Do you try harder?

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jellotree
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Do you try harder?

Post by jellotree » Sun Jun 20, 2010 7:55 pm

Do you try harder to get it just right if you are recording a song that you REALLY like? I ask because an engineer, that is usually pretty calm, heard one of the tunes a band was rehearsing and, more or less, said this is a $%#% and $#%$#$% great song and just seemed to take more time and care (and a little more frustration, it seemed...) with that particular mix.

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Post by losthighway » Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:11 pm

I think bands I like tend to end up sounding better. I can tell if that's an inequity of my attention, or just that I think it sounds better cause, well, I like it. I try to work as hard as possible on everything, but when something musically gels with me I feel like it drives my engineering/producing/mixing to better heights.

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Post by Rakoro » Mon Jun 21, 2010 6:55 am

Yeah definitely, I think when we hear good music or music we can identify with and get into, we get inspired to capture it the best we can, and to do some pretty creative stuff mixing as well.

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Re: Do you try harder?

Post by Ryan Silva » Mon Jun 21, 2010 8:03 am

jellotree wrote:Do you try harder to get it just right if you are recording a song that you REALLY like? I ask because an engineer, that is usually pretty calm, heard one of the tunes a band was rehearsing and, more or less, said this is a $%#% and $#%$#$% great song and just seemed to take more time and care (and a little more frustration, it seemed...) with that particular mix.
This is a prime example of why as engineers, we need to actively hunt out music that excites us.

It takes a bit more of a salesman approach, but in the end it's better for everyone.

That being said, I always seem to find something to get excited about with any project, but the hours just fly by when you?re in love. :wink:
"Writing good songs is hard. recording is easy. "

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Fletcher
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Post by Fletcher » Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:19 am

I can honestly say that I have never tried "harder" on a band I liked, or tried "less" on a band I didn't like. I do the best work I can at all times, regardless of pay, regardless of whether or not I "like" the music.

My job isn't to pass judgement, my job is to please the client.

End of story.

If you've ever taken a golf swing, or swung a baseball bat you'll notice that "swinging harder" usually doesn't produce superior results. If you do what you do, as you normally do it you will get reliable [meaning consistent] results.

Chances are that if you like a band it is probably because they have good songs and can perform them well. All you need to do is take your normal approach to the project and their superior songwriting and performance skills will come through. If you over reach and "try harder" there is a very good chance your "trying harder" will get in the way of what the band is trying to achieve.

Do your gig as well as you can everyday, and you won't need to try harder. Work with great bands and you will find that the end product comes out better because the "source sounds" were better from the start.

Hope this makes sense.

Peace.

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lyman
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Post by lyman » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:36 am

I don't think it's as black and white as "trying harder" or "trying less." That view doesn't account for the human elements of inspiration, enthusiasm, and creative collaboration, which we don't have as much control over as we'd like to think. Those things are what makes the process of making music/art/whatever so damn exciting.

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Post by jgimbel » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:04 pm

With a band/song you love, you can look at it as you might work harder because you like it more, or that you're not working as hard because you like it. Or vice versa, with something that's of a struggle you might consider it working harder. I agree that working harder might not be the best term. I think sometimes I'm more excited about some things than others, but I feel like even within one artist's work some songs seem to come together super easy while others take a lot of finessing (sometimes songs just need faders set and you're done for mixing, some need crazy volume automation + compression + yadda yadda). But sometimes the things that are harder to work on, whether you like them or not, teach you more.

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Post by T-rex » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:11 pm

Fletcher wrote:I can honestly say that I have never tried "harder" on a band I liked, or tried "less" on a band I didn't like. I do the best work I can at all times, regardless of pay, regardless of whether or not I "like" the music.

My job isn't to pass judgement, my job is to please the client.

End of story.

If you've ever taken a golf swing, or swung a baseball bat you'll notice that "swinging harder" usually doesn't produce superior results. If you do what you do, as you normally do it you will get reliable [meaning consistent] results.

Chances are that if you like a band it is probably because they have good songs and can perform them well. All you need to do is take your normal approach to the project and their superior songwriting and performance skills will come through. If you over reach and "try harder" there is a very good chance your "trying harder" will get in the way of what the band is trying to achieve.

Do your gig as well as you can everyday, and you won't need to try harder. Work with great bands and you will find that the end product comes out better because the "source sounds" were better from the start.

Hope this makes sense.

Peace.
Nice post!
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Post by lionaudio » Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:38 pm

I tend to approach every album that I record as though I'm recording Dark Side of the Moon or something. Even if I hate the songs or don't like the clients personally I love doing this and I love it even more when I do it well. Great songs or a great band just means I will enjoy the production aspect more

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Post by Marc Alan Goodman » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:30 pm

I absolutely try to do the best I can in any situation.

