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What a mess... Live Jazz Recording. Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
What a mess... Live Jazz Recording.

Last night we did a remote audio and video recording of a Jazz concert held at the local college. This was a last minute request for both Audio and Video recording. We went to the club (it is in a hotel) and scoped out the venue. We also talked to the parents of the main student who was performing and who were paying us. They told us the concert would consist of a three piece combo plus their offspring and a piano. So we went to the dress rehearsal and it was not as described. The line up was a vocalist, a bass player a complete drum kit, an electric guitar, three trombones, three backup singers and a trumpet. Still no real problem. When we got to the venue to setup there was a complete concert sound system with floor monitors and about 8 flown speakers. It was being "operated" by a student who must have had dreams of being the Grateful Dead's engineer. It was super loud, and unlike the GD system, had a lot of distortion in it.

I was planning to do this with one stereo microphone. The video came off very well (I have a GREAT videographer) the audio less so.

People lately seem to leave out a lot of information and what the do say seems to be not well informed. I still say communication is the name of the game.

The concert was very nice and there were a lot of people at the venue. I am sure everyone had a good time.

FWIW
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Similar thing happened to me last weekend. I recorded a benefit concert produced by high school students. I was told there should be a small string orchestra and some soloists with piano. So I brought my small recording rig. They didn't mention the jazz vocalist singing at the piano, let alone the heavy metal band. You do what you can to make it work, but not everything is going to work out well.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Boy Scout Motto: Be prepared.

I would have stuck a mic on every instrument and figured it all out in the mix room.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Never forget that most often the people you're working for have absolutely NO IDEA what is important to your work!

They may explain to you with great detail some of the most trivial things, while leaving out any discussion at all of some of the most CRUCIAL elements of the job.

They're not stupid; they just don't know much about these things. (After all, that's usually why they hire you.)

Ask LOTS of questions before you even bid the job...

...And even more importantly, explain to them that any bad information they give you can quite easily ruin the gig.

Its even better if you can document their answers.
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Boy Scout Motto: Be prepared.

I would have stuck a mic on every instrument and figured it all out in the mix room.
No mixer, no extra mics, stands or cords with me and no multi-track (computer or stand alone recorder) to record on. I had what I had.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
Never forget that most often the people you're working for have absolutely NO IDEA what is important to your work!

They may explain to you with great detail some of the most trivial things, while leaving out any discussion at all of some of the most CRUCIAL elements of the job.

They're not stupid; they just don't know much about these things. (After all, that's usually why they hire you.)

Ask LOTS of questions before you even bid the job...

...And even more importantly, explain to them that any bad information they give you can quite easily ruin the gig.

Its even better if you can document their answers.
.
I asked a lot of questions but it turned out not of the right person(s). I have a sheet with everything I can think off to ask that I use when I am bidding a gig but in this case I was working with the parents and not with the performer. Live and learn...what my Dad always said.

I agree but I cannot ask anymore questions than I c
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
I asked a lot of questions but it turned out not of the right person(s). I have a sheet with everything I can think off to ask that I use when I am bidding a gig but in this case I was working with the parents and not with the performer. Live and learn...what my Dad always said.

I agree but I cannot ask anymore questions than I c
Yep: "Live & Learn":
It may seem "obvious" (in retrospect), but those parents were just about as ignorant about these considerations as were their children about where the money comes from!
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
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It's JAZZ ...

so ya Improvise.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
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Many digital mixers have multitrack recording facilities now, perhaps the one that was used for FOH in this case did too?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
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Wyllys's Avatar
 

NEI.

This is why I started insisting on a pre-event production meeting, a complete written agreement and at least 50% in advance. Anything less and no deal. Any business lost was business not worth having. Go pro, stay pro.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
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Even if you had brought a truckload of gear, you'd still have had the student running the PA. You just captured an accurate recording of what happened at the event.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
I talked to the Mother and Father of the student and they were both shocked at the levels that the student operator was running. They both said it sounded more like a rock concert than a jazz concert. I don't know where or how the student received his training but or if he received ANY training but he clearly had no idea of sound levels for a jazz concert. Too bad the concert would have been GREAT had he not "put the metal to the pedal". FWIW
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
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Perhaps it could lead to another try with you controlling the audio?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Perhaps it could lead to another try with you controlling the audio?
No hope for a retake. It was a "one shot" opportunity.

If the college is training their FOH engineers then someone is not getting the message and they are just treating all the concerts as Rock and Roll with elevated levels. The sound was so loud I had to keep my headphones on to keep from getting my ears roasted. There is no need for that level at an acoustic jazz concert. The gain staging was really not good as the band was badly distorted. When I did Concert Sound for events like this we just made things a bit louder but did not blast the audience with a "wall of sound". Maybe this was the FOH engineers first concert, who knows, but it was BAD! FWIW
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
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Having a student's one shot performance marred at the soundboard--one has to feel empathy for the student and his parents.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
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Tommy-boy's Avatar
 

Over the years I've had some parents ask me to record they're kids at Jazz events where I had no control over anything and had no idea who was running sound. In these cases I note very clearly up front that there is a good chance that the performance will be not-so-good if the guy running sound doesn't know what he's doing. This either leads to them proceeding with eyes wide open, or for us looking for a better opportunity to make a capture. Whatever I capture will be better than what they get with their iphones, but many a potentially good take has been ruined by an imbecile at the mixing board.


