An open question to the community..

Recording Techniques, People Skills, Gear, Recording Spaces, Computers, and DIY

Moderators: drumsound, tomb

Auslander
ass engineer
Posts: 40
Joined: Fri Sep 29, 2006 3:20 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

An open question to the community..

Post by Auslander » Sat Nov 04, 2006 11:07 am

Hi everyone,

I recently signed up here and I'm really enjoying reading about everyone's ideas, views, techniques etc. on recording and such. It seems like a positive place to hang out and get a feel for others' opinions on this world I've lived in for over 30 years - professional recording.

I hope i'm posting this in the appropriate forum..my apologies if I misjudged.

My question/concern is this, and there are several phases to it. It concerns enthusiasm and open-mindedness in young up and coming members of the profession.

First, I work all over the place all the time. I'm based in Chicago, but I do lots of work elsewhere (72 albums at one place in Texas alone since 1994). As a result, I meet many new apprentices at the various studios I find myself working. While there have been one or two notable exceptions, I find that for the most part these days there's a distinct lack of enthusiasm from youngsters who are working on the projects. I always try to do some scouting prior to working somewhere different, simply to make sure that the people involved in the project are as into it as possible, as in enjoying the music, having a good time, getting involved etc. and I always do my utmost to develop and nurture up and coming talent, on both sides of the control room window.

I'm not going to bore you guys with too much ancient history, but I can remember back when I started - I left high school at 17, and within a few months started at Trident Studios in London as a tea boy - there was an almost rabid sense of keenness and enthusiasm to work on sessions. I felt this from everyone, from the tape ops to the assistant engineers (yes there was a difference back then) to the engineers, and this was really infectious, so much so that it trickled down to us at the bottom, and we all felt really fortunate to be able to involved with these projects. There was a real sense of pride to have worked on a record, and of course immense pride when you got a chance to work on something you absolutely loved. Of course, in the beginning we all have to work on anything and everything that comes through the studio doors, which isn't a bd thing necessarily, as it's definitely all good practice when you're starting out, whether you enjoy the music or not.

I find that these days there's a real sense of apathy by comparison to back then. I've based myself at a number of studios in the US since I moved here from London in '79, first of all Electric Lady in NY. They had a great feeling of "family" there, very similar to Trident in that regard in fact, and I finally met a lot of people whose names I'd read on 16 and 24 track tape tracksheets and album credits from the days that I spent working on the mixing of a lot of those records. I felt very at home at Electric Lady - in fact I worked there exclusively for about 6-7 years. After that I found myself travelling a lot more to the West Coast, mainly LA, working on lots of metal stuff. The enthusiasm level from assistants was still really high at this point.

About 10 years ago, I started to feel the lack of "family vibe" in studios, and also the fact that in the US there's a very different apprenticeship system to the one in the UK. Over here there are precious few opportunities to go on to engineer at a studio, as good assistants end up often being held back simply because they ARE good assistants. In the UK, once you get an opportunity to move up, you're promoted to the next level much more easily, and studios usually have their engineers in house, so there's a good system of staff development and progression through that system. Engineers will then go freelance, allowing for the better assistants to become engineers etc.

It's really been in the last 10 years or so that Ive found myself bringing projects in to the studio to be tracked or mixed, and the level of desire to be involved from the studio assistants has dropped dramatically. It seems as if they would rather sit online chatting, or lately spending all their time on myspace or similar sites, and not paying any attention to the sessions at all. I'm pretty self-sufficient when it comes to needing someone around to babysit me. Once I figure out the studio's idiosyncracies I'm off and running, so this can allow people to float around and help out in other sessions etc. However, these kids aren't even in the other sessions. They just seem to congregate in the lounges/reception areas and do very little that has anything to do with studio work.

My concern isn't that I think ANYONE needs to have to sit over by the multitrack machine all day awaiting orders. I was a tape op for almost 2 years, and I still remember those days as if they were yesterday. My point is that when I was starting out, and my contemporaries also, we WANTED to sit in on sessions and watch and learn, hear what was going on, and even ask questions if there was an opportunity (of course this was either on quick breaks or once the session was over). The fact that no-one seems to even want to sit in on album sessions these days is mindboggling to me. I can't remember the last time anyone asked me anything, apart from "Is it ok if I leave? " Hmm...

