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No Rules ...Really?
Old 14th October 2013
  #1
Here for the gear
Lightbulb No Rules ...Really?

In attempting to take 4 decades of experience to pen regarding the operation of professional recording studios I've come across one constant. It's in replies to questions from people wanting to learn more about my industry; "there are no rules" many have said many times.

Yeah actually there are ...sorry. I just really came to terms with this myself after 40 years of living down the rabbit hole of creative record engineering for broadcast.

<SNIP - read the rules re blog recruitment in the FAQs>

I'd like to ask this ...given that my No-Rule Rule structure appears to be both social and physical, what do you see as being a Rule of No Rules? I gave two examples in the link above.

Thanks for the consideration ...s2
Old 14th October 2013
  #2
TNA
Gear Maniac
 

I firmly am in support of the no rules theory. I think you are confusing rules with guidelines and generally accepted techniques. Sure of course there are certain techniques that are present on most mixes and recordings. But for certain that is not the "only" way to do things. This is why mixing and recording and music in general is considered art. There is no "right" way to do things. If you are achieving the sound you want, regardless of public opinion then I think you have done it the "right" way. Just as in painting, there are techniques and schools that give out degrees in art, but those are just the building blocks. If we all did it the same then it wouldn't make any difference who recorded or mixed an album. We would have a single plug in, the "make it sound like everyone else" plugin.

For example I just recorded a black metal band yesterday. To record the vocalist we actually ran his mic to a guitar amp loaded with reverb and miked the amp. That's probably not in many, or any books, but it's what they wanted.
Old 14th October 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Just because people don't know the rules, doesn't mean they are not there.
Old 14th October 2013
  #4
Gear Maniac
TNA seems to be correct. Abbey Road engineers told the Beatles there were rules, they constantly broke the rules, and pioneered some modern "techniques" in the process. Then their engineers starting breaking the "rules" too, eventually to critical acclaim. The result was a work of art. Many other examples of this throughout popular history. I believe it was alleged by other composers of his time that Mozart didn't conform to the generally accepted rules of composition, he received a lot of facepalms no doubt . . . .

Your alleged "rules" are completely dependent on subjective taste. What you consider "Noise" might be a means to an artistic end, or statement. NIN makes use of noise, or has in the past, to artistic effect and the pleasure of many listeners. So, perhaps as a guideline, if the goal is to avoid noise, work within the limited "space". At some point, what is noise may be subjective as well.

Never lose track of your pop? Why? Because you presume everybody wants vocals to pop? This might not help a particular artist achieve their vision or make the statement they want to make.

These read more like general guidelines to doing things like most other people would choose to do them in a commercial, mainstream type of format containing very specific goals.

Sorry, but to say there are rules in art is completely ignorant. For some, these guidelines may effectively be a rule if their goal is to align their aesthetics with yours. For others, this may be completely invalid. Therefore, there are no rules because what may apply to one may not apply to another.

So, you wrote a blog explaining why everybody should do things the way you do, or would? No doubt you generate a good sound, that doesn't mean others can't generate a good sound utilizing other methods.
Old 14th October 2013
  #5
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Jazz Noise's Avatar
My music teacher in school told me "You gotta learn the rules before you can break them".

I've always taken this as a metaphor that experimentation without context or education will usually result in reinventing the wheel. And I think she was probably right.
Old 14th October 2013
  #6
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ILL GREEN's Avatar
Well, from an artist perspective, there are no rules when it comes down to creativity and how to materialize the idea. But when looking at it from a recording engineer, rules apply because they know the limitations of their gear and studio, so already there's "do's and don'ts" that he must be flexible with. Also from a technical view, rules apply too because you don't connect a microphone to the headphone out of your Mackie.
Old 14th October 2013
  #7
Gear Head
 
Joringgg's Avatar
 

What? Of course there are advices to get some result, bur "rule" is a big word my friend...
Everybody's says "oh, get some foam, do something with your room, etc" but I heard recordings from the kitchen or living room that sounds amazing.
Old 14th October 2013
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joringgg View Post
What? Of course there are advices to get some result, bur "rule" is a big word my friend...
Everybody's says "oh, get some foam, do something with your room, etc" but I heard recordings from the kitchen or living room that sounds amazing.
No-one who actually knows what they're talking about says "get some foam"...they say "build some bass traps and treat the room properly!".

You're confusing having a good monitoring environment (ie treated room) which is as close to a "rule" or at least a recommendation - generally speaking, the better the monitoring environment, the easier it is to mix to the best of your ability - with a good recording room (where naturally reverberant might be great).

A good recording room isn't necessarily a good control room.
Old 14th October 2013
  #9
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skillz335's Avatar
make sure everything is working and everything sound good.
Old 14th October 2013
  #10
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LoFi_By_Choice's Avatar
 

Rules #89 and 113 say it best: 89) It is never acceptable to snuff out cigarettes in the channel inputs. 113) It has become acceptable to place PBJ sandwiches in the DAT machine. It has, however, always been acceptable to do the same with 8-Track cartridge machines.
Old 15th October 2013
  #11
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It's nice and sort of WILD to think that there aren't any rules. But, there are always rules, and, rules in most creative endeavors are necessary, helpful and inspiring. Most great art is plopped out of some sort of structure made up of a few rules. And you do need to know the rules to break them..When you're breaking a rule..you're also creating, or, finding a new set of rules.

When I hear all these mugs say "there are no rules" it makes me think of roookies, finding there way.
Old 15th October 2013
  #12
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ears2thesky's Avatar
Ah yes, the rules...of art.

I believe Joe Meek is credited with the "If it sounds good, it is good" thing and he broke many of the standard recording practice rules of his day.

