How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

general questions, comments and ideas about recording, audio, music, etc.
chris harris
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Re: How do you deal with ignorance?

Post by chris harris » Mon Apr 12, 2004 8:38 pm

getting offended and high and mighty when you admit that your skills are far from polished, is a sign that you will have years and years of trouble in this area.

you said, "the singer was clipping the pres"

was the singer the one who set up the pre's and adjusted levels while he was singing??? that would be strange.

you need to take ownership of the problems in YOUR recording and learn to listen to your "clients" (whether they are paying or not).

instead, you assume that these guys are idiots because they don't have cd players?!?!?!

I'd venture to guess that whatever they listen to (vinyl, cassette, etc) sounds better than the shitty cd's that you've grown up listening to.

Pain in the ass clients are an everyday reality in recording.

Dealing with the situation with a closed mind and arrogance/contempt will make for a long miserable career.

could an attitude adjustment be in order?

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance?

Post by saultime » Mon Apr 12, 2004 10:06 pm

subatomic pieces wrote:could an attitude adjustment be in order?
Do you just wander from thread to thread, trying to be clever? :roll:

I'm trying to use this board to learn something, not to convince people think I'm the Jay Bennett of TapeOp.com. Most of these posts, with the exception of one or two, brought up very valid points that either I hadn't considered, hadn't considered in a particular light, or should have flat out re-considered. :idea:

I made a strongly worded initial post in an attempt to solicit strong opinions about my situation. I tried to temper that post with honesty about my mistakes. Do you really think I did not realize that the vocal clipping the preamp was *my* responsibility? I?m sorry I came across that way.:worthy:
subatomic pieces wrote:I'd venture to guess that whatever they listen to (vinyl, cassette, etc) sounds better than the shitty cd's that you've grown up listening to.?
Venture on. I grew up in the days of vinyl, 8 tracks and cassette tapes, friend. You?ll get no such pleasure from me. And watch whose disks you call shitty. :wink:

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by Professor » Mon Apr 12, 2004 11:36 pm

Well, you know those rednecks from southern West VA, and their penchant for the good ol' days of wire recorders and glorious mono.

I wish it were confined to just your situation. I work at a University surrounded by the learned professionals of the industry - people with doctoral degrees in music who have been teaching the subject for longer than I have been alive. A couple of months ago I was called to the carpet by the director of the school to answer some complaints which the learned professionals had delivered to him:
- Takes to long to get the finished products to us. (Fair enough, sometimes people have more critical deadlines or the mix just takes a long time.)
- Uses time in the session to setup while the performers wait. (No really, they actually made that complaint. I guess I have to have all the mics picked out, adjusted and ready before the instruments arrive, and shouldn't ask the players to play while I set a level.)
- Sound of recordings wasn't 'classical' enough.

You see, all of those complaints were not made to me but to the director of the school and they were kept anonymous. So I didn't know who was complaining, what session they were refering to, and what specific things they disliked. That, of course, meant that I could not fix it, unless I remixed every recording from the preceding six months.

So all of these learned professionals expect that they should walk into a room, play their music and leave with a finished CD, or perhaps get one in their mailbox the next day. And why shouldn't they, after all they have been recorded in the concert halls for years, and the microphones hang from the ceiling, connected to the DAT machine and the recordings sound like a pair of SM-81s 30 feet from the stage and ten feet above the audience (really that's how they're set) so they hear lots of hall, and none of the detail of their own playing. I've done what I could to explain the process of recording in a studio to those ready to accept such information, but some are unwilling to admit that they might not know some aspect of the art of music, especially when they have a PhD and I do not.

I'm not certain of how that information will help you, but I kinda hoped it would reassure you that it happens to all of us.

