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My recent ethical dilemma


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I definitely agree that there seems to now be a difference between "new" and "old" style of producers. I know that I had a rough time on this forum when I started posting questions on how to fix drum tracks and the response would be "get a good drummer." There is clearly a wealth of knowledge from guys who have been at it for decades. Not that I'm discounting what they know, it's just that what's useful may not apply so much these days. These are different times with different constraints and different methodologies.

That being said there were a lot of good points made by both sides. Certainly an interesting philosophical discussion. My opinion is that the producer or engineer should try to point out problems with performances, whatever way that may be. Even when I was on the other side of things, I always appreciated being told that my take wasn't up to par. I think honesty is always the best policy. It also takes a bit of psychology and experience to gauge how to approach the situation.

Even if the band totally sucks, the unfortunate thing is that as someone that is starting out and trying to build business, refusal is not always an option. If I were the crappy musician, I wouldn't feel alright with something not being me. But you never know what people are OK with.

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Which raises in interesting point. Try listening to rehearsal recordings. Try attending rehearsals and gigs.

This... would have prevented a lot of heartache. Knowing exactly what the score is with the players gets you where you need to be before tracking.

If there's an issue with the drummer and you're crystal clear on it due to the homework you've put in... you're in a good situation to discuss this with the artist and decided on a plan of attack. If the artist's plan doesn't jibe with yours and you can't see around that... pass on it.

Me? I'm more than likely able to make my case as to how we can overcome the issue. I'll sell my solution in an honest manner and hopefully get the artist on board with me, and me with them.

Know what you're getting into before you get into it.

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If I were the crappy musician, I wouldn't feel alright with something not being me. But you never know what people are OK with.



No {censored}! That's it, right there, I swear. I do time correction, tuning, comping... all because I am a good musician, and frequently, those that I work with (produce, I mean) aren't. I'm always surprised with how willing the musicians I record are to getting "fixed".

As a musician, I'd have every passage, tempo, and groove in my back pocket before I stepped near a microphone. But that's me and not my clients. :facepalm:

So, evil as it may seem, I embrace "Pro Tooling". I get to play god and fix things how I see it. And people pay me for it knowing full well what they're getting. There is no covert activity between my and the artist. Between the artist and their audience? Well, that is quite another story.

Now there's an ethical dilemma.

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No {censored}! That's it, right there, I swear. I do time correction, tuning, comping... all because
I am
a good musician, and frequently, those that I work with (produce, I mean) aren't. I'm always surprised with how
willing
the musicians I record are to getting "fixed".


As a musician, I'd have every passage, tempo, and groove in my back pocket before I stepped near a microphone. But that's me and not my clients.
:facepalm:

So, evil as it may seem, I embrace "Pro Tooling". I get to play god and fix things how I see it. And people pay me for it knowing full well what they're getting. There is no covert activity between my and the artist. Between the artist and their audience? Well, that is quite another story.


Now
there's
an ethical dilemma.



Yep, there are many people that don't hear the problem to begin with. You're really in trouble if they don't hear it even if you shown it to them, whatever that may be.

My situation is slightly different in that time is really the issue. I'm not making excuses, I'm saying the reality of it. I'm recording my band at the moment and it's been a labor of love. And I actually think that we are good musicians. But we just don't have time to practice to perfection anymore. We've given up on the idea of being rock stars. But we have (IMO) awesome ideas that we want to be heard in the best possible way.

If we were still gigging, I'd make sure that we all had everything tight because I wouldn't want to look like a fool on stage. But as it is, I've got to fix things. And it's like you said, there is a feeling of power with being able to correct something and make it sound better than it was.

One other thing that I notice about DAWs is that they seem to be gearing at single musicians that want to put together a song in five minutes. It's definitely in conflict with the past where songs would be crafted. I know that we spent around a year on our songs. It is what it is...

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That being said there were a lot of good points made by both sides. Certainly an interesting philosophical discussion. My opinion is that the producer or engineer should try to point out problems with performances, whatever way that may be.




