pre-production, consulting a band during recording

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pre-production, consulting a band during recording

Post by bert » Thu May 22, 2003 12:58 pm

hey guys, I was just wondering if any of you have done this type of thing, whether professionally or just for fun. Where the band comes to you and are looking to achieve a certain aesthetic, and whether it be an abstract quality or something as tangible as "I want this guitar sound and this drum sound, how do we do that?" And how close have you come to getting the sound they describe. How good are you at discerning what source and gear was used?
For example you're recording a"rock" band that thinks they're edgier than they really are and wants to be conveyed that way. They all play fender guitars through fender combo amps, but want to sound heavier, chunky, tight, loud, and as compressed as the flavor of the month on the local radio station. Do you go as far as totally readjust the settings on their amps, or rent mesa boogies and gibsons or what? Have you helped bands write new material?
Any stories of bands coming in with horrible crap-sounding gear and you're in a position to tell them so, then help them acquire the gear they need to sound decent?
Anybody have happy accidents or fun stories?
Anyone ever resort to brian Eno's "Oblique Strategies"

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Re: pre-production, consulting a band during recording

Post by soundguy » Thu May 22, 2003 1:25 pm

You've more or less just described one of the facets of working with a band as a producer. Its a VERY general thing, and what you contribute will change grossly from situation to situation. The last record I did I had an entire year of prep (dont ask) and we spent over a year recording the record (again, dont ask). With that year of prep, I wound up arranging nearly all the songs, changing tons and tons of parts and rewriting significant portions of the drum parts. None of this was ever intended. None of it. After you hear a song for the 300th time, you start ot get ideas, and what starts out as "hey guys, what happens if you dropped that one bridge there and stuck it where you have the break at the end", after you come up with three or four good ideas that the band really likes and they trust you, then the tables turn to "hey, we have these three parts that we are having trouble with, how can you make this work". And that is one route you can go down as a producer. I hated this band's gear, and told them so every step of the way, but they had no interest in that opinion at all. so, I was free to help arrange their songs, but it was up to me to be the solution to their gear and make it work, which I somewhat successfully did.

I start a record next week and the artist and I decided on one week of full time prep. This guy has made many many more records than I have, so our prep mostly so far consists of me trying to figure out how he likes to work and what his past experience is so I can accomodate his style of working as seamlessly as possible. Lots of talk of scheduling, work flow, priority, flavors of gear he;s found to be successful on his previous records, stuff like that. He has very specific ideas that I have to get on tape for him, and he's very articulate about what it needs to be, so my job as a producer on this record will be very different, its more of a grand organizer and source of inspiration much more than bailng him out of some musician mess.

As far as your examples go, if a band cmes to you with a Tool record and says, we want that drum sound, its actually pretty easy. All you do is rent time at the studio they tracked the drums in and hire the drum tech they used on the sessions, and you will more than likely be able to get close enough for the bands liking. If of course you cant afford to go that route, its your job as a producer to explain to the band that the integrity of their recording will reflect their weakest link, and if you are recording drums in a garage, you explain to them that you can record an amazing drum sound, but its gonna be the the amazing drum sound that you can get in the garage, and its up to the garage to decide what that sound is gonna be. If you promise them Tool drums and then track in the garage, you are gonna have some people pissed off at you. Its up to the producer to do whatever under the sun he can do to help the band realize the agreed upon vision of the record. If the producer and the band dont have *amazing* communication, the very idea of that vision will never even be clear, so good luck trying to record it. Projects are typically always limited by two things, the budget you have to rent all the wacky stuff, or rent the best drum room, or mix on the best console that is appropriat to the project, and the communication to understand what each creative party wants and the ability to sit down and make all your compromises on paper before tape is ever up on the machine so both parties know that they are working towards. If you can say, hey, this is what we can do, can we agree on this? Then you both know what the goal is. When you have an undefined goal and you find yourself making compromises because the project wasnt clear, thats when people start to feel compromised, neglected and sold out.

