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Disturbing Opinion from Producer

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Larry Sheehan, Jun 7, 2002.

  1. A band I've been tracking for brought in their producer this week to get his input. We've tracked 12 songs so far, and I'm disturbed by his critque which was that the drums and bass gtr and acoustic gtr sound great, but the vox and elec gtrs should have been compressed hard to tape (actually Mackie HDR). I love the drums and bass sounds myself, and I'm pleased that he did too.

    Now what disturbs me is partially the bruised ego, but also that I'm not sure that I agree. I feel that the elect gtr tracks accurately capture what was being put out of the amp, and I'm not sure that there's anything I could have done better. In recording the electrics, one player has been using a line6 Flextone 2 which I put on a stand and mic'd with an R121 into an API3124. After getting the producer's input, I watched the meters on playback, and I don't see indication of excessive peak/rms ratio, if anything I think the tracks would benefit from a little more dynamic range. They currently have peaks about 6db above average. I will say that these tracks have always sounded off and they've been kind of hard to get to sit well. To me they've had a grainy feel.

    The other guitarist has wanted to take a POD direct for his tracks, and I feel that he's just not familiar enough with the POD to get a "body" to his tone.

    Both guitarists seem to spend a lot of time screwing around with the amp models between takes on the same song. I'd really prefer that they try to get a single model happening and make minor tweaks.

    The vocals are a different matter, and none of us have been completely happy with them. They have always sounded "forced" to me, as though the singer was working too hard. When tracking I've tried running hotter to tape, compressing on the way in, giving him more of himself in the mix, etc. It always sounds like he's screaming more than singing. I've heard him live, but always with a terrible house mix, so maybe he really can only sing this way. I've tried Lawson L47MP-> GR MP2NV and API, TLM103-> GR MP2NV (no match at all there), Royer-> MP2NV and API. I've been more pleased with the L47 to MP2NV than anything else, so that's what we've been using. I've tried hitting it gently and hard with Distressor, LA4, and RNC. Nothing seems to let the singer sound unforced.

    Room is 20x22x11, btw.

    The upshot is that while they'll continue cutting basic tracks here, they feel they will get better results overdubbing at the producer's place. The producer can't cut drums at his place, since he's in a residential area.

    I can live with that, but I need to improve for the next chance I get. Any tips the community can offer wrt getting better elect gtr and vox recordings will be appreciated.
  2. GT40sc

    GT40sc Active Member

    Jan 14, 2001
    Seattle WA, USA
    "The vocals and guitars should have been compressed hard to tape."

    This seems to me like a decision to be made by the producer, not by the engineer. And yet this "producer" was not present at the tracking sessions. Why not? Does he expect you to read his mind? Something is wrong with this picture...

    Having said all that, the producer still has the right to finish the tracks at his own studio. Perhaps he is fishing for an excuse to move out of your room. Happens all the time, but that doesn't make it right. All you can do is put on you best diplomatic face, and hand over the drives with grace.

    However, I don't believe that you have done anything wrong. Your recording is probably the best that this band is TECHNICALLY capable of. If they can't sing or play very well, that's not your fault. But if they and their "producer" wish to take the songs in a different ARTISTIC direction, all I can say is, "more power to them..."

    Somehow ultra-compressed digital doesn't seem all that attractive to me...
  3. Thanks, I think he's at least in some part fishing for business. The band was self producing, but went to an outside producer for artistic input. He's also a protools mixer, and perhaps he prefers analog comps to plugins. I sure do, but I mix analog.

    I agree that all I can do is hand the tracks over, and learn from this. One lesson is that when I'm having trouble getting a track to sit while we're cutting it, I better be more aggressive and try to help the band understand.
  4. Mike Simmons

    Mike Simmons Active Member

    Nov 5, 2001
    Home Page:
    Revisionism... "producers" are there for tracking... the man can't be a producer at mix stage. His name is "second guesser" or "backseat driver" at this point.