Anyhow, I'm wondering if anyone else is experiencing this sort of thing. I think it's very important to learn by watching engineers and producers as they do what they do. That's how I got where I am today - over 350 albums later - and still forging ahead. I asked questions all the time, making notes of things I liked (as in, say, Ken Scott's and Dennis Mackay's bass drum sound) or things I wasn't so fond of (Mike Stone's bass drum sound). That way I slowly started to piece together the way I wanted to hear things, and also what type of sound worked best for what project. The same went for bass, guitars, vocals etc. All of this is stuff you can learn, and I was SO fortunate to have worked with the engineers and producers I did work with. I call this "building your sonic identity/personality"

Of course, these days I pretty much only produce and engineer MY projects, so I don't have many opportunities to sit and watch how others do things that much any more, although occasionally I'll hang out with friends who are tracking or mixing something, so I can get an occasional idea of "how the other half lives".

Still, this is really strange to me. There's nothing quite like enthusiasm. You'll go far if you have it. Asking questions is vitally important in this business - just as much as woodshedding and practising your craft is. I would just like to see these odd communication barriers dissolved, and also to get people who are working in studios to feel as excited about what they are doing as I was when I was their age. I'm STILL enthusiastic about it, so I don't understand where the desire and motivation has gone. Studio work is the most amazing job. I still love every day I spend in the studio (over 300 every year since the early 70s)

Has anyone got any thoughts on this? Any idea why the listlessness exists? Any suggestions as to how to motivate these kids?

I'd really appreciate any feedback people might have on this. Thanks a lot everyone.

Neil Kernon

leftofthedial
pushin' record
Posts: 222
Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2006 8:36 pm
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Contact:

Post by leftofthedial » Sat Nov 04, 2006 11:23 am

"These kids today, with the wheel and the fire...."

Pretty sure a Jerry Seinfeld joke about caveman and their kids.

The point, this conversation is as old as man itself. Yet we still seem to get from generation to generation just fine.

User avatar
surf's up
pushin' record
Posts: 270
Joined: Wed Jan 19, 2005 12:34 am
Location: Texas

Post by surf's up » Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:20 pm

i cant really comment directly on what you have experienced, but maybe it has a lot to do with the way technology has changed things, or at least the perceived change that technology brings.

The average kid today probably got into recording with some kind of home digital setup, and the options they have available to them with that technology makes them feel more powerful than the kid 20 or 30 years ago using a 4 track or reel to reel. it maybe even breeds a sort of hubris about their skills. when they get into a professional studio environment, perhaps some of the novelty of working with the big boys on the big toys isnt there. they just see it as something to put on their resume or a way to network but arent too concerned about what they can learn.

That is just my guess about whats going on. Personally I would love the opportunity to intern at a real studio and if I did I would try to soak up everything I could, even if the dude was recording the types of bands i would never want to have to record.

cgarges
zen recordist
Posts: 10843
Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2003 1:26 am
Location: Charlotte, NC
Contact:

Post by cgarges » Sat Nov 04, 2006 3:40 pm

Glad to see you here, Neil. It's great to have someone with your experience making appearances.

It seems like today there's a lot of fear of failure, so everyone wants to do everything "right" the first time. There's also a need for instant gratification. So, expecting these two things has sort of become the norm and as such, many people feel a sense of entitlement, even if they haven't done anything to suggest so. I've seen a lot of interns and students that act this way. I'd like to think that I wasn't like that, but I probably was. I'm sure that I thught I knew everything right out of school. I can't ever remember a time when I wasn't enthusiastic, though.

I recently got a very nice letter of recommendation from a producer of some note with whom I worked. One of the things that he wrote was, "When it comes to the love of music as an art form, I see a passion in Chris that is often missing in some of his contemporaries." While that's very flattering, it's also surprising. I can't imagine not being completely stoked to do this for a living.

