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  • Do You Believe In Magic?

    In another thread about patience beyond the call of duty (tech support), I posted an example of another case of too much patience that many of us can relate to. I said I didn't have the patience to sit through (for example) a guitar player to do 30 takes of his solo and/or punch it in phrase by phrase. Fortunately I don't work on projects where people are inclined to do this, but I know that it's not so uncommon.

    In passing, I acknowledged that some artists won't play a note without knowing that the recorder is running in the event that something interesting came out of some noodling or, more seriously, discussing how a part should be played or a harmony should be voiced. Or maybe it was a "rehearsal" where some "magic" happened.

    I accept that hearing some music can be a magical experience, but I don't believe in magic or dumb luck when performing or recording. If you played something unplanned you liked, you should be able to remember it and play it again, probably better. Or if you made a mistake that sounded cool at the time. chances are eventually it will sound like a mistake. If the only reason why you got a good take was that you were lucky, well, so be it. Maybe you should consider yourself lucky that the tape was rolling.

    Anyway, Phil countered my comment saying that he has always recorded any time there was any music happening in the studio, even with tape, even if the artist hadn't request that everyting be recorded - because if the artist said "Did you get that?" and you didn't, you'd never have that artist as a client again.

    Patience.

    I realize that it's a no-brainer to keep the virtual tape rolling when disk space is cheaper than dime store cassettes, but the price is in having to try to find out if there's a pony under the pile of manure. Some got the money, some got the time, some got the patience. Not me. I expect that by the time someone decides to record, he has something that he can record, does it to the best of his ability, and then it's done. No magic involved. The magic happens when someone hears the recording for the first time.

    --
    "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
    Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

  • #2
    I do believe in "magic" but I use the quotes because it's not magic in the conventional sense. If I think too much about music then it becomes an intellectual exercise rather than a spiritual experience. If I get my ego out of the way and let the music play me then someone asks me to play the same thing again it's as if I have to switch sides of my brain and something gets lost in that process.

    When I studied with Ed Bickert, who played jazz on a telecaster, he would play something but when I asked him to show it to me again it always came out a bit different. Of course, as working musicians we can always deliver the goods without "Divine" inspiration but for me, the best performances are when the music seems to come from somewhere else and I just watch myself play stuff I didn't know I could play.
    Every worm, every insect, every animal is working
    for the ecological wellbeing of the planet.

    Only we humans, who claim to be the most intelligent
    species here, are not doing that. ~Sadhguru

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    • #3
      Sometimes when I'm recording I'll play a wrong note. But the wrong note will sound better than the one I intended to play, so I suppose that's a kind of 'magic'

      With regard to takes, I'm a one or two takes person. I'm definitely not one of those people who records a track a hundred times and then picks out the best bits and splices them together. I tend to record a complete performance, which is probably why my songs sound so rough
      my tunes

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      • #4
        Improv has been a pretty important musical technique for some time - sometimes the magic is there, sometimes not, even for the best of the best who produce that kind of music.

        I know for myself, and I've heard other players (better ones than me) say that, when improvising for an extended number of measures, there's no way to remember much of it and play it back unless it's recorded. Maybe a phrase or two here and there, some ideas, but not much more. Whatever my brain is doing when soloing, I'm definitely not doing much thinking at all in the conventional sense - to remember it would be like trying remember what the water looked like while swimming - almost all the brain power is tied up in just feeling and doing, not thinking and remembering.

        But that's different than obsessing over some conventional lick, or if the vocal feels "perfect" or not to some fussy performer, or going for another take to get the timing 2 milliseconds tighter. And a whole lot different than piecing long sections together from endless takes of 2-4 measures 'cause it's being written as it's being recorded, or because the player is using studio time to get the part down.

        I do think home recordists can fall into the trap of endless takes, hoping for some magic to appear...magically. And I give myself a hard time if I can't play something pretty much through in as few takes as possible. But I do it anyway - it's my studio, my time. I would know better than to go into a formal recording session planning to record that way. Dylan would - but I'm no Bob Dylan for better or worse.

        nat whilk ii





        Last edited by nat whilk II; 10-07-2015, 03:49 PM.

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        • #5
          I'm more in Phil's camp.

          But along with this, I will say that most of those "magic" mistakes are just that.

          Mistakes.

          But if there's a good idea, we've recorded it, and it can be perfected. Not everyone remembers what they played. Not everyone is wired the same. Maybe it's an odd sound. Bang. You've got it recorded.

          By the way, I record both ways as a musician.

          In a band, I'm really well-rehearsed. I walk in, I have my sound, I know what I'm doing. Bang. Done.

          But I also record improvisational music or improvise parts myself when recording. I want that thing rolling. All. The. Time. I want to listen to various ideas more objectively.
          Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

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          • #6
            Originally posted by MarkydeSad View Post
            Sometimes when I'm recording I'll play a wrong note. But the wrong note will sound better than the one I intended to play, so I suppose that's a kind of 'magic'

            With regard to takes, I'm a one or two takes person. I'm definitely not one of those people who records a track a hundred times and then picks out the best bits and splices them together. I tend to record a complete performance, which is probably why my songs sound so rough
            I don't think your songs sound rough at all. I've always admired how polished they are. Personally, I like rawer recordings myself. They reflect my personality. I'm not polished personally or musically.
            I'm one of those weird birds that likes amp hum ..

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            • #7
              Only in a young girl's heart.