    You did your honest best, don't beat yourself up on that. If the band thinks bringing in a "producer" is a good idea now... cool, you're working hourly right? Re-cut to the "producers" hearts content. Get paid. Live like an artist, charge like a doctor!
  5. Yep, thank God it is hourly. Unfortunately, the producer will be retracking the elec gtrs at his place so I've gotten all I'm gonna get from this project.
  6. bluemt

    bluemt Guest

    Move 'em in and move 'em out. On to the next project. Don't second guess your work. Do the best you can and move on. Sounds like you were dealing with meciocre talent to me.
  7. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    First...Who is the shotcaller, and who knows their stuff?

    If I get a weak producer..in a nice way..I steamroller them down to submission. If I have an uncoropertive producer...I take them out for coffee...and make sure my louisville slugger is close at hand...Just kidding there.

    Someone MUST assume the role of project director.

    I do an interview with the team and establish this...then I do a private with the shotcaller. I never track with any compression...that is for post. I also tell the musicians (I end up being the director 75% of the time) anyway...without killing the vibe..if anything..inspiring a better vibe.

    I will stop the session in tracking if ANYONE touches a knob on their gear....remember the 1 hr lesson???

    Take control and do what you know works...Sorry for the strong attitude..but "gaddamnit" (gAd)..someone has to call the shots..be in control..or it is a mess.
  8. Stephen Paul

    Stephen Paul Active Member

    Dec 11, 2000
    Excuse my ignorance... but how do you 'compress hard to tape' on a digital system?

    I think this producer is frankly... well, being a moderator here I cn't say what I think.

    Personally I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. Unless I misunderstood something, this guy needs a recording course...
  9. Henchman

    Henchman Active Member

    Oct 22, 2001
    I'll say it. This "Producer" is obviously a complete friggin wanker.

    A real producer would have been in the rehearsal space for pre-production. And in the studio for all the tracking. It's real easy to walk in to somehting at the end and talk a band into believing there's somehting wrong. My guess, is they'll probably end up with something from this guy, that doesn't sound very good. And then they might be back for more mixing.
  10. e-cue

    e-cue Active Member

    Oct 5, 2000
    I notice this kind of stuff all the time. A producer comes in, and HAS to say that something is 'wrong'. IMHO, this is just a producer exercising job security. If you make changes, then he gets to say "I told them to do that". A&R smucks make me change stuff too for no reason other than getting a feeling of being involved. Futhermore, a producer that shows up post tracking isn't much of a producer if you ask me.

    As far as "forced" vocals. Ouch. This is something I feel usually HAS to be addressed at the tracking stage. I doubt it's something that you're doing as an engineer as much as it's the performance ( L47MP-> GR MP2NV and API?! You should be kickin' ass). Did you listen to the vocalist in the studio? If it sounds the same in the control room, you've acurately documented the vocalist. Lately, if I track and the vocalist is clipping my mic pre, I tell them to back off rather that ride the level. I know it might sound like I'm being lazy, but this time after time has proven to sound better, AND teaches the vocalist how to become better at their craft.
  11. nezpierce

    nezpierce Guest

    just a couple questions/thoughts here...

    by your description I'd assume the band is metal? or at least hard rock based on 2 guitarists with Line6 gear and a singer that "sounds forced." I'd also assume that they haven't recorded much or aren't paying for it if they can take the time to fiddle with their settings after every take. Big nono...

    So quick assessment aside, Did you know from the beginning of the project that the "producer" would be stepping in at some point? If so: Did you guys go over ideas/thoughts philosophies, coffee and Louisville slugggers or the like?