If I were the crappy musician, I wouldn't feel alright with something not being me. But you never know what people are OK with.

 

Definitely!! It's all about the respect. And trying to play to people's strengths rather than making them feel like {censored}.

 

Here's what I do, and really, I'm not saying that everyone should do this.

 

If a drummer is really off-time, I pull them off to the side so that it doesn't make them feel like I am dressing them down in front of their friends/bandmates, and let them know that there are some timing issues. I'll usually also point out a part that is really good to balance it. I want to first and foremost impart to the drummer that I am here to help him/her sound as good as possible, and play to his/her strengths. I'm on the drummer's side. I'll discuss some strategies that I think may work. I sometimes will even do this before the group even begins recording, like during pre-production or meeting before the recording (something I always do), just to let the drummer know some strategies and options.

 

If the track absolutely needs to be done to a steady time and the band is requesting a click (this rarely happens to me) and it's clear that the drummer can't play to a click, I'll do several things, depending on the situation.

 

For one thing, a lot of drummers and percussionists play much better to a shaker. Not only does it obviously sound more organic, but it's also more "forgiving" in the sense that someone can feel that there's a bit of "give" in the timing even though it's still steady. So I'll set up a shaker on a drum machine, or loop a shaker.

 

This often but not always works. If it doesn't work, I'll ask the drummer if s/he can play to a loop. We might try that. Sometimes this works really well because the drummer can get a sense of the pocket much more. And obviously, it's still steady without feeling metronomic.

 

Failing this, I'll also see if I can get the drummer's permission to edit/loop certain passages. Rarely is someone's drumming so unbelievably wack that I can't cut/paste passages and time-correct within a matter of minutes, particularly if they've cut the song several times already. So if the drummer is okay with this (usually this answer is "yes, please!" :D ), I'll edit a couple of kick drums or cut and paste good parts together organically, typically using 2-4 bar sections if the drummer still wants it to sound like an organic performance. I'll often send the band out for lunch while I perform the edits with the drummer there.

 

The whole thing, which I'll say again, is that you want to absolutely let the drummer know that you are totally pullin' for their performance to the best, and that you're trying to get them in their comfort zone and provide an environment where they are most likely to succeed. And even if ultimately, it doesn't quite work (which quite frankly has never happened here), at least you've shown that you respect them, and that's so valuable to a musician.

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If the problem isn't subtle you shouldn't need a pro to point it out. The members of the band are probably well aware of the problem.

 

 

Exactly. It can't be both ways.

 

Either the rest of the band are good players and they KNOW the drummer is sub-par, but are tolerating him for reasons that are their own business, or else the whole band is a bunch of rookies and this session is part of their learning process.

 

Either way, the correct response from the person recording them is to diplomatically point out the problems with the track ("Are you guys happy with the drum track? Can mixes OK? ) and then let it go if that doesn't draw interest.

 

I'll bet I've recorded as many beginner bands as anyone here, it's mostly what I do. It takes all of 15 minutes to recognize where the band is at experience and ability wise. At that point I adjust my approach to fit where they're at and what they're trying to achieve. That leaves me with three goals:

 

(1) Get the best tracks on tape they're capable of, leaving the ability to come back in and improve them later if it's possible and they decide to,

 

(2) Make the process educational and fun for them so part of the benefit they get will last them their entire career if they continue to perform and record, and

 

(3) Stay within their budget so they don't sicken on the whole process.

 

Why do I do this? Because I was once the kid on the other side of the glass without much money but with lots of excitement and energy, and some old guy in Dallas took the time to teach me and encourage me, even though he knew there was no way what I was cutting was going to be really good with the skill set I had at that time.

 

Not every project should be approached clinically (let's replace the drummer with someone who doesn't suck, let's quantize everything, let's do fifty tracks of solos and comp them, etc). A huge part of being a recordist is understanding what the client wants and is capable of doing within their budget, and then guiding them diplomatically to the best way of getting there.

