Entries in production (42)
Russ takes a look at Drumatom, a plug-in that claims to be able to clean up live drums with ease and with amazing results?
I remember as a young would-be producer (before everyone was a producer) and being desperate to get some hours behind the desk. So in a moment of keen excitement stupidity I agreed to produce an album for a female singer songwriter without listening to any of the material, you can guess the punch line. Both her songs and her voice were (to put it kindly) utterly terrible, these were the days before auto-tune. I spent the first two days trying to come up with some kind of possible solution that would give us a decent album, I stacked her vocals and added chorus and reverb hoping that the choir approach may cover most of her sins, truth was that not even a priest could have absolved her from her affliction. As I sat there considering what to do, deep in my gut I knew that this was not going to be a win-win but a lose-lose. To tears and annoyance from her manager I bailed on the gig, he said I was an idiot - he was right. However there was simply nothing to redeem from this situation expect perhaps a book of poetry. I would love to hear your production car-crash stories, we all have them, so feel free to share them in the comments.
Producers As Selectors
In a recent post we presented Fixing Audio In Pro Tools - The Case For And Against and the responses were very encouraging. Bobo 65 wrote “To me there’s only one legitimate reason for fixing anything. This is to eliminate distractions from a compelling performance” and Wwittman wrote “A good record sounds like the artiste performing. On a bad one you ‘hear’ the guy with the computer instead.”
If we remove ourselves from the world we live in for a moment and consider sport, the Olympics in fact. Imagine if the teams for the Olympics were chosen in the same way as much of our music is today - of course the idea is ludicrous - you can’t take someone without speed and make them fast (no jokes about PEDs here please) or an ice-skater and fake the grace of the dance. Of course all that stuff is done live and in the public eye, not in post hidden away, although to be fair I’m yet to go to a gig and find out the band can’t play or the singer can’t sing, but then I was never a fan of (insert band or artist here) anyway. Sports depend on qualified selectors and talent scouts, in our world we call them A&R, but I think in sport it’s a lot harder to cover a bad decision whereas in music we can simply cheat in the production process, an example that comes to mind is Milli Vanilli.
Producers As Curators
Both of the quotes from community members I mentioned earlier in the post use the P word “performance” and Bobo65 nailed it - our job isn’t to hide the crap in bad performances but to remove the distractions from amazing ones, in much the same way that paintings like the Mona Lisa sit on bare wall wall in the Louvre.
The job of a producer starts before you even get to the studio, it’s finding the talent, nurturing it and then doing your technical best to make sure it shines when recording.
The lesson I learnt as an over-zealous would-be producer was a simple but important one, it is OK to polish stuff, just make sure it’s a diamond and not a turd. Discuss.
One of the questions we asked our panel at NAMM 2014 was how optimistic they were about the future of the industry, that video will be coming soon.
There are both opportunties and threats that have been opened up by new technology that have made making music far more open. At the same time the same technology has created challenges such as online piracy, and even online music streaming services offer a small return for the average music maker.
In a couple of weeks Avid will be unveiling their version of the future with Avid Everywhere, it seems every man and his dog has the a version of the future of how we will make and share our music.
Some commentators paint a dystopian view of the future and others remain optimistic. Is everything broken or are there some real signs of hope for the future of music making - or is it just the same as it has always been?
So let us know how you feel, take our poll and most of all leave your comments.
In this free video tutorial Russ shows the advantage of using parallel compression on a drum buss. This video is a sample of over 500 paid for videos on Pro Tools Expert, subscribe for just £20 a year for full access.
Read part 1 of this article here.
4. Tools of the trade
If you want to work, then you need the gear. Music production equipment is by no means cheap, and we often find ourselves making hard decisions and going without in order to try and build a collection of equipment that makes us useful to as many people as possible. The reality is that a client expects you to have at minimum a simple recording set up and computer to function commercially, so the question comes down to how you go about establishing this? The answer is
As musical job descriptions go, ‘music producer’ probably tops the list as the most vague and most indefinable title the music industry bestows upon its practitioners.
The role as I first perceived it when beginning my own journey has completely and utterly changed, and continues to do so. Skill sets I never considered overly important have grown to become integral to the everyday work I find myself doing, while processes originally deemed vital in every scenario have proven to be circumstantial and heavily based on the context of the job.
The producer is meant to be a figure of many talents and resources, capable of getting the work done, regardless of technical, creative or financial constraints. Unfortunately, the value of a producer’s involvement is often misinterpreted and misunderstood by artists, simply because they have never encountered or experienced one before. This is why producers are responsible for anticipating this gap of information and showing artists that they are worth being involved with, for meeting the unspoken expectations.
To attempt to empower fellow producers and provide a guideline to steer their careers in a productive direction, here are 6 unspoken expectations I believe to be consciously or subconsciously considered by every artist when thinking of involving a music producer:
The social network
There is a perceived value both musically for the artist and in terms of marketing to everyone else in the inclusion of a music producer in the creation process. Having a producer essentially represents a vested interest in an artist’s work by an external body, and signals a certain added value to the work they have and plan to create. Whether they state it or not, artists nowadays work with producers because they are perceived as a legitimate and effective way of bringing their careers to the next level, which includes a significant step towards getting signed.
So what does this mean for a producer? It means that
Everyday producers, engineers, songwriters and artists all around the world engage with each other in studios, rehearsal rooms and online in the pursuit of the creation of music.
For many people, the performance of music is for the self and not necessarily for the purposes of earning an income. Their music is more of an innocent exploration of the creative arts, and a chance to do something different for a period of time. However, for a smaller number of songwriters, composers and artists the pursuit of a viable career in music is the ultimate career goal and a full time commitment.
