Discussion in 'Music Business Forum' started by reddb, Dec 18, 2003.
becoming in a word: obsolete
I polish a lot turds re-mixing complete utter crap these days from fools that have tried to do it all themselves and fail. I can always make it sound much better than it was before, but it is so sad to know that it could be really great if they had done it right with an experienced and qualified person with right tools doing the work.
Like many other trades, the true skills of the audio engineer are destined to be lost and forgotten and to become just another database archive. The ability to record at home will never replace or make obsolete the skills, techniques and experiences of a good engineer, but it is a fact that there will an ever growing surge of crap made music making it's way into the marketplace none the less...
"Saving money" on the recording & mastering process has become more important than fine quality sound.
There will be a few remaining specialists, but most recordings will be done under uncontrolled, non-expert conditions in the future.
Perhaps the pendulum will swing back the other way in awhile, when people get tired of trying to wear all the hats & realize that although they CAN record & master at home that does not mean they will get best results doing things that way.....
It's not for a lack of enthusiasiam for recording that commercial studios have suffered, it's a financial & fredom thing.
However, you as a former professional studio operator, have a real advantage over a rookie trying to become a recording engineer, mastering engineer, label owner, distributor & artist all at once. Many people who try that are overwhelmed by the many areas they have to become experts at. As a result corners are cut in many areas.
It may not have been a bad idea to have an expert record you, etc.
becoming in a word: obsolete
Case in point, man comes out of retirement back into audio after 20 years, true, what you hear at the monitors is one thing, getting there with the NEW technology is another. So the only logical real way to proceed is to build that nice large format multitrack studio over again, and continue where he left off....WRONG. You must diversify.
Not only has the technology changed, but the duty one is expected to do came with a new term called "multitasking." No longer can the modern engineer be focused on a single process.
The specialist must now become a General Practitioner. The field of audio stretches far and wide now, and the modern engineer must have an understanding of all.
I'm not saying that an engineer can't find a nitch market, but if one truly wants to remain a viable technical multitasker, He must be diverse.
Obsolete? I'd disagree completely. What is obsolete is the rest of the studio.
If everyone can get their hands on the tools, then the only differentiator will be in whose hands those tools are. No longer will a mediocre engineer with a massive investment in gear be able to get a better sound than someone with real talent.
The studios that will suffer are the ones that cater to demos and to poor musicians without a budget- I know, I had a studio like that and I was glad to sell it and get out. Most musicians with today's daws can get results that are passable for demos- and that's all you need to go to the next step where the budget is-
the only thing that is likely to change is that training for engineers will be more than likely self taught for the most part in peoples daws. Those who find their vocation will move on and either eventually work in a pro situation or freelance mix and/or produce acts and find their way into gigs with a budget. But there will always be a need for professionals. heck, the more things change, the more they stay the same
The people who do write novels using a word processor are few and far between and they are usually professional writers or tend to use the services of a professional to check their grammar and linguistics.
People found out that just because you have a word processor does not make you a Mark Twain or William Shakespeare.
I say just because you have a DAW does not make you a Bruce Swedien or Glenn Meadows.
I am a mastering engineer and get to listen to a lot of what is recorded today. Some of it is CRAP some of it is good, some of it is excellent. Some comes from Pro studios, some from home studios and some from all the in one units stuck in someone's bedroom.
No one place produces the best recordings. I get bad recording from Pro studios and beautifully crafted productions from the kid around the corner. It is all a matter of skill and experience and the ability to understand what you are doing. Some people are born to it some are not.
People tell me that it is too expensive to record in a recording studio so they want to buy their own equipment and do it themselves. They spend $5,000 to $7,000 dollars on equipment, use it for messing around with and never seem to complete anything and when it goes out of date complain loudly to anyone who will listen that manufactures should not make gear obsolete in only a couple of years.
Instead they could have gone to a really good recording studio, spent a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars and had a nicely done recording that would be generating income.
Many people would rather do it themselves but they seem to never get done with the project. They are always at GC looking for new microphones, new plugins or new racks of outboard equipment to give them the edge.
"if only I could find what so and so is using I could be really be a great musician and or engineer" they proclaim loudly to any and all . HOGWASH. It is not the gear that has to be great it is the recording engineer and the musician who have to be great. A good engineer can make bad equipment sound OK the reverse is NOT true.