 

You don't treat every project as if you're making a platinum record. You do your best engineering the recording but you never, never inject your own ego into it.

 

Terry D.

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Not every project should be approached clinically (let's replace the drummer with someone who doesn't suck, let's quantize everything, let's do fifty tracks of solos and comp them, etc). A huge part of being a recordist is understanding what the client wants and is capable of doing within their budget, and then guiding them diplomatically to the best way of getting there.


You don't treat every project as if you're making a platinum record. You do your best engineering the recording but you never, never inject your own ego into it.


Terry D.

 

 

So true!!!!! Really well said.

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Either way, the correct response from the person recording them is to diplomatically point out the problems with the track ("Are you guys happy with the drum track? Can mixes OK? ) and then let it go if that doesn't draw interest.

 

 

The "correct response"? That's one correct response, but not the one and only correct response. What if the band has come to you and asked you to produce something that's going to get them... fans, bookings, press, sales, etc. Now, let's say that drummer in your estimation is not cutting it for the band's intended goal. They hired you to get them there. That's you job per your mutual agreement.

 

I see the idea thrown around that the band doesn't need someone to point that out to them. I respectfully disagree. The band at times can be too close to see. It's pretty common. Their sights are low a lot of times. Perhaps they've come to you to try and raise their sights a bit.

 

I'm supposed to let it go? I would have made sure they were on board with me from the beginning. And me on board with them. That's a given. Then they'd be listening to me and together we'd be solving the issue.

 

I wouldn't be letting it go.

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if recording sans click is your M.O. you are either tracking some killer players, or you are NOT doing the kind of in depth editing I'm doing. It's as simple as that.

 

I respectfully disagree. IMO, you're making a rather large assumption here - and that is that it's impossible to do extensive, in-depth editing if you don't have a click / grid to work with, or if you didn't track to a click.

 

Ignoring for the moment the fact that you have the option of creating a click / tempo map after the fact, I don't consider it impossible to edit without one, nor would I let the lack of a click while recording deter me from doing whatever editing we deem necessary. Is it a PITB to have to do note by note editing? Yup... but that's true even if you're working with a click. Without one, you can't just slice, dice and quantize - you have to slice and nudge, or use elastic audio... and you have to actually listen to the track and see how things feel... if you don't have a good sense of time, and a good idea of feel, then you're in trouble. But if the engineer has a good sense of time, and is musical, it's certainly not impossible to do it. And FWIW, even if we did track with a click, I prefer to use that as a guide or a reference, and not as "god". IOW, I'm not a big fan of quantizing everything to the grid. I like a bit more "feel" than that gives you, a bit more musicality, and I don't feel that rigid quantizing gives you that - at least not for the styles of music I normally work with.

 

Of course, it takes a lot less time if you just start with a really good drummer, and that person is well-rehearsed and prepared... but you don't always get that. When you don't, you can send them home to prep more [but that option is limited by their skill level - you might already be getting their "best work"], or you can get a session player in and replace the parts [or do it yourself if you're sufficiently competent on the instrument], or you can spend hours editing.... or live with what you have. IMO, you should discuss those options with the band [if you're producing], or with the producer if there is one.

 

The decision about which option to take is going to depend on a lot of factors. First of all, I ask everyone well before they come in to track "what's the purpose of the recording? What are we trying to accomplish? Is this a demo to give to local club owners to get gigs? Is it a DIY EP or CD project? Are you shopping this to labels?" Secondly, what's the budget? Remember - you can't really expect to compete with a six figure record with a three or four figure demo budget. You're probably going to be a lot less concerned with "perfection" on that five hundred dollar demo than on a five hundred thousand dollar major label album. ;) And as tempted as I am to make everything as good as I can at all times [because it reflects on ME too], I'm not usually going to throw in hours and hours of free editing time if it's a low budget demo that, as Fletcher said, is probably only going to be heard by the band's friends, family and hard-core fans.