Artists that endeavor to succeed in the music industry inevitably come across the figure of a
This is a continuation of my article on defining your unique position as a modern music producer. Here is some more food for thought:
Like any other global industry, the music industry is essentially its own functioning micro economy. Affected by supply, demand, costs, laws and regulation, the music industry changes its face constantly, based on cultural, financial and societal trends. In recent decades the proliferation of the Internet and mass access to technologies like virtual instruments, sound libraries, and budget recording gear has enabled a much larger number of musically minded people to participate in the music industry.
There is split opinion as to whether this easy access is a positive or negative development, but regardless of this debate, numerically speaking the industry is now hugely saturated. So in a situation like this how do we, not as artists, but as producers go about marketing ourselves in a meaningful and memorable fashion? Here are a few important points to consider:
This is part 2 of a two-part feature on pre-production with new clients. Click here to read part 1.
An important preparatory step that is often overlooked is the practical sequence of tracking on a production. For example, nine times out of ten in commercial music, the vocals are the most important element of the music. If this is the case in your production, then everything needs to work around the vocals. Finding out what the vocalist is most comfortable singing over in studio is a valuable piece of knowledge. Knowing which of your clients is the strongest and most competent performer out of their comfort zone is also important. Take for example
Pre-production in the music world is a massively underused and underestimated process. Music records have been made and broken off of the back of good and bad production sessions. Some might argue that pre-production decides whether a production is going to succeed or not before it has even started. In the same way that tracking content properly at source is always preferable to ‘fixing it later’, planning the content of that very recording is of even more importance and consequence. So how do we as practitioners prepare for the perfect session? Here are some tips that will help you produce efficient and comprehensive productions from start to finish.
Welcome back to part two of string production. This article is a follow on article from part one, so if you haven’t read that, I would suggest reading that first here.
This article will be addressing the low end of the string family, cello and the double bass, as well as taking a look at the psychology of string players, and some considerations for overall string arrangement & production.
Strings are one of the most prevalent families of instruments used in modern commercial music, film game and TV production. Be it their unique tone, their capacity to capture almost any mood or the sonic footprint they leave on any arrangement, strings are a key instrument group that every producer should know how to handle.
This article is the first of two, designed as a overview on how to produce a string recording. What this isn’t is an in depth look at every nuance of stringed instruments. For this, I recommend Samuel Adler’s “The Study of Orchestration.” This first article will share an overview of the higher register string instruments: the violin and the viola, and the characteristics that are most pertinent to be aware of for general recording and mixing purposes. The next article will address the cello and the double bass, and talk about dealing with string players on a social and psychological level in the studio, finishing with some useful production techniques.
The modern music industry is very much modular in nature. We often find ourselves in dynamic, short-term work environments, and for the most part, the nature of what we do radically shifts week in and week out.
While working in a dynamic and constantly evolving environment is part and parcel to the reason a lot of us choose to work in the music industry, it is important for us to figure out the best practice for many of the processes we undertake. When I refer to workflow, however, I am not only referring to the literal Pro Tools / Logic session templates we establish for speed, but also and perhaps more importantly, the mental processes we apply to handle the industry as an individual. Having your sessions clean and concise is useless to you if you are over stretched, over worked and incompetent as a result of dealing with too many projects.
Below are a selection of tips on how to address some of the biggest issues we as producers come up against when trying to manage our affairs:
Writing a song, in many respects, is one of the most honest, raw and inspiring mediums of human expression. Rarely would you find another situation wherein something you create has the potential to not only engage complete strangers, but to affect them on an emotional and psychological level in so many different ways.
The ability to create music is a unique and incredible skill. The ability however, to step back and scrutinize your own artistic expression is something that is lost on many musicians, especially those in the early stages of developing their unique sonic and musical identity. And so we discuss…
Audio practitioners in the music industry can appreciate when I say that half the battle in the production of good records and music is handling the relationship you have with the artist, and the relationship they have within their own ranks.
Making records is never a straightforward, formulaic process. Although there are undoubtedly basic parameters etc. that apply in most contexts, to treat each artist with the same approach from project to project is not really a viable solution. We may find that our approach to handling the motivated, eager and fast paced personality of one artist will intimidate and damage your rapport with an artist of a calmer, more reserved demeanor.
With this in mind, here are some points to consider in handling the dynamic producer-client relationship, especially when starting a new project with someone:
Songwriting is a skill that is born out of the immeasurable and the unquantifiable.
Just like poets and authors, musical content comes from creativity, intuition and inspiration. While this is second nature to many professional writers, to the majority of amateur song writers, songwriting is something that requires practice and focus to hone into a useable skill set.
It is a skill that improves over time, and is certainly not exclusive. While top tier proficiency in songwriting will largely remain with those of natural born musical talent, there are still many tricks someone from a less musically-intuitive background can employ in their production processes to improve and hone their craft.
It is undeniable that working in the music industry now is not only increasingly competitive, but fundamentally different in its structure and workflows.
We might not say it out loud, but this has undoubtedly ruffled the feathers of more audio professionals than we care to count. As much as we deny it, people don’t like change, especially when it threatens the very fabric of our business model. The industry is very much an ‘Adapt or Die’ environment, populated with constantly changing workflows that require not just evolution, but revolution to continue to operate at ‘industry standard’. The recent PTE article about Phils Book and the decline of iconic UK studios is a prime example of this reality.
So, the industry has dramatically evolved, and even though nearly anything is now possible from the confines of a laptop, we often still find ourselves asking the question: “Why is it so hard to find good work?”
Here are a few points to consider about your presentation while managing and sourcing work:
Russ shows another cool trick for getting better sounding drums - the drum buss crush trick.