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what is hard about recording engineering?

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  • what is hard about recording engineering?

    the way i look at it, its like finding the sound you want from your amp/pedals to get the sound you like. just balance the levels until it sounds perfect. or do you have to add compression and effects? why add effects if it will make the recording not as real as the actual sound that comes out of your amp and picked up by the microphone?

  • #2
    Nothing is wrong with that approach if that's all you want, its just not always what you get.

    I love it when I get tracks recorded well. No one enjoys humping over tracks that are inadequate for a mix, but sounding real is in the ears of the beholder. Most musicians want their recordings to sound, as they imagine themselves sounding, not as they are actually sound.

    Its no different then a photographer taking someone's photo, air brushing it, removing flaws and making the persons appearance look better then it actually is. They start by taking many photos then weeding out the unflattering shots and then working the best ones to look even better.

    An audio engineer is in the business of capturing the best tracks an artist can produce then creating a mix that is acceptable to the masses. Its not something allot of performers can learn to do well because the performer is biased towards his own playing and may not be objective when it comes to what's best for the completed recording. He will lean towards making his own parts sound as good as he imagines they should be an ignore the rest of the musicians recorded who need to be enhanced to make his own part sound best.

    If real is what you want most engineers can accommodate that. Chances are its not what most musicians actually want, because you will hear the bad with the good and given the levels of vanity most performers have for themselves, the bad part isn't usually very flattering when its actually heard. Everything for sour notes, string noise, frequency responses inadequate for achieving a good mix, timing issues, etc detract from the actual idea the performer was attempting to present. The engineer separates the wheat from the chaff so what you get is pure grain that is edible for most listeners.

    On top of that you can add the experience of the engineer in getting a good mix. Its not just the experience. I been recording for 51 years. I've had some commercial success which I'm proud of but its not been my goal in life to be a great engineer. I do it allot but its not my #1 passion. Playing and writing music is. Besides many of those years I didn't have access to the best recording gear and simply had to make due with what I had.

    I have known many engineers over the years who have developed skills well beyond my own. They not only had the knack for it and kept a finger on the pulse of what worked best, but they had great opportunities at the right times in their careers to develop that skill by working for major companies and apprenticed under the direction of some of the best in the industry who taught them how to mix great recordings.

    I did some of that myself when I had a job creating commercial technical training videos for large corporations. I was taught the basics by someone moving up to a new position in that company and started by being a technical assistant doing all the hands on grunt work.

    Then after going through the process a few times, and doing everything from writing scripts to, acting, directing, editing, narration distributing, artwork, and budgeting the costs of the production I was promoted to being the Producer of all that companies videos. I then had to train others to do what I had done before while getting the entire job done on time and on budget. It was surely no simple challenge. Each one of those steps was a job in itself. A producer needs to be good at all if he is to effectively manage those doing the individual jobs and not only get the best out of those people, but to produce a superior compared to the last.

    I learned many things on that job and the number one comes down to cooperation. You had to get the young and eager to learn from the wise and experienced and get a great work. You learn to value individuals who have a good gut instinct for things because you're always working under time constraints. If you have a person who can come up with an 80% correct solution is seconds of the top of their head, they are more valuable then those who take weeks to drive that up to 90%. You always collectively drive the 80% up to 90 or 100% in a short period of time by having others add their input. You don't have time to wait on the individual who takes weeks to drum up with a 90% solution.

    Much of this applies to audio recording, even from the performers perspective. When I have a musician come in to record, I don't want him overly focused on his sound quality. Its my job to worry about that. I want him to be 100% focused on his playing notes well with the most emotion and energy he can muster to make it sound good.

    Its the performance that must be real and natural and as well done the first time around as possible. As an engineer I cant make the performer play better. I can only enhance the notes he does play.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by mbengs1 View Post
      the way i look at it, its like finding the sound you want from your amp/pedals to get the sound you like. just balance the levels until it sounds perfect. or do you have to add compression and effects? why add effects if it will make the recording not as real as the actual sound that comes out of your amp and picked up by the microphone?
      You're opening a can of worms here...

