Recording Ethics

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Oblivion, Jun 15, 2005.

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  1. Oblivion

    Oblivion Guest

    Being new to the forum Im not sure if this issue has been touched.

    Recently I took my band to the studio (wearing the ugly producer hat)... we started discussing drum hit inconsistency mostly tone... and I joked with the my drummer that it didn't matter too much if he had some sloppy hits, that we could find some nice ones and use a sound replacer or just some samples from real drummers with good sounding drumkits (lol)!!!

    He wasnt happy about this idea and we spent a lot of time re-recording/punching etc to try and get that perfect initial drum sound - running out of time (and money)we got a good enough recording but it still wasn't perfect. And it turns out that my joke was only a half joke (which it was).

    I also recieved a negative response from my guitarist when I told that one avenue we would look at when recording his guitars would be to DI and use some of our top quality plugins and blend that with the amp sound...... he felt like he was selling out...

    So basically what is the common consensus in regards to how far you should go in that effort to get the best sound possible... is using technology cheating. If no - how do you convince muso's - especially when they (althoug talented) may not have top quality sounding gear coupled with tendencies to be sloppy. and do people have any funny / interesting stories re this......
  2. JBsound

    JBsound Guest

    You have to come up with a basic standard for yourself and then work of a case-by-case basis for the rest of it. I hate sell-out music done by completely talentless people who would be nothing without the computer. On the other hand, you can't put your head in the sand and ignore the opportunities provided to us now. I wouldn't have been able to start a studio 5-10 years before I did because it would have been at an unreachable cost for me.

    It's just like anything else...Use the tools available to the best of your abilities...but they don't replace hard work and skill.

    I have recorded several people who refused much "cleanup" work on their tracks. Some came out good and some were crap. I've also had people that said pull out all the stops. It just depends what their preference is. In the ideal situation you will have someone who is very talented and you can use both your skills and your technology/equipment to further improve upon that.

    It also depends on whether the band is going to be performing live and needs to be able to reproduce their sound. On a lot of the college rock bands around here I will touch up and polish their stuff, using a little Autotune, VocAlign, and SoundReplacer, but I am careful to not produce something that they can't come close too in their concerts. It's just an improved version of their live sound. I've also had situations where I could haven take a vocalist's songs and made everything in tune and on time, but I didn't. The person was not good enough to notice it and it would sound nothing like him/her when I was finished. Even if I'm on the clock I'm not going to put in 10x the effort compared to the extreme lack of talent. It's not worth it.
  3. Oblivion

    Oblivion Guest

    I pretty much agree.... When your not getting paid to do it... I think it should be your say, and people shouldn't complain!!! too much.

    I would have major probs fixing up someone who is talentless but if the money is there...... i guess it then becomes loss of reputation v $$
  4. JBsound

    JBsound Guest have to have some kind of personal standard though.
  5. Oblivion

    Oblivion Guest

    Its a tough one you can reject them and someone else gives them the fred durst vocal treatment and they make a mint


    you take them on their cd sucks and you cop the flak!!!
  6. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    From an engineering standpoint, I will pretty much work what what I'm given. I'll do my best to get the best sound. I'll change mikes, do overdubs, suggest this and try that. I might offer "post" type alternatives, if I feel the band might be open to it.

    From a producing standpoint, I will do whatever I can to get the best sound/performance. If it means sound replacing, or using amp modeling plugins, or even borrowing different guitar rigs to get a sound, I'll do it. For drums I'll recommend that inexperienced bands hire a good drum tech to set up the kit, new heads, tuning and whatnot.

    From a musicians standpoint, when you have a sound/performance you like, it's hard to have people tell you that it's not up to par. But there comes a time in every musicians life when they must realize that they are not the absolute best. It generally happens in the studio. They either improve, adapt, or learn to live with it.

    Since you are wearing the producer hat here is what I would suggest. Take your best take and mix it as best as possible. Then if you have the time/money, take the same take and modify it the way you want to. Do a little sound replacing/time correction, whatever and then mix that. Then bring in the band to listen to the two mixes. They may go for it, they may not. They may soften up to the idea and offer some of their own input.

    A while back I was in the studio with this band that had a guitarist, but the singer (who also played guitar) wrote most of the guitar parts. The singer was a better player than the guitarist. I asked the engineer (who knew both guys) who should play the guitar. He told me that if we wanted the best take, let the best guitarist record the guitar part.