As for advice, I didn't read all the other posts so this might have been covered. I suspect your performers are not familiar with hearing any kind of recording in any kind of situation and are only used to hearing LIVE performances. So, record them in a 'live' situation.
Arrange the band around the room as you'd like them to appear on the final mix, setup two microphones and record it, maybe even from a bit further than you think would be appropriate. Don't EQ, don't compress, just give them the raw recording. Win them over the "live" sound and balance. Or, if they don't like the balance then explain that this is exactly how the audience hears them because you did NOTHING to change their sound. Chances are, if you tell them that information before even recording, they will not make as many complaints anyway.
On the next session, move the stereo pair in closer and add a mic or two to the instruments that were not clear enough the first time, and again, mix it without EQ, compression, etc.
On the next session, get mics around all the instruments and keep that main pair up. This time create a mix (perhaps still with no EQ or compression) and allow them to compare your 'mic' to their 'live'.
Eventually they will become more familiar and comfortable with what is going on, and indeed you will have a more natural sounding recording because you will also be referencing the stereo pair.

Many times with musicians who are more familiar with live performance than recording, they think of the role of the recording engineer as being that of a documentarian. "All you are supposed to do is make a record of their performance." It takes a long time to convince those individuals that you are an artist in your own right, and maybe even a 'part of the band' depending on how deeply you dive into the process. Some of them (like your banjo player) may never be convinced - and that's why you will need to meet them half way. Show him that you can be a documentarian, and then show him what an artist can do to HELP their sound.

It's a long and sometimes offensive struggle, and it gets fought whether you are recording redneck bluegrass fiddle players or Juilliard graduates with PhDs in violin performance. But don't forget that your own ignorance is always a factor as well, which is why stepping back to a simpler form of recording and working your way forward together could be very rewarding. Be humble before the alter of the recording console and it will all work out.

-Jeremy

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by TapeOpLarry » Tue Apr 13, 2004 1:19 am

It's certainly telling that you blame the singer for clipping the preamp. That's your job to set it properly. As for not even knowing if the Hamptone is a colored pre, you'll learn someday. There are many jobs you should be aware of:

Have you checked all the mics against each other for phase coherency?
Did the players use headphones or play without? Could they hear each other well enough?
Did you close mic all instruments and put up a stereo or mono mic to capture the live feel?
Did you mention any imperfections in instrument sound to the players? With acoustic music the sound of the instruments is crucial. If they are playing crappy fiddles (bows especially) banjos and mandolins you are in hell. Players like to know that YOU know the difference between good and bad instruments.
Have yous listened to a good number of albums in this genre? There are many ways to go, from old-time mono one mic to the glossiest Ricky Scaggs productions. All have their merits of course. What do these guys want?

Making records is a lot of work. Dealing with clients is an art and a game. get used to it if you wish to continue. Check out the books by Sherman Keene, www.shermankeene.com These are the best real-world recording books that will help you with people and gear!
Larry Crane, Editor/Founder Tape Op Magazine
please visit www.tapeop.com for contact information
(do not send private messages via this board!)
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Re: How do you deal with rednecks?

Post by firgela » Tue Apr 13, 2004 1:32 am

saultime wrote:Southern West Virginia, where the men are men and the sheep are nervous...
:rofl:

If it really is terribly failing I'd start over here....(if possible)
seeing the Del McCoury Band was amazing because they had a single mic (U87?) in the middle of the stage and they would all huddle around it. When it was time for a solo, the player would step up to the mic and step back after. In essence, they mixed themselves.
this is a great thread with very great suggestions, best of luck saultime and keep us posted.

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance?

Post by chris harris » Tue Apr 13, 2004 8:43 am

saultime wrote:
subatomic pieces wrote:could an attitude adjustment be in order?
Do you just wander from thread to thread, trying to be clever? :roll:
nope.. I rarely post. Only when I think that I can be of help.
saultime wrote:Most of these posts, with the exception of one or two, brought up very valid points that either I hadn't considered, hadn't considered in a particular light, or should have flat out re-considered. :idea:
those "one or two" exceptions wouldn't be the one or two that pointed out that your inexperience might have actually been the reason your "clients" are unhappy, would they?
saultime wrote:I made a strongly worded initial post in an attempt to solicit strong opinions about my situation. I tried to temper that post with honesty about my mistakes. Do you really think I did not realize that the vocal clipping the preamp was *my* responsibility? I?m sorry I came across that way.:worthy:
i'm not JUST trying to give you a hard time... but, your "strongly worded" initial post implied that you were happy and they were not, so it must be their ignorance that is the problem.

in the end, don't work with clients that you have contempt for. even if they're rubes from the sticks, they'll be able to sense your contempt. it will make for a long, tense venture.

even better, work with them, check the superiority complex at the door and be VERY VERY attentive to what it is that they're trying to do and where they're coming from sonically, and MAKE THEM HAPPY!!

