Help, am I overstepping my role?

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by phalynx, Jun 28, 2003.

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  1. phalynx

    phalynx Guest

    In short, I have a small home studio that I have become quite comfortable with. I can obtain a reasonably good sound that many are happy with. My problem is, I am trying to record my cousin. He has an excellent voice, great song structure, and plays guitar very well. His goal is to have a complete CD to attempt to market or take parts and send out demos. A few of his songs sound great as is, but many do not. He wants a specific sound and doesn't want to alter it. The problem is, it just doesn't sound commercial. I know that music is art and I write it in my style when I write my own but I am not trying to be commercial when I write.

    Am I overstepping my role as the engineer/producer?

    I want his CD to be the best and gain the best chance for getting listened to. Please let me know your opinions in this situation. Should I make him understand or just buck up and let him have it the way he wants?
  2. Guitarman

    Guitarman Guest

    Hey Phalynx,

    Hmmmm..... where does one begin to reply. IMO there are not many CDs out there that have a hit for every single song(on the average there are 3-4). If his good songs are "good enough" and you can recognise the goodness in them and are confident enough to give him what he wants for them, then do it.

    Another thing I would recomend (as I do for my clients) is to bring a reference cd for each song that is to be produced as to give you an idea as to where to begin and what type of production is to be expected. If you have a good idea as to how things are done from scratch(meaning duplicating a similarly produced sound) then you should have no problem.

    At that time you can sit down with him and talk about the reality of what he has and what he wants and how he should change and or arrange the songs. Don't be afraid to be blunt. Honesty is the best policy here. If not then the outcome could be undesirable for both of you.

    I realise it is a touchy situation when there is family involved but if he has heard the work you have produced and is confident in your ears then there shouldn't be a problem.

    Best wishes,

    JD( o}===;;;
  3. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    Phalynx, I really believe that a good producer will bring out the best in the artist. What I would do is disarm him first by letting him record his ideas enough that he can start to get an idea of where things are going. Then I would remind him he has the luxury of unlimited studio time, and since he has his stuff anyway, ask him if he wan't to experiment. If you can do this, more than likely something magical will happen. Then your problem might be selecting what parts to go where, but hopefully he knows when to play and when not to.
  4. Dude, you are so far from overstepping your boundries. If you are his producer, then make him produce what you tell him to. For one thing, you´re already giving him his free studio time, and also, if he wants to make it, then he better get used to take orders from his producer. If anything, you are half stepping your boundries. make him prodcue you´re product. Remember, he is there to make you loot, otherwise kick him to the curb. best of luck. R.
  5. Guest

    The trick is to get him to be open to your ideas, rather than him seeing you as a threat to his artistic ego.

    Here's one way:

    "Cousin, you've got some great songs here, and I think you are right on track on some of them, as far as approach. What I'd like to do is try something a little different on a few of these. If you'll trust me just a little and give 100% effort to help me help you, i think i can demonstrate that together we can turn some of these songs into some incredible art, and hopefully generate some serious interest in your music.

    You don't have much to lose. Give it a chance, and if you don't like the results, you can always go back to your original versions."
  6. Marching Ant

    Marching Ant Active Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    I think that this is a touchy subject, and a producer's role in this type of situation is very touchy. It really depends on how much of an "artist" your cousin sees himself as. I have worked with so many people that are so stubborn and will not listen to the advice that I have to give. They don't realise that I am trying to help them become better musicans, and give them a better chance of getting to where they want to be.

    The best solution that I have found is to actually edit together what you think the song arrangement should be (if possible) and A/B it with their version. If you can't do that, then you may have to try and push a little bit to get him to play the song the way you think it should be. This is a hard thing to do, because it means that he has to fully trust you. If you can convince him that you are not trying to take away his credability as a musician, and you are trying to help him to write better songs then you can get somewhere.

    If you can get him to play one song the way you think it should be, then I think the best thing to do, to get him to change all of the songs that you think need changing, is to explain to him why you think that the song that he changed is better, and the method you used to arrange the song. you can ask him to apply those methods you used to his other songs, and let him try to re-write them. This way he may not feel like less of an artist, because HE is the one who re-wrote the song......with gentile persuasion from you of course.
  7. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    How's it going, Phalynx,

    The producers role is very different from client to client and project to project.

    Sometimes your role will be to pick the tracks, produce them exactly the way you feel they should be done, and get the exact performance out of the artist that you are after. This is what I think of as the corporate approach, like N*Sync, etc. The artist is as much a product as the music will be.

    At other times your job will be to act as a teacher and guide to talent that has not been developed. You will have to teach them from scratch about song construction, production values, and how to work in a studio environment.

    Then there are the artists that all you have to do is sit back and let it happen. In these situations, which can be the most fun if you and the artist have a good relationship, your job will be to keep the session focused, keeping the session creative while reining in the insanity.

    Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to pick a direction in which to go. About ten years ago had a very talented trio of high school aged sisters that daddy was bankrolling. I had my misgivings at first, but two of the three are extremely talented songwriters and singers. The third sister was a very good singer but not a "creative" type. I was at a complete loss for a style. The two older girls both played acoustic guitar and sang like angels with a maturity that surprised me. So I just put up two mics and had them do guitar and vox demos of a couple of their best songs to a click track. I didn't care about stellar performances, but something solid and useable. It was the first time they had ever had to keep in time with anything, so that and getting them used to working in a studio occupied the first few sessions.

    With about a half a dozen useable demos on the reel (yes, analog reel to reel) I picked my two favorites and one of theirs and played around on my own for a few days. I tried everything. I tried just leaving it as it was, which was okay but bland. Fooled around with adding hand percussion and acoustic bass (samples and MIDI), tried it in a dance/house format and even had a friend come in to play guitar and tried a hard rockin' sound.

    They all came back in about a week later to begin to focus and sculpt a sound for them. They had some great laughs at the unexpected ways the songs came out. The project finally settled into an acoustic rock sort of format with a few twists. It came out kind of like a later Beatles album. Not that they were the Beatles, but that many different styles of music were represented. One piece was nylon guitar and string section, another just a good drivin' acoustic rock song with some grunge thrown in, a mostly electronic ballad with acoustic hand percussion.

    All in all we had a great deal of fun, we all learned a lot and put out a decent product which sold a few thousand copies locally. The oldest girl is now doing film scoring, the middle one is on Broadway and the youngest sister is getting her law degree.

    Done some other projects where, as I've mentioned, I just tried to control the chaos and keep the sessions and budget on track. Every situation is going to be unique and you have to deal with tempermental artists, busy-body know-it-all managers and the posse opinions of the friends in the control room. As the producer, you control the sessions. Stick to your guns.

    Producing is one of the hardest, most frustrating, stressful and rewarding jobs going. Remember to keep your cool, keep business and relationships separate, keep your mind open to new ideas and have as much fun as you can.


    Uncle Bob :p:
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