    Both guys recorded a few tracks and the best ones were by the singer. It was tough on the guitarist but the band knew which take was better and went with the singers tracks.
  7. TuBlairy

    TuBlairy Active Member

    Feb 18, 2005
    Home Page:
    I think there are two things at play on the music side - the composition of the song and then the technical ability to play what you've written.

    Musicians need to dedicate serious time to intense personal practice before a recording, so that you can do it on one or two takes. For those who don't know, you should fully work out your fingerings for every note and practice slowly to avoid unnecessary tension, confusion or habitual mistakes when playing. If you can't play and you want that live sound you have two choices, wait to record until you can do it, or have someone else do it who can. There's no sense in beating yourself up for not being able to perform something.

    From the composers point of view, whether the creator is a band or one person, you may be less interested in someone's ability as a musician and more interested in having the recording of your music sound "real". To this end I think a combination of midi and real players can work, but midi isn't just playing, fixing and quantizing, there are many other parameters, such as basic patterns, variations, dynamics, choosing the best samples etc. In my opinion midi is simply another tool. If used tastefully and helps the end product sound better and saves you a ton of dough, perhaps it is unwise not to use it.
  8. Johnson Cabasa

    Johnson Cabasa Active Member

    Sep 5, 2003
    one of your biggest probdlems is that you put the players head in a not so good place by making them theing about being replaced. they probably would have played better is youhad just let them played and did like the di as a safety thing without the player thiking you were questioning his sound

    nobody likets to be repalced it is best if all they concentrate on is playing istead of not being replaced
  9. Oblivion

    Oblivion Guest

    Point taken.... and probably normally wouldn't but it being my band and the nature of our group - we tend to take the piss out of each other a lot..... ie it was more getting him back for earlier comments..
  10. Rider

    Rider Guest

    all my recording right now is being done with a DI box. why, it sounds better. im not using very many plugins, some EQ and a bass amp modler (hey, it shapes the tone well..). IMO, DI captures the notes better than miking, then again i dont have a 1000$ mic on hand.

    i actually had this discussion with my bassist on using drum samples. he hated the idea.

    bands need to realize that not everybody can go in a studio and play their stuff all the way through perfectly, there might be a couple snare hits that werent consistent, guitarist might slip on a string, vocalist might cough. the ideal recording is just throwing mics at the band and playing it 100% through. maybe guys like metallica can do that nowdays, i couldnt.

    the way i look at recording live instruments is like programming a synth. just sections of notes being composed into a song. ive heard trance songs that are very passionate and energetic, ive heard live bands who were just dull. its not some magical gas in the air that makes a song pop, its well timed well played parts, and if you cant do that on your own theres no reason to do -moderate- correction.

    then again, what do i know, im just some dude in his living room laying down tracks.
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I can see it both ways.

    The Beatles left mistakes on their records. Like the part where McCartney's voice cracks at the end of the second middle 8 on "If I Fell". Or when Ringo drops the tambourine on "Norwegian Wood".... both mistakes made the records until Sir George Martin fixed them when he remastered the recordings for CD. I like the old records, warts and all ... better.

    Ever see Led Zeppelin live? They sounded nothing like the records ... and no one cared.

    That's a case of "Use the studio as a tool .. as part of the creative process".

    Then a band like Cream .. I was lucky enough to see them at the Oakland Coliseum on the "Farewell Tour" ... That was the first time I ever saw roadies nailing the kick drums to the floor ... right through the rings! .... Cream live, sounded just like their records ... of course, they didn't play my favorite song of theirs, "Badge" because George Harrison wasn't there to play the Leslie guitar on the bridge.

    To each thier own. It's all valid.
  12. Oblivion

    Oblivion Guest

    Agreed - Personally I have always thought of recording and producing as a different art form to playing live and therefore think it should be treated as such.... why not utilise what you have got to make a killer record.... whats good enough for Zep is good enough for me!!!

    I guess it comes down to respecting the bands wishes! Its just annoying when you know that band is being precious and are ignorant to the processes that go on.. Maybe I just need to find some inner balance!!!
  13. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Aug 21, 2004
    Quakertown PA
    Aerosmith is another case in point.