Preproduction is the single most overlooked aspect to any arts project, be it a record, a movie, a war, anything where different powers need to meet at a middle ground to make the thing go forward. What you actually contribute to and take away from the preproduction process will largely depend on the parties involved, and so far for me, preproduction has been different on just about every project Ive done.


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Re: pre-production, consulting a band during recording

Post by brian beattie » Thu May 22, 2003 2:54 pm

yup, without a doubt. Always and always hang out beforehand. aside from just plain getting to know them, you slowly begin to perceive the secret mechanics behind the workings of the band. If you have even mediocre dimestore psychologist abilities, you'll soon start to see things, like the person with the giant ego who actually doesn't add much to the band. Or the quiet person who's musical presence is the backbone. The overutilized person, the underutilized person, the unbelievably inconsistant one who's an utter genius late at night, etc., etc.
and, possibly the most helpful get together of all is the listening party. Have everyone bring their favorite records, their favorite sounding records, and some records that have production aesthetics they wanna emulate. This takes hours and hours, and it's phenomenally illuminating. You may explain simple things like "these are probably marshall amps... undoubtably closed back cabinets. See how the bass isn't really that loud when the guitars are smashing?? sounds good, doesn't it?" You also begin to form a sort of project specific language that will make later communication much simpler and clearer.(Oh, you mean the AL GREEN drum sound??.... are you talking angus on highway to hell, or angus on for those about to rock??)
explain that there is no mic or placement or preamp that makes A sound like B. If you want B, you'll need B. Fenders don't sound like gibsons, marshalls don't sound like messy boogers... uhhh... mesa boogies. Point out how a clear arrangement may have more to do with the drum or guitar or bass sound than "analog or digital" or "tube or solid state". Use the record listening experience to learn how their expectations of the session might be different from how you see it potentially playing out. It's a simple, pleasant experience that improves communication and cameraderie. Throw in a circle jerk or 2 if you really want to bond. (this only works with boy bands from texas....)
have fun! drink tofu slurpees!!

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Re: pre-production, consulting a band during recording

Post by tiger vomitt » Fri May 23, 2003 7:26 pm

that was an awesome post

thanks brian

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Re: pre-production, consulting a band during recording

Post by joel hamilton » Sat May 24, 2003 9:36 am

Could you please email Brians post to every band in the world ASAP???

1 day of pre pro can make an album better, more fun,easier...

I guess everyone just enjoys paying full rate to work out the kinks and logistics during the first "real" day of tracking...

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Re: pre-production, consulting a band during recording

Post by AnalogElectric » Mon May 26, 2003 8:39 pm

If I'm hired as a Producer I'll make sure I talk to them about their intentions and see them live as much as possible before we record. Usually when I'm hired as a Producer they are aware of the records I've already done so they know what kind of results I get, I think that's important too, although I would take on the project if they were more Grateful Dead than Melvins. The guys from Cake worked with people that mainly did metal records and they've made some of the best recordings. Anyway, if I'm going to accept working with a band that intensely I'll do a rough recording on a 4 track or 16 track before we commit to the 24 track, something quick, live, and simple. From there we can hear what everyone is playing and get a good sense of the songs before they're final (like George Lucas says about his movies "They are never finished, only abandoned").

When I'm Producing a record I've been known to take months so everyone is happy (within reason). I don't believe there's a perfect recording between the band and a Producer. I definitely try to communicate that to the band thus making the next album even better and better and so on down the years.

When we finally do start to record the album I like to get all the basic tracks down, make a close to final mix, take a few weeks off from listening to it, and then listening with fresh years. Things that once bugged everyone on the 100th take doesn't usually bug them any longer or we need to re-track a few things. Keeping perspective over some amount of time can really be frustrating for everyone. If studio time/money is an issue I'll do as much pre-production before heading in to a studio so things go a bit smoother. The only problem I've run in to are those happy accidents that happen when they first put something down to a 4-track and can't figure out later on how they pulled it off for the final recording a month later. That just means we have to top it with something else.

--Adam Lazlo
AnalogElectric Recording
Gilbert, Arizona USA


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