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Evolution of your recording philosophy / aesthetics
Old 10th August 2019
  #31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Are you saying that drummers are playing ride cymbals a lot less (which I think is generally true)? Or that they're playing them but you're not hearing them?
I can't tell sometimes if they are playing them because I can't hear them. Modern pop/rock records sound like a low pass filter was applied to the overheads.

Compare these tracks to Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland's 1984, on the Reprise release (not those crappy sounding squashed and low passed MCA versions).

Those cymbals sound like bells. Stick attack is intact too, quite an accomplishment for 1968 transistor consoles.
Old 10th August 2019
  #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
I can't tell sometimes if they are playing them because I can't hear them.
I suspect that they're not playing them. "Time up top" a la Gene Krupa was already old-fashioned when Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker were still hanging onto it in the 60s.

Our ideas about what makes good music and records seem to be pretty different.
Old 10th August 2019
  #33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I can, but sometimes that's not the best option. One of the busiest and best violinists in LA -- orchestras, film scores, pop sessions, contracting, charity concerts -- is also the screechiest. She knows who the people are who can make her sound good.

She's like a lot of the movie stars we have here. Gorgeous on screen, but they don't exactly roll out of bed in the morning looking like that.
And thereby is the "dilemma"...If the artist has problems (vocal or otherwise) with their performance/sound do we try and fix it or do we leave it alone??? I am in the camp that says you try and fix it with microphone placement or, if necessary, in post. None of my recording gear has any equalizers, compressors or limiters. I am mostly listening on headphones and don't want to make EQ choices as I am recording.

In the case you mentioned how did you "fix the problem", in the recording or in post?

Inquiring minds want to know. FWIW
Old 10th August 2019
  #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
In the case you mentioned how did you "fix the problem", in the recording or in post?
If I have to use condenser mics (like when she's part of a section or string quartet), I'll make sure she's relatively off-axis. If she's solo, even with a ribbon mic I'll automate an EQ and chase the upper mids away. Stuff like that.
Old 11th August 2019
  #35
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In todays project studio we usually have the dual duties of an engineer & producer. This is a challenging intersection for those of us that may be a bit short of adequate skill and/or ability to deal with the type of problems Brent has raised. There are two very important factors to be pondered as a recordist;

1) Do you possess the ability to fully understand the music you are recording.
Do you know the difference between a stylized "Blue Note" VxS a pitch challenged singer? Do you really understand the concept of "Pulling Against Meter"? Lots of todays project studio recordists are routinely applying pitch and time correction that kills the colorful qualities that creates musical styles: Can you possibly imagine a Willie Nelson or a Lou Rawls masterful performance if some of todays pitch and time correction addicts worked on their recordings?
2)There is also a very important philosophical question to resolve pursuant to the issue Brent has raised. Do you possess the "personal people skills" to make positive suggestions to remedy a flawed performance or the courage to gracefully walk away from a performance that is well beyond corrective measures and most important of all the wisdom to know the difference?

The overwhelming majority of todays acoustic music recording is occurring within the project studio community. For this reason the check list I have advanced might be of some relevance.
Hugh
Old 11th August 2019
  #36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I suspect that they're not playing them. "Time up top" a la Gene Krupa was already old-fashioned when Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker were still hanging onto it in the 60s.

Our ideas about what makes good music and records seem to be pretty different.
Perhaps so. Still, modern records don't do a good job on overheads. Hats are roll-ed off, overheads gone except for crashes and there is enough kick drum to never need a bass guitar ever again.

I think my problem is I always loved "player" drummers and I still hear good to 19k hz.