              I don't take any chances - I always "roll tape" (spin disk or burn to SSD doesn't have quite the same ring to it ) unless I'm specifically ordered not to. I learned that very early in my career; I missed capturing a "warm-up" that people wanted by not rolling tape once or twice early on, and the disappointment in their faces (and outright anger from the producer) made me realize I had probably goofed rather badly. After that, I've made it a pretty hard and fast rule for myself, and it has never turned out to be a bad practice, nor caused me any issues...
              **********

              "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
              - George Carlin

              "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
              - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

              "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
              - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

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              • #8
                PS Some artists do their best work after a few warm-up- passes (recorded or not), while others are one-take wonders - you get their best performance on the first take, then they go downhill from there. Still others have peaks and dips in their performances, while others are more consistent, take-to-take. Craig did a great article on the subject once. It's certainly consistent with my studio experiences - and unless you've worked with the artists before, or have talked to another engineer who has, you usually don't know what you're going to get until you get going... so while I wouldn't necessarily call it "magic", I definitely consider being ready to capture the artist at their best - whenever that may happen to be - to be a fundamental part of an engineer's responsibilities.
                **********

                "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
                - George Carlin

                "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
                - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
                - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by MikeRivers View Post

                  If you played something unplanned you liked, you should be able to remember it and play it again, probably better.
                  Whenever I write a piece of music I try to record a rough draft pretty quickly before I forget it.

                  There are some songs that I've written that I will always remember how to play. Others I no longer remember how to play but if I had to, I could probably figure them out by listening to the recordings. And then there are others that I may have a vague memory of but I don't remember how to play them so they are lost to the ages. I've got hundreds of musical ideas on all sorts of tapes, MDs, CDs and hard drives spanning thirty years or so. Some of them I don't even remember writing, much less recording.

                  As far a solos are concerned. Just about every solo I've ever recorded was improvised on the spot while I was recording. Ninety percent of them I wouldn't be able to play exactly as they were recorded if you paid me a million dollars. They are improvisational moments in time and once I'm done I've moved on to the next project.

                  But that's just the way I tick musically. Writing and recording go hand in hand. I start with an outline and fill it in as I go. I realize other people may do things differently.
                  Last edited by Folder; 10-08-2015, 12:18 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe View Post
                    I don't take any chances - I always "roll tape" (spin disk or burn to SSD doesn't have quite the same ring to it ) unless I'm specifically ordered not to. I learned that very early in my career; I missed capturing a "warm-up" that people wanted by not rolling tape once or twice early on, and the disappointment in their faces (and outright anger from the producer) made me realize I had probably goofed rather badly. After that, I've made it a pretty hard and fast rule for myself, and it has never turned out to be a bad practice, nor caused me any issues...
                    Based on the fade in I think "Key to the Highway" from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was one of those cases where the magic started to happened and the engineer scrambled to get the tape rolling
                    Every worm, every insect, every animal is working
                    for the ecological wellbeing of the planet.

                    Only we humans, who claim to be the most intelligent
                    species here, are not doing that. ~Sadhguru

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MarkydeSad View Post
                      I tend to record a complete performance, which is probably why my songs sound so rough
                      ...and more importantly, why they connect with people.

                      The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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                      • #12
                        For me, magic rarely happens if I'm doing a vocal or a guitar solo overdub. I can almost always do better because I've become more comfortable with a song. The "magic" happens during songwriting, or more accurately, "screwing around without realizing that a song is about to plop down in front of me."

                        This was really brought home to me when I was testing out Gibson's Memory Cable. I was just testing, and had no intention to write anything. But I came up with this one riff...and there it was. It ended up being one of the songs I posted on my YouTube channel.

                        So, was it "magic"? I guess you could say that, but a more prosaic explanation was that I played something that pleased me and fortunately, something was recording.
                        The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I actually have a lot more to say about this, and the function of the subconscious, but I'm about to go into the studio...I'll post later, or tomorrow.

                          Props to Mike for a topic that I'm sure will reveal all kinds of interesting insights...
                          The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by UstadKhanAli View Post
                            I will say that most of those "magic" mistakes are just that.

                            Mistakes.

                            But if there's a good idea, we've recorded it, and it can be perfected. Not everyone remembers what they played. Not everyone is wired the same. Maybe it's an odd sound. Bang. You've got it recorded.

                            By the way, I record both ways as a musician.

                            In a band, I'm really well-rehearsed. I walk in, I have my sound, I know what I'm doing. Bang. Done.

                            But I also record improvisational music or improvise parts myself when recording. I want that thing rolling. All. The. Time. I want to listen to various ideas more objectively.
                            I get that. Thanks. I think that why I care about this subject is that I have a fairly clear mental dividing line between recording and composing/writing/arranging. Having easy access to recording can blur that line because recording can be an integral part of the composition process. You fool around, you get some ideas, you listen to what you've done, you build on it, and eventually you have a song. But to me, that's a different process from recording, though an equally valid one.


                            --
                            "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
                            Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by onelife View Post

                              Based on the fade in I think "Key to the Highway" from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was one of those cases where the magic started to happened and the engineer scrambled to get the tape rolling
                              That was produced by the legendary Tom Dowd. I can't imagine him not rolling tape or being ready to go, although I suppose anything is possible. Maybe there was a goof at the intro he wanted to hide, or they decided to do it for artistic reasons? I honestly don't know.

                              _______

                              Okay, I went in search of what I could find about that fade-in - and apparently it wasn't Tom doing the engineering at that point, and I'm not sure who was engineering that session. There are several engineers credited on the album. Apparently when the band started this impromptu jam, Dowd had to yell at the engineer to roll the tape... and the late start explains the fade-in.

                              Had the engineer followed my practice regarding this, they wouldn't have needed the fade-in.

                              Scroll down to the Eric Clapton section for the details:

                              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_to_the_Highway
                              **********

                              "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
                              - George Carlin

                              "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
                              - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                              "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
                              - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                              Comment

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