    "Train kept a Rollin", (Get Your Wings) probably the best known solos played by Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, only it's not Perry and Whitford on the record playing those solos. Apparently they were pretty burned out from a really long time in the studio, the creative juices weren't flowing but the booze and other stuff was. The producer called in a couple of session players and that's who's soloing on that song.

    Me too. I guess rock has almost always had a little patch work done here and there. Nothing major just little tweaks but the blues and jazz has remained pretty pure and it's one of the reasons I like those forms so much. I still love rock and always will but a performance played all the way through without the aid of electronic enhancements is just better IMO.

    I don't mind samples of real drums as long as the performance is their but guitar tweaks and autotune are just plain wrong. If you can't play and/or sing the part then you shouldn't be in the studio. Ya hear that Britney!

    I just don't use that kind of stuff in my recordings. I'll time align if it's needed and sometimes do a vocal comp but that's about it. I just like the purity of it and knowing I played the performance, it wasn't created in my computer.

    The studio as Kurt said is a creative tool. It should be used for just that, creating not covering a bad performance or worse creating a performance that never existed.

    BTW, Not bashing just stating an opinion.
  14. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    May 25, 2004
    But is this not what the producer part is? Making an illusion!

    Everyone knows that the record is not real world. So what you are doing with a record is to create an impression or an illusion in the form and design that you aim for. Depending on where you are aiming for, artistically and commercially, you may want to have different feelings of the finished sound product.

    So, just maybe the band wants to sound real dirty and rough. And just perhaps their audience wants that as well, no secrets, nothing hidden, the full monty so to say. One of the roles of the producer is to define what the illusion is supposed to be. Together with the act finding out what hat fits them and where they want to be. Of course if he has an employer, say a record company, it also has to be commercially viable. The other role is to ruthlessly making the illusion happen. If the drummer cannot play well enough, then just perhaps the band should get a different drummer. Tough decisions.

  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    creating or documenting ... either one works for me. The important thing is to know which one you're doing before you start :!:
  16. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Documentation of the creative process,with the depth and width of the creativity directed by the vision of the songwriter, interpreted by the producer and communicated accurately to the engineer.

    When the player cannot OBVIOUSLY cut the track, then other means need to be put into play.Its unfortunate that this music business is a very egotistical one.It really has to be,considering what it takes to stand in front of people and give out a piece of ones personal demons in order to justify the writing of this music.Its a harsh reality that must be dealt with while the clock is running.

    I have replaced many tracks through the years, of bands I wasnt a member in but was the producer or the engineer of.Sometimes it went down easy with the replaced player,other times not so well.Its kind of hard to know whats right when you're sitting with clients and you're several tracks into a project and it has become obvious whats wrong.When the majority of the band asks you to play the parts in,what do you say?Its your paycheck and a default at that point will gum up the schedule,you dont want to cause hard feelings.....its not easy.
  17. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001
    First off, let me say...I hope this helps you in one way or another. And most importantly I don't want to sound like some "know it all assh*le" or come across as someone who is perfect. I'm not. And with that having been said.
    Heres how I see it...
    In life, not all of us get what we want. Some do! But most do not. You must find ways to get what you want. My question to you...?
    Did you get "what you wanted from the recording (or rather the end result) as a result from going to the studio"?
    My point is this. Learning what to say to make people do what you want sometimes is an art in itself.
    1) If I say to your drummer..."we are gonna make you sound like (insert his favorite drummers name here)" ---Most likely the result will be---"really... :D "
    Or I say..."I'm gonna make you a Drum god, just like the musicians with million dollar music deals, but without all the selling out & ass kissing."---Most likely he will say---"Yeah! :D "
    Now say, I say to him "You think it sounds good now, you wait until I replace your lousy drum sound and lack of talent with anything BUT you and your lack luster effort then it's gonna sound AWESOME!"---hehe
    Result---He's gonna argue with me the rest of the night over simple sh!t. Just because I don't know how to talk to him the way he likes to be talked to. I basically said the same thing, but 3 different ways.
    2) When you said your joke was a half joke. Let me say right now...I too have done as you. But jokes like that are not jokes! When you say something that is not funny to anyone else "except you" that is sarcasizm. And that will almost NEVER get you want you want. Unless all you want is a private joke between yourself and no one else.
    3) Same for the guitarist, remember I said talking to people is an art in itself, knowing how he will respond to something that sounds like one of "your" ideas Vs saying something that makes him think that it was "his" idea. When really it was your idea all along, but the way you talked to him, he just thought of it as a cool idea and wanted to try it. And not that it was another one of "your ideas".
    4) You asked "what's the common consensus on how far to go?"
    I say you have to do all you can to get a great record. Even if it means learning to lie, and smile at people that you don't really care for anyhow.
    For instance here's the Truth=If I say to your guitarist "dude you need to practice, were going in the studio and you need to brush up".
    Or I say a Lie="Wow man have you been practicing? You sound like you've been practicing? I bet by the time we get to the studio you gonna sound AWESOME!"
    The truth will make him feel pressured and under the gun.
    The lie will give him confidence in his abilities and efforts and he WILL want to hear what you think ALL the time.
    5) You asked.."is tech. cheating?"
    I say No. Just take all the tech. off any major label record and see how average many a rock star is without it. Weather it's a $7000 reverb processor or a $5000 recording mic. I bet Witney Houston sounds like you next door neighbor through a Realistic microphone and a Behrin*er ( I didn't say it Kurt! ) mixer, and some home made speaker cabinets.
    I admit talking to some guys is harder than others, and some guys are just plain "impossible" to talk to about certain ideas. But to get others, to do what you want them to do, and make them think it is a good idea is what you are after. IMO
    Good luck Oblivion
    And if I may suggest a book for you to read. You will like it, if you can dig what I said above. It is and has been a best seller for many years. It's called "The 48 Laws of power" by Robert Greene
    The first page in the book says "Don't tell anyone your reading this book. They will hate you." And then you turn the page for the table of contents. It is a book about power over yourself and others. It will give you years of insight that you other wise would never have lived to obtain.
    And then you can really learn to laugh at your drummer or anyone else after you start to see some mistakes "others" are making in general conversations. When they break any one of "the 48 Laws of power".
  18. Todzilla

