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Daily recording log - Remote recording of Piano and Voice

Discussion in 'Piano' started by Thomas W. Bethel, Feb 28, 2005.

  1. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Yesterday was the first day of a five day remote recording session. This is a log of that session.

    7 am Wake up get some breakfast

    8 am Start checking over equipment for the start of the recording session. Check the software and the computer, check the microphones and the headphones, start getting together all the equipment needed for the recording.

    12:00 noon Break for lunch

    12:45 pm back to work on checking everything. ( I am known for hardly ever having an equipment problem and would like to keep that reputation.

    3:30 pm start packing the van.

    5:00 pm arrive at the client's residence where we will be recording.

    The producer and the talent help unpack the van and we get all the equipment moved into the house. I start setting up. The recording will be of a solo voice and piano accompaniment. I am using the Mackie Onyx console with the firewire attachment into my Sony Vaio computer plus I am recording direct to a Tascam disk recorder. The microphones are two Blue Line AKGs on the piano and a hand held C-1000 for the talent (her idea not mine). Everything gets set up in short order and we do a test of the piano. It works great. The producer is pleased and so is the talent. The singer, who is the producer's wife has not arrived.

    We break for tea and cookies and wait for the singer to arrive. (Looks like NO DINNER tonight)

    7:00 pm the singer arrives and we all listen to the piano recording. Everyone is ready to start. We all get into position and then the singer decides that she does not like the mix in the headphones so we try a couple of different things but no luck. Then the producer, who is a amateur audio engineer, decides to go get a headphone amplifier from the church where he works. He is gone for about 30 minutes and comes back with a patchcord and a 300 watt amplifier with a fan that sounds louder than the piano. We plug it in but now have a hum in the headphones. OK so we try a bunch of other things and no luck. Finally after lifting some grounds and going from unbalance to balance everything works but the singer is now complaining that the headphones are distorting. So we do some other things and still no luck. The producer is pushing to get the recording done but we are out of options. I tell him that I can bring additional equipment tomorrow but not today. We end the session at 10:30 pm. The producer says that today we will need to have reverb in the singers feed so she can have something to make her voice sound larger but does not want the reverb printed to tape. No problem. I will bring another mixer tomorrow and do the headphone feeds with it with a reverb unit attached. I drive home and hit the bed. Before I leave the producer tells me that he cannot pay for this whole session in one lump sum and will have to pay me if monthly installments. I agree to three months but this is NOT what we agreed to originally. Why is it always AFTER the start of a session that they tell you things like this. Today (Monday) will be interesting as we are suppose to get a major winter storm with sleet, freezing rain, snow and wind. The remote recording site is about 20 miles from my house over mostly rural roads and some interstates. Should be FUN coming home tonight!

    More to come.
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Interesting post, Tom! I like this idea of a "blog", if you will...

    We're just now getting the same storm that's whipping up the East Coast....my guess is that Jeremy has already seen it, judging by the radar... 50MPH winds expected WITH the 6-10" of snow coming. Sheeesh! Glad I"m "stuck" at home doing production work for the day.

    Two observations: You have the ONYX, the FW card, and a Sony Vaio. Which model do you have? (Mine is the PCG-FRV37). The reason I ask is because I had an intermittant problem initially with the firewire interface; I was getting a "PFFFF" sound every three minutes (Literally) until I finally tracked it down to the BATTERY. (Charging circuit was polling the battery, or attempting to charge it, and the noise went away as soon as I pulled the battery out and went with AC power only. Go figure.... Drove me NUTS till I found it.)

    What has me REALLY puzzled about your session is this singer you're talking about... If I read this correctly, it's JUST Piano and singer? I mean, this singer has you and everyone else standing on their heads because she wants a loud HEADPHONE mix!?!?!? (Is it pop? Opera Arias? Is she a Diva? (don't answer, I get it! ;-) ))

    Seriously, you must be ready to strangle her....solo voice accompanied by piano, and she needs headphones...sigh......what has the world come to, eh? I've been lucky this type of recording; I rarely have to deal with that, but I guess because it's in a home the person needs some reverb or whatever. (Good luck and god bless you on this one! I see red flags all over this one.)