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC

Wilkesin
steve albini likes it
Posts: 367
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2004 12:03 pm

Post by Wilkesin » Sat Nov 04, 2006 3:44 pm

I'm young, enthusiastic, eager to learn (and i realize that i have a lot to learn), and completely available, and i cant even find an internship to save my life!

I've sent my resume to all the major studios i can find online in town. Nothing. (In fact severak of their email addresses bounce back when i try to contact them! Is that a sign of bad business, or just bad business management?) Yesterday, i even tried just going down to places during what i would assume were normal business hours and either no one was there, or i couldnt even get on the lot (in the case of Criteria), so i had to give another copy of my resume to the security guard to turn into the office...

Maybe the studios are killing the enthusiasm? with a bit more penny pinching (and finding a space) i could be recording bands on my own and learning "trial by fire" style. Plus there is so much info online (thank TOMB!)...
Slider wrote:"we figured you'd want to use your drum samples and reamp through your amps anyway, so we didn't bother taking much time to get sounds".

Auslander
ass engineer
Posts: 40
Joined: Fri Sep 29, 2006 3:20 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Post by Auslander » Sat Nov 04, 2006 3:57 pm

Wilkesin wrote:I'm young, enthusiastic, eager to learn (and i realize that i have a lot to learn), and completely available, and i cant even find an internship to save my life!

I've sent my resume to all the major studios i can find online in town. Nothing. (In fact severak of their email addresses bounce back when i try to contact them! Is that a sign of bad business, or just bad business management?) Yesterday, i even tried just going down to places during what i would assume were normal business hours and either no one was there, or i couldnt even get on the lot (in the case of Criteria), so i had to give another copy of my resume to the security guard to turn into the office...

Maybe the studios are killing the enthusiasm? with a bit more penny pinching (and finding a space) i could be recording bands on my own and learning "trial by fire" style. Plus there is so much info online (thank TOMB!)...

Well, yours is the type of attitude I would dearly love to see more of. It's just really odd to me to see up to half a dozen assistants/interns hanging out outside the actual studios, making no effort to participate in the sessions themselves, while there are people like you who can't even find a way into the actual building.

Makes no sense to me at all.

Professor
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3307
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 2:11 pm
Location: I have arrived... but where the hell am I?

Post by Professor » Sun Nov 05, 2006 2:50 am

Feels weird for me to chime in. I'm 31 years old, so you've been in the business longer than I've been alive. And if that's not enough, I show up to the party with what could be considered a rather pretentious screen name.
But I think my background covers a lot of areas related to what you're seeing.
I came to recording later (?) than many folks do today. I went to college to be a mechanical engineer, and then transferred to a conservatory to be classical percussionist, and then transferred to a university still with the intent of being a percussionist but to broaden my horizons a bit. And I landed in a strange love affair with audio, sound & recording which I finally started studying in a more formal sense at the ripe old age of about 24. What's worse, I tried to start my formal study of recording as a master's student, and I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the 2nd & 3rd year undergraduates.
I couldn't have been more wrong. I had studied a lot on my own, tearing through my free subscriptions to Audio Media, PSN, Surround Pro, and a few others (sorry, no TapeOp). I was carefully considering gear and purchasing tools to be able to do basic but high-quality location recordings for my peers at the music school... and of course, I was a student employee recording tech at the music school. And at the grad school, I was indeed running rings around most of the undergrads - even many (but not all) of the 3rd & 4th year students.
By 27 I was offered a job running a high-end studio at a school of music. I teach a little, but my primary job is running the studio (the $400k studio I built) and the "professor" moniker was given to me by some of my early student employees.

OK, so my bio doesn't quite compare with Neil's just yet... but I'll need a few more years, and I'm still getting to the point, I promise.