    OR did the band just spring it on you?
    IF the band sprung it on you then they:

    a>don't like the results that you are getting(that is subjective, so if you know you did your best don't sweat it)

    b>are uncomfortable with the way you are running the show (perhaps you are challenging their ideas or skills in a way that they aren't prepared for)(again don't sweat it just be aware of it)

    c>were using you as a way to get the "producer" to commit to the project (typically music business manipulation)

    d>the plan was always to only do basic tracks with you and nobody wanted to tell you that (which may mean that they wanted to work with you /get you some cash, but that they couldn't do the whole project with you)

    Perhaps you have already thought all of that stuff through but that's how I'd see it...

    and lastly, the "producer":
    Either he knows what he is talking about,
    doesn't know what he is talking about,
    knows what he is talking about but tries to test you by saying questionable stuff to see if you will correct him (like the vox and elec gtrs should have been compressed hard to tape (actually Mackie HDR))
    or if you are incredibly blessed is a former engineer turned producer who believes in the greater good of the project and not the ego game of "do it my way or get out".

    my 2 cents...

  12. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Look at all the experiance your getting. I bet you've figured out a thing or two to do differrently the next time a situation approaching this one raises it's ugly head.

    All we can do, is do our best. Unless its spoken (and always prefferably in writting) up front...you only an engineer...at best. Producers have to (to be effective) get that control upfront. Eventually...whenn you approach a form of "yoda-hood" people will let you do damn near everything that you want to do and pretty much jsut comment on how great it sounds. This may take a while and alot of work/paying-dues...but it does get there.
    Untill then (and raelly forvever) all of these situations are really wonderfull lessons. If you figure out your own personally correct answer...you have the decoder ring for the next situation.
  13. Thanks, again for resurrecting this thread.
    Good insights from all. I was never lead to believe that I would have a role in production. So I don't feel as though they "pulled anything" on me. I was paid for all sessions at the end of each, so I don't feel that I got robbed. It was kind of a shot in the ego to hear the producer critique tracks I knew I'd recorded faithfully.

    Just Friday, I saw the band in question play a show, and this producer is obvously helping them. Before the show when we were visiting, they told me that upon further listening, most of the tracks in question are being used. However this producer has gotten them to see that just because there are 5 tracks of heavy guitar, that it may serve the song better to be selective and mute the tracks that don't contibute.

    I could hear the producer's influence in the live performance, and feel good that the band is getting value from him. They're coming back in a few weeks to cut another batch of songs, so it's all good. I'll encourage them to have the producer present during the tracking sessions this time.
  14. hargerst

    hargerst Active Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    It always hurts when a band pulls a project - for whatever reasons. You learn to live with it and get on with your life. From your latest post, sounds like they liked what you did or they wouldn't be coming back.
  15. Yes, they're very pleased. As I noted above, the producer changed his mind on the elec guit tracks, and just elimminated some of the multitude (6 avg) distortion tracks that they had wanted to lay down. It'll be interesting to see whether this producer comes along when they come back in for the next wave. I'm also waiting to hear the mixes he's done vs my roughs, so I can pick up some tricks.
  16. BrockStapper

    BrockStapper Guest

    One of the producers jobs is to make sure the vocals aren't forced. Sounds like you are going to be in this situation again real soon. When you hear something you aren't happy with, or that needs work, I would in a polite way inform the producer of what it is you are hearing. He can then address the situation with the talent and find a way to bring them up a notch. If he doesn't make the adjustments, you have done your job and the ball is still in his court.
    Good luck...
    Hey, while you're at it, do you think you could fix all that traffic you guys have up there?
  17. Thanks, Brock. I'll be more involved for sure...it's a lesson I learned from this whole experience.

    Re: the traffic, man I'd love to find they key. I'm about ready to move down towards you (thinking Dripping Springs), my wife to be works south of the river in Austin, and her commute is up to 1.25 hours. (Plus I get to build another studio if I move).
  18. BrockStapper

    BrockStapper Guest

    Well, I don't want to let the cat out of the bag but it is deffinately a little calmer down south. I work right next to the capital and it takes me about 25 minutes each way from Buda. Dripping springs would be a little longer (maybe 30 - 35 minutes). I've been looking out there, too. It's nice and a little cheaper...

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