Pardon the rant but it amazes me that sane people will go out and purchase thousands of dollars of equipment to save themselves a couple of hundred. I guess that is the "American way"
As to the topic at hand I see recording engineers broadening out their horizons and acting as the final solution when some one in their home studio cannot get the sound they want or do the mixdown and they have to turn to the pros to get their work done.
I also see in the future a lot of equipment lying dormant in people's houses that cost a ton of money, was bought for the specific reason of recording their band and then the interest lagged or the skills weren't there and the equipment sits in the basement or the garage never to be used again. (right next to the exercise bike or the pool table or the thigh master)
Tom, you made strong and excellent points, my take was not the demise of the engineer, but the enhancement. Firstly, you mention the word processor, well, that's a great analogy since millions of jobs were lost to it, a modern publishing software user can produce magazine quality camera ready art, graphics, and typset in no time, yet is paid about what the executive assistant was paid before. All the associated jobs were not needed, not to say that printing company's and publishers don't maintain this type of staff, maybe just not as many. It is survival, being able to bring in the business, and still market what you can do. This is where we want to be, as an indy, or working for a company. I see many specialists wondering about aimlessly, some are changing fields, and only dabble a little in their real trade. I have also seen studio's go, one after another, with many clients left with no where to turn. IOW's if things get that bad, imerge into something that values the expertice. Don't throw in the towel.
The people who want to be recording engineers and are truly motivated, talented, and are willing to spend the time learning their "craft" will always be needed.
What is happening now is that places like Guitar Centers and Sam Ash are telling people that for a few thousand dollars they can have it all. They sell them the equipment, they tell their customers the experience will come and after that the professionalism to make really good recordings is just a matter of time and patience.
Musicians in the days gone by use to collaborate with other people. There use to be a producer and an engineer doing the sessions at commercial studios. Now all the recording, mixdown and mastering is done in someone's bedroom or basement and no one, other than the members of the band ever listen to the recording process while it is being done..
The band members are not making value judgments that are accurate and are based wholly on what they personally want to hear or not hear in the mixes. There is no one person, such as a producer, who is impartial and is only commenting on what he or she is hearing though the monitors.
I personally do not know of one guitar player that does not want to hear more of himself in the mix. So he tells the person who is recording the band that he wants more guitar. Then the drummer hears the mix and wants more drums and the vocalist, not wanting to be drowned out wants more vocals. The person who is engineering (if there is a dedicated person doing the mix which is unlikely or maybe the younger brother of one of the band members) is not really skilled at mixing and or negotiating and simply turns up each instrument as the player asks him to. When there is no more room left to turn anyone up the whole band gets into a funk because each of them wants his instrument louder and now they are all as loud as they can be. The mix really sounds bad.
The band members, who are not skilled in the process of recording and mixing, have no idea how to properly do a recording or a mix so they get very frustrated with the whole process and it bogs down and goes nowhere. Since the musicians own the recording equipment they say to themselves "we need more time so lets do it all over again" but it is not more time that is needed. What they need is someone with the professional chops who can step in and do what the member of the band cannot and that is record and mix the music correctly. Some one who is impartial and can listen to the music without all the emotional baggage that every band carries with it.
The engineer and producer are paid to do their jobs and do them well. They care only about the final product and don't need or want to know that the drummer is having marital problems or that the vocalist had a huge hangover the day of the vocal overdubs and was barely able to stand. They are also listening with professional ears and can hear things that others cannot or don't want to hear like missed entrances, out of tune instruments or drum beats that wander. These are things that the band should be able to hear but they chose not to for various reasons. Maybe they have had ongoing fights over of the wandering drum beats and it has caused some rife in the group, maybe it is because the vocalist is the wife of one of the band members and NO ONE wants to criticize her out of tune vocals.
I get these mixes dumped into my lap on a daily basis as a mastering engineer. They want the mastering engineer, me, to fix all the problems it took them months to create. It is not possible nor economically feasible..
If the band would hire a professional recording engineer and a producer at the start of the recording process not only would have taken LESS time but there would now be a completed mixdown that was ready for mastering and would soon be released and making the band money. And.... it would probably cost them less money in the long run for the project.
Guitar Centers and Sam Ash are in the business of selling equipment and that is what they do best. If they have to tell people small fibs about how EASY it is to do your own recordings then it just goes with the territory. After all they have to make a buck and they probably will never see the customer again unless that customer comes back in for that "special microphone" that will guarantee him/her a million seller. (ya right)
All of these problems are starting to trickle over into my profession, mastering, and more and more bands that can't do a decent job of tracking and mixing are now being told that for $1200.00 and a few computer programs they now can be mastering engineers as well. Next GC and SA will be selling the band duplication equipment so they can set up their own record company - oh I forgot they are already doing that.