    As for the $$$ sitution: Been there, done that, hate when it keeps happening. I've got a client that's $1800 in arrears, with a new bill on top of that for $400, and an upcoming gig this weekend, to kick up the balance even further. The secretary/accountant keeps stonewalling me when I ask for payments, and the artistic director (the one I deal with) acts oblivious to the whole thing. (Balance due? What balance due???) I just email-bombed them with the latest totals, and have said (in the nicest terms possible) that we've got to "Settle up accounts" by the weekend. (It's REALLY tough to threaten long-term, ongoing clients who live and die by their grant applications, ya know?)

    Anyway, I hope your singer is happier tonight, and I hope you're able to get paid in a timely manner. (Gotta love those production agreements; more and more, I use them for all my new clients....it really helps when someone - usually the client - starts to waffle on key issues.)
  3. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Tom, you are waaaay too accomodating. I don't tolerate this sort of childish behaviour, but I acknowledge, its difficult to assert oneself. I would also never prepare to the length of time you did. I simply don't have the time spare.

    One wonders sometimes is it worth all the care and attention. I sympathise.
  4. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    we all take part of your problems and hope that in the end you have a platinum selling record with you taking a percentage of the gross. Put me in the same situation and I believe I would have walked out, waiting til I was paid the full sum in advance. It doesn´t really seem worth all the hassle, and then even risking not getting paid. Well, guess I can be picky since this is not what pays my bills.

  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Hehehe....I am reminded of that MTV show "Boiling Point".

    It begs a good question: At what point do WE each individually pop our corks and say: "THAT'S IT!!! I am OUTTA here..."

    I actually did it with a client about 3 weeks ago. It was a wonderful feeling; VERY liberating, actually. The client was playing one against the other, treating me like a chump. I said: "you know what? I don't NEED to compete here, and I don't NEED this gig. Go with brand x, and have a lovely time. Here's your hat and coat, there's the door, and remember that the next time you call me, the rates will have gone up and you'll be in line behind all the rest."

    I rarely EVER get that way with a client, but this time.....god, it felt wonderful. :)
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Day Two of the Voice and Piano Recording Session

    Monday the recording session was suppose to start at 11:30 am. I had to stop by our local GC to get another headphone amplifier for the singer. They open at 11:00 am and I was there when they opened. I asked the salesman for a Presounus HP-4 (a GREAT headphone amp for $99) His computer showed two of them but he could not find either. Finally someone found one of them but it was missing the power supply (wall wart) and they had no idea if it worked. So we took the time to hook it up and test it after we found another power supply. The recording site is less than 10 minutes from the GC store so I thought I had more than enough time to make it to the session on time. But no, the GC "caper" took 40 minutes so I was already late. When I saw the time slipping away I called the producer and told him I would be late. I got to the house about 10 minutes to 12. I turned on all my equipment, checked the placement of the equipment and set up the new headphone amp. The singer wanted reverb in her headphones but not recorded to tape so I brought along an Alesis WEDGE ( I purchased this for just such occasions from GC for $99) and another Mackie mixer for the head phone send. I got everthing hooked up but their was hum on the headphone feed to the singer but the headphone feed to the pianist was fine. I moved the Presonus off the floor and the hum disappeared. The house is a tri level with the recording being done in the living room on the ground floor. We have set up the "control room" in the basement rec room. I guess there must be something under the floor of the living room that has a large magnetic field associated with it. After "fixing the headphone problem" I proceeded to check out the headphone with the reverb. The singer complains that the headphone feed's reverb is not of good enough quality for her needs. We try lots of different settings and she finally says ok to one and after a lot of fiddling I get it to sound the way she wants it in her phones.