 

I nearly always give the band the option of recording with or without a click, and explain the advantages and disadvantages to both approaches in advance of the tracking sessions. I'll record both ways. Sans click is harder on me in terms of editing, but I can still do it. If the drummer has never played with a click, but wants to try it anyway, I insist that they first spend some considerable time practicing at home and rehearsals with a metronome before coming in to attempt it in the studio. And if I feel that it's just not happening with the click, and that they might do better without it [or vise versa], I have no problem with switching methodologies and trying it the other way... IOW, "whatever works best for the given band / situation".

 

As with determining the answer to the question of "who's going to produce", I feel a bit of communication beforehand can save you from a lot of potentially thorny issues later on.

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...but you never, never inject your own ego into it.

 

 

This might sound strange but I disagree with this. I promise I'm not trying to be contrary. I've had some very happy clients because I had my ego injected in it.

 

Of course, I am very careful understanding whose music it is. On the other hand, I can get right in there to the point that the band might want to incorporate a songwriting idea or two of mine. I don't care one way or the other.

 

Whatever is best for the artist's intent.

 

The point being... hands off is not the only way. It's not always what the artist wants... or needs.

 

I can shut up for days while the music is going down then all of a sudden see where my "hands on" input and ego even, might benefit the music. I manage to do this to open arms. Why? Cause I'm sincere per our up front agreement. To reach that goal.

 

You don't run it, but you don't run away from it either.

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Whatever is best for the artist's intent.

 

The point being... hands off is not the only way. Is not always what the artist wants... or needs.

 

Even if there is a real producer, or the band is self-producing, I always ask them "how much input do you want from me?" I can shut up and push faders and buttons under your specific direction while keeping my thoughts about any problems or mistakes I hear to myself, or I can point out what I'm hearing and let you make the choice about what to do with it... and usually, even if I'm not "the producer", they want to at least hear what I think. Like I said, just because I point out something that is bothering me, or that may be a potential issue later on that they might be overlooking in the excitement and heat of the moment, it doesn't mean they have to take my advice and address it - if they feel it's OK as-is, we can move on - but at least I made them aware of the fact that the drummer came in early after the break or whatever, and they can then make an informed decision. In nearly all cases, they tend to want and appreciate that kind of input, but YMMV.

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Definitely!! It's all about the respect. And trying to play to people's strengths rather than making them feel like {censored}.


Here's what I do, and really, I'm not saying that everyone should do this.


If a drummer is really off-time, I pull them off to the side so that it doesn't make them feel like I am dressing them down in front of their friends/bandmates, and let them know that there are some timing issues. I'll usually also point out a part that is really good to balance it. I want to first and foremost impart to the drummer that I am here to help him/her sound as good as possible, and
play to his/her strengths
. I'm on the drummer's side. I'll discuss some strategies that I think may work. I sometimes will even do this before the group even begins recording, like during pre-production or meeting before the recording (something I always do), just to let the drummer know some strategies and options.


If the track absolutely needs to be done to a steady time and the band is requesting a click (this rarely happens to me) and it's clear that the drummer can't play to a click, I'll do several things, depending on the situation.


For one thing, a lot of drummers and percussionists play much better to a
shaker
. Not only does it obviously sound more organic, but it's also more "forgiving" in the sense that someone can feel that there's a bit of "give" in the timing even though it's still steady. So I'll set up a shaker on a drum machine, or loop a shaker.


This often but not always works. If it doesn't work, I'll ask the drummer if s/he can play to a
loop
. We might try that. Sometimes this works really well because the drummer can get a sense of the pocket much more. And obviously, it's still steady without feeling metronomic.


Failing this, I'll also see if I can get the drummer's permission to
edit/loop certain passages
. Rarely is someone's drumming so unbelievably wack that I can't cut/paste passages and time-correct within a matter of minutes, particularly if they've cut the song several times already. So if the drummer is okay with this (usually this answer is "yes, please!"
:D
), I'll edit a couple of kick drums or cut and paste good parts together organically, typically using 2-4 bar sections if the drummer still wants it to sound like an organic performance. I'll often send the band out for lunch while I perform the edits with the drummer there.


