Fear and loathing

general questions, comments and ideas about recording, audio, music, etc.
joel hamilton
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Fear and loathing

Post by joel hamilton » Thu Dec 18, 2003 11:09 pm


When did this engineering thing get so SCARY?

Did this website and others like it just open me up to a world full of people afraid to try things on their own? has this always existed, and I was ust never exposed to it in my formative recording years?

I truly try to inspire creativity when answering questions, or trying to lay some tips on this board. I LOVE recording, and I do it every day, and I am lucky. I am crazy busy.

I just never realized that all this was so scary. When all I had was a couple of random mics, I used the 57 all the time because I saw it in so many pictures of people recording. That was the only way I even knew how to attempt to record a guitar amp. A picture of a 57 on someones marshall or something. The rest was filled in with intuition. I figured I would plug the microphone into the hole that said "mic" and go for it.

I know, "whoopee for me" but really, I feel this kind of thing leads to experimentation,. If This messageboard had existed at that time, maybe I wouldnt have poked a hole in one of my 57's hoping for a "looser" sound with guitar amps... (cringing).

I also would have never done a lot of things "wrong" that I now find valuable in my every day life!

I realize this all seems very esoteric, but I feel it is applicable to "general recording" because "general recording" is something I love to do every day and it is what has led me to where I am today, and I am in the middle of buying a condo in brooklyn, and "general recording" is my only job.

Take me with a grain of salt... I am tired tonight,...

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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by AstroDan » Thu Dec 18, 2003 11:41 pm

I think I know what you're saying. I know more about preamps and compressors and microphones, where to buy them, and where and when to use them, but I 'oft' wonder if that has robbed me of my instinctual intuition to utilize that crappy, yet hard won Realistic that I found in a pawn shop to my upmost creative potential. Has the pioneer spirit been lost?

Is that what you mean? I don't know. It depends on the individual who applies the information he/she learns here. I sponge up the goodness, and apply what I learn in my own way, and take most of it with a grain of salt, like you said. Anyways, I'm buying some Stapes because of your thread about them. How 'bout them apples? :)

Just think though, that the pioneers were trekking across the uncharted country through wildebeasts and Donner's passes and all kinds of shit to establish so their descendants wouldn't have to.

Yeah, I don't know what I'm talking about either.
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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by cgarges » Thu Dec 18, 2003 11:44 pm

I'm just glad somebody finally said it was okay to use condensers on a bass drum. Whew. All these years I thought I was breaking the rules and was afraid to tell anybody.

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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by thunderboy » Fri Dec 19, 2003 12:12 am

Maybe it's the way kids are raised today - in a politically correct, antibacterial, teletubby utopia.
When I was a kid (shut up, old man!) all of my toys had lots of little parts to choke on, the wall outlets didn't have safety caps, mom had asbestos oven mitts (and a huge wooden spoon to spank me with) and Wile E. Coyote died a thousand deaths a week on TV.
When stuff broke, you fixed it - because it was worth fixing. And I broke plenty of stuff. Some of it I even managed to fix before my parents found out. Nowadays, things are built to be replaced within a year or two, so now it's all about maximizing the lifespan of crap. People are too afraid to break something because it can't be repaired - only replaced with a new piece of crap at full price.

Was that rant at all relevant? I've been listening to a clavinet played thru a microphonic wah pedal at 110dB for the last three hours, so I'm a little loopy...


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the "demo" and your inner child

Post by Dot » Fri Dec 19, 2003 3:17 am

the "demo" and your inner child

Remember making demos? I think that's what a lot of people are thinking of when they say they were more creative with their 4-tracks than they might be with all these new fancy systems everyone has nowadays.

Think about it: Everybody and their brother is now "coming out with a CD". Why do you have to make a CD? And even to make a CD, you need some demos to flush out what material you might want to include.

I think there's a few things involved with people feeling a lack of creativity:

1. Most people have systems that are good enough that they could actually make a finished CD product on them. I'm not necessarily saying that everyone has the talent and skills to pull it off - but the systems are capable of it.

2. Instant attention and judgement: It used to be that we could make demos and play them for our immediate friends and family - and that was enough. Now, we can upload MP3's to the internet and have God and everybody listening within minutes.

Some thoughts about this:

1. Just make some demos for awhile. It will not only help you learn your system better, but you will most likely come up with some tracks that can later be used when you start tackling the more serious quest of actually recording a collection of songs.

2. Fuck what everybody thinks. Don't post your MP3's - or if you do, just say that you're messing around and experimenting with making some demos and learning your gear/system.