On a related note - I generally bring a lot more stuff than I need. I just leave it in the car. And there it usually stays, unless there is a need. These are typically a few transformer splitters, few mic stands, few mics, cables, and a bigger snake. Despite doing my homework in advance, I've been bitten more than a few times with last minute changes or surprises.

-Tom
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
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JCBigler's Avatar
Thomas, it’s too bad that you couldn’t take a multitrack feed from the console. At least that way you would be able to get something to work with in post, even if the gain is a little bit off, it’s better than just having a stereo pair out in the house to capture a bad mix. As a live engineer, for these kinds of events, I view the stereo pair in the house as ancillary and extra, rather than the main capture method.

Any idea what console the kid was mixing on?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
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Wyllys nailed this one: he is absolutely right!
Hugh
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBigler View Post
Thomas, it’s too bad that you couldn’t take a multitrack feed from the console. At least that way you would be able to get something to work with in post, even if the gain is a little bit off, it’s better than just having a stereo pair out in the house to capture a bad mix. As a live engineer, for these kinds of events, I view the stereo pair in the house as ancillary and extra, rather than the main capture method.

Any idea what console the kid was mixing on?
I do not know what the console was.

I use to run both the concert sound operation and the audio department at the local conservatory but I left the college in 1995 to start my mastering business. My 35 student interns that worked with me were all well trained and would never have done what this young person was doing. I don't know anything about the current training they receive but I assume that it is minimal since gain staging would be one of the first topics we would cover after going over the basic operation of a sound console. I assume this was a digital console and maybe the student thought all he had to do was move the faders up and down. At the present time the local college is going though some tough financial times but they also recently have decided to do all the sound work in town including all the recordings at all the churches and all the all the college's venues. We were contacted by the parents to do this audio and video recording. The last time we got a feed from the college's sound console the feed was at a very low level (-15 dBFS) and distorted and was noisy and we were told that our setup was causing hum in their system (our feed was fully isolated with transformers and ground lift switches), so I don't ask for feeds anymore.

FWIW
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
NEI.

This is why I started insisting on a pre-event production meeting, a complete written agreement and at least 50% in advance. Anything less and no deal. Any business lost was business not worth having. Go pro, stay pro.
Great ideas. This was all done over the phone or Email so no face to face contact until the night of the gig. (clients were from the left coast). No pre-production meeting and no money changed hands until after the event. I too would like to have things done in the way you are suggesting. Sometimes it is just NOT possible. This was one of those times.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
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Wyllys's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
Great ideas. This was all done over the phone or Email so no face to face contact until the night of the gig. (clients were from the left coast). No pre-production meeting and no money changed hands until after the event. I too would like to have things done in the way you are suggesting. Sometimes it is just NOT possible. This was one of those times.
You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away...know when to run.

When it's not possible, say no. You know where to put the mics and cameras. You should know as much about business. No matter who's at fault, your name and rep are forever tied to that product.

No offense intended, but it seems to me that the proper, simple questions were not asked nor answered. Responsibility for the confusion has to be shared. I know from your posts that you're a nice guy, but you know the old saying about nice guys and where they finish.

I know such occurences are painful and I sympathize, but working as an engineer I look to identify fail-points and fix things, hence the advice.

Last edited by Wyllys; 4 weeks ago at 05:25 PM..
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away...know when to run.

When it's not possible, say no. You know where to put the mics and cameras. You should know as much about business. No matter who's at fault, your name and rep are forever tied to that product.

No offense intended, but it seems to me that the proper, simple questions were not asked nor answered. Responsibility for the confusion has to be shared. I know from your posts that you're a nice guy, but you know the old saying about nice guys and where they finish.

I know such occurrences are painful and I sympathize, but working as an engineer I look to identify fail-points and fix things, hence the advice.
I believe we asked the right questions, just of the wrong people.

It was a last minute request. Her parents were flying in from the left coast the day before the concert. The person who could have answered all the questions, their daughter, was not available to us. Had she been all questions would have been answered and I could have suggested that she think seriously about how loud she wanted the PA system to be. Lesson learned. This was not a multi million dollar shoot and was in fact something that, had we decided NOT to do it, could have been recorded with a cell phone with possibly the same results. I always try and be a "good guy" when it comes to dealing with clients. In this case it was no one's fault except the person who was running the audio console who should have known better.

