Need help dealing with EQ happy client

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Hack, Aug 8, 2003.

  • AT5047

    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

  1. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Little Rock, AR
    I have been working witha rock band for a while now. These guys are way above par as for a players. The tunes are great. Its all great I think. So, the problem is this. They are convinced that you have to add like 12 db shelves to low end on all the drum channels and bass channels. And they think you have to add 15 db of hi end to all channels. No matter what I say, they are convinced that they are right. They want to sound like disturbed and sevendust and tool. I make rough mixes for them all the time, mixed how I think is the right way. And they are never happy with it. I go for real solid low end where the bass and drums are really pumping the mix together and hi end that doesnt rip your ears off. You know, something pleasing to listen to that kinda makes you focus on the vocals. Oh, and the vocals, "we want that AM radio, no tone vocal sound on all the verses. These guys can sing their asses off. All the tunes are built up with hugh 3 and 4 part harmony BGVs. The whole style is very KingsX. There cant be any high end in the bass. None at all.

    So I tried to start mixing this stuff like they want. Crank up the lows, crank up the highs, bury the shitty 2k vocal. Wash the whole thing out with reverb. Its the most hard to listen to $*^t Ive ever heard. The high end makes you squint. The kick drum flops around like a fish. The toms dominate the mix. And guess what. They love it. "hear all that high end" they say smiling.

    I mix all kinds of music all the time, as all of us do. Everything else I do they say "that is the perfect sound,... for that." I think someone taught them to say that, I hope it wasnt me.

    So we talk about it. They tell me, "whay arent we using the technology, we have all this bad ass digital gear and eqs, but you dont want to use them." I say back, "I just want to use them for their intended purpose, If you want pantera kick drum sounds, then do what they did, click pads and triggers, maybe get your drummer to lighten up a touch so the drum can breath a little(the drummer hits way too hard)." They are also convinced that I am plain wrong about the abuse of samples in the studio. "I saw a picture of disturbed in the studio and they had all these drums set up with mics all over them, and your telling me they use triggers?" I ve tried to explain that in mastering it can all get compressed to hell and as long as the mix is relating to its self a good mastering engineer can **** this all up just like you want it. They dont believe that either.

    Im stuck. There is no getting through to them, and the kicker.... I do all their $*^t for free! Its my roommates band, they've been close friends of mine for years now.

    So my question to everyone is this.....
    How do you deal with these types of clients? I'm doing it for free cause they are good, and I thought that end the end the quality of the project would make it worth while, but if I mix this stuff the way they want me too, I will be embarresed to ever let anyone hear it.

    I dont care what the project sounds like anymore. They have completely drained all my enthuasium. What bugs me is that I feel like I cant explain myself to them. I say, "you just can't boost 15db of lows and highs on everything"

    "why not"
    "cause it sounds like $*^t"
    "no it doesnt, it sounds great!"

    Surely some of you have delt with this before. Where is the damn light at the end of this tunnel?!

    Sorry I'm so long winded about this.
  2. kfrick

    kfrick Guest

    Well, the customer may be Wrong or he may be Right, but he is still the Customer.

    I would say that, if you think giving them the mix they want will hurt your reputation in some way, let them know that, and offer to export the tracks to another mixing house.

    If, on the other hand, you feel that no matter how this mix sounds, you still have other customers and good mixes to demo your skills, and your reputation for good mixes will not suffer, go ahead and Give 'em What They Want with a smile on your face. Do it quick and get it over with.