    Todzilla Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    Neuse River Watershed
    Home Page:
    I really like Kurt's point of deciding going in whether you're documenting or creating.

    Documenting is great, especially if you have great players with great instruments, mics, pres, room, etc...

    But some forms of music require a more intrusive hand of production, espcially if the "ifs" I indicated above aren't there.

    I have been lucky enough to be in the studio with a great producer. We just left most of our egos at the door and did what he told us to do. It sounded far better, than if we'd dictated amp tone, arrangements and recording ethos. Lesson learned.

  19. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Aug 21, 2004
    Quakertown PA
    I agree a great producer can make all the difference in the world. It all depends on whom he is working for. If he's working for the band he can help you put out the best possible product and still remain true to your vision. If he works for the record company he may or may not have your interests in mind.

    I worked with a great producer (25 years ago) on my bands first 2 records. He attended our shows to learn what we were about, helped us with arrangements, coached us on vocals and in general helped us sound better than we ever imagined. A real pro who knew how to bring out the best in a band.

    I had another experience with a producer paid by a record company who wanted to turn a great local act into some kind of top 40's radio friendly sound. He performed solo most of the time and had a great following. A friend and I were session players on this project and the producer made so many changes it didn't even sound like the same act. When it was released he lost instead of gained fanbase. I guess they felt he sold out. The producer went on to make more records and our friend went back to a regular job.

    A producer paid by a record company has no alegiance to you and is only concerned with the record companies wants. If your record fails he moves on but you loose your chance.

    Moral, pay for your own producer and work with him, try his advice and you stand a better chance of getting the results you want.
  20. slicerecords

    slicerecords Guest

    I recently had a great experience in the studio.

    As a final track for a record-myself and an artist I work with decided to cut the song live (solo acoustic/female vox). Great stereo pair, awesome preamps, and great conversion---but the most important thing was the performance, mistakes and all. I still view it as the best recording I've made to date--and it took one take, two mics, one performer---yes there's "mistakes" but the overall performance completely outweights them.

    I've come to the firm conclusion that, above all else, make sure the performers can perform in the studio---not just play their part. If the musicians you're working with in the studio understand fully that when they sit down behind the mic (or stand) they are performing, not just laying down another track---the final product will be sooooo much better then.

    If you record a turd, you will just end up polishing that turd in the editing/mixing/mastering stages---and a turd only gets shinier when polished. and no one likes shiny turds, except my dogs.

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