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What is an awesome assistant???

Discussion in 'Recording' started by shaun, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. shaun

    shaun Guest

    I would like to get an opinion from everyone interested in this post if possible.

    I'm very interested in finding out what makes an "AWESOME" assistant awesome. From all of your past experiences with the industry and working in studios what have some of the assistants that you've worked with or heard of done beyond their average tasks that made them excell past the average assistant. I know this is very opinionated but just from all of u guys's past experiences. I have an upcoming opportunity to work for a big producer and I want to try and do some things to knock his socks off. Any of your ideas and past experiences will be greatly appreciated. Thanks Guys
  2. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    There's different definitions of assistant. Some are second engineers, some are general assistants or "runners", some are just assistants that work for the studio and get put on sessions to provide the engineer with someone who know's the room's and can document and patch/set-up mic's etc.

    An awesome assistant comprises of a ton of skills.

    They must make incredible coffee or know an intern that can.
    They must have a good handle on restaurants and such in the area incase the need for ANYTHING arised.
    They must watch your back as an engineer. Keep you from "falling off" if you will.
    They must have a great personality and be able to get along with anyone who comes in the session. No one want's some freak hanging around.
    They must understand the process.
    They must be pro-active. This is highly important. They almost should read your mind. Know what's coming next and be ready for it.
    They must know the room in and out....
    They must be fast and proficent.
    They must know the board and it's automation.
    They must know how to operate all the gear in the room and be able to fix/bypass anything that stops working during the session.
    They must know what mic is what and if it need's a power supply.
    They must know how to properly set-up a mic.
    They must understand what vibe means...and not ever kill it.
    They must understand when to leave and when to be in the room.
    They must always have the engineers back.....(I'm saying this again because I feel it's very important.)

    If they can handle all this...they're an awesome assistant in my book.

    I think I covered everything....when you got a great assistant...you just know it.
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Good assistants are very important to the recording, mixing and mastering process. They should be in a Zen way - one with the engineer - thinking and acting as he/she does and reacting in the same way at the same time to what is taking place in the control room.

    They should know when to be quiet and when to speak, they should be very good at what they do but should not try to double think the engineer and add comments to the conversation when they are not needed or would compromise the session at hand.

    They should always be attentive to the needs of the engineer and the client and should anticipate what is about to to be needed BEFORE it happens.

    They should know everything about the room and the equipment and should know enough to take over in the unlikely event that the engineer is incapacitated.

    They should be respectful of the engineer and the client and always have their best interest at heart.

    They should be omnipresent without "hovering" and they should be able to take directions without having to resort to paper and pencil and carry them out efficiently.

    They should be willing and able to act in many different situations from getting coffee for the client to sitting at the board doing part of a mix if so needed.

    They should have a good friendly disposition and be calm under pressure.

    They should be able to work under various pressures without blowing up or getting frazzled.

    They should be a person with a good sense of humor and be able to relate to all types of people in a friendly way.

    They should no be "star struck" when a famous person is in the control room and should always act in a professional manner.

    They should be well rested and ready for the session and not be coming off two days of cramming for finals or a marathon 24 hour recording session so that they are wide awake and ready for the session at hand.

    They should have the ability to think "on their feet" even after a long challenging 18 hour session.

    They should be watching and learning all that is going on in the control room but should not be distracting to the client or the engineer while they are doing it.

    They should know how to make GREAT coffee, where the best bagel shop is and where to get some food and beverages after all the local places have long since closed down.

    They should be helpful and friendly in a sincere way and genuinely be happy that they are doing what they are doing.

    If you can find someone like this then you should be happy and the clients will be to.

  4. shaun

    shaun Guest

    THANK YOU!!!!!
  5. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    I forgot documentation.....the most important part of the session. They must be good at documentation and have decent handwriting..
  6. sosayu2

    sosayu2 Guest

    all of the above are so very, very important. not to sound negative but i find fewer and fewer AWESOME assistants these days. seems they don't have the patience to start at the bottom. they want to come in as producers and tell me what to do. i understand that you graduated at top of your class...........but, i never went to school for this, i learned from doing and have been doing it for over 20 years.....pick my brain, i'll be more than happy to show you what and how i'm doing it. do NOT come in thinking you know it all.......... and for god's sake please don't make me have to leave the control room to come and look for you and find you playing video games or surfing the net when you're supposed to be assisting.
  7. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    holy crap...last assistant I had was always gone....seemed like. I set up my own mic's, did some of my own patching.....got my own coffee...
  8. sosayu2

    sosayu2 Guest

    i feel your pain...... and i don't want to complain to the studio manager because that's not what i'm about. but i won't have the same assistant either.
  9. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Good point. Many people today are so caught up in all the console automation and letting the computer do all their "remembering" for them that they forget the basics of keeping track of everything so if needed it can all be reset to do another take or another session months down the line when everything else is erased or lost. Just the simple act of writing down what microphones were used on what instrument and what the room looked like when it was all done are very important. With the advent of cheap digital cameras a picture could be taken of each of the setups and the total set up of the room before everything is taken apart. You could also take pictures of the patch bay and the settings on all the outboard gear so you could do a reset later. The quality of most people's handwriting is going down and much of it is impossible to read. (They all must be studying to be doctors....<grin>)

    I too have very bad hand writing and after a session I type my notes on the computer so someone else is able to read them.