    1:30 pm we start recording after I have a "long heart to heart talk" with the producer about many things including the "new" schedule and the need for more and more equipment which I am having to pay for. The meeting ends in a handshake but I am not sure if I can really trust this guy to do what he says. Time will tell.

    Up until this part I had no breakfast and no lunch and was snacking on some cheese crackers and tea.

    4:00 pm we break for "lunch" which the producer paid for. Three pizzas. One paid for the other two FREE from the Pizza Parlor.

    4:30 pm back to the recording. The minister of the church, who is the executive producer, showed up earlier in the day and asked if I could have some reverb in the monitors but not on the tape. I told him I would "work on it" The recording is going slowly and there are a lot of retakes with a lot of problems with the vocalist. She is too cold, she is not relaxed, she is having pitch problems, she is tired. We get though about three songs (out of 10 total).

    The weather forecast did not come true but it is raining/snowing out and I am not sure how much longer it will keep from freezing.

    7:15 pm the producer decided this will be the last song we do today. YEA! We finally finish up about 8:15 pm and I shut off everthing and leave. The drive home was uneventful but there was some ice on the bridges that was kinda fun - NOT!. I stopped and got some takeout chicken and got home about 9 pm.

    We have the day off on Tuesday (but the producer asked if I could work Tuesday night if needed but I was already committed to a meeting and said I could not work) He has told me that on Friday, the last day of the recording session, we may have to stay later than planned if we do not get everything acomplished in the time alloted. We will be back at it tomorrow and will keep you posted.

    So far I have spent about $400.00 on equipment the producer needed BESIDES what I already own.

    Least you think these people are really strange let me hasten to say they are wonderful people just not use to doing professional recording sessions and they really seem to have some strange ideas about how to do recordings but I am trying to "educate" them as we go.

    The recordings sound very good and the producer, the talent and the executive producer all seem to like what they hear (it just needs a touch of reverb says the executive producer)
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I try and do as much as I can but sometimes.......! I could really get upset if these people were not so nice to work with. As to the time to do a check out. I find that it is time well spent since I arrive at the location with everything in working condition and ready to go.

    Thanks for the reply

    Hope things are well with you.
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I actually did that too. I was so hassled recently by a client that I told him to take his project elsewhere. I am fighting for every dollar but sometimes you just can't polish the turd any more and you have to say enough is enough. It felt good in a way but I never like to lose a client. In this case it was a no brainier. His stuff was really bad coming in and he wanted it to sound like a million dollar production but he was always wanting more and more and more and kept saying things like "hurry up this is costing me a fortune" or "I have a deadline that I have to meet with the replicator and you are slowing things up" This from a person who called me at the last minute to do his mastering, starting arguing the price and needed to get it done ASAP in fact he wanted to come over that afternoon to do the mastering. After I had done the mastering he kept calling me up to do additional tweaks that he thought important (but were not part of the original mastering problems), but he did not want to pay for the additional work.

    I did the mastering but I had to do a lot of sonic surgery first to get it into shape for mastering and I guess he thought an additional one and a half hours on top of the five hours to do 10 songs was outrageous and costly. Good riddens.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    I'm still thinking about petitioning the Pope to get you canonized - Saint Tom.

    I had a client that I gave the boot to at one point.

    I did a recording session of this mediocre Pops orchestra and since, at the time, I played along with them, I did the recording sessions for free. There were a total of 3 sessions - 2 rehearsals and a concert. Of course, the rehearsals were essentially useless because the conductor talked endlessly through all of the rehearsal time (or sang...) - yes, while the musicians played.

    Then, the concert was mediocre at best. There were to be gun-shots (in a western tune), a child singer (Lord of the Rings Arrangement), piano (turned out to be a Baldwin upright - Harry Potter arrangement) and much, much more. The gunshots (which of course turned out to be square waves) were a little problematic when the percussionist "playing" the gun fired six shots only to find out there were only 5 blank rounds in the gun, making an interesting click instead of a bang on shot 6. The child singer sang a few wrong words and the piano sounded out of tune (with itself none the less) and crappy.

