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My 2 Cents: Importance of the Performance Dynamic Microphones
Old 5th September 2011
  #1
Gear Head
 

My 2 Cents: Importance of the Performance

I am posting this thread in the "Low End Theory" forum because I think it covers an important topic that is often overlooked by home studio enthusiasts and those creating/recording music for their enjoyment rather than their profession (those most likely to be using "low end" gear).

For those of you that are looking to improve the quality of your recordings I would like to offer you some useful advice that is well known by the professionals. The performance of the musicians is extremely important, arguably more so than the gear and techniques used to capture that performance. It is a common mistake of amateurs to place excessive emphasis on the gear and neglect the performance. The best signal chain in the world is of no value if it is used to capture a poor performance that is out of tune, out of time, or lacking emotion. On the other hand, a very modest signal chain can produce more than adequate results when the performance is exceptional.

What constitutes an exceptional performance? An exceptional performance is one that is free of technical mistakes and full of emotion/feeling. In order to eliminate technical mistakes the musician should rehearse his/her parts thoroughly before tracking begins. Amateurs neglect the practice/rehearsal aspect of the production process and end up with technical mistakes. Unwisely they resort to trying to "fix" these mistakes in the mix or simply "live with them." It's much better to get it right the first time.

Sometimes the musician can be very proficient at his/her instrument and play exceptionally well during rehearsal, yet when the mic is up and the tape is rolling they choke. They begin concentrating too much on not making a mistake, and consequently that's exactly what they do. Even when they do perform their part free of "technical" mistakes, they neglect to play with feeling and their performance sounds mechanical or forced. Music is meant to evoke emotion, and good music is full of emotion. Expressiveness is what separates the amateurs from the pros. The best musicians are able to express emotion through their playing and the listener can feel it. The listener is much more likely to notice the expression, or lack thereof, in the performance much more than they are going to notice the qualities attributed to gear choice.

Try to focus on getting a stellar performance on every track during your next project. I guarantee your recording will benefit greatly!

-Cheers
Old 5th September 2011
  #2
Lives for gear
 

I don't think many people on here would argue you need to play well. The fact we are here for the gear to learn whats good and what sucks. So next time you go on a long meaningful rant about performance at the end you could at least tell us your favorite Microphone and what you like it on.
Old 5th September 2011
  #3
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amfortas2006's Avatar
 

to the OP: you summed it up well
Old 5th September 2011
  #4
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thismercifulfate's Avatar
No no no you've got it all wrong. All you need is an oktava-modded SM7B with upgraded tubes going into an APi512 through a solid silver 5ft. cable and a 1073 directly to tape. And don't forget the Aurora converters. And if it sucks, it's your room, and/or you need to get some more expensive converters. Then again it's probably your monitors. They probably cost less than a grand a piece.
Old 5th September 2011
  #5
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psufilm View Post
What constitutes an exceptional performance?
Good question.

I am not particularly proficient at any instruments....no amount of rehearsal is going to save me from my inherent technical mistakes.

I have learned over the years to live with that.

So instead I concentrate on capturing the feeling of what I am playing or singing. I tend to keep a lot of those mistakes as well as they seem to add to the flavor of things.
Old 6th September 2011
  #6
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Silent Sound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Unclenny View Post
Good question.

I am not particularly proficient at any instruments....no amount of rehearsal is going to save me from my inherent technical mistakes.

I have learned over the years to live with that.

So instead I concentrate on capturing the feeling of what I am playing or singing. I tend to keep a lot of those mistakes as well as they seem to add to the flavor of things.
I agree. In fact, I will even go as far to say that I add "mistakes" on purpose. Sometimes a song calls for a little tension or chaos. Or it may need to become a bit unstable before it can explode into something beautiful. Other times a "mistake" can be used to tickle your curiosity. Ever heard Modest Mouse's song "Trucker's Atlas"? It has a toilet flushing in the middle of a long jam. I don't know why, but I always thought was really cool! There's also a siren on "Me and My Hand" by Broken Social Scene that seems to really fit the song. Actually, there's a lot of "mistakes" in song that I like, now that I think about it!
Old 6th September 2011
  #7
Lives for gear
 

I agree that performance is very impotant

However...in contrast...I have captured some insanely great performances with crap gear, and also some pretty good ones with great gear. Guess which sounded better? Well...the pretty good one with great gear. The thing about great gear is, it makes a modest performance really sound like something.

Ever find yourself wondering why pro's use certain gear?
Let's say - Producer X uses a U67 with a 1073 into a blue stripe 1176.
Do you think he would chance a great performance on sub-par gear? Of course not. Because when it comes down to mix time, it won't sound as good. If the performance was all it took, they should have used a Behringer microphone and preamp combo. It would have been much cheaper, and they wouldn't have had to rent that blue stripe to get the appropriate sound.

My post isn't meant to be anti-performance, but it is meant to be pro gear. I took the OP to be, gear doesn't matter as much as performance. I disagree. I would say they are at least equal, at least in my experience. I spent some years using sub-par equipment, recording great stuff, and wondering why it didn't sound like a studio.

So my point is, in addition to performing well, use the best gear you have available to you. It doesn't do any good to perform amazingly through your computer mic into microsoft sound recorder. Why perform great, if it's not gonna be captured properly.