  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I think a lot of the audio schools are to blame. They tell their graduates that they know everything when they really do not. Case in point a student from one of the 6 week audio wonder schools tells me he can align a multitrack tape deck so I show him were the test equipment and alignment tapes are and tell him to align my Otari MTR-10. Needless to say he was all talk and did not even know where to start on the alignment - but he as a certificate saying that he had the class.

    Another case in point a student comes to me and tells me that he knows everything about mastering. This is a real revelation to me since I have been a mastering engineer for 10 years and in audio for over 35 years and I don't know it all. Anyway we are with a good client and he is double thinking everything I say and correcting me in front of the client. I make some excuse and we go into our video room and I tell him that I don't appreciate his correcting me in front of the client - he says he is sorry and we go back into the room and he starts up again with the same thing. I again excuse myself and my assistant and take him in to the other room and tell him that his services are no longer needed and he can leave right then and there since I don't appreciate his manners. He gets upset and starts calling me names. I ask him to leave and he does. He calls me about a week later and asks if he can come back to work - I said no and have not seen him since.

    I too learned all my audio though hard work, watching others and learing from my mistakes. I went to college for an allied field but my audio training is about 90% self taught. I freely admit I don't know everthing there is to know but after 35 years I know quite a bit and when someone tells me at 22 years of age that they know EVERYTHING I have to laugh.

    There are good assistants out there the trick is to find them and keep then and nurture them along so they become great recording, mixing or mastering engineers. After all someone has to pay into social security for our old age <grin>


  11. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    I do agree there is a lot of bad seeds coming out of audio schools. I've worked with a lot, but I've also worked with a few who were not the typical audio school graduate. Myself being one of them.

    I think it safe to say that a lot of people coming out of school could be cocky and full of it....but let's no discredit everyone. Some of us are exceptions to the rule.
  12. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Yes you are correct. I did not mean to discredit all audio school graduates but one place in particular (I will not name names except to say it is a six week school located in Southern Ohio) use to send me a lot of graduates and most of them were ill prepared to be audio engineers even for entry level positions and they were all very cocky and thought they knew it all - which they regreatably did not.

    I have also had some graduates from other audio schools apply and they were very good students and had lots of hands on knowledge and were more than willing to learn more about everything that anyone could help them learn. Two of the places that stick out as being very good are Ohio University and Peabody Conservatory both places seem to turn out exceptional graduates. I understand that Indiana University is also turning out well prepared engineers but have not been contacted by any of their graduates. Most of the six week wonder schools graduates are the ones that have the most problems understanding that they did not learn "all they needed to know about audio"" in those six weeks and many of us have spent a lifetime learning and still don't know it all.

    Have a good weekend
  13. Lanstar0

    Lanstar0 Guest

    I agree with you.

    I attended that particular Southern Ohio six week audio engineering program, and while there I learned how much you DON'T learn being there. Albeit, I had been involved with music production and recording for 3 years before I attended.

    If you are humble, the school does provide a good foundation. But it is only that, and it is up to you to realize how much more you have to learn before you can begin to excel at being an engineer of any kind.

    I found a studio I was interested in, and over a course of a couple weeks of interacting with the owner, I was luckily able to start working at a studio within weeks of my graduation; ironically, I don't think it's a good idea for studios to hire students fresh from the Southern Ohio school as assistants or engineers (even though I was :)) .. I do think it would be rewarding for those students to have to intern before progressing in the field.
  14. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    Amazing.....I've always wondered about those schools. Exactly how much can you learn in 6 weeks?

    I went for a year and came out feeling comfortable in the rooms..but surely no guru of anything....I had a lot to learn, and still do.
  15. Lanstar0

    Lanstar0 Guest

    Well, what you learn in the lectures you can learn anywhere. The actual recording/mixing sessions (which we spent a fair amount of time doing in 2 months) is where I learned the most. Engineering is definitely an experiental occupation....
  16. cruisemates

    cruisemates Active Member

    Awesome assistant:

    Get there early and turn on the AC. This simple thing alone can make a huge difference in a session.

    Pre-test all cables. Take the bad ones away. Sort them by type.

    Do the pre setup before the session starts. Have any masters or equipment you might need ready when they get there. Have mics set up.

    Have cleaning essentials ready, an assortment of guitar picks, strings, string winder, have teas and honey for vocalists, bottled water. Have tools, padding, WD-40, duct tape.

    Documentation definitely. Not just track sheets either. You never know if/when someone will want to punch something in from a previous session. Look at settings of everything being used. Document the location of mics & instruments. Check mics to see if pads/rolloffs are enabled. Write down the guitar amp settings.

    Note the patchbay. Write down the settings on a limiter. On every setup, think about how it is connected. You may see something wrong and save a track before it is recorded.

    This one will always get you good marks: IF you hear a bad note, squeek, etc., while tracking, discretely write the location down so you can find it quickly if you are asked. Don't say anything (unless you think it is a non-artisitic issue like a door slamming), but if someone mentions it say, "oh, yeah, I wrote it down, its at 2:15:47"

    During breaks, go into the studio and make sure eveything is still the same. Mic stands can slip, etc.

    And after all that - be invisible. Don't suggest anything artistically unless you see a problem or you are asked.

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