My advice. Hire a professional recording studio to do your recording for you. If you want to purchase some equipment spend the money on your instruments and/or your rig. If you want to do demos then get one of the "all-in-one" units and do all the pre recording session recordings you want to do in your basement but leave the recording you are going to make money from in the hands of a professional. You will not only save money and time but in the long run the band may be able to spend more time recording and less time fighting about who's solo should be the loudest.
What started out as a way to save money (by purchasing all your own equipment) has turned out instead to be a huge boondoggle that no one from the individual band members to the buying public is really happy with.
FWIW and FYI
[ January 22, 2004, 03:40 PM: Message edited by: Thomas W. Bethel ]
Well, why don't we look at this from a different perspective for a moment. Times have changed - radically in fact from just a few ago, let alone music and recording from 20 years past. And the terms mastering, recording engineer, producer, ect have all lost their meaning. In the past, there seemed to be a lot more discretion used in the recording industry as well as a lot more musicianship. People had to have talent in the past. I remember watching Lawrence Whelk with my grandparents when I was growing up. The singers, musicians, dancers all seems to know exactly what they were doing. They had obviously spent literally years of their life trying to perfect their craft. And it showed in their performances! With the advancement of technology today, with pitch correction, waveform editing, sampling, an endless amount of retakes, effects, ect ... very little talent is actually needed to produce a marketable product. We hear evidence of that everyday on the radio. But people are buying (or at least downloading what the "artists" are selling for the most part. This is intoxicating for a lot of novice musicians. Rarely do I find a singer or musician who doesn't want to make it "big" (or at least rich) in the industry. It's so little about the music and more about either the ego boost or the money. And since so many musicians and singers have so little money and time these days, and since everyone seems to be willing to lend a helping hand (at least with credit cards and accounts) the all-in-one miracle recording boxes are the naive musician's dream come true. I CAN have it ALL right now (or so they think). But playing the devil's advocate for a moment, let's parallel the musician with the painter. Painting is a very intimate experience for most artists. They have their own style and technique for putting paint to canvas. No one is telling them to use more red or this special brush for this particular effect. And ART (more often than not) is not enjoyed (or at least viewed) by all at the same level. What I might think looks ridiculous, someone else is willing to pay highly for. Another season of American Idol is upon us, and I (as I'm sure a lot of people) am still surprised at how many talentless people think they actually have a shot at making it. For most of them, they sound just like what they hear on the radio. If it were possible to step into someone's head for the afternoon to actually hear what they're perceiving sounds good would be an enlightened treat to say the least. This flows very true in recording as well. A recording can be flawless, yet no one cares. A singer can have an extremely dynamic range, yet no one pays to hear them perform. The music industry is probably the worst at acceptance. We either love em or hate em. A Kid Rock fan is not going to enjoy an NSync Concert. A Britney Spears fan isn't running to hear Michael Buble. Everyone wants something different and thinks their "sound" will be the next big trend. 20 years ago, people had to spend big bucks and rely on others to get their musical ideas down. Now - almost anyone can have a chance to be heard. The question is ... do we want to hear it?
All of this boils down to one fact. The recording process is constantly changing these days. With new software and hardware being developed constantly, I'm sure things will evolve greatly in the next few years. How we do things today isn't how things will be done tomorrow. True, some fundamental knowledge of sound and technique are required to make it in the recording field, but the folks who are buying the all-in-ones (for the majority) should be buying a "clue" as opposed to equipment. A true artist can make beautiful music even with modest tools. But the AIOs (all-in-one-ers are just trying to get their "music" out as quickly as possible to make some $$$. And who can blame them. We all want our piece of the pie ... my advise is, don't listen. What sounds good to me might not sound good to someone else, and vise-versa ... can't we all just get along?? I think the world would be a boring place if everyone followed the same set of "rules."
I too have to listen to what I would consider "crap" sometimes in my business, but I try and put myself in the other person's place. That's not always enough a lot of times, but I have my place in the audio "chain" and I try and do my job and let them worry about selling it to the highest bidder. If someone asks, I generally give them an honest review (although sugar coated sometimes). The fact is that at the end of the project (or the mastering stage) people aren't looking for the "truth" ... they've spent hours and hours and a lot of money on their little "baby" and all they want you to tell them is how "cute" it is. Even if junior looks (or sounds) like a bulldog. At this ending point, it's tooooooo late to be really honest. If they ask me at the beginning I'm more aggressive with my opinion, but coming down the home stretch there's not much that can be salvaged without major surgery.