3. Make manageable tasks for yourself. Don't get overwhelmed by trying to do everything at once.

Allow yourself to sketch and doodle in your studio. Even DaVinci, who made some of the greatest works in the history of man - made massive amounts of unfinished works and countless little sketches where you can see him studying just even the smallest intricate details.

I've made thousands of recordings, and only 1% - 2% of them were ever ready for primetime to be played for a more general audience.

Allow yourself to suck sometimes. It's OK. Because by allowing yourself to suck, you free up the creative energies - and more often than not - wind up not sucking.

When I started writing articles, I thought they all had to be perfect. But as I started dealing with deadlines and actually getting them done - and knowing I really wanted to write for the long term ? I decided that if I was going to seriously write that I had to be willing to accept the fact that every article was not going to be amazingly perfect. Some are better than others. That's OK. And, in fact, some of the articles that I've written that I didn't think were all that good at the time, have later turned out to be some of my best writing. Go figure. There are tons of examples of songs that a band didn't really think was all that great that got included on an album at the last minute - and that very song turned out to be the big hit that everybody loves.

The main problem with all this new technology is that we all have immediate access to the media for producing and sharing our works. This very fact scares that shit out of the little kid in us - the creative child from whom all great works flow.

Give the kid some room to play and have some fun.
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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by djimbe » Fri Dec 19, 2003 4:31 am

Great observation Joel, and it goes much deeper than recording in my opinion. I see this alot in my life with my friends and it confuses me. For example, I get called on to do both major and minor house repairs for friends. I gladly help 'em, because I don't do things like babysit for them. More often than not the job winds up being something easy, not requiring special tools or knowledge, but an attitude of "let's see what happens if I take this apart..." There seems to be a fear of going into unknown territory, like if you're not some kind of specialist, then you can't touch things. I've never understood it. My friends repeat the same questions over and over, and many times the answer from me is "I'm not sure, let's look". It never satisfies 'em, so they ask again. Americans seem to be conditioned now to seek some sort of "professional" help on everything from simple repairs to relationship issues, to basic health maintenance.
Life is NOT difficult, yet so many people make it that way needlessly. "What if I prune the bush too far back?" Well, it'll either die or grow back - do it and see what happens. "My sink is backing up. I'm afraid to call a plumber" Didja try to clean the trap? "I can DO that?" "Hey Dr. - the television said I should ask about this new wonder drug. Think that would make me feel better?" (without even knowing what the drug might be designed to treat) I don't mean to make light of dangers that are inherent in many tasks, like sticking yer hands in the back of a tube amp, but really, if you don't try something, how do you know if you can't do it? If you wait for someone to give you the answer to every question, rather than attempting to seek it on your own through research, experimentation, and personal reflection, you ain't gonna grow much. No, seking the answer on your own isn't fast sometimes, and you are guaranteed to fail at times. So what? We've come to treat failure at a task as the end of the story, rather than the beginning of the learning process. Pretty sorry way to live, if you ask me...
I thought this club was for musicians. Who let the drummer in here??

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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by inverseroom » Fri Dec 19, 2003 4:46 am

Aw, I dunno--if all you know of the people on this board is what they post on this board, then you don't really know them. Most of people's recording experience IS experience--it's just that this board is fun to read and often inspiring or educational. God knows I don't "need" to know all about different kinds of gear, but it's a type of esoteric knowledge that's a pleasure to have. I still spend my recording time fooling around and trying out stuff, and I bet most people here do the same.

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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by bigtoe » Fri Dec 19, 2003 5:17 am

yeah i guess i don't see the fear factor either...though i've seen it brought up.

posting on a message board for advice is also just hanging out and interacting with folks...bouncing ideas off each other...most who come here don't take it all that seriously...and they're smart enough to know there's no answer...


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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by I'm Painting Again » Fri Dec 19, 2003 5:46 am

I don't think people are afraid to try things on their own as much as it seems..they come on a board like this and ask a question like "can I use this such and such mic on a widget?" and I thinks its more about ideas and folks wanting to see how others especially pros (Joel) do it..It may be more of an insecurity thing if they follow, the most popular pro technique..or maybe its popular for a reason, it works well, etc..In any case it should not be a scary thing..I pretty much in synch with Inverse Room's idea that you don't know what the people are really doing with the vague postings on a message board..I'm sure people on here think I'm an absolute freak who takes drugs all day and listens to Skid Row and the Beastie Boys(oh wait..well thats only this week)..but I tend to take some artistic liscence with my writings here..and I like to be contrary a lot..