The whole thing, which I'll say again, is that you want to absolutely let the drummer know that you are totally pullin' for their performance to the best, and that
you're trying to get them in their comfort zone and provide an environment where they are most likely to succeed
. And even if ultimately, it doesn't quite work (which quite frankly has never happened here), at least you've shown that you
respect
them, and that's so valuable to a musician.



Thanks for posting this. These are some interesting techniques. It's like you said though, you have to be on the side of the musician.

One thing that I had to do with my drummer is to play along with prerecorded scratch tracks of the band. I found that if we were all playing together with a click, everything would be awesome up until some sort of change in dynamics. He would get excited and start playing faster or what have you. So we would record tracks that were 80-90% there and he'd be able to get by that way. I find that non-drummers have an easier time with a click. We usually have no problems doing the takes. And afterwards, he doesn't feed off of our "live energy." So, he's still not playing to a click but it's somewhat constrained.

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The "correct response"? That's
one
correct response, but not
the
one and only correct response. What if the band has come to you and asked you to produce

 

YMMV, but I work with basically two types of bands: beginners, who have only a vague idea of how the recording process works, and experienced pros who are in complete control of the project and know exactly what they want. The latter are not offended by suggestions from me and instantly decide whether to reject them or accept them. They might fire me for being an idiot but they won't fire me for speaking up or being rude.

 

The former can become bewildered by all the options but really need some suggestions delivered in a kindly, educational but not condescending way.

 

My point is the experienced guys are producing themselves, the beginners don't even know what a producer does, let alone have decided who that person will be for the project. So in my case it's never so formal as someone coming to me asking me to produce.

 

And again, diplomacy is always required.

 

something that's going to get them... fans, bookings, press, sales, etc. Now, let's say that drummer in your estimation is not cutting it for the band's intended goal. They hired you to get them there.
That's you job per your mutual agreement.

 

OK, here's where Austin may differ from where you work.

 

A very polished album full of guest players, massively edited and quantized, isn't going to get an Austin band one more person through the door at a live show. In fact, people may be offended if they buy the album and it doesn't sound like the live band, warts, bad drummer, and all.

 

What good is it for them to have a great drummer on their CD but not at a show? None! If they need a replacement drummer, they need him (or her) in the band, not inserted at the studio.

 

So those folks wanting a recording to use as a demo want something that sounds more or less like they do live.

 

In Austin, it's not at ALL about perfection, it's about capturing the "vibe" of the band. Something is working for them live, and that something better be on the CD or I failed as a recordist. :idk:

 

The other type of people I get are folks who are creating "art" that they'll never reproduce live, at least not in a fashion that resembles their CD. Some of these people are singer/songwriters trying to shop their tunes, some are trying to show their vocal or instrumental skill with great players backing them up, others are just people who are strongly driven to create original music.

 

And that's a totally different task to support, where a really important part of my job is to recommend the right sidemen, schedule and coordinate the entire effort so that the best possible product is produced that supports the client's goal. I think in that case I am "co producing" with the artist, who is generally one person, generally a singer songwriter.

 

And my point is it seems to me that the band being discussed in this thread is not like my latter example, but like the former, a band trying to make a demo CD to get shows and maybe sell to their audience.

 

In AUSTIN, CDs do NOT get bands shows. Everyone has a great CD, often with guest players, that in no way represents what the band can deliver in live performance.

 

I see the idea thrown around that the band doesn't need someone to point that out to them. I respectfully disagree. The band at times can be too close to see. It's pretty common. Their sights are low a lot of times. Perhaps they've come to you to try and raise their sights a bit.