    IMHO, Mixing by comittee is worse than watching sausage being made.
  3. big bear

    big bear Guest


    I feel for you man! Yes, so far I've had two seperate clients that have been like you described. I thought the sessions would never end!
    I had to just grit my teeth and do what they wanted. There was no convincing them that their idea of a mix just didn't sound as good.
    In both cases, I did my own mix without anyone there, then let them tell me how to mix their songs. Well, I went back later and listened to the different versions, and of course, theirs were terrible! And I'm not exaggerating, and many of my fellow engineers thought so too.
    But I don't let it bother me because there have been hundreds of other clients that have been extremely pleased with their recordings here.
    Hey, try this.... Have them bring in some of their favorite CD's and A/B them against their mixes--they may be very surprized at how far off they are.
    Every once in a while you will have clients that are hard to work with. If the number of good ones far outweigh the bad, then you're doing fine.
    Remindes me of some of the young bands that would occasionally open for my band. After their set, they would ask us "So what did you think? How did we sound?" and we would reply, "Man, you guys were loud!" and they would say "Alright! Cool!"
    So smile, and make them happy because they'll tell all their friends what an awesome engineer you are, and hopefully their friends won't hear the CD.

    Good luck, you'll get through it! Then go have a beer or two.

  4. Matt Watkins

    Matt Watkins Guest

    Hi Hack

    nightmare! maybe they could bring in a CD of they're fav band and play it through your monitors, perhaps they aren't used to hearing music on flat studio monitors You never know how people set up their stereos' you know the big V on the graphic then they end up thinking your monitors should sound like that. Play them some similar CDs for reference it might pull them round.

    If that didn't work i'd do a mix as they want and a mix the way you think it should be and tell them to go and live with the two mixes for a week encourage them to play them on different systems etc. and with a bit of luck they'd learn something.

    And if that didn't work, depending on your relationship with these guys, i'd do it the why they want and if you really felt it reflected badly on you i'd ask not to be credited on the recording!!

    I don't envy you, they sound like hard work

  5. Matt Watkins

    Matt Watkins Guest

    i was typing my reply while big bear was posting
  6. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Little Rock, AR
    Take my name off the CD.... not a bad idea.

    I have tried the A/B idea. And the stuff they say they like is real bright and scooped out sounding. Its all the stuff I hate about modern rock sounds. We've all talked and talked about the over limiting and volume wars, and I guess I dont want to admit that these guys like this crap, cause they are my friends.

    I have already gone into hurry up mode with them. And I have them talked into using a "real" mastering engineer, so maybe that will help.

    I might try bringing in another mixer I know here in town who has a lot more years doing this than I.

    Thanks for the thoughts, glad to know I'm not alone in this.

    I did a 2 song demo at my house a few years ago with them. Pair of ADATS and a pair of Yamaha Promix 01s. They loved the way these tunes sound. Check them out if you want, they are great players. web page
  7. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    I have over 10 crappy CDs flying around the globe that I did the mastering and I asked them not to put my name. It is awful to do this, but get burned is no use.

    Saturday I will have Part 2 of Nightmare on Elm Street. I started a very big in size/small in budget horn band project.

    It was the biggest stress in my musical life. I even took all the PT backup CDR sessions and gave to the very problematic conductor. At the end he apologized and started acting professionally. Even musicians playing horribly he would blame the studio engineer for. He even invented the amazing target that he had not realized how out of tune his group was playing because he did not wear a headphone at the tracking moments.
    The guys were semipro, went home before the scheduled time and then we endedp yp with 10 songs, instead of 12.
    Funny is, that one month later I was chosen to co-produce and record another Horn badn, from the local Police department.. The conductor was reaaaaaaaaaaaaaly nice to work, he records in every part of the globe, respected in Boston/USA. we did everything in 30 days...

    I have a motto. I always try to be far away from people that just came to this nice world to drain your positive enrgies. I dunno if this is your case.
    Use the CD reference trick. It will help ya.
  8. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Little Rock, AR
    I have a motto. I always try to be far away from people that just came to this nice world to drain your positive enrgies. I dunno if this is your case.

    Thank You.
  9. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    I prefer sometimes not to earn money and stay in peace on my own than to throw pearls to pigs..

    (wow that was heavy!!!lol)

    You are wellcome hack!
  10. sosayu2

    sosayu2 Active Member

    Jun 1, 2003
    we've all had our share of hell gigs i'm sure but the bottom line as stated before is that they are the customer and paying the bill. give them what they want and just get it over with. if for no other reason than if you don't they will tell everyone they know how difficult you are to work with and the wrong people may hear that rumor and that is worse. you may not agree with them but word of mouth spreads pretty quick in this little community with call the music industry. so my suggestion is just grin and bare it.