    In all, it took me nearly 6 months to polish this turd, (and I'm still not satisfied with the results. Even though I put the 6th gun shot back in and changed the kid's words so they were correct) Part of the original signed agreement was that, I would provide them a master copy and if they wanted it duplicated, the total fee would be $3,000 including all licenses provided.

    Of course, when I gave them the master - a couple weeks later they called and said "How do you want your name credited on the disc? Because, we are taking it to discmakers to have it duplicated - they are cheaper than you are."

    Of course, I flipped my lid - I didn't get paid 1 friggin cent for the work that I did and they were breaking copyright laws by using my disc for their own gains without my permission!!! They argued back - well, you gave us the master, that means you gave us the copyrights too!

    I had a choice - hire an attorney and drag this out, or just cave.

    I caved. At the same time though, I told them that I didn't want to be listed anywhere on the jacket and that any use of my name or my company's name would be doing so illegally.

    2 weeks later, they called me and said - "We need another master. The one you gave us has too many errors on it..." I checked out the disc (which I had tested before giving it to them and was WELL within any specified error rate - Plextor burner at 4x onto a Mitsui Gold disc) The disc was scratched as hell cuz they had passed it around to different members of the board and didn't use a jewel case.

    After that, I told them never to call me or talk to me again - that meant playing or recording!

    Sometimes, you just gotta put your foot down.

  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I have two words for all of your pain:


    I had a thread going here (one that got dumped early on, when this forum was new) about proprietary rights and so on. I've gone through all the same stuff (with and withOUT production agreements in place.) I have one client currently playing cat and mouse with me. After getting the latest master from me, they've gotten very quiet about dupe/replication of the CD. They were once in a big hurry to get copies out, now they have suspiciously slowed down all of a sudden. No word on copy-count yet. Looks like it's time to send 'em a bill. ;-)

    I work several ways (as I'm sure we all do) and I'm totally fine if the project is going to go to Discmakers or Euorpadisc or somewhere similar. That's cool if it's understood up front, and I'm charging as such, with an understanging regarding credits, logos, rights, etc. But there's no way a jointly-produced CD (in which I make my profit from the quantity-sales of the thing) gets out of my hands and into some other companies replicators. (Them's fightin' words!!! :evil: )

    My other thread was about this aspect as well: it's always a struggle to stay ahead of this kind of stuff; people seem to constantly want to go on the cheap - run off copies in their own office computers, rip tracks, attempt their own edits - and of course come crying back to ME when something goes wrong.

    I recently had some (name withheld) video production company actually CALL ME directly for a "Master DV Tape" of a DVD we did for someone else. They were in the middle of EXTRACTING video from this thing (at the behest of our client), basicly trying to de-construct the thing to re-edit it it for some kind of grant or promo effort. (Had their crappy DVD player been able to properly play our recordable DVD-r, we would have never known...and they would have made an inferior dub from the DVD.)

    Fortunately, the content was crap, and the talent is talent-less, so in the long run, I don't care, and I wont be calling my attorney on this one. Still, you can imagine what I'll have to say to THIS client the next time they come back for anything new. (Break out the CORPORATE rate card, kids... )

    IMHO, these and others are all good reasons to get that production agreement tweaked up and handed out before EVERY new gig starts. I have a generic version if anyone wants a copy; it's quite nice, non-inflammtory, and I tweak it for each job as it goes out. (No two are ever the same). It may not keep EVERYONE honest, but it sure puts folks on notice that you're not fooling around, and that you DO bring a professional presence to the table. They sign it (or they PAY YOU as signifying they agree with it..)

    Even if they break some of the agreement, you've got something to work with, proof of where/how you started out with the project. Leverage is always a good thing when people start putting you in pain with these things.
  11. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    No recording on Tuesday due to some scheduling conflicts with the people who's house we are using for the recording.


    There is a really bad snow storm that has been brewing since early afternoon. The snow is really coming down so I decide to leave early for the 7 pm start time and leave my house at 6:00 pm for what would normally be a 35 minute drive. It takes just under one hour and a arrive at the recording location at 6:58 pm. The talent and the producer have not arrived (they live five minutes away).