This is Gearslutz...the better the gear, the longer we keep our jobs. and not for using gear that is cool, or what everybody else is using. For using the best gear we can get our hands on for capturing a great performance

Quote:
Originally Posted by psufilm View Post
out of tune, out of time, or lacking emotion
I can fix A, B, and yes...C. What I can't fix is an annoying chinese microphone sibilance up around 12k that won't go away no matter what I try, and no matter how much 240 Hz I add, I still can't get any bottom out of the singers voice. Bad gear is just as bad as a bad performance.

Being totally honest, I find "Performance Quality" to be less noticable to the average person than "Sound Quality". Watch American Idol...tons of people in America think Person A sang it better than Person B. Person B, to somebody in the business, sang it way better, and to anybody that can actually hear pitch would argue for B. Now, if you played back a VHS copy of the idol performance, and then you played an HD copy, I bet you there would be a clear winner, every time. Sound quality matters, alot
Old 6th September 2011
  #8
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

It ALL matters - the performers, the gear, etc.

You can get a great sonic recording with great gear and crappy musicians. Yeah, the performances might suck, and the average Joe might be like, "WTF is this???", but sonically it will be right there.

On the other hand, you will NOT get a great sonic recording with great musicians giving a great performance, but with crappy gear. Try going to Abbey Roaod, and recording the London Symphony Orchestra with a couple of Radio Shack mics, a Behringer mic pre, and a low end hardware compressor, and see what you get. I'll tell you what you will get - a sucky-sounding recording with a great performance.

So yes, the performance is key. But so is the gear.

Cheers.
Old 6th September 2011
  #9
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amfortas2006's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unclenny View Post
Good question.

I am not particularly proficient at any instruments....no amount of rehearsal is going to save me from my inherent technical mistakes.

I have learned over the years to live with that.
That's what Johnny Cash did.

Well, maybe even unknowingly
Old 6th September 2011
  #10
Gear Head
 

Everyone that has posted has provided some valid points. Sometimes "mistakes" can add something unique to a song and this can be a very cool thing. Mistakes can be useful as a means of expression and added character. The great thing about music is that it allows us to express and evoke emotions via our instrument. You could record ten different people playing the exact same guitar riff, using the exact same guitar, amp, mic, etc... And none would sound exactly the same because each person has their own technique, their own style, their own voice that makes them unique. In my original post I was referring to mistakes that are undesirable and detract from the song, yet they are overlooked because we can become lazy or satisfied with "good enough."

When it comes to recording music gear does play an important role. Most of the time high end gear is going to produce superior results than low end gear. Certain microphones are going to offer a more desirable frequency response, a more desirable polar pattern, a better signal to noise ratio, better off-axis response, a more desirable character, etc... And certain preamps and signal processors are going to provide a lower noise floor, greater headroom, a more pleasing character, etc... Pros use pro gear because it makes a difference, providing them with a superior recording. It's important to familiarize yourself with your gear so that you can utilize the tools you have at your disposal to obtain the sound you are looking for.

I posted this thread to provide useful advice, not to take a stance as "anti-gear." I think gear is great and it's a great thing when a new piece of gear takes your recordings to a greater sonic level, yet it can be tempting to get caught in the "I need better gear to make my recordings better" mindset and overlook other important aspects of the recording process.

Thanks for the comments and discussion much appreciated!
Old 6th September 2011
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Boschen's Avatar
 

It all matters.
It's all a rich tapestry, blah blah.

I love Robert Johnson's recordings, and consider them living evidence that performer trumps gear; otherwise why would we still listen to them?
But can you imagine if he'd been recorded with the chain thismercifulfate cites above? Damn!

This is why beginners still need to focus on basic technical foundations of audio; because if the next Robert Johnson shows up at the jam you're recording, it is YOUR HOLY DUTY to make the best capture possible with the gear you have at hand. Just don't obsess about the hardware, like so many here do.

On that note, it's been my experience that pros use the top quality gear because it's easier get great captures with less work using it. Less tweaking, less fixing, less fiddling, more recording of great sound. It's just easier to get great sound from a great mic, pre, console, speakers---or whatever flavor chain you prefer. The same is true of other arts: a master can produce a brilliant work with crappy tools, but that's not what he or she will use on a general basis, is it? They use the best tools and materials because, in skilled hands, those produce the best results.
Old 6th September 2011
  #12
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beefy View Post
I don't think many people on here would argue you need to play well. The fact we are here for the gear to learn whats good and what sucks. So next time you go on a long meaningful rant about performance at the end you could at least tell us your favorite Microphone and what you like it on.
Sure thing! Here's a list of relatively inexpensive mics that I use for certain applications:

Shure sm57 (Snare, Electric Guitars, vocals)
Sennheiser md421 (Toms, Electric Guitars, Kick, Vocals, Horns)
Electro-Voice RE-20 (Vocals, Kick)
Shure sm7b (Vocals, Electric Guitars)
AKG d112 (Kick, Bass Guitar Cab)
Shure sm81 (Acoustic Guitars, Hi-Hat, Piano)
CAD m179 (Hand Percussion, Toms, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Piano)
Cascade Fathead II (Electric Guitars)
Shure ksm32 (Overheads, Percussion, Piano, Vocals)

Also, if your preamp doesn't provide enough gain for your dynamic or ribbon microphones while using them on quiet sources it may be beneficial to invest in a Triton Audio Fethead or a Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter.
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