Are we going to change recording? who knows ... but it does make for an interesting day "
Tom, Amen once again in support of the craft,
LW?, watch those shows again, they are masterful, not only in the music and performances, but in the video presentation as well, everything from bubbles, to lighting was perfect. Everyone hit their mark, and the sound was outstanding. It is too bad that there isn't enough time, expense and personnel to polish a production like that.
I think when it aired it was weekly. There is no question, there were many artists behind the scenes, and prepared all week for the show.
Where you wrote about the painter, this is what I miss in music today.
I hear the beats and generally good song, but I don't walk away with an experience. It is sort of like having a band at a wedding reception, Ya, they are going to play all the favorites, but you know it's just a dance band mimicking, nothing to comment about. Leaves me empty.
They can't handle the truth! Let the engineer apply great care and skill to a mix, let a great mastering engineer prepare it for mass enjoyment!
Build in some things to open up my listening experience. Not just move my body, move my spirit. Tickle my senses with great audio reproduction. It has to turn back, some way, some how. The public has to be educated in what quality audio means.
Knowing next to nothing, I purchased a computer and a Digi001 a year and a half ago with the hopes of making some high quality demos to sell at gigs. After long hours and many headaches configuring, learning the program, trying some plug ins, and dealing with crashes and other computer bugs, I managed to put together what sounds like a bunch of experimenting. Without any other hardware than the 001 besides one LD condenser, the sound, to say the least, is not good. Eventhough I like some of the performances, the sound is nowhere near what I thought I'd be getting. After all, I was buying a "high quality", "industry standard" work station with a state of the art Mac. I've learned better since.
So cut to the chase. This and other similar forums have been SO eye opening to me. Very educational. Here's where I'm at. Do I?:
Purchase a dedicated PC, High end soundcard, pre, and mics, give my room some treatment, all for around $10,000 or do I use that money to go to a pro studio? I'm now thinking more full album than just demo.
What do I want to accomplish? I have not illusions anymore about how much pro knowledge and experience it takes to get a pro sound. For the short term, I want to be able to track acoustic guitar and vocals at home and then bring it to a studio with a producer to do all the rest (add drums, bass, etc, mix, and master).
In the longer run I do want to better my skills at mixing and want to record other local coffee house type artists. I get the chance to collaborate, offer good demos, and make a little money off of my equipment. And, I'd have the equipment for future projects of mine to come.
So is it a waste to buy nice gear knowing that there will be a steep learning curve and that i'm limited by my lack of experience and unseasoned ears? Or will it save studio time in the long run, teach me a lot, and allow me to take my time tracking?
From what I've read, it seems that people are complaining more about when a full project is done in the home with no pros in the process. For me, again, it would just be guitar and vocals tracking at home and then pro the rest of the way. Does this seem to work well?
Think of the studio as learning an instrument - a life long comitment that will take up your time and money- You have to put in your time before you get good results, no doubt aboout it- 10K will buy you a nice foundation for a project studio just like 10 k will buy you a real nice piano - you have to learn to play it and it won't be overnight-
So, if you want a nice album you can be proud of, go to a pro studio and they will help you achieve your aim- If you want to take up a new passion and put your time in get that project studio- you will get that nice album and many more out of it- but only if you put in your time- a long long time-
Im sure audiogaff can elaborate on this subject some more- by the time we are done you will either be commited- or commited (to a mental intitution)
I agree. If you are indeed serious about 1st rate recording, don't even think about doing it yourself unless your skills are as good or better than those you would pay to do it, have the gear, the recording environment, and have the ability to manage both roles of being musician and engineer at the same time. You might want to at least record everything in a real studio and then decide if you want to pay to have it mixed there. If you do go through with the mix, as long as you get the raw material, you can always buy some DAW or outboard gear and re-mix it which is easier and cheaper than the tracking/recording part which requires much more skill to do well, more gear and a good room to do it in.
That depends on your outlook, attitude and how much effort your willing apply. If you are serious about learning and mastering your tools to develop your skills then it is not a waste of time or money as long as you are learning, growing, enjoying and getting something out of it. But you may still never get real good at it or get to where you want to go or where you think you deserve to be.
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