However I can't claim that I've never been in a situation where I didn't think the band was making good decisions, and that caused me to start losing interest in the project. I still love recording, but there's only so many times during a project that I can bring my own thoughts to the table and be indiscriminately shot down before I stop feeling invested.

Unlike Fletcher I don't believe I'm just there to serve the client, or rather I believe that I am there to serve the client but that the client doesn't necessarily know what's best for the song (or themselves). From my own experience being a musician I know that often you leave the studio and things that seemed outlandish or unwieldy suddenly make sense. When you've been working on a song for weeks/months/years it can be hard to change perspective quickly in the way you have to when you're on the clock at a recording studio.

The musicians are coming to us as professional recording engineers because they trust that we have experience making decisions that they aren't ready for. If they were they could just rent a studio and make all those decisions themselves. If I don't feel like the client is serving the songs or feel like they're not interested in utilizing my experience I have a tendency to fade a little bit. And I don't think that's a ridiculous thing to say, or one that's going to prevent me from working in the future. It simply means that when I think the project is good I often think my work is better, and when I don't I feel disappointed.

I've often said that being a recording engineer is more like being a psychologist than being an engineer. You absolutely do need to understand the technical and creative sides, but if you can't manage the clients expectations in a way to keep them happy then it's not going to work out. Usually they're all tied together, so if the expectations and the creative side aren't right the technical side also suffers.

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Post by lionaudio » Thu Jun 24, 2010 11:20 am

+1 on being a psychologist in the studio. As an engineer though I don't really get psychological with the client. Before I start a new project I always make sure that we clarify whether I am engineering or producing as well. If I'm producing I turn into Freud

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Marc Alan Goodman
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Post by Marc Alan Goodman » Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:39 pm

I'm not talking about intentionally warping peoples minds here. But no matter what my job description is part of it is making people leave the room happy. And more of that seems to be managing the people than managing the mic placement.

I think some engineers are too likely to just do whatever the client says because this is, in theory, a service industry. Yes, in the end it's about the client, same as with any other job. However it's not like being a waiter. The client doesn't tell the engineer exactly what he wants and how he wants it. It's more like being an auto mechanic. A smart client comes in and says "hey, it's not working, fix it" and then trusts you to make decisions. If they're REALLY experienced maybe they give you a few solid hints. Can you imagine what your mechanic would do if you stood behind them and wanted to discuss every nut they removed and every part they touched? It would be wasting both of your time and most likely have a detrimental effect on the end product, not to mention the moral of everyone involved. He would probably stop caring about doing his best after a while and worry more about just getting you off his back and moving on to the next project.

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Post by Fletcher » Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:06 am

Marc Alan Goodman wrote:I absolutely try to do the best I can in any situation.

However I can't claim that I've never been in a situation where I didn't think the band was making good decisions, and that caused me to start losing interest in the project. I still love recording, but there's only so many times during a project that I can bring my own thoughts to the table and be indiscriminately shot down before I stop feeling invested.
I'd like to mention that I agree with this statement at every level... though I have found that sometimes the band does indeed know best, and that sometimes I just don't "get" what they're trying to do musically -- at those times I can either become "disinterested" because my "suggestions" have been shot down... OR... become a student and try my level best to understand what they're going for and help them achieve that goal.

I worked on a song I totally didn't "get" as the basics were being recorded. This was a band for which I had done their first album [which I totally understood] and we were about 6 or 7 songs into the second album when the song I didn't "get" came to the table. After about 3-4 days of working on it, I started to understand the shape the song was taking and got quite excited about it... but at the onset of the process I was totally lost [and had SEVERAL "contributing ideas" shot down like an Iraqi fighter plane]. By the 5th day I came up with a suggestion that the songwriter actually liked, we added it... and the song went on do to better than anything else they'd ever had on the radio... but at the onset, the little ditty was about a mile over my head... which made me "sit back, do my job and shut the f#$% up".

Let me also add that when I do "get" what they're trying to do... and I still hate the music [which has happened on more than a few occasions] I do my level best to find some redeeming quality in the song / band / artist and try to bring that redeeming quality to the forefront of the presentation.

I have found over the years [decades] that there is something in every song that gives it a reason to live... and do my best to have that song walk away from me with me having liked the music. As for working with people I don't like... so long as the money is good enough to give me motivation to be in the same room with those people, I do my job and try to hide the fact that I'm having secret almost sexual level fantasies of bashing their heads in with a baseball bat.

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Post by Marc Alan Goodman » Fri Jun 25, 2010 8:55 pm

Fletcher, absolutely true. You nailed it.

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Post by jgimbel » Sat Jun 26, 2010 11:58 am

Well said, Fletcher.

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