When I was a student, I was going in with nothing but a little personal experience and independent study and was way above the students who had been "formally" studying the subject for 3-4 years.
With my own student employees, I've always chosen them based on their interest in the subject and desire to learn, and never by their major or "r?sum?". We don't have a recording major or even a music technology major. I also actually pay my crew - no un-paid interns around here. Some of my employees have been music performance majors, others were music education, while others have been broadcast journalism, IT-management, construction management, business, and other "non-related" fields.
Some of my best, most interested, most willing to learn (and now knowledgeable) assistant engineers have graduated and moved on. One works as an IT project manager for Boeing, one just finished student teaching and is selling cars while looking for a choral teaching gig, one is doing photo & video editing for an ad agency, and one is working on a master's in percussion performance.
Of course, I've had a few student employees who really want to be engineers. One got into drugs, borrowed some money from me, was too embarassed about not being able to pay it back, and hasn't been around. He's still at school, and he's working on a live sound crew, and he's cleaned up and I'd welcome him back if he came around (kind of a prodigal son). Another one who told me at the start of this semester that he was really going to knuckle down and make this last year count to prepare him for the real studio world has really fallen astray. He's gotten lost in drugs to the point where he blew off a playing gig on Thursday night, he's not been around the studio to work, and the occasional times he does come around, he wants to play engineer and record his buddies for free while he plays drums. The guy can't remember how to set up an ORTF pair, let alone figure out how to route stuff around the Yamaha consoles, and he's not coming around looking to learn... makes me sad.

OK, I suppose I still haven't come around to a "why". That's what I get for writing in the wee morning hours after a day of recording marching band in the morning and orchestra at night (what a combo).

I think that a lot of it comes from a real high tendency towards instant gratification.
Think about it. We see it everywhere. Why do they spend half the day with cell phones glued to their heads? Why do they check MySpace every 30 minutes? Why do they bypass the 4-year bachelor's degree program in favor of the 2-year recording program, or the 6-month certificate, or the 3-month "crash course"? Why are they trying to record bands with one microphone into their laptops? Why are there more record labels than coffee shops in most cities? (ever checked out www.allrecordlabels.com ? )
So a big part of it, I think, is that they want to be doing the cool stuff. They want to be twiddling the knobs and pushing the buttons. They don't want to learn what those knobs and buttons do, they just want to do it. Or maybe they've tried to learn and found it confusing or slow, so instead they want to "produce". They want to be making the hits, and can't seem to understand why all these old guys are in their way. So what do they do? The goof off in the studio and eventually try to start their own studio, label, concert promotion business, music festival, whatever.
The other major thing is, (I'm sorry to say) the vast numbers of recording education programs all over the place.
There's a sense of entitlement in a student who has completed 4-years, 2-years, 1-year, 6-months, or even 3-months of "recording education". After all, just a week or two earlier they were in there pretending like they were big-shot producers cutting the next big hit from a local band nobody has ever heard of, but who is of course, very promising. Now you want them to fetch coffee? You want them to coil wires? You want them to push record on a damn tape machine?
Of course, it gets really scary when the job that is met with such animosity is actually a valuable learning tool for them. You want them to log your console & outboard settings? You want them to help you setup the drum mics? You want them to take care of a few edits on the horn overdubs while the band goes out for lunch?
All these guys know how to do all this stuff cold, man. They've already produced and engineered one entire album. They're ready for the pros.
Oh, and it's really funny when the instant gratification shows up in school. I was talking with my friend who is a full-time recording professor in CO, and she said that she has had students demand to know why he might need to know all this crap about sound and mic patterns and all that. When is she gonna just show him how to mic a guitar amp?
And then there's the whole rock star thing.
Every one wants to be a rock star, and every one already knows how rockstars live. But these guys have resigned themselves to the notion that playing guitar really is kinda hard to do, and takes way too much time to learn, and singing isn't any easier, and you can't even practice that. so they decide to be engineers so they can feel like they are rock stars. Of course, the engineers they meet aren't rockstars, so instead they act like the band, and they try to hang with the band, and try to act enough like a rockstar that they start feeling like one.

OK, sorry for the long tirade there, but that's at least a couple things that have stood out to me as possible explanations for what you're seeing.

-Jeremy

GooberNumber9
tinnitus
Posts: 1094
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 7:52 am
Location: Washington, DC

Post by GooberNumber9 » Sun Nov 05, 2006 8:24 am

I've come to believe recently that "it's not the people, it's the process". I think there's a way to lead the young people to help keep them engaged, as well as help them find out more quickly if they actually don't want to be in sound in their heart of hearts.

