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Dealing with Musicians and their timing

Discussion in 'Recording' started by AToE, Aug 12, 2011.

  1. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    Need some advice for coaching a guitarist I'm recording right now. He's good at his instrument, almost totally clean, clear, should be fine - better than lots of guys I've recorded before.

    But his timing is freaking garbage. I don't understand it at all, I think it's a lack of ever playing to a click or paying attention to staying steady (dispite 2 months of playing to a click along with the drummer up till this point in the process...). He's constantly ahead of the beat, sometimes in a good way that's nice and agressive, but more often he's so ahead that his hits are distinctly sooner than all the drummer's and bass player's hits. He's obviously "that" guy in the band that everyone else follows (and is the cause of songs speeding up I'll bet...), which is bad, that shouldn't be a guitarist, and now that it's his turn to follow, because I've EXPLAINED TO HIM that the recording can't adjust to match him like live musicians can, he's just having a really hard time.

    To add to the issue, he also accellerates parts of riffs dramatically, especially palmmuted stuff.

    It's seriously a problem. I have never ever worked with a guitarist who had such a hard time relaxing and following a recording - if I bug (nicely) him over and over on a part I can eventually coax him to play slower riffs right on the beat, and I got him to do one groove heavy part sometimes on the beat sometimes behind the beat and only occasional notes ahead of the beat (was aiming for always behind the beat because this part we purposefully recorded really loose drums with tons of feel).... but that's maybe 5% of the whole album.

    This is killing me, since he's all over the place (all over the place in regards to just how far ahead of the beat he is, or exactly what parts he rushes when he rushes parts) I'm having a deadly time getting 3 layers that work at once (trying for triple tracking here), and obviously having a hard time getting any that work properly with the drums.

    I would love any psycological tricks anyone has for making musicians that rush stuff mellow out and just play it properly... he's a stubborn guy too and just doesn't seem to quite grasp what I'm asking him to do. Ideally I'd just tell him to practice to a click for a year and then come back, but not an option right now! (My other normal option would be to make the other guitarist do the parts... BUT, in this band this guy is the good guitarist and will probably end up recording the other guy's parts!

    I will eventually get the tracks I need, but at this rate it's going to take a long time, and it's never going to be as tight an album as it should have been.

    Sorry for the rant,
  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Charge by the hour, take the money and move on. If the result is bad enough tell them to take any reference to you off the credits.
  3. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    It's getting to that point for sure, I was really looking forward to this recording being a portfolio piece... not so sure now.
  4. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    I don't know if your recording tracks into a DAW, but if you are...you can show him visually his timing is off.
    Sometimes that will help if he "see's" it because I'll bet he's not hearing it.
    Line up the hitpoints from say the drum track and his track and show him the timing delay down to the millisecond. Play it back a few times and point out the delay and sound.
    Then move a couple of his parts/hits (or shift the whole thing) lined up with the rest of the tracks and play that back for him and then let him hear what your trying to get him to do. This may not get him in time but he may get an idea of how it could sound if he was and might make him try harder.
    Now this could backfire on you and be a bad thing!...once he see's you can adjust his timing he may ask you to fix it rather than just play in time to the recording!!!
    But of course you will not want to do this!...so don't back down..
    Also some people can't use a click track....it throws them off and can distract them from their own internal timing so I don't know if you've tried that...he may be better at adjusting his own timing....but I know what you mean with rushing or all over the place with timing it's very annoying!!
    This topic actually drives me nuts because it happens to me with a friend of mine who I record...all the time! In fact he is constantly stopping and asks me to delete a take and I just tell him to try it again. I'm getting better at "comping" his tracks but if he was in charge of recording he would never keep any takes and never finish a track all the way through!
    I get pretty tired of going back over his tracks and sometimes it just is what it is and it turns out to be a performance and recording thing that isn't going anywhere and it dies on the vine!
    Sometimes it's just one of those things...tight and good timing is the sign of a good musician and sometimes you can't fix them....some people just can't do the timing thing even with years of practice....they aren't meant to be recording artists...which is why we have session musicians...LOL
    Good luck....let us know what happens and if it works out!
  5. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Try panning things in his monitor mix. Put the snare opposite from his guitar. It's a lot easier to hear detail and to separate what you're playing from the other instruments when they aren't all stacked down the center. Then flams will have a spatial aspect to reinforce the timing aspect. Reverb in monitors also helps.
  6. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    This is a killer idea, I'm doing this next session for sure. And I'll have no problems explaining to him that I can't just slide it, because he's not consistantly ahead of the beat, so it wouldn't work, I'd be lining one part up but making another worse, etc.

    He's just playing along with the drums already unless it's a drumless part, then he gets click to follow, or a hard part to follow on the drums I'll insert some click.

    Right now he's actually got very little guitar in his cans, it's mostly coming from his amp, sometimes one earphone is off for clarity. I like recording in a room with a loud live amp to get good reactions out of the strings, so I can't pump too much into the phones or there's no room for anything else! I will definitely try sticking the snare far left, maybe kicks too (being metal he's often following those as much as the hands).