    The people that own the house have let us keep the equipment in place so all I have to do is turn it on and check it out.

    Earlier in the day the producer calls me and says that the vocalist wants to do things differently. She wants to punch in problem areas. I inform him that with the present setup using the Mackie Onyx and the Trackatron software that would be a real trick.

    The producer keeps adding things to the production but when I agreed to do this recording what he wanted was completely different. This was originally suppose to be a simple acoustic voice and piano recording with no headphones, no reverb and no problems. He keeps talking about setting up a remote studio in the house, but his idea of what a remote studio is and what he told me he wanted are very far apart. He is use to working in his studio at work and having ADATS and a Mackie D8B with a whole rack of limiters, compressors and reverbs. If that is what he wanted I guess he should have opted for the studio. The problem is that his studio does not have a piano and he did not want to use a keyboard for this recording.

    We start a new song and the first thing that happens is the piano starts making noises. It is because the piano player is playing sooooo softly that you can really hear the piano mechanism. We try a couple of things but the remedy is to have him play louder. The vocalist complains that her headphones are dead. I get ready to go into "trouble shooting mode" but she finds that she kicked out the headphone plug when she was moving about.

    The producer has since decided that he wants to do things the way we were doing them up until now and not try and do punch ins so we start recording. The vocalist is having problems with phlegm and keeps having to stop. About halfway though the evening the pianist decides that he does not want to wear headphones (which I had suggested early on but who listens to the audio engineer) and finds he can play much better. (now if I could only get the singer to do the same). The takes get shorter and shorter and finally we get to the end of the song. The producer is worried about really small vocal problems and keeps stopping the recording to make suggestions. The producer informs me that what he really wants is a monitor speaker for the vocalist because that is what she is use to using and she misses the sound reinforcement and the size of the hall to help out her singing. I nix the idea since it will change the quality of the voice and add a whole other list of problems to the recording sessions.

    We are at 10:55 pm and the producer wants to start another song. We were scheduled from 7 pm to 11 pm and I beg off getting started on another song since I have no idea how long it is going to take me to get home with the snow. He says OK and we are going to start Thursday at 6:30 pm instead of 7 pm but he wants to be ready to go at 6:30 so I will get there at 6:15 pm.

    The drive home was uneventful and the snow had stopped but the sky was clear and the temps were in the teens so it was a bit slippery on the side streets.

    Tonight and tomorrow all day and it is done. YEA!
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I just have one suggestion:

    Leave any blunt objects or items which you could devise into weapons at home.

    We are all poor and struggling engineers and don't have the excess capital to bail you out of jail or cover attorney's fees.

  13. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    As I read this I am wondering if the singer is physically limited and cannot travel to where this adventure SHOULD have taken place-- a studio.

    I am also wondering why you are letting them force you into buying stuff you don't want?

    On the thread that Joe mentioned I tried to make the point that if you do business like other custom businesses then you will be paid and treated like one. Try ordering a several thousand$$ custom-made ANYTHING without a significant chunk up front.

    If someone balks at signing a letter of agreement or with a feel schedule that begins with some of the money when I appear, I can assume that this was a project that would end badly, and not even start! Cucco's tale is a good example. And if you want one client to decide what your capital acquisition plan is, and to have an interest-free loan while you wait for months on the $$, then fine. I do not know where I can get interest-free money, nor do I want my equipment list determined by needs I may never have again.

    From the aroma of all you have described, you would be prudent to ask for partial payment now while you still have leverage. Once they have a ref CD-R you never know what can happen, but you'll rarely LIKE it. To keep it from being personal simply say it is your company policy to get a percentage when starting and because of the extra purchases you REALLY need to get some $$ now-- surely they understand!

  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Funny you should mention that - I left my pocket knife at home strickly by accident last night but maybe I'll remember it tonight. It is hard to get the packaging off the CDs without it.