There's a lot of management and leadership literature out there, and I think most of it is useless at best, but about 10% of it is pretty good, in my opinion. One good person to check out is Stephen Covey. He wrote "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and several subsequent books.

He has lots of ideas on how to engage, involve, and delegate to people under you.

One of the things I see as being very different in the entertainment industry on the production side (music, movies, etc.) is that most places are small operations (when compared to IBM or Exxon) and they don't have internal HR, they don't hire leadership or management consultants, and they don't go through the whole corporate deal of trying to figure out how to run their business when it comes to the people side of it.

I think that's good and bad. It's great because you don't have that huge corporate mentality or beauracracy. It's a bit of a down-side because there isn't that body of knowledge of the leadership and management techniques that can actually work.

I'd say if you're in charge of people who don't seem to "get it", check yourself first and see what you can do to grow and lead yourself and your organization such that everyone involved is either engaged and excited or quickly realizes it isn't where they want to be.

Todd Wilcox

kayagum
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3476
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 11:11 pm
Location: Saint Paul, MN

Post by kayagum » Sun Nov 05, 2006 8:48 am

Let's all take a drink of prune juice before we go further. Christ, we sound old! :D
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." ~ Erica Jong

"No one wants advice ? only corroboration." ~ John Steinbeck

User avatar
@?,*???&?
on a wing and a prayer
Posts: 5804
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 4:36 pm
Location: Just left on the FM dial
Contact:

Post by @?,*???&? » Sun Nov 05, 2006 9:02 am

Records and music making are too common. Everyone can do it. It's not 'rare' anymore and the level of talent has dropped to obnoxious levels because 'everyman' has picked up a guitar and is attempting to make recordings.

Pretty sad really. It's called saturation and we're not talking the harmonic kind here.

kayagum
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3476
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 11:11 pm
Location: Saint Paul, MN

Post by kayagum » Sun Nov 05, 2006 9:13 am

My 2 bits:

I think there has been a major shift in American society in the last 10 years. Over time, we have shifted from a society that prided itself in doing into a society that is based on status.

Check that. Mainstream America has been status driven for practically its entire history. (I went to the same college as the guy- Thorstein Veblen- who came up with the term "conspicuous consumption"). But now, that's even shown up in "fringe", "underground", "artistic", and yes, "alternative" cultures.

Craft based activities are now highly desirable, sought after, and celebrity driven. It's not just music. Heck, you can chop motorcycles and marry a movie star now. And since when were chefs signing books for lines of people instead of firing dishes in the kitchen?

Maybe we have achieved the cultural nirvana that everyone wanted in the 60s- we are more about "being" than "doing". People want labels and job titles, and could care less about their projects or accomplishments. And frankly this current society does not hold anyone accountable for whether they actually produce or solve anything worthwhile.

In the corporate world, this is happening all of the time. At my day job (at a Fortune 500 company), I see people jockeying for titles, budgets and monstrous databases. Do they ever help anyone- the customers, or the shareholders? No, but a lot of people get to work on cool software.

Going back to auslander's original post, I think these people are basically saying, "Look at me- look how cool I am because I'm 'working' in the studio." Translation- "I'm sitting on my ass in the studio, and it's my God-given right. (In a John Travola voice) 'Ain't it cool?' Worship me!"

Maybe the American brand of "prosperity theology" has infiltrated itself into other areas of society, like music and culture. (read this Time cover article) Maybe this is just a reflection on the fact that the American economy has been relatively robust the last decade, and Americans haven't had to earn their keep the hard way.

Maybe they should actually get off their asses and set up some mics.

I'll take another shot of prune juice....
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." ~ Erica Jong

"No one wants advice ? only corroboration." ~ John Steinbeck

Auslander
ass engineer
Posts: 40
Joined: Fri Sep 29, 2006 3:20 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Post by Auslander » Sun Nov 05, 2006 9:59 am

Good points everyone.