If they think that they sound "synthesized" I'd take that as an opportunity to drag out/borrow a cassette 4-track and set up a couple of mics and see what happens.

good luck.

I'm no comedian. But, I do have plenty of experience with miserable sessions where I couldn't figure out what the problem was...... in the end, most times, it was because I expected them to work the way I wanted to work.

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by awolski » Tue Apr 13, 2004 9:51 am

TapeOpLarry wrote:Have yous listened to a good number of albums
Sorry to change the subject...but are you from the south side of Chicago? :D

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by saultime » Tue Apr 13, 2004 12:46 pm

Again, thanks for these suggestions.

I asked loaded question, because I sensed myself needing my ass kicked a little.

Again, I knew hitting the pre to hard was my bad, but I admit I liked the quality it gave the vocal in places?it sounded very similar to an early Tony Rice record that I am very fond of. But I should have known that the singer wouldn't have liked it.

As far as the ?colored? issue with the Hamptone, that was part of a larger story that I didn?t completely spell out, but since some people ran with it: yes, I know what ?colored? means, however, I wasn?t prepared to explain it to the band in scientific detail, other than to say it will ?impart a unique sound of its own on the recording.? When I set the vocal mic up wrong and clipped the pre, I think they started to believe the overdrive sound WAS the ?unique? sound of the pre?they?re probably suspicious of it anyway because I made it, and they?re probably suspicious of me because I?m the bass player?s kid, I don?t hunt, and I don?t fish with bait. Way for me to totally lose control of a situation via a good run of rookie mistakes. What I needed, and what so many of you have given me, are instructions on the ?state of mind? needed to get things back on track.

Now, in re: to the fact the most of them don?t own CD players, I raised that issue to point out something the Professor masterfully addressed in his post:
Professor wrote: I suspect your performers are not familiar with hearing any kind of recording in any kind of situation and are only used to hearing LIVE performances.
That?s it. These cats live in live music the way we live in houses. They don?t listen to records, and for all they know about bluegrass music, they?re not terribly familiar with the way recorded bluegrass sounds and has sounded. They wonder why the recording process is not as simple as just ?playing live? around a mic but still, they are not happy with their performances when we cut live tracks, either. They like to go back and fix things. I suspect that they are not fond of the sounds of live recordings in general, even really good ones, probably an aversion built up from having heard too many bad DAT recordings from summer festivals. But we can work with that.

THE problem I am anticipating at mixdown is, because not all of them are familiar with ?recorded? bluegrass, some members might have problems--specifically, the volume levels of individual instruments. I love ?in your face? banjo as much as the next guy, but not every song is well suited by such treatment. Frequently, the banjo and rhythm guitar will be pulled way down, if not muted, for long passages while the bass, mandolin ?chop? and the vocal do the work. Sometimes it?s mostly banjo or mandolin that?s out front?again, it depends on the song. It?s the way I do it, it?s the way good soundmen mix the band live, and it?s the way countless Del McCoury and AKUS shows and records sound. But I?m sure someone, probably not even the banjo player, will say ?well, I like a lot of banjo, on every song.?

When that happens, I?ll just try and win him and the whole band over, but in the end, it?s like arguing with someone who orders their steak well done. I will give them what they want.

As far as the recording process goes, I?m bringing players over one at a time, and working on his sound individually. They?re a lot more patient with me moving mics around this way. We finally got a killer upright bass sound, using the Hamptone as a direct box for the pickup, then putting an AKG 451 about a foot away from the player?s fingers to capture some of the high-end attack?

