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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It’s All About Communication by Karen Kane

Friday, October 18th, 2002

In my opinion, one of the first necessities for being a good Producer /Engineer/Arranger is to establish good communication with the artist. You really need to understand what the artist desires musically. Only then, can you work together and create a production that’s appropriate for the music. One of the biggest challenges in recording music is to not only pick the right musicians for a particular project, but to communicate to them exactly what we want from them musically, (in terms of the arrangement of their part). Contrary to what some people think, a lot of producers today are NOT arrangers. Either they are not qualified to be arrangers or they choose other options to communicate specific musical ideas to the musicians. In today’s world of computers and keyboards, where you can create a bass/drum/keyboard part without extensive arrangement skills in a matter of minutes, the producing/arranging arena has changed drastically. This is not to say that this is bad, it’s just a different world then it used to be.

One of my own personal styles for “arranging” works in this way. After pre-production, when the song structures are finalized, I make a home recording and a bar/chord chart of each song (even a boom box will do for this). I send each musician a cassette and charts of the songs that they are playing on. They then can get familiar with the music on their own time before coming to the studio session. One tip here: make sure the cassette machine that you use records at “concert pitch”, so that the key of the songs on the tape matches the key of the chord chart. I like to send these tapes 5-6 weeks in advance of the recording sessions. If budget allows, rehearsals with the studio players are helpful but not always necessary. Usually, these kinds of musicians are so talented and experienced, that they play amazing things even seeing and hearing a song for the first time.
After working closely with the artist during pre-production, by the time the studio session comes around, we have a very good idea of what we are wanting from each musician. As each musician comes in to do his/her part, I am confident about communicating to them what it is that we are after musically. With the valuable preparation time that the musicians have done rehearsals with the studio players are helpful but not always necessary. Usually, these kinds of musicians are so talented and experienced, that they play amazing things even seeing and hearing a song for the first time.

After working closely with the artist during pre-production, by the time the studio session comes around, we have a very good idea of what we are wanting from each musician. As each musician comes in to do his/her part, I am confident about communicating to them what it is that we are after musically. With the valuable preparation time that the musicians have done on their own and the combination of artist and producer knowing what they want, the production ‘team’ can usually fine-tune a musician’s part right there on the spot. All it takes is good communication skills. On a rare occasion, if the musician can read music, a capable artist or producer will write out a specific part that they hear in their head during the session. On other occasions, I have seen fully written out charts scrapped completely for a more “improvised” feel.

Some producers who are exceptional arrangers (like David Foster), will most likely write out all the arrangements. Similarly, other producers who do not like input from musicians, and want them only to play what’s written – whether it’s what they have written or a hired arranger’s part – I’ll also use fully orchestrated parts. One nice thing about the less strict, written out method is that I can integrate a musician’s creative input to the project. In fact, it opens up the field of producing and arranging to anyone with good musical instincts and communications skills. Never again will producing or arranging be just for people who can read and write music. Since the studio musicians that I hire excel at this kind of creative format, I always get amazing results. All in all, in my opinion, it makes for a richer project.

Freelance Recording Engineer and Producer Karen Kane is a transplanted American, now based in Toronto, ON. She can be contacted via e-mail at mixmama@astral.magic.ca

Recording with “Personality” by Daniel Lanois

Friday, October 18th, 2002

“I find that the tape recorder, or the recording device, is almost the link of the chain with the least personality. It’s the link in the chain that gets talked about the most – like ‘Are we going to do it digital? Are we going to do it analog? Should we use dolby SR? Or do we go dolby A? Should we do it at 15, or should we do it at 30? Should we use an Alesis? Should we use Tascam? Should we use the radar system?’ You know, there’s 20 different really great recording devices out there, and they all sound good to me. I did some recording recently on a little 8-track digital TASCAM, and it sounds great. I record on my 24-track with dolby A, at 15 ips, and it sounds amazing.

“So that link in the chain is not nearly as important as all the other links. If you start at the front, the front would be the instrument or the voice – talking about acoustic recording — the instrument or the voice; microphones are next on the chain. If you were to put a Cole’s mic against an AKG 414, the sound difference would be astronomical. You’re going to hear like a 700 percent sound shift. Whereas if you were A-B, the difference between an 8-track digital TASCAM and a 24- rack Studer with dolby A at 15, you might hear a 2% personality shift.

“The kind of harmonica, or how you tune the drum, is real important. The kind of microphone you use and where you place it is real important. I use a Neve 1066 pre-amp. The early ’70s models are really great, with great EQs.