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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by joel hamilton » Fri Dec 19, 2003 7:23 am

"Allow yourself to suck sometimes. It's OK. Because by allowing yourself to suck, you free up the creative energies - and more often than not - wind up not sucking."

That statement is the best piece of gear you could get for your studio this christmas!

I also loved this concept: about demos! I had completely forgotten about making a million 4trk demos! people would all be trading, selling DEMOS! In the punk/HC scene especially, like "hey I got the sick of it all DEMO." That simply doesnt happen anymore, the CD is "self released!" How dare we call it a demo!?!? After all, the "MEN" who made it are all 14 years of age....

Thanks everyone for the great replies. Restores my faith, a little.

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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by wing » Fri Dec 19, 2003 7:51 am

hmm... again i declare, Joel should write this kind of stuff all the time for tapeop and what not!

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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by CabreeToe » Fri Dec 19, 2003 8:30 am

IMO the fear we experience may not really have anything to do with the loss of the pioneer additude. From previous posts I've read much of it revolves around appearances. Such as (forgive I can't remember who said it) "The worst thing you can tell a client is ""I don't know or I can't""

And as far as experimentation goes I'm sure %100 of ya'll do spend a lot of time fuckin' around with everything but there is a point of no return.
People are too afraid to break something because it can't be repaired - only replaced with a new piece of crap at full price.
Gear itself (at least for me) is something that I AM fearful of messing with. If I can't fix what I have done I probably won't be able to afford to have a Pro fix it nor replace it.
My mom always told me "Poor people can't afford to buy cheap things" I'm tryin' ma.

As for having a complete production system capable producing the CD. I'm all for it. In my mind that allows me more room for experimentation and learning. Cause software is easy to fix.

ramble ramble blah

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Re: the "demo" and your inner child

Post by aurelialuz » Fri Dec 19, 2003 9:01 am

Dot wrote:Remember making demos? I think that's what a lot of people are thinking of when they say they were more creative with their 4-tracks than they might be with all these new fancy systems everyone has nowadays.
i had a band come in this w/e and beforehand, i had told them, "hey, if you have any four track stuff, any demos of songs and such, bring em in, they'll help us focus in on what sound you're thinking about for these songs." but they didn't and we were standing around talking after the session and the subject came up, and i said "hey, i'd really like to hear those, i guess it's a little too late now, but..." he was like "oh well, you know, i don't know what i'm doing with that, i just stick a mic in front of what i'm trying to record and go. they're just for me."

i can respect the privacy of that, but i just felt like it was a cop-out. this guy is a handyman and was telling me about all the random problems he has to solve everyday and i knew that his recordings almost assuredly were cool and had a vibe to them, cause he was obviously an intelligent, problem solving individual. it was just that he though that was something he couldn't do or wasn't focused on getting perfect. in reality, if you record sound, you're a sound engineer and you're valid. bring em in! maybe you had some kind of weird guitar sound that you liked on a song we should try to get again...shit, maybe we should just bounce the track and overdub on it.

i often rue the idea of professional engineers cause it creates problems like this, where music, the ultimate medium of the common man, is turned into something untouchable, only for the select few that can "do it right."


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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by schnozzle » Fri Dec 19, 2003 9:26 am

Do you mean the "I don't want to stick this thing there because it might blow up" mindset?

I often find myself falling into that because (1) I don't consider myself a 'real engineer' because I'm not too comfy around electronics, so if I had a new idea I wouldn't necessarily know how to implement it correctly, and (2) I am always so pressed for time that I don't have a chance to sit down and experiment. I usually just need to set up things quickly in a way that I've tried before and am pretty confident will work okay, even if it means missing out on new sounds/techniques. Another reason I don't consider myself a 'real engineer.'

I guess a parallel for this would be trying to fix the engine of one's own car. For someone with no mechanical experience at all that's pretty intimidating; even if the risk of actually destroying your engine if you're replacing, say, a coolant hose is small, it sure doesn't feel that way the first time you try it...

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Re: Fear and loathing

Post by Piotr » Fri Dec 19, 2003 9:59 am

Great observation Joel, and it goes much deeper than recording in my opinion.
Thanks djimbe for the observation, I agree. In fact, I would assert that every moment represents an unknown and we should live life as such. The need to consistently grasp for experience leaves us unable at times to function at the spontaneous level.

Let the session flow as it will!



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