You're Playing Too Loud?

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tubetapexfmr
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You're Playing Too Loud?

Post by tubetapexfmr » Sat May 25, 2013 2:15 pm

"You're playing too loud" is something I heard an engineer tell a bass player last night. It wasn't my session so I kept my mouth shut, but I was thinking to myself WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK??? In my opinion (and the opinion of the nice folks who helped me when I was starting out) you never, I mean NEVER EVER tell a musician that they are playing or singing too loud. Too close to a mic? Maybe. But that is why gear has pads and volume controls, right. To me, rule NUMBER 1 of recording actual people is that you work around them and their gear: Adjust and adapt. I mean isn't that the JOB of an engineer? Sheesh!

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sat May 25, 2013 2:47 pm

I have told people that they're too loud and will do it again if I need to. Sometimes it just has to be said. I don't tell people to turn down but I will ask them nicely and give a good explanation as to why it will help.
If it's a question of asking someone to turn down or spending tons of time in mixing trying to clean up the mess of bleed I'd rather deal with it at the source and save the band time and money.
Bass is a bad one if the amp is up too high. Guitar amps are directional so frequently you can point them away from drum mics to solve the issue. Bass goes everywhere and if it's too loud it will turn all the other tracks to shit.

When ever this comes up I usually try to roll some tape so I can show them the problem before I start talking about it. Sometimes people just aren't aware of how loud they are.

Yes your job as engineer is to roll with what you're given but you job is also to help the band sound their best. Sometimes that means having to ask them to do things differently. It's best to put it to them as a well backed up question instead of an ultimatum. They can always say no and if they do they will understand the consequences.

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Post by tubetapexfmr » Sat May 25, 2013 2:51 pm

Ahh, all good points. Maybe I should have been more specific as to my situation. It was a lone bass player doing overdubs DIRECT. No amp. I for sure will tell some folks to turn their amp down which to me is a wholly different thing that telling a player to not PLAY as loud. My main point was he was telling the bass player to adjust his playing style INSTEAD of him using proper gain staging. THIS is wrong.

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sat May 25, 2013 3:22 pm

Ah yes. Agreed.

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Post by Brett Siler » Sat May 25, 2013 5:00 pm

Just for conversation sake, I think it totally depends on the situation. I've recorded many bands live in one room and it's most important that they sound balanced in the room. I have had to tell the bass player to turn his amp down a little bit, the guitar player to turn up a little bit. Nobody got offended. I've recorded hardcore bands that had their amps up so loud you couldn't even hear the drum set! I told them (nicely and logically of course) to turn down and they all did without out any fuss. They will be way more bummed when it is crazy hard to balance things when it comes to mix time, and they don't end up with an album they are happy with, than if someone askes they to turn down a little bit so everything could be heard.

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Post by roygbiv » Sat May 25, 2013 5:31 pm

One time I saw Keith Richards tell Chuck Berry to turn down a little.

Didn't go over too well.
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Post by drumsound » Sat May 25, 2013 5:38 pm

Even if it is an overdubbed bass, there may have been very good reason to ask the player to play lighter. I've noticed with bass players especially, they often will make clicks and clacks on the pickups, often creating noises that interfere with the production.

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Post by vvv » Sat May 25, 2013 6:28 pm

Was it a active bass, or thru a pedal or outboard bass pre?

Gain-staging or not by the recordist, sometimes the player's stuff can be turned up too much such that it sounds like poo.
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Post by Matt C. » Sat May 25, 2013 6:48 pm

drumsound wrote:I've noticed with bass players especially, they often will make clicks and clacks on the pickups, often creating noises that interfere with the production.
this sound is the worst. maybe I'm being closed-minded but I doubt many bass players are actually trying to make that awful clacking sound.

was this the problem in the case of the OP's session?

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Sat May 25, 2013 7:34 pm

tubetapexfmr wrote:Ahh, all good points. Maybe I should have been more specific as to my situation. It was a lone bass player doing overdubs DIRECT. No amp. I for sure will tell some folks to turn their amp down which to me is a wholly different thing that telling a player to not PLAY as loud. My main point was he was telling the bass player to adjust his playing style INSTEAD of him using proper gain staging. THIS is wrong.
Was the recording getting distorted? As in "unusable"?

if yes, then the engineer is correct.

If not, then the engineer is wrong.

Simple enough.
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Post by kslight » Sat May 25, 2013 7:38 pm

I do feel like I am being hired as an extra set of ears and if I feel like the recording can be improved with an altered technique/instrument/amp setting then it is part of my job to offer that suggestion. It'll be clear right away if the client is open to that or not, and if they aren't I move on, but usually they know right away what I'm talking about and are happy to change something or let me fiddle with their amp or whatever. I don't pretend that I know everything about what a good tone is to the client, but if I can make things sound a little better at the recording stage it will benefit everyone later on (for example, making sure amps/guitars aren't set too dull/bright, correcting squeaky drum pedals, dead drum heads, guitar/bass player playing too hard for light strings causing rattling/intonation problems...). It is probably a bigger crime to just be throwing up mics and hitting the record button. Even if you make a suggestion that the client doesn't agree with, at least you are paying attention.

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Post by tubetapexfmr » Sat May 25, 2013 7:47 pm

No this was a bass player equaled by few I have ever met. He plays with purpose and fantastic touch. His dynamics ARE what makes him such a great player and my point was the engineer had clipping on HIS output so he told the player to turn down. There were no clanging strings or clickety clackiness. Just laziness and/or ignorance on the engineer's part.

Watching it happen, I felt like Jimmy Fallon's computer guy from SNL years back... I just wanted to say "MOOOOVE" and have him get out of the driver's seat and watch someone who actually knew what he was doing (ME, of course)!
Last edited by tubetapexfmr on Sun May 26, 2013 9:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by jgimbel » Sat May 25, 2013 11:25 pm

Matt C. wrote:
drumsound wrote:I've noticed with bass players especially, they often will make clicks and clacks on the pickups, often creating noises that interfere with the production.
this sound is the worst. maybe I'm being closed-minded but I doubt many bass players are actually trying to make that awful clacking sound.
I had a bass player here for an entire album who was absolutely convinced the clacking sound had nothing to do with his playing and that I didn't know how to properly set levels and that it was clipping. After a number of sessions and numerous attempts I finally explained it in the most basic way possible and he seemed to understand. When it came to mixing he undid that understanding and would ask me to go in and edit and "take down all the spots where the bass is distorting on harder hits". Really fun job.
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Post by iC » Sun May 26, 2013 9:21 am

jgimbel wrote:
Matt C. wrote:
drumsound wrote:I've noticed with bass players especially, they often will make clicks and clacks on the pickups....Really fun job.
Is there a technique (foam rubber under strings?) to remedy this? Or is it purely a touch issue with the player?
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Post by vvv » Sun May 26, 2013 10:18 am

In some instances (not here, of course), a felt pick might help ...
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