Actually, I don't want or need anyone to bring me coffee - I'll just go and get it myself. Funnily enough, it's usually when I'm out getting coffee that I run into the horde of people hanging out doing nothing..

Please understand that I'm not expecting anyone to be there helping me. Instead, I'm just hoping that someone might want to be a fly on the wall and hear the differences from the beginning of a mix to the end of it. Yes I probably sound as if I'm saying "In my day..etc." but I really wasn't intending to. I merely remember how much fun it was to sit behind people like Ken Scott, Robin Cable, Gus Dudgeon (who incidentally recommended that I apply to Trident in the first place) Richard Perry, Bill Schnee, Bob Gaudio, Ginger Baker, John McLaughlin and countless other great producers or engineers while I was learning my craft.

The weird thing is that most of these kids know *who* I am on paper. They ask me lots of questions about what it was like to work with Hall and Oates, Judas Priest, Elton John, Cannibal Corpse and many others, and tell me how much they enjoy the records I've made (and that's very much appreciated of course) but they still don't want to come in and watch and - possibly - learn something. Perhaps I'm overestimating my *talent*. Perhaps I can't teach anyone anything..that's hard to say. I also remember watching and working with engineers who were not really doing a job that sounded very good to me, but I also learned something from sessions like that as well, usually that I might not make the same choices that that engineer did, but I still learned a lot from them. I think I learned something on every session I ever did, and still do. Recording, mixing, interacting with clients, making hundreds of decisions every session..it's really an exciting environment to be involved in and absorb, at least to me.

I definitely appreciate everyone's comments and thoughts. Cheers for that.

User avatar
AudioHog
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 64
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2006 4:50 am

Post by AudioHog » Sun Nov 05, 2006 1:03 pm

I don't have anything to add except excellent thread!

Professor
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3307
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 2:11 pm
Location: I have arrived... but where the hell am I?

Post by Professor » Sun Nov 05, 2006 1:22 pm

It's a very strange feeling to have so much to teach and discover that nobody seems to want to learn.
Especially when yuo remember being that guy who really wanted to learn.

And I wasn't in the learning phase three decades ago, I was there 5 years ago. The attitude was already in place to an extent, but even in that short span of time, I have noticed it becoming more prevasive.

Every semester I get guys coming in and asking, what do I need to do to work in the studio, and my stock answer is, "be interested in recording". When they show their interest by coming around every day or two, nagging me about sitting in on sessions, asking questions about how stuff works, begging to help coil up cables, then I hire them. When they come around once a week asking if I'm hiring and then leave when I say "I'm not sure yet" while I'm standing there setting up for a session, then I know the extent of their interest. If they tell me their grandiose plans for being a famous producer, or how they've already started their own label, or already recorded a couple of full-length album projects with their band, but don't seem to notice or ask about the rather tremendous studio they're standing in, then I know where they are coming from.

So I think I understand how Neil is maybe arriving at the feeling of wondering why the guys he sees don't recognize how lucky they are to be in that studio with access to someone so willing to share his knowledge.
For what it's worth, I'd be in on one of your sessions in a heartbeat, so if you're ever doing a session in Washington state or somehwere close, let me know.

And I also agree with Kayagum's observations there... about the people, and maybe the prune juice too. You are absolutely right that they would rather go out to a party and say, "hey baby, sleep with me tonight because I'm a cool guy who works in a recordinng studio". I don't know why that line doesn't work when I say it, but my employees seem to have a great deal of success with it. (maybe I'm getting old.) But you are right that it seems like it's more about the image and some concept of "being" or maybe just "appearing" rather than "doing". And it is spread thickly throughout all of our culture.

-Jeremy

cgarges
zen recordist
Posts: 10843
Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2003 1:26 am
Location: Charlotte, NC
Contact:

Post by cgarges » Sun Nov 05, 2006 11:42 pm

Professor wrote:It's a very strange feeling to have so much to teach and discover that nobody seems to want to learn.
Especially when yuo remember being that guy who really wanted to learn.
Well-put, as usual, Jeremy!

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 20 guests