Gene Krupa, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Mitch Mitchell, etc are my faves. Their CD's still sound excellent too. Most modern drummers can't play that stuff if they tried for a million years.
Old 11th August 2019
  #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
I think my problem is I always loved "player" drummers and I still hear good to 19k hz.
http://onlinetonegenerator.com/hearingtest-results.html

Last edited by David Spearritt; 16th August 2019 at 11:54 PM..
Old 13th August 2019
  #38
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Thanks again for all the great information on this thread. I really enjoyed reading back through just now. I was going to ask several short followup questions based on excerpts from various posts, but I would especially appreciate hearing more on the following:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
This subject and with an emphasis on Aesthetics is a topic often discussed in German Tonmeister schools. Deciding on where one is on the Aesthetic continuum is a so important for young and mid-career engineers. Really for any engineer.
Maestro Plush, if you can find a moment to expound on this somewhat, that would be carefully noted, as always. Anyone else, too, of course.

In my limited experience, it often seems that aesthetics are left to the individual engineer to develop as part of an introspective process involving the accumulation of hands-on experience, observation of others, critical listening, etc.

I realize that it may seem illogical/impossible to some people to discuss aesthetics as separate from the pragmatism and compromise which is necessary to ensure a good recording with all the many challenges one can face.

That said, as a basic philosophy, I am much more attracted to the development and refinement of one's concept of "a great recording" so that the techniques, equipment, and strategies used tailor themselves to this goal, rather than allowing the latter to define the former.

Thanks in advance for any further thoughts, and thanks also in advance for keeping this thread on-topic
Old 13th August 2019
  #39
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Aesthetics in recording has to do with one forming an idea of how one wants to present the recording--of "hearing the recording in one's mind," before the recording is made. You make your recorded pick up according to the tenets of your recording philosophy / your informed aesthetic.

This encompasses wants and desires revolving around the topics of:


1. How will you even decide what your philosophy / your aesthetic involves?
How does one arrive at a point of view?

2. how close to the player's does one want the sound to be?
3. how wide do you want the stereo picture to be?
4. how much room / hall do you want to include?
5. Do you want a hyper-realistic sound or more of an impressionist sound?
6. Do you consider your role as a documentarian (your sound is presented as if the listener is in a good seat in the hall.) Or do you consider the recording to be a separate art form, where you give your own impression of the work (of course tied to reality).
7. Do have a very excellent analog front end.
8. Does your recording philosophy revolve around players making a natural balance or do you, the engineer, make the balance?
9. How active will you be in interacting with the conductor in a collaboration to reach the goal of a great recording?
10. Who helps coach you to find your own "voice" in recording?
11. Listen to your local classical radio station to hear good variety of recordings.

Mainly it is listening to other famous and not so famous recordings that helps you find and define your preferences in sound pick up. Each recording presents the work in a different recorded perspective and with more / less emphasis on soloists, winds, brass and percussion. Try to research how the recordings that you like and prefer were made. What was the mic set up, what was the hall size and shape? One works towards imitation of something they like.

How about the importance of someone showing you proper set up? So many times I see beginning recordists set up an omni pair so narrowly spaced that they will never get a satisfying sound. Other times I observe the main pair floating so high in the clouds that the sound has no oooomph. Looking down on the ensemble without catching direct sound can be a mistake.

Work with someone more experienced than you are. Mostly watch and listen and later, on the ride home, you can ask them why they did certain things the way they did them.

Many times the recorded sound sounds too far away. There is a narrow range of distances from in front of the ensemble that leads to a satisfying sound. I often suggest monitoring the main pair in headphones as you move it around. Closer here, then farther away. Raising it up and then deciding you have gone too high.

As far as mics are concerned, always blend something close and something farther away. The ideal is to have the instruments sound as if they are not miced with a microphone.

The hall is more than 50% of the sound. Don't bust butt trying to make a poor sounding hall sound good in the recording. It will never sound good no matter what you do. Don't use omni mics in a poor sounding space. Why would you do it?

Don't record with people who can't play their instrument. Don't edit them extensively. Have standards! Many inexperienced people believe that when they make a recording they will automatically sound good. What a joke!

Try to meet the people involved in your local classical radio stations. They both give advice and give you work.
Go to weekend recording work shops. Attend some recording classes.

At first keep a real job and do the recording on the side. Then if you have the passion and guts, you can do it more often.