  11. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Little Rock, AR

    I agree but,

    I do all their $*^t for free. Its my roommates band, they've been close friends of mine for years now.

    I will learn as much as possible, in all aspects, from this.
  12. sosayu2

    sosayu2 Active Member

    Jun 1, 2003
    that's a different situation all together..... i was only reffering to paying clients.
  13. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Little Rock, AR
    An after thought.....

    Does anyone really use sub harmonic synths? I've seen them live a lot, and Ive gated a tone live. But never really tried it in the studio. If so, whats the trick?
  14. Guitarman

    Guitarman Guest

    Hey Hack,

    Start charging them. F@%K the friendship! Then you can rest assured the got what they payed for.

    Best wishes,

    JD( o}===;;;
  15. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Apr 7, 2001
    One thing you need to tell them that is if they ever get signed they will NOT have any say in the mix at all...

    For instance..are you really going to tell Bob Clearmountain how to mix?!! I think not! He would laugh in your face and continue doing what HE does best and KNOWS best!

    Tell them...welcome to the music industry...most of the time they aren't allowed to be involved in the mix.

    Opus :D
  16. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    This is a no win situation hack.
    These guys (I checked out their site) are legends in their own minds. You being an "engineer" are a lower life form no matter what you do.
    I completely understand where they want to go though. It is a relevant sound scape. Just horribly dated, and out of favor...unless you were doing a Kings-X, or Queensrich record from the late '80's to early '90's. So since they are the client I would listen to these kind of records and attempt to make it sound like that. their are records and schools that do add a ton of bottom and top at the same time. A subharmonic synth can help a little. use very sparingly when you get it where you think it sounds good....back off even more. use it on an aux send. use the sub only to return to a channel. Just a dab on bass, kick &/or toms. very very little.
    Back to the politics. They're your roomies and you've worked for free. So either get booked so you can't do it ("I can't turn down payed work). Or get it where they wnat it.
    Don't worry about ruining your rep. Finnishing it and ,making them happy will apy off better than making them mad. They're not going anywhere...they enjoy being the bets musicians in their little pond. And the amount of people who'll actually hear it in the end will be small compared to the talk about it.
    This gig comes to everybody at some point.
  17. missilanious

    missilanious Guest

    Wow that sucs. Well after reading there website I came to the conclusion that they are very egocentric and would never say you are right and are most likely still going to push the issue. Get done with there project, don't put your name on the cd, and move on to better days. I still am attending college and since I am in the Studio Production core at SUNY Purchase I run into a lot of "broke" talent, I don't mind doing some work for free cause its only going to be more experience under my belt, but for the "client" to give you $*^t on a non-paying project only wants me to start charging them. In your case it really sucks cause your not charging them and they want you to make there song sound like crap, a no win situation. Also do these guys have hearing damage?
  18. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Little Rock, AR
    they have been a road band for like 10 years. I am sure they have some loss.

    maybe if I put a graphic eq, big smiley face, on my monitors, and run the real mix outs to tape and then send it to the mastering engineer before they ever hear it......

    What about just letting them mix it. I dont even have to be in the room. I can say "heres the eq, heres the verb and heres your delay, knock your self out,... really"
  19. MPlancke

    MPlancke Active Member

    Mar 27, 2001

    Okay, this smells like inexperience on everyone's part, so here's some ideas...

    That's an easy one. Put up a Disturbed, SevenDust or Tool CD so everyone can hear what it sounds like on your monitors and then make your stuff sound like that. The arguments will cease to exist if you all have a basis for reference.

    Bzzzt! They want it the way they want it, if you can't deliver it your not the right guy for the job. It's better to walk away if you can't deliver because they will never be happy.

    No, I don't know but obviously they know what they want even if it doesn't fit your astetic of what is right. Deliver what they want and you'll be a hero.

    Congradulations! Welcome to the world of pleasing the client. You may even get some return business out of it.

