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Upgrading the Talent
Old 10th June 2003
Gear Maniac
JohnnyTooLoud's Avatar

Upgrading the Talent

You just can't get great sounds from mediocre bands with mediocre equipment (how rare it is for a set of tuned drums to come my way...)

Most of what I record is different forms of underground music. And most of the time I'm capturing emotion and angst more so than great tones and subtleties. Other times I work with acts that are great at what they do and I can capture a vocal that'll give you goose bumps, an upright bass tone that'll make jazz guys weep, and drums that make you sit there and just loop the drum tracks for twenty minutes while you listen and smile (tell me I'm not the only one to spend an hour listening to something they recorded over and over 'cause it just sounds so damn nice).

What brings this up is a talk I had with a friend of a friend the other day. He was quizzing me on tips and techniques and in the end I just had him play me some stuff he had recorded of other bands. The bands were all crap. And I told him that. I'm all for using what you got in the environment that you are in to get a good sound. But when the band is just limping along, well, I don't care how well you mic them and what pre's you run through - it will all still sound like crap.

Now maybe I'm just going over the obvious but from my encounter the other day it dawned on me that a lot of folks starting out in home studios maybe don't realize that there comes a point where what they need to upgrade the most in their studios is the talent coming through.

Ok - rant over. Back to the music.

Old 10th June 2003
Lives for gear
pounce's Avatar

when i have a great band and great gear i suddenly seem like a freakin genius. and i work a lot less hard on those days.

not only do i agree, but i think as you get more experience, you get more gear, and your rates go up. with better gear and better ears, you are worth more too, so the increase in rate is relative to the better product you can produce.

the next hope is that as the rate goes up you get priced above the bottom feeders. it's always your perogative to cut breaks for bands you want to work with. but the price alone may eliminate some problems (and increase your percieved value)..

eventually, high price may possibly bring very different problems, but that could be a different thread.
Old 10th June 2003
Lives for gear
davemc's Avatar

Well I brought a drum kit, I have some amps (soldano,boogie,marshall) to get better sounds, although some players still sould like crap on it...
I sold the drum kit to a friend last week and brought a Pultec with the money.

Crap bands sound like crap no matter the gear. Most never have a clue and will not release the product anyway.
I have been banging my head against this wall for years, you spend the time and help the band the best you can. Although if they do not let you produce it(as they no better of course) it just sounds like them.
Best advice is take the money and try to do better bands for cheaper or some points. If you do not need the money then be selective

The best thing to come out of my place was done by a friend who I gave down time to. Hopefully this will help me get better work in as it sounds as good as the studio's gear is for once. Funny when you look at the sessions hardly any eq on things as they knew what sounds to pull to start with.
Old 10th June 2003
Do the trash for the cash, but do make an effort to up the quality of the bands going through the place...

Tough one....

I find I cant play trash for cash acts to any seriously good potential clients.... So that is a catch 22...

"So what have you done lately"?

(Thinks....hmmmmm I dont want to play them any of it!)

See the problem?

That said, I play folks stuf that ranges from last week to 15 years ago to get work...

Upgrading the talent is ALWAYS a good idea for a studio IMHO, I look forward to more ideas on how to do it emerging on this thread!

Old 10th June 2003
For the last 3 years I have turned several bands away for the following unusual reason...

- I didn't think they would be happy working in my weird one tiny drum booth studio. I feared a negative reputation about town. So I hand picked act's that I felt would dig my set up.

Now that I am expanding, I bizarrely expect to be able to accommodate both better bands AND WORSE ONES!

Because soon, fingers crossed, I can track a whole band live... tweak a bit and send em out the door with a rough mix..

I have been grooming my 2 assistants (one a freelancer engineer now) for running sessions on their own and they have turned out to be quite resourceful hustlers, they get local bands in the areas they live in interested in coming in... I back them up with low prices for their acts and with advice as a senior producer figure if they need it..

Old 11th June 2003
Gear Maniac
Stizz's Avatar
Could not agree with this more!

I had Sonny Emory and some other top players in my home studio this weekend - I had no idea I was such a fantastic engineer! Nothing can bring a track to life like talented musicians. The other rhythm section on the project is fine, but it is going to take a fair amount of work, both in terms of timing and tonal/dynamic adjustments to make it sound really good - but with the top notch players, all i will need to do is throw up the faders and add a little seasoning.
Old 11th June 2003
Gear Guru
Kenny Gioia's Avatar

One experience I had working as an engineer in a studio was with this modern rock bad.

I spent a couple of hours getting the band to sound good but for some reason the sound quality wasn't there. I knew the instruments were good cause they were using our gear.

Well the band was getting bored of running thru there set and decided to run thru a cover song. The song was "Bad Company" by Bad Company.

All of the sudden everything sounded great. The snare sounded fat. The kicked was pushing your heart. You were feeling the Bass and it felt like God walked into the studio.

The Lesson: Sometimes it's the bad songs and Bad Arrangements.
Old 11th June 2003
Lives for gear
davemc's Avatar

Originally posted by Produceher

The Lesson: Sometimes it's the bad songs and Bad Arrangements.
Could not agree more with this. A lot of players have no idea what and where to play i a song. A cover is painting by numbers and much easier. The clashing of instruments, the feel, the melody have already been worked out for them.
Old 16th June 2003
Gear Addict
smoothmoniker's Avatar

the first call I ever got to produce something was a tiny little custom project for a singer. I knew nothing about producing, engineering, anything. I was a player. And I knew players.

So for this girls little two cent record, the band was Russ Miller on Drums, Joe DiBlasi on guitar, Jon Ahrens on bass, and Rique Pantoja on keyboards. (If you're in LA, you probably know these guys).

Turns out I didn't need to know anything about producing or engineering. The record killed, just because of what these guys swing with.

Old 16th June 2003
Gear Maniac
JohnnyTooLoud's Avatar

When it comes to guitar I'm a rhythm player. So if I have a lead idea I'll play it for a guitarist I work with and let him play it. The amazing thing about this is not only does he play it better but also he makes it sound like a completely different set up. Same guitar, same amp, same stool. I've been aware of this for years but it still amazes me every time how different it sounds and reminds me I DON'T need another boutique amp or exotic guitar.

It is all in the hands.

Old 16th June 2003
One with big hooves
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Whenever I get to record good music played by good musicians I sound like a freakin' genius. YMMV. Since the sound starts with the player you really can't capture good tone if they aren't making it. You can kind of dress it up a bit and possibly fix some of the obvious flaws but it's still not going to sound great.
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