      Recordings do not have to be an accurate documentation of actual events, although there is validity to that approach too.
      **********

      "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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      • #4
        It has been my lifelong dream for a recording engineer to listen to one of my songs and say "Hey...Ya know, this ain't half bad. Would ya mind if I fiddled around with the tracks a bit?"
        All my output has been self "produced". All recorded at home.
        I've never even been to a real studio.

        mbengs1...If you have some stuff you have confidence in...I'd urge you to get at the very least a professional engineers opinion and hopefully involvement in.
        Engineers have a unique view of material. They see and hear what it could be..Audiowise. I'm not talking about what will make you a star or an idol. I'm talking about what will make your music sound better. I simply cannot explain it better than that.

        As players/authors....You cannot remove yourself enough from the material to truly grasp the intricacies involved in the finesses involved in the incredible wide palette of tools that the best engineers have not only available to them, but the command they possess over them.

        I'll only give one example...knowing not if you are a Beatles fan or not.
        But listen to The Beatles "Live at The BBC"...Any track....Then listen to that same track off one of their studio albums.

        That is the difference between any performance...And a performance in the hands of a professional engineer.

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        • #5
          ^^^ You may want to save some cash and do a session or two at a pro studio. It can be quite inspiring to someone whose never done it before.
          I did allot of private studio recordings back in the 70's creating demos the band used to get jobs. later I had a job producing videos and regularly did sessions in major studios, some in NY and upstate NJ. AT&T had one where we did all our final Video editing. The Pros who worked there were some of the best in the business and the gear was state of the art back in the 90's. The main frame computer they used cost 5 million dollars and was used for all kinds of 3D video animation.

          Today much of the same stuff on a simple lap top of course but its was a real eye opener for how a major business in the industry operates.
          I used to visit allot of broadcast stations too including one of the satellite dish farms in N Jersey where all the broadcasting stations from NY bounced their signals off Satellites. The complex covered maybe 20 acres and had this long building complex around the dishes in the center.
          It took a good 30 minutes to walk from the front of the complex to the back and you'd see room after room of broadcasting amplifies, repeaters all tied into fiber optic lines which ran to all the various radio and TV stations in the north east. Pretty amazing stuff most people don't even know exists.

          What you can learn in even a small pro studio can inspire you to do things you never thought of trying. You can ask to sit in on the mixing too and I'm sure the engineer would be proud to show you a few tricks he uses. Just let them know up front why you're doing it. I'm sure they will let you try out their best gear too so you'll have an idea what some good mics and preamps can do for you.

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          • #6
            EQ

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            • onelife
              onelife commented
              Editing a comment
              good answer

          • #7
            Originally posted by mistersully View Post
            EQ
            Compression.

            Setting relative levels.

            Highlighting "the most important thing" at any given moment. And ​keeping everyone in the band happy while doing so.
            **********

            "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


            • #8
              Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe View Post
              ... And ​keeping everyone in the band happy while doing so.
              That's the challenge - it's beyond the musical and technical aspects of the project.

              I used to wonder what it would be like to be recording Guns ,N, Roses in the days they were earning big bucks for the record company.
              "Isn't it a pity, isn't it a shame,
              how we break each other's hearts
              and cause each other pain"

              Comment


              • #9
                The biggest challenge is tracking. Quality performance and Quality sound.

                You get quality sound and the project will mix itself. Quality Performance will make it worth listening to.

                If the recording quality is poor there's only so many things you can do to enhance the sound quality. Overuse of effects tracking often cannot be undone so getting the best sound possible before you hit record is always desirable.

                If the performance is poor, it wont matter how good the sound quality is. Few but the artist will want to hear a poor performance except for educational purposes.

                Good sound quality actually makes a performers imperfections stand out. Most musicians would rather loose a left leg then knowingly embarrass by knowingly playing others a recording of themselves if it isn't somewhere close to their peak playing ability.
                Last edited by WRGKMC; 07-25-2016, 08:19 AM.

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