    If you were giving them something that they are happy with, you probably wouldn't be having this discussion. As far as a drummer hitting a drum too hard, I've never seen that as a problem except where cymbals are involved and even then you can select different cymbals so they don't wash out the drum sound. I love drummers that hit the f'ing drum!

    Well, setup the triggers and get "the sound" and they won't question you again. Easy.

    They shouldn't believe you because your wrong. Get the mixes as close as possible to the sound you want and don't depend on the mastering engineer to get "the sound" of the project.

    Well, they are getting their moneys worth. I'd be really worried if you were charging money for this.

    The light at the end of the tunnel is when you actually figure out what a good producer/engineer does. It's your job to gain the confidence of the client, so far you've done nothing short of telling them they're idiots for wanting what they want. Just telling them something isn't going to work or isn't right won't cut it. You have to "show" them. You need to back up your claims with "the goods" and gain their trust, until then your fighting a losing battle. If you deliver what they want you won't have a problem, if you can't deal with giving them what they want because you think "it sucks" or "it's wrong" then you are doing them a great disservice and you should let them go on their way.

    End of story.

    As a side note, If I want to say "f-u-c-k-i-n-g" it would be nice if the server didn't edit my message and replace it with astricks, not cool. It is in the dictionary after all.

  20. wwittman

    wwittman Active Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    It interests me that everyone here seems to IMMEDIATELY assume that the band are "wrong".
    Are they?
    How does it SOUND when they are through?
    DOES it sound like the records they like?
    I mean I cannot exactly tell from what you say but it seems to me quite possible that they LIKE the records that YOU think are "over compressed" "Over EQ'd" have "too many samples" and so on.

    Is a jazz engineer 'right' to tell a rock band that the rock drum sound they want is "wrong"? Or that you cannot use 'so many' mics?

    One could go back to the guys in the back at Abbey Road getting all distressed because The Beatles wanted their engineer to move the mics in "too close" or to add "too much" top on a guitar solo.
    It simply was not ALLOWED, except that the Beatles could not be said 'no' to.

    So, alright, your band may NOT be The Beatles, odds are, but they also may be.

    There seems to me to be a certain element of condescension here that makes me nervous.

    It's not your job to tell them what they SHOULD sound like, unless you are producing them; and even then it's a two-way dialog, not a lecture.
    When they say your other recordings are "the perfect sound, for them" that at least implies that they listen and can hear... they did NOT say, for example, "well they ALL sound dull" (which one might expect from people with a high end hearing loss.)

    If it all really sounds awful and you are ashamed at having your name on the result then refuse the job. Or do it for the experience and make your client happy.

    But if it actually sounds GOOD, in its genre, and it's only that you have this nagging feeling you're doing it "wrong" that's, sorry, silly.

    Dark Side Of The Moon has some +12 at 10k drum sounds, by Alan's own words. Sure doesn't sound 'wrong' to me.
    I don't know when the purist approach took over to the point that it's now a kind of recording extreme fundamentalism that brooks no divergence, but it's equally silly.
    It's the RESULT that matters.

    Perhaps you could do some research (if you care, obviously!) into how the records they love really ARE recorded and mixed.
    That way you all 'learn' a new genre's approaches together.
    I suspect if you came in all enthusiastic about this cool new guitar amp mic'ing you found out Disturbed uses, they'd be excited as well.

    Anyway, you shouldn't be miserable. If you feel you can't both be happy then move on to something else.
    But maybe, with all due respect, you might try loosening your grip on the "rules" and seeing where it takes you.
    If they felt you were really excited and into it and on the SAME wavelength in terms of taste with them, it would be a lot more fun for everyone.
    AND will probably yield a better recording.

    P.S. Bob Clearmountain told a story about setting up a mix for a band that was nice and clear and wide and big... the band came in and said "no, no, no! We want to sound kind of closed in all on top of one another in a dark room". So he redid everything like that and tried to get into it, and his point was that they were RIGHT. He just hadn't got them, but it was right for their music to sound like that. But what makes Bob a great mixer is that he DOES give the clients what they want. He's not at all unapproachable.
  • AT5047

    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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