 

Sure, I agree with that, and yes, it's part of my job to make helpful, tactful suggestions. But offering to play the parts myself is just waaay off the table - unless it's a single client, singer/songwriter thing.

 

Am I going to join the band in their live performances? Is the band member I want to replace going to take this suggestion as anything other than the intrusive insult it clearly is? Probably not. :idk:

 

Now, gently asking the band if they're happy with a track, making suggestions how to get the best out of each existing player, that's quite another thing. Since I work so often with beginners, I often find that it's the unfamiliar studio environment that's causing them the play worse than they usually do and I can help with that.

 

Of course, it's just as likely that their part has never been put under the microscope before, and that it's always kinda sucked. In that case, I might suggest that they take some rough mixes or even "mix minuses" home with them to work on their parts. If I don't do that, then I'm wasting their money and most of the clients I work for don't have a whole lot of money.

 

I'm supposed to let it go? I would have made sure they were on board with me from the beginning. And me on board with them. That's a given. Then they'd be listening to me and together we'd be solving the issue.

 

Yeah, but listening to you about... what?

 

"Hey, I think we can get a better snare sound using this snare, what do you think?" FINE

 

"Hey, you want to try recording to a click track?" FINE

 

"Hey, it sounds like you might not be able to hear the bass in your phones, need more?" FINE

 

"Hey, want to try one of you playing the Strat and the other playing the PRS on this song? Might be able to hear both guitars better that way" FINE

 

"Hey, your drummer sucks, can I play instead?" NOT FINE

 

"Hey, how about I spend two weeks quantizing and editing your drum tracks to make them perfect and squeeze all the life out of your emotional performance?" NOT FINE

 

"Hey, I have a better idea for that guitar solo, can I see your guitar for a minute?" NOT FINE

 

See what I'm saying?

 

What's OK for a single client, singer/songwriter showcase is usually NOT OK for a band demo.

 

Terry D.

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Terry, I would respectfully suggest that many of the things you listed as "NOT FINE" may indeed be OK to do... but not necessarily in the way you worded them. IOW, you may indeed have a discussion about editing or replacing or re-recording drums, or trying a different guitar solo [even grabbing a guitar and playing an example of what you're suggesting - often that's quicker / more illustrative than merely trying to describe it with words alone], but it needs to be done with tact and diplomacy, and only if you've discussed and determined your "role" in the process with the band in advance. If you're not the producer, and they want you to just shut up and push faders, then it would be inappropriate to offer up those suggestions, but I wouldn't say that such input is always inappropriate... although if it was worded exactly like you wrote it, then it probably would be. :D

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That was a good post Terry. I cracked up at the NOT FINE bits. Well done. But I still steer toward Phil's response. I;m just not an in your face kind of guy. I can respectfully ask to see the bass player's bass to show him an idea. I'm not trying to castrate him. More often than not the guy's going to light up and and go, "Yeah, I gotcha!!" as he's grabbing back the bass to take my idea and make it better.

I've never asked to play someone's part but have been asked. Of course it's their call. It is possible to figuratively sort of join the band for a few weeks or months. It's been known to happen.

I'm not talking about being an insensitive prick or anything. I'm talking about being a part of the team because they want you too.

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I can respectfully ask to see the bass player's bass to show him an idea. I'm not trying to castrate him. More often than not the guy's going to light up and and go, "Yeah, I gotcha!!" as he's grabbing back the bass to take my idea and make it better.

 

ABSOLUTELY. The idea isn't for them to take "my" idea and ape it exactly - the idea is to fix whatever the problem is; to do something different that works better. If my suggestion / idea inspires them to come up with a different idea of their own that works better, then it has served its purpose - I'm not married to the idea of them having to use "my suggestion" exactly as it was presented - I just want to improve things, and I don't care about who comes up with the final solution that "works" - just as long as someone does.

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Thanks for posting this. These are some interesting techniques. It's like you said though, you have to be on the side of the musician.

 

 

Yeah, that's so important. You want them to have the greatest chance of succeeding, and that sometimes means being flexible and coming up with different things to help them.