Thanks for the input.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #23
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What's going to happen to prevent the same FOH mix fiasco happening again in future: is there written or other anecdotal feedback from family, audience, musicians to the person doing the mix (or more correctly, to those in charge of the event who hired/appointed him) ?

If not, all possible learnings and reflections and wisdom about how the mix was created and carried out are lost...and perhaps the same person gets appointed again next time, clean slate fashion.

History tends to repeat itself, unless the chain is interrupted by a log of rude, pertinent and clear facts brought to the attention of the 'right people'
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
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Rule #1 ) deal only with the decider. Rule #2 ) Get it all in writing that also codifies the possibilities of "change orders" and the additional expense for same.
Hugh
Old 3 weeks ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
What's going to happen to prevent the same FOH mix fiasco happening again in future: is there written or other anecdotal feedback from family, audience, musicians to the person doing the mix (or more correctly, to those in charge of the event who hired/appointed him) ?

If not, all possible learnings and reflections and wisdom about how the mix was created and carried out are lost...and perhaps the same person gets appointed again next time, clean slate fashion.

History tends to repeat itself, unless the chain is interrupted by a log of rude, pertinent and clear facts brought to the attention of the 'right people'
Absent financial resources to make things happen, it often seems there are no 'right people' willing to listen and act on the most simple constructive advice concerning even the obvious.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Absent financial resources to make things happen, it often seems there are no 'right people' willing to listen and act on the most simple constructive advice concerning even the obvious.
How much in the way of 'financial resources' does it take to sack the offending mixer ? More likely everyone writes it off as a 'bad experience'....and puts nothing in place to prevent its recurrence, some time down the track....

Thus, ineptitude and bad mixing gets rewarded by re-employment at the same gig a few months/a year later...because nobody thought to give timely feedback about the situation (thus, history repeats) A letter of complaint costs nothing to send...just the time to write it.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #27
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
I believe we asked the right questions, just of the wrong people. [...]
This is perhaps the most common contributing factor in the failings of just about any human endeavor.

And (these days) this problem is further complicated by folks mistaking 'connectivity' for actual communication. (They're not the same thing.)

.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
How much in the way of 'financial resources' does it take to sack the offending mixer ? More likely everyone writes it off as a 'bad experience'....and puts nothing in place to prevent its recurrence, some time down the track....

Thus, ineptitude and bad mixing gets rewarded by re-employment at the same gig a few months/a year later...because nobody thought to give timely feedback about the situation (thus, history repeats) A letter of complaint costs nothing to send...just the time to write it.
My thought is there are a lot of lower tier instances where the soundboard operator is volunteering or being paid very little. People putting on the event are mostly concerned with getting the event done at a minimal budget, and keep bringing back the same operators because the people who'd do it right, charge more than the budget will bear.

I'd like to ask what others think about a slightly different hypothetical situation. Suppose the parents of a vocalist are willing to pay for a video recording of her performance. Assume that all the technical details will be flawless, but the vocalist is a terrible singer. Would you make the video?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
My thought is there are a lot of lower tier instances where the soundboard operator is volunteering or being paid very little. People putting on the event are mostly concerned with getting the event done at a minimal budget, and keep bringing back the same operators because the people who'd do it right, charge more than the budget will bear.

I'd like to ask what others think about a slightly different hypothetical situation. Suppose the parents of a vocalist are willing to pay for a video recording of her performance. Assume that all the technical details will be flawless, but the vocalist is a terrible singer. Would you make the video?
In the case of your first point, if it's simple inexperience, and thus ineptitude and "out of one's depth" practices borne of that...then it's understandable. Let's go easy on the guy if that's the case (especially if he's a volunteer or low paid)...but let's not repeat the experience next time (and that's assuming enough people were angry about it ...and not just Tom alone, because it made HIS job nigh on impossible...)

Re your 2nd point: 'Would you make the video' ? If making the video meant recording it as truthfully and faithfully to the source as possible, then yes I would do it. Would I charge top rate, knowing that the performance was below par: perhaps not ?

Would I attempt auto-tuning or pitch correction ? Perhaps...but in that case I'd probably supply them with 2 recordings: pre and post-processing.

If it were for an audition, and the recording was going to walk the singer directly into failure...probably not, but I'd qualify my refusal by offering an opinion (however painful to hear) to the parents, about their child's singing quality, and why audition would be unwise. Is this the same argument as "should I use Photoshop to correct a crooked smile, or a skin blemish" ?

To the parents, the video may well have future sentimental/emotional value....surpassing any consideration of the child's singing ability. A failure to see flaws in territory very close to home is a common family trait..and who knows, perhaps the parents are indeed fully aware of the singer's shortcomings...and still want the video made, regardless of these ?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #30
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Aside from the young and the beautiful, most of us probably need some Photoshop if we're being honest with one another.

Wyllys & hughshouse, same question. Some parents would like to hire you to make a video of their child who isn't a good singer, but all other technical respects will be flawless. Would you be available?
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