Always charge a professional rate and never work for free. Don't work cheaply. Do not "contribute' your time. Always take a fee.
Old 13th August 2019
  #40
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That's a great summary Plush, my hat is off to you ! The ability to deliver 'several possible types of reality' according to the various demands of the situation is the mark of a truly versatile engineer...rather than a self-typecast one trick pony.

When you write "always blend something close with something farther away"...is that in regard to hiding the 'presence' of a spot mic, so that it sits better in the aural picture ?

Again, let me reiterate, yours is a very comprehensive and rich summary of the landscape indeed !
Old 13th August 2019
  #41
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In the pedagogy of Kodaly, the first part of what Plush describes is referred to as "Audiation".
Old 13th August 2019
  #42
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Plush, my sincere thanks for taking the time to formulate this valuable mini-essay. Some of these points are familiar to me from other posts you've made over the years, but this summary is especially eloquent and will be referenced by many, I'm sure.

For some of the others who have contributed, here are a few other questions I had:

Quote:
Originally Posted by NorseHorse View Post
My recording philosophy was heavily influenced by my time at the Classical Music Library Online. Over the course almost two years, I listened to thousands of recordings in quick succession. They came from labels, ensembles, and engineers all around the world. Orchestral music, band music, choral music... new music, old music... everything from chant to Xenakis, Haydn to Mackey, string quartets to saxophone quartets.
Hi Christian, thank you again for sharing your thoughts in this thread. Since you have so many hours of critical listening as part of your process/development, I'd love to hear a little bit more about what goes through your mind when listening carefully to a piece of music. Especially if you can recall some aspects of this which have changed over time -- things you are now more conscious of than previously, etc.


Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
There is also a very important philosophical question to resolve pursuant to the issue Brent has raised. Do you possess the "personal people skills" to make positive suggestions to remedy a flawed performance or the courage to gracefully walk away from a performance that is well beyond corrective measures and most important of all the wisdom to know the difference?
Hugh, thank you very much for your thoughts, I really appreciate it. Obviously you covered a lot of important ground, but the above comment struck me in particular as something which might be interesting to hear more about from your point of view. This important "artist relations" aspect of the recording process has always struck me as one of those paradoxical skills which can probably only truly develop through hands-on experience, and yet having this skill highly developed in advance, as Plush noted, helps keep the recording date flowing smoothly and builds a positive reputation, etc.

I try to carefully observe older and more experienced engineers, as well as treating even a frustrating recording in terms of venue acoustics (let's say) as a chance to improve some of these skills. What else do the more experienced folks recommend, I wonder?



Also, for anyone else who cares to comment, one topic from my OP which is of great interest to me personally, though we haven't really gotten into it yet:

In what areas are you currently striving/experimenting as more experienced engineers? New mic array techniques? Correspondence with colleagues in other countries? Honing and perfecting time-honored techniques ever closer to their Platonic ideal?
Old 13th August 2019
  #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lukedamrosch View Post
In what areas are you currently striving/experimenting as more experienced engineers? New mic array techniques? Correspondence with colleagues in other countries? Honing and perfecting time-honored techniques ever closer to their Platonic ideal?
My love of recording comes from an obsessive love of the music and hearing the sound of the acoustic instruments in a great concert hall during the performance. I still go to lots of concerts as a listener and buy and listen to many recordings. I meet regularly with a similar group of music lovers for meals and discussion and listening, we have a great time.

But I am still striving for the perfect sound. Still experimenting with mic technique predominantly, this is where the true advances come from. There is now a plateau in the sonic quality of gear, I think, and I don't think there are many significant advances left to be made. But mic technique and direct-reverb balance still makes or breaks a recording, so this is where I place the most effort.

But everyone should try to listen on great constant directivity loudspeakers to really hear stereo and the effects of mic technique on phantom image and sound stage. I am not really a fan of surround in the home for music, when great stereo can be enough. I use some home built LX521.4 in a large high ceiling loungeroom, but our little group have built other large dipole systems that are absolutely out of this world. Huge pleasure to be had listening to great classical and jazz (and some well recorded pop) on these.

Last edited by David Spearritt; 16th August 2019 at 11:48 PM..
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