 

I wrote that post that you just copied during lunch, and ran out of time.

 

What I also wanted to mention is that despite all those techniques I've mentioned, you don't need to do that so much anymore because of tempo maps, Elastic Time, and so forth, all of which can be created after someone has recorded without a click.

 

And ultimately, if a drummer is going to deliver the best performance without using a click (or a shaker/shaker loop, drum loop, etc., previous techniques I've described), you can still obtain a good steady performance by using tempo maps, Elastic Time, etc. and a little bit of editing, if that's indeed what it is going to take.

 

And that's ultimately what we're going for, aren't we? For someone to deliver their best performance? That's what I want. That's what I get excited about.

 

P.S. I developed all of those "Click Substitute" techniques because I used analog tape and not a DAW. Even with analog tape, I felt there was no reason to constrain a drummer to having to use a click to get a steady tempo.

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i think the key to the producer's role is finding a way to criticize without sounding negative. i've been working with a guitarist who writes great riffs and leads, but god bless his soul, it takes him upwards of 20 takes before his tracks are any good!

 

i'm more of a live player - my first take is usually my best - so his approach can be excruciating! i've learned that the best way to motivate is to say: 'that take was pretty good, but i KNOW you can really nail it, and you're almost there!' stroke their egos a bit, be patient, and it will pay off. besides, you can always comp the best bits into a mighty take!

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Man, that is right at the core of what is probably the biggest mistake I made. I knew from the earliest takes that the drummer was having issues. We did futz with the headphone mix quite a bit.


I think I feared that I lacked the people skills to really tactfully approach the subject then and there. I knew it was going to be touchy and I guess I needed to take time to collect my words and figure out how to keep things positive. A lesson learned for sure. Great post.

 

 

See, now that's some great words! It is a difficult and touchy thing to bring up performances that were less than stellar, because I feel your pain....when the band is listening back to performances that are very weak, and they're really into it and tapping their toes, one doesn't want to ruin the vibe. Chances are that there is a band member or two that's thinking that it's way off, too.....but doesn't want to rock the boat.

 

That's why I think that engineers that want to be producers could benefit from being an engineer for awhile under the tutelage of a great producer and seeing how he handles those situations.

 

That is why I swore off producing newer bands. I usually just do it the Steve Albini way and just set up mics and let them make their own decisions on takes and performances and what they want to add. I've found that for bands that are not already at the good to great level, it's an uphill battle in the performances, themselves. If the bands come up to me afterwards and say "why didn't you mention that this part was off?", I say, "you didn't ask me what I thought of it". If something is out of tune and it makes it past 3 or 4 band members, i'm assuming that, collectively, they are happy with it. If that is what they want the audience to hear, i'm fine with it. Because alot of bands aren't willing to try things anyways, they're not into someone suggesting things. Some bands do want that, but sometimes it becomes a struggle to really make them realize that they could get more out of the productions. But ultimately, it is their choice.

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This is definitetely the most "in the trenches" thread I've read through as yet. I'm still new here. I can identify with all of these instances and situations, from how to properly address your concerns so as not to offend, as well as where do I draw the line with my input basesd on time and budget.
One of the most difficult stuations I have had to deal with was tracking a good friend of mine's group. The other members came to me after my friend had left for the day and said, "We want Brian to play the bass tracks." This was a hard thing for me to just jump on, Craig- the actual bassist, was not terrible by any means. Was Brian better? Absolutely. So in the end when Craig showed up for the next session we had a sit down with him and basically told him, "Look you're going to outline the tunes chord progressions, scales and formats for Brian and he's going to do the tracking." When all was said and done Craig complied taught Brian the parts and ended up with his name on the CD, no mention of Brian whatsoever. It's a good thing Craig is a very non-confrontational kind of guy because I was less than ecstatic about the way his band mates laid it on him. But it was tough for me, and I had to keep my mouth shut, that's what they want , I want the money.
In another situation with a different group, after doing multiple takes of one track and the band mates specificaly outlining the scale for the guitarist, I simply walked in the room and said, "Hey man, you're making this more difficult on yourself than necessary. Try it Like this." Played the part, and the guy instantly put on the OHHH face. He still played it wrong however and we ended up editing in the one instance he got it almost right over every occasion it was necessary. When recording one of my more recent clients, the guitarists kept saying I want more volume, I want to be louder. I complied to their wishes but the next mixing session it was more of the same. so I said, "Is there something in the tone/Eq we could perhaps alter or accentuate rather than just cranking it up? You guys DO want to hear the drums right?" Meanwhile the drummer, the most timid of the group was just looking at me with this look that said,'Thank you'
But there are so many good points on professionalism in this thread, I just had to chime in. Great to be here, I have a feeling I will learn much on these forums, I aready have.