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by Moon Unit » Tue Apr 13, 2004 1:29 pm

What you're going through is a natural learning process.

Just keep practicing, refining your skills, and get as much experience as you can.

Don't get too frustrated over people who complain about everything . . . and don't get too high on yourself from people who like everything. Be your own worst critic. You'll never totally please yourself just like you'll never please the next guy 100% or the guy after that.

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by awolski » Tue Apr 13, 2004 1:50 pm

You probably don't need more devil's advocates, but I just had a thought.

What if you try getting them all together, getting or renting a really nice pair of mics, setting them up in whatever stereo combination you like, and recording them live. I know they all have tough schedules but if "keeping it real" is one of their main concerns then recording live with some nice mics might solve that concern. It makes your mixing job easier since there are only 2 tracks. And if they have complaints about one instrument being too loud or too quiet or sounding like crap...hey, all you did was document their performance. You might not want that for the whole album, but it could be a cool idea.

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by greatmagnet » Tue Apr 13, 2004 3:29 pm

Wow! What an incediary and at times asshole-laiden thread, and yet totally informative and cool!

I don't think saul's being as big an asshole as some of you are making him out to be, so long as he understands that he needs to work on his own mistakes as well. Sounds like he does, and he's got as much of a right to bitch about ignorant clients and poke fun of 'em here on the board as anyone else.

Especially people from Olahoma.

Seriously, though...I doubt I could add mush to the brilliant advice that sage dfolks like Joel and the like have already contributed, but there does seem to be one fundamental that people have overlooked and it's stickin' in my craw:

I for one do not believe that the formats (maybe fucked-up old K-mart record players or boomboxes?) that these guy are used to hearing are likely better sounding than Saul's CDs. Just because it's old and analog does not make it better. That said, what is stopping you, Saul, from having these guys come in and listen to the rough mixes in YOUR studio on YOUR monitors rather than handing them CDs they run the risk of playing on some crappy stereo that they don't even know how to make sound good in their own homes and cars? Nothing wows a client more than listening to their work on nice studio montors that are set up correctly, and inviting them into the recording space to watch you work helps them understand that what you do is not easy and therefore appreciate you more!

Just a thought.
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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by gandhabba » Tue Apr 13, 2004 3:48 pm

Another .02 cent opinion : Why not include taking a few passes with just the console mic-pres as an option if the banjo dude wants to. Even if it doesn't sound right to him, it'll at least put you both on the same side again.

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by chris harris » Tue Apr 13, 2004 3:56 pm

um... there's a "K" in OKlahoma, smartass!

and, I think that you completely miss the point.

I don't think that they're unhappy with the sound because of the playback system at their homes/shacks/whatever.

They are unhappy because it sounds the way Saul thinks it should and not the way that THEY think it should.

I'm not an asshole... I live in the real world.

the secret to making clients happy with their recordings is NOT wow'ing them with your fancy monitoring system.

the fact is that if these guys only experience with listening to music is their cassettes/lp's of bluegrass recorded on analog equipment, then you're probably gonna have to work very, very hard to capture a sound that they'll be pleased with from your average pro-sumer digital system. It's not a question of sounding better or worse. It's a matter of making it sound the way THAT THEY WANT IT TO!

there IS some great advice in this thread. sometimes good advice is not exactly what you want to hear.

REALLY BAD ADVICE is easy to spot!
Nothing wows a client more than listening to their work on nice studio montors that are set up correctly
it might "wow" them... but, it won't make them any happier when they get home.

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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by cgarges » Tue Apr 13, 2004 4:37 pm

saultime wrote:...but in the end, it?s like arguing with someone who orders their steak well done. I will give them what they want.
I like that!

Chris Garges
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Re: How do you deal with ignorance (including your own)?

Post by joeysimms » Tue Apr 13, 2004 5:13 pm

I don't like that, because, again, it assumes the client just doesn't know what's good for them. Maybe this case is a guy who's expecting steak, and you keep saying "what's wrong with salami"?
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