plan of attack with these guys will be to get the mics set up and ready the night before (good suggestion, Will), keep the air light-hearted and fun, and only offer my opinion if they ask for it; or if there is just some horribly obvious blunder during the tracking process. I love the idea about the "weird note" smile being the same as the "really cool smile."

I'm actually really big on encouraging kids to create music and express themselves regardless of skill level or musical refinement. I really want them to enjoy it and do their own thing, so Chris, I appreciate you reinforcing and reminding me of that. I just need to adjust my own expectations for these types of sessions and remember that I'm there to facilitate the process and to educate them about it as well.

-Bret

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Sun Jul 16, 2006 10:37 am

let us know how it goes. you might be quite surprised, who knows. i recorded a band of 16 year olds a few years ago, and they were great....played well, took each other's (and my) direction well, cleaned up after themselves...

actually, i mastered something for the drummer a couple years later, i thnk he was all of 17 by this time. anyway, he and his two similarly young bandmates came for the session and i was struck at how mature they all were. like, i had to remind myself that i was twice as old as they were. granted, i'm not much of an adult...but these kids had it together.

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Post by farside » Wed Jul 19, 2006 10:46 am

I deal with bands like this all the time, heres some advice.

1. Assume they know nothing and walk them through the recording process.

2. Explain to them that you can offer suggestions for improvment, but the final decision will be up to them.

3. Dont let them get away with shitty takes if they can do better. The band will rely on YOU to make those decisions, and they will thank you for pushing them if the final product is better.

4. Dont get lazy, give 100% and treat the band like professionals even though they arent. Bands can tell if you're blowing them off and thats a sure fire way to lose future business. Making a shitty band sound better than they really are is a great advertisment for your studio. Young bands have lots of friends who are also looking to record their first demo.

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workshed
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Post by workshed » Wed Jul 19, 2006 11:01 am

farside wrote:I deal with bands like this all the time, heres some advice.

1. Assume they know nothing and walk them through the recording process.

2. Explain to them that you can offer suggestions for improvment, but the final decision will be up to them.

3. Dont let them get away with shitty takes if they can do better. The band will rely on YOU to make those decisions, and they will thank you for pushing them if the final product is better.

4. Dont get lazy, give 100% and treat the band like professionals even though they arent. Bands can tell if you're blowing them off and thats a sure fire way to lose future business. Making a shitty band sound better than they really are is a great advertisment for your studio. Young bands have lots of friends who are also looking to record their first demo.
Very awesome advice -- thanks for that!

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