    What are you suggesting reverb on specifically? I could be wrong but I have a hunch it might just make it harder for him to follow since it's usually pretty busy drums.
  7. ThirdBird

    ThirdBird Active Member

    tell him to subdivide
  8. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Something kind of short. Just enough to give things a little space. We're used to hearing things in spaces, and a little reverb sort of gives our brains "confirmation" that it heard something.
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Kill the live amp for now. Find a decent sounding emulation and get everything as tight in the cans as possible. Reamp the improved performance parts later.

    Get him to breathe in time with the drums when hes going for his part.
  10. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    Yeah, it might come to that, I could also just turn the amp way down and feed it into the cans instead, should work out basically the same. The downside is that I'd lose all my feedback reactions I'm getting out of the guitar, but at the end of the day that is less important than the playing.

    I'm going to try tonight a few combinations of feeding him into the cans panned right and the snare and kick panned left, or just the snare, just the kicks, etc. I'm also going to sit him down and show him takes after he does them so he can see just how off he is (nice thing is that I have a DI track going as well, so all the picking is super clear visually). We'll see how that goes before I start turning the amp down even further.

    It wouldn't be so frustrating if I didn't know that I could grab the bloody guitar from him and track it all on-time myself in a day or two!
  11. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    Hey, wanted to say thanks for the advice, I put him in the phones panned right, snare panned 1/2way left and it worked magic on his timing. I still have to coach him, but now I get results. I'm a little embarrassed that it didn't occur to me that part of the problem was his amp just being live and not through the phones at all (was never a problem for me, but obviously he's not me!), but oh well, live and learn.
  12. BusterMudd

    BusterMudd Active Member

    Oh, yeah, that'll help...if he subdivides his spare time: Less wanking, more practicing!
  13. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    Wanted to say thanks again for all the help in this thread, the monitoring changes made a huge difference. It's still pretty loose, but it's usuable loose now, even "pleasant loose" most of the time.

    Of course now I'm on to the other guitarist who apparently never learned proper palm muting or pick angle technique, so he just gets a few stabs at a part and then I get the other guy to do it, end of story. I also told him that if he doesn't finish writing his solos AND get them so he can play them cleanly within 2 weeks I'm going to just bring in a shredder buddy and have him lay down some mindless wanking over where the solos were supposed to be.

    As far as he knows I wasn't kidding either! (And if he doesn't get them done then I may really not be kidding!).
  14. rectifryer

    rectifryer Active Member

    I'd say have him actually play a measure before its starts recording. Actually playing with the count in can help alot of people but you sound like you got it solved.

    If this is a metal band, then playing tight is downright necessary to make anything worthwhile. How can you quad track someone who cant play the same thing twice?
  15. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    Oh yeah, I'm got them playing leading into parts and all that. It is metal and it's not as tight as you'd need for serious multi-tracking, and it's not going to be. The goal from the start was to get more of a "live" vibe than most modern robotic-playing metal, and the result in this case is simply going to be that in some parts of some songs it's going to edge into sounding a little sloppy.

    They're getting it all tight enough that a single layer of the guitar sounds good and tight enough with the drums (or I make them do it over and over until it is that good), but for many parts if I bring up layers it gets very mushy. As such the backing layers I'm recording are going to end up very quietly filling out the tone, I doubt they'll be mixed in louder than 5-10% the volume of the main layer.

    The issue before was simply that the guitars were unusable, period. Now they are sounding good and at the worst of times just passable. Except for a few parts they're having trouble with, the overall effect of their playing is what we wanted, tight but not robotic (and unfortunately robotic, or savant-like ability to recreate the exact same timing variations over and over is what is required to get that fully multi-tracked sound. Luckily that's not what we're going for, because they would be sorely dissapointed!).

    EDIT: this second guitarist is more of a problem, but that's a non-issue other than eating up time. If he can't do something, the other guy does it, end of story.
  16. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Sounds like it's an issue of listening, not hearing - the panning trick seems to have forced him to listen a little bit better.

    Three additional ideas:
    1. Crank the click up to ear bleed level. Keep it there until he gets it right. (My HS band director used this often)
    2. Same as #1, but make him do short single notes and/or chords in time w/ the click. He must mimic the click. Don't let him record until he's lockstep.
    3. Using either of the above, put on some headphones yourself, stand behind him, and smack him in the back of the head everytime he misses.

    Seriously, sounds like he just needs to listen, and count.
  17. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    Normally I think that'd be great advice, but this particular project we were going for a really live vibe, so the drums don't always line up with the click so well. Some parts I do mix in the click though (when making them play over really hard to follow fills and changes and such) - but I could still use your technique with just the drums instead of the click. He's actually got it all sorted out now though, still rushes once in a while, but seems to comprehend the problem when I point it out and works to fix it.

    I will absolutely keep that in mind for future issues of the same kind though!
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    here's a drummer who has his $*^t together: About half way through he talks about timing and click tracks
    BBC - Music Showcase - Musicians' Masterclass 2011 - Kissy Sell Out shows off his producing and remixing skills

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