    This whole recording session is just too funny for words. I have over 200 albums to my recording credit but this is taking top honors are one of the most bizzare. The only one that even comes close was this producer who wanted to record in an indoor swimming pool because he liked the reverb. I bailed on that one since I did not want to damage all my microphones and equipment with the humidity and Chlorine in the pool area. Where do these people come from???????????? Is this the plot for MIB III?
  15. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    The singer is not physically limited and is a very healthy 50 + year old women with two kids. Why they decided to do this in the house is because originally we were going to do this in a church near here but their schedule and the church's schedule did not agree so they came up with this "other plan" at the last minute......(sometimes refered to as a disaster plan ;- ) hence the need for reverbs and hand held microphones that were not part of the original "plan" since we would have been in a reverberant setting.

    Last night the producer asked me if I could transfer all of the session recording to CDs and get it to him late Saturday night since he wanted to send them off with his wife, the singer, on her trip out of state. I told him that the session CDs would be available ONLY after payment was received. He looked shocked. FWIW - My parents did not raise a dummy for a son.

    I have done mastering for these clients before and it has always been strait up. They were impressed with what we were able to do with the mastering to SAVE their last project. I did not foresee what was to take place but it is the last remote recording session I do without a contract. They are very nice people but they are in a fog most of the time and since the producer is an AMATEUR audio engineeer with just enough knowledge to be dangerous he thinks he knows a lot more than he does. The last project I did for them was a disaster coming into be mastered. In one song the levels went from -24 dB to 0 dBFS thoughtout the song and the minister,who was acting as the executive producer, wanted the whole thing to be the same level for "radio air play" but the producer wanted "dynamic range and plenty of it" They also had lots of noise and distortion that I had to remove and some really bad phasing problems that I had to use an M-S process to solve. It was all acoustical instruments but they had been "processed" by the producer and in so doing he created a lot of his own problems.

    When this current recording project was pitched to me it is billed as a "classical recording setup with just a piano and vocalist" it is anything but.

    Thanks for your suggestions. A word to the wise is always appreciated.
  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Thursday's Recording Session.

    The session was scheduled to begin a 6:30 pm. The vocalist had requested a "grip" for the hand held microphone that would keep it from being so cold. I tried to find something at the local bike shop and the local sports store but they had nothing in stock that was the right diameter. I finally spotted a paint roller that was slightly larger in diameter but the microphone could be slid in and held with a piece of rubber so it worked. The vocalist was also complaining of being cold all the time. We had to turn off the furnace and the electric heater they had was fan driven and was too loud to leave on. (outside air temps in the teens) so while I was at Target they had an "end of the season sale" and I was able to pickup a "carbon" heater for less than 20 bucks. It is noiseless and puts out a lot of heat. It does not have a fan or thermostat so it is QUIET!. Anyway that seemed to be a major factor in the singers performance and I figured what the heck. The singer loved the "grip" and the heater and we were ready to begin.

    The whole evening went off without a hitch. We got some amazing tracks and the last song she did left me in tears. It was soooooo moving and so well done. We finished up all the songs and today we are only going to do some retakes and fix a couple of problem areas. WHEW! Too bad I did not get the "grip" and the heater earlier in the week.

    I will be finishing up the project today and will keep you posted.

    Sometimes it is the simplest things that make the most difference.

    Now if the only pay me!!!!!!!!
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Did you insert a line item on the invoice for the rehab you'll have to attend given that this event has probably driven you to drink or shoot heroine?
  18. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    Geez ... can you say "high maintenance"? :roll:
  19. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    from your last post it sounds like it was worth all the hazzle. Makes me very interested. Is it possible that you could post a snippet of the song somewhere for the rest of us to listen to?

  20. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    or shoot heroine?

    Jeremy, is this a freudian slip/mispelling or are you suggesting Tom commit a violent assault on the singer?

    Hehehe.... Clever, indeed.

    (that hand-held thing certainly would have driven ME to the edge.)


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