I think the real question here is "Which particular rules are we talking about?"
If you are out of time and/or out of tune your result probably won't be very listenable: those rules generally shouldn't be broken. If you want to use the studio as an instrument rather than merely a capture device, then you may find yourself "breaking rules" of orthodox audio capture/mixdown often to obtain the desired sonic result. I don't think there is anything wrong with that approach, but "You need to know the rules before you can break them" probably does apply in most situations (especially where money is involved).

I guess it really depends on what the intent of the production. Is this to be an avant-garde experimental noise collage or a slick pop record? Proto-death metal or traditional blues? if you want an orthodox recording you probably need to follow most of the rules, but if totally original sonic explorations are your goal--go nuts!
Old 15th October 2013
  #13
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abechap024's Avatar
 

Your 100% right, there are rules. On the technical side of things. Like on a piece of equipment with +/-15v power rails your never going to get a signal more than 30v....that's a good rule.

But artistically...what are you looking for? People can makeup whatever rules they want. But really, even the whole genome of what we call music is just a deck of cards....these so called "rules" of harmony melody and rythem, some may find reassuring others find extremely limiting. Find what rules you like, adopt rules that other people like.
But I think the best is knowing and learning all the rules you can, even more importantly the why behind the rules then discard and break em! Keep it fun whatever you do (but that's just another rule someone made up!)
Old 15th October 2013
  #14
My main problem with "there are no rules" is that most of the people who say it on message boards seem to think they're offering sage advice, but it pretty much never answers the question that the OP initially asked.

For example, someone might pose the question, "How can I get a kick drum that really cuts through in modern European club settings?" While there might not be stone tablets anywhere with the canonical list of tools and techniques to achieve a killer club kick, there are certainly dozens of techniques and tips that can help someone get closer to that goal. Simply answering "there are no rules in music" when there really is some useful information to share on a topic is just noise.

If you've got nothing practical to offer when someone's seeking specific technical advice, just don't click Reply.
Old 15th October 2013
  #15
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FFTT's Avatar
 

The only rule I had was, if it sounds like crap try something else.
Old 15th October 2013
  #16
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skillz335's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by UltimateOutsider View Post
For example, someone might pose the question, "How can I get a kick drum that really cuts through in modern European club settings?"
i like this because it states that the rules are fundamentally the same get the kick to sound good in this specific situation even though no two situations are the same. But to me this seems that we are talking about method as opposed to rules where each method has its own rules. The rules or the science of a even just a kick drum can take years in school to grasp every practical sonic aspect dependant on how deep down the rabbit hole one wants to jump. To ask what are the rules are in such an ever expanding genera list is also broad. So if its rules to engineering id say learn evolve and get more efficient at whatever it is you produce. The rules to making records or recording at home making personal projects seems to be an ever expanding list of dos and donts as well. Im sure ive used 100s of things from the dont list to achieve a sound. So that to me means the only real rules are capture a quality sound and evolve, which means (again to me)study and experiment to learn. To me music mixing, recording, producing, creating, and performing is basically just pick your flavor of koolaid. that might be the only rule, get the flavor your thirsty for or that tastes best at that time. how you do that well im sure theres a method as well as another 100 brands.
Old 15th October 2013
  #17
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KRStudio's Avatar
 

Every art form has "no rules". Basics? hell yeah. But rules? Think of all the Impressionist Painters that were told they were wrong. "No Rules" just means don't confine yourself because someone else says to. Sometimes things are not supposed to work, yet this one time in this song only-- it does. Are you going to undo that brilliant piece because it wasn't supposed to work?
Old 15th October 2013
  #18
Here for the gear
Wow, you folks ROCK. Thank you.
I never implied here or ever that artistic expression had rules. If you read the last part I infer that the No-Rules Rules are social and physical. Glenn Phoenix of Westlake Audio used to ask ...Are you smarter than physics? Also, not many of us enjoy the long term company of unpleasant people or of being called names, like being called ignorant for example ...simple rules right?

Here is a rule/guideline for viewing/judging art ...Logic and Emotion balance together ...correct? The more emotional you are about any given thing the less logical you are likely to be in regards to it. (got children? are they the most beautiful ever ...of course they are ...ask the grandparents ...how objective are they?)

As long as quality remains defined as an intrinsic event you can jam as much stuff into an aural presentation as you want. How much of that stuff is going to have high def tonal distinction is a story of physics and the human bodies abilities.

I personally love Trent Reznor's work. I think it is brilliant aural crafting of noise to make an entertainment statement. His number of record sales prove his craft whole and appealing to many.

Thanks again ya all. This is an awesome response and I am grateful to everyone of you for it.
Scott Spain
Old 15th October 2013
  #19
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NYCruiser's Avatar
Rules are very important. They keep everyone else out of my way.
Old 15th October 2013
  #20
Here for the gear
Oh yeah ...apparently I broke the rules here by using my blog as a reference. To GearSluts I am sorry for the infraction ...consider me repented and gone ...thanks again ya all, great stuff.
Old 15th October 2013
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by NGandhi View Post
Oh yeah ...apparently I broke the rules here by using my blog as a reference. To GearSluts I am sorry for the infraction ...consider me repented and gone ...thanks again ya all, great stuff.
It's not a big deal...just read the FAQs and all will be well.

You're welcome to quote FROM your own blog and reproduce here...it's just that if everyone repeatedly posts "read my blog!", "listen to my mix!" the forum becomes one big self promotion blurb. And as I said to you, blog links in .sigs are fine.

You also only got a "warning" not an infraction....which counts for nothing other than a recommendation on what to do in future.
Old 16th October 2013
  #22
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Looneytune's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
The only rule I had was, if it sounds like crap try something else.
Yes this is important, many fail and continue analog the same road or applying the same methods only to find the problem or the issue still exists, when all you need to do is simply change what you are doing if you are failing.
I need to do this more. Change it up
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