Daniel Lanois in an interview with Nick Krewen (Canadian Musician, July/August 1997)

Teching And Happy To Be There by Trevor C. Coppen

Friday, October 18th, 2002

Teching a PA should be treated with the same kind of care as mixing the band. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you’ – where have I heard that before? The PA tech can definitely make or break a show as much as the mixing engineer. Touring bands are not always fortunate enough to travel with their own production, and even if they do they rely on the audio systems tech to keep things up to snuff.

A systems technician is a question/answer man, an advisory board and handy man all rolled into one. The performer’s engineer has been hired for a reason and that should be respected. Although you may not agree with their methods, you are there to accommodate and make sure the system runs at its best, safely.

There are many things that can be done prior to the artist’s engineer arriving that will help keep the day and yourself together:

* PA and console functioning properly, free of noises such as ground buzzes
* talk back mic, CD and/or cassette for playback
* outboard gear (effects, inserts, functioning)
* inserts (if any) ready to be patched
* board taped, not necessarily labelled (engineers may word things differently than yourself)
* space and AC available if the engineer carries any of their own outboard equipment
* knowledge of the system in use, its flexibility and limits, both to be respected by yourself and the touring engineer

Keeping lines of communication open all day is very healthy. Make sure things are going well and functioning properly but stay out of the way, keeping in an eye’s distance. (It’s not a good idea to take a lunch break during the band’s sound check!)

When all is said and done, what it boils down to is showing respect for the club and/or PA company you are representing and having that reciprocated by the touring engineer.

Trevor C. Coppen, freelance sound technician based in Toronto, Ontario. Trevor has been touring recently with the Barra McNeils and is currently in the U.S. with Moxy Früvous.

Creating Timeless Recordings by Daniel Lanois

Wednesday, September 18th, 2002

A timeless recording feels right. And a recording that feels right is usually made up of some kind of truth – for example, a true documentation of how people were playing in the room at that time, uninterrupted by external opinion. If something has a natural feeling, then that’s also a real good ingredient for timelessness.

The irony of timelessness is that sometimes the most dated things are timeless. You listen to a P-Funk record from the early ’70s – and there’s a crass wah-wah pedal that is dated specific to the day – and everybody thinks it’s wonderful and timeless! I think it’s because there was so much commitment that went into it; it was so much the “sound of the moment” and done with such naiveté that it is timeless.

Naiveté is not something that you can be aware of when you’re trying to work, it’s something that you’re aware of maybe a year down the road; but it’s also a pretty important ingredient to recordings you want to keep listening to.

Daniel Lanois, recording artist, producer (U2, Robbie Robertson, Peter Gabriel). Originally printed in “Sound Advice”, Professional Sound, Winter 1995.)

Mix it Quickly by Kevin Doyle

Wednesday, September 18th, 2002

Mixing should not be a long and tedious job of analyzing and salvaging. I’ve heard songs that took over 100 hours to mix and I am dumbfounded as to why, because in the end they sure didn’t sound that great. Some of the best-sounding records were mixed in the ‘60s and ‘70s and took 2-3 days to completely mix an entire record.

One of my best theories about mixing, is to try and finish a mix before you start to hate the song. If tracks are recorded half decently, and everyone involved is getting along and are into it, you’re pretty well guaranteed to mix a really good record.

Kevin Doyle — head engineer at D.A.V.E. Has recently mixed projects for Marc Jordan, Harem Scarem, and is presently working on a film project for Yo-Yo-Ma.

You Paid Only How Much? by Bud Bremner

Wednesday, September 18th, 2002

Have you ever wondered why real estate agents cannot work part time, Only full time? It’s to prevent any part-timers from watering down the market and, more importantly, to maintain a professional service in a very important industry. The agents who commit their careers to it should be able to earn a decent living.

Unlike the realtors, many of us in the music industry put our whole lives into our art and/or our business, while some merely dabble in it. Having part-timers in our industry is the only way some of us could ever get our start; however, when non-professionals begin to remove professionalism and profit margins from the industry, everybody suffers.

Case in point: CD-R replication. We all know that the cost of these babies has dropped like a rock in the last year and it was only a matter of time, so it’s no surprise. Actually it’s good because for those willing to invest in the necessary duplication equipment, short-run CD-Rs opens up a new market. But what if some guy in his basement with one CD-R recorder and a PC starts giving away this service to all his friends for only the cost of the discs? How soon would more friends find out and, before you know it, profit margins for the serious players go right out the window? How is anybody supposed to make any money in this business when idiots like this trash any chance of profit? Profit is what buys new gear and more CDs, and rents gear and everything else that keeps this business afloat. Without profit, no value-added business can really take place.
So if all you want to do is water things down, volunteer at your local fire department; but if you want to get into this business, please be prepared to bring something valuable into it so that we all can stay in business long enough to enjoy what you have to offer.

Bud Bremner — owner and operater of Coastal Mastering in Vancouver, B.C.


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