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If the problem isn't subtle you shouldn't need a pro to point it out. The members of the band are probably well aware of the problem.

 

 

Indeed they probably are. Maybe the drummer is a friend or a really great guy. Some of the greatest people that i've seen, personally, are the worst musicians, and some of the worst people that i've worked with, personally, are excellent musicians. Perhaps the band worked with drummers that fell into the latter category and are happy to have a guy that's enthused to play that isn't a jerk.

 

IMHO, i've seen this really cloud bands' better judgement about takes that are WAY off, but they know that their drummer or bass player isn't very good. Alot of fun bands stop being fun when you have a glaring weak link and you're being told by managers and producers and label guys to get rid of them--your friend. That is the point that personal lives and professional lives clash.....they don't always both work out. I've seen bands where the professional aspect ends up tainting the personal aspect.....people not talking to each other because they weren't deemed good enough for the band anymore. Not everyone takes it well.

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Which raises in interesting point. Try listening to rehearsal recordings. Try attending rehearsals and gigs.


This... would have prevented a lot of heartache. Knowing exactly what the score is with the players gets you where you need to be before tracking.


If there's an issue with the drummer and you're crystal clear on it due to the homework you've put in... you're in a good situation to discuss this with the artist and decided on a plan of attack. If the artist's plan doesn't jibe with yours and you can't see around that... pass on it.


Me? I'm more than likely able to make my case as to how we can overcome the issue. I'll sell my solution in an honest manner and hopefully get the artist on board with me, and me with them.


Know what you're getting into before you get into it.

 

 

This is one of the best things mentioned in this thread. Most bands should even be able to manage at least a rehearsal demo with a ghettoblaster or some form of raw recording. Live shows, as you mention, would indicate the problems ahead of time, too.

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i'm not sure if this applies in this case, but another suggestion i have is to keep it simple. i can jam all day on drums, but under the studio microscope my kickass fills and whatnot are abominable. however, when i focus on the groove, my drumming isn't half bad to listen to. maybe the drummer needs to spend a couple of weeks practicing with a click and distilling his parts down to make his beats as powerful, solid, and simple as possible. the best drum beat is often the easiest to play. not everyone needs to be danny carey back there.

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"Hey, how about I spend two weeks quantizing and editing your drum tracks to make them perfect and squeeze all the life out of your emotional performance?" NOT FINE

 

 

Haha, whether or not that was a dig on me, I hope you know that I'd never go in and take those kinds of liberties with any performance that I considered to be emotional or lively. In most cases I will only fix things that blatantly sound like flubs. I do very much like to leave the nuances of a performance intact... but I'm at least experienced enough to tell the difference between nuance / feel and inexperienced playing. I think a lot of engineers and musicians alike flatter themselves when it comes to that difference. In many cases I have seen full, 100% strength quantizes done on drum passages and been amazed how much of original feel has been retained because the dynamic contrast is still there! Don't be afraid to really dig in deep with editing... there's nothing you can't undo. Give me a performance by Steve Gadd or Bonzo and then we'll start talking "feel";)

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