So after 2 days in commercial recording studio what I learned

So after 2 days in commercial recording studio what I learned
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#1

I might’ve mentioned that I’ve decided to sit out the engineering on my current band’s EP, or wanted another ear/hands on the console while playing.

Well…after 2 days at commercial studio rates I might’ve changed my mind :slight_smile:

Pros
The engineer was no slouch by any means. Cool dude, well versed, and a good pair of ears.
He definitely caught some mistakes I didn’t hear.
Better gear
Drum tuning / massive drum sound

Cons
Shortage of time
long drum sound setup - it was double what I usually take, 3 hrs for drum sound
Stressful situation - $90/hr and limited budget definitely gets you to be a little jittery
We ran out of time for bass, lead guitars

The drums took out longer to expected and kinda ate up the rest of session time. There are still some drum luls/lurches in tempo that I am not absolutely happy with. I was surprised that I enjoy working more on my own overdubbing leads that I am with someone punch record, actually having to communicate with someone also ate up time, as I know where my punch ins need to go :slight_smile:


#2

It’s probably a little unusual for it to take that long to get a drum sound, especially if the engineer knew how many hours you had booked. Some studios won’t charge the full rate for setup time, but if it was a decent room it shouldn’t have taken the majority of your time/budget.

Takes you back to the old day, where you paid a lot to get into a studio at all, and watched the clock. You had to make decisions and move on unless you were really well funded. Hope you ended up with enough to work with. Were there particular problems with the drums? (Tuning, mic placement, performance)?


#3

Assuming the drums were the studio set and already set up an hour is sufficient. Three hours is pretty indulgent and you should mention it to the studio owner. I’m glad the guy wasn’t my engineer.


#4

my one time in the big studio pro place with the sons band lead me to think the whole thing only benefited by the Drum room and the Mixing room.

vocals+up close, bass=DI, guitar amps = up close…could have been done anywhere…

the mixing room was impressive and the gear was impressive…the price was going to be too much for the Mixing, the Tracking was worth it for the drums.

but the band found a dude who had a home studio that had better mixing/final product and could do the drums and a lot cheaper.

that place sold to someone new a few years back and was turned into a “school of audio and video” to bring in the majority of cash…I dont even know if its still open…I’d love to go to their closing sale though!! damn they had all the big name gear of the 70’s and 80’s…


#5

Well…our drummer is kinda jittery to begin with and as the situation wasn’t already stressful he decided to also go on a vegan diet, so he had no power to hit hits. And as you know you need power for metal :slight_smile:

As I’ve worked on the other side of the glass, I was always ready for the drum session as I had all my stands and mics setup and just needed to be placed. This guy did not.

Now, we paid for 2 days flat rate daily, so maybe he thought no need to move that fast. We did get guaranteed 10 hrs per day so maybe that’s why he took his time.

Our drummer can’t tune his kit (he tunes it and it sounds like crap) and we can’t tell him what to do. So in this case having an engineer do that was priceless. The engineer did really well on the drum sound, the kick/snare especially is massive. Then the drummer complained that he couldn’t play his parts right as he skins were too loose, but the truth is that he never really did play them all that tight, we’ve been click tracking that mess for 6 months trying to get him on time :slight_smile:

I am not sure if it was worth the $ but it was worth the experience for sure. If I had to track this on my gear or upgraded to a 16 channel interface I had to spend eternity recording to get the same performance, now when the big $$$ is paid and the drums are a problem people notice as it is hurting pockets.

We got 4 useful tracks and we’ll go with a little lurch on this EP, it is what it is. I think it is apparent to me at least that a) this band needs new drummer or b) I need a new band


#6

Next time, charge the drummer for the time spent tuning, or go with option a).


#7

This is a really interesting thread and I’ve been meaning to toss some thoughts in here for a few days…

First of all, its really good to see that you made the investment…hopefully the overall experience you gained from this was more positive than negative. Even if you never intend to own or a run a commercial studio (or perhaps you do), just absorbing the environment and being a part of it can benefit someone tremendously, provided the entire experience wasn’t a disaster.

In some ways, I can see this being normal, but my first reaction was it that it was a little much. I can see that if you were setting everything else up, importing a session, routing monitors, patching outboard, and building a layout on the console, it might be 3 hrs before you start tracking. It can take quite a bit of work to reset for a new session, but some of this sound like it should have been handled before you walked in the door. For $90 an hour, that place should have had prepped to a template and had an assistant routing patching before you even got there.

That was the first question I had…what kind of agenda was set for the session? If the guy was unfamiliar with the material ahead of time and there wasn’t an producer present who was experienced with high-end studio workflow, it sounds like the engineer may have realized he misunderstood the scope of the project then had to adapt mid-stream.

But they weren’t. Were they? This is where I’m caught: Under these circumstances the time which exceeded and hour should not have been billable.

…ok…so as I’m reading through this, it does sound like the engineer had to fight with the source a bit. This changes things. It can really slow stuff up.

I hate that you spent $1800 on four drum tracks, but the insight and experience (from what I’m reading) was just invaluable! :slight_smile: Reading your comments to this point, you had a shot at this that few people ever get to take. And that plus the drum tracks is probably worth it. If you do this in the future, feel free to reach out…Theres a couple people on here that could probably give you some pointers on coordinating with the studio manager to help streamline things a little.

Don’t forget about the mic locker…and their outboard gear if they used it.

I agree…doing drums like this makes for the best uses of a major tracking room. I realize I’m in the minority of people who hold this opinion, and I respect the opinions of others who disagree.

yay! Good of you man. Big studios get their asses kicked all the time by little guys who are willing to pour the hours of hard work into a mix that it takes to get it perfect sometimes.


#8

I don’t know if I mentioned this before - I am an ex-audio engineer or I guess still current as I still take some work now and then, but mostly it is my solo stuff and mixing something for a friend.

I don’t have the drum room and I don’t have the option to track that many sources. I could’ve had the band buy a 16 input interface and handled the tracking but it would never be finished. Honestly, I didn’t want to fully engineer this session…although we blew thru the budget and looks like I am having to :slight_smile:

Just for the egos involved I felt it better to pay my $300 share and let another engineer handle it.

I’ve provided the engineer with midi clicks which I tested in Pro Tools with a forum member on here as well as stems of rhythm tracks for the drummer to track to. The drummer spent 6 months rehearsing to this. The engineer was told that we’re there mainly for the drums but he was definitely not happy to let me go. I was expecting the band to accomplish more, at least track bass from the rhythm tracks but oh well…our poor bassist spent 2 days waiting and didn’t get to track.
Granted, my gear wouldn’t get him that dissimilar of a sound compared to the studio as we were going to go direct anyway.

We managed to walk out with drums, rhythm guitar tracks and a lead here and there on 4 songs. Also we cut the vocals on a U87 and Neve outboard that I don’t have.

No huge guitar magic happened - SM57 and MD421s on both guitar cabs, honestly I am approximating this quite well with IRs at home, might even replace some of these tracks.

Now, my home FET mic didn’t sound that dissimilar on the overdubs though :slight_smile:

I might pay a flat fee again for the studio and get to mix it on a SSL and outboard but I will take a shot myself at this point.


#9

Ah! …That was me. I just put 2 and 2 together. I didn’t realize that was prep for this session. Cool!

I understand. So you basically did everything prep-work wise that you were able to…its sounds like you covered your bases the best you could.

What do you mean?

That’s a lot better. I guess I misread you earlier…I thought that you had left with only 4 comp’d drum tracks.

That’s exactly what I do.


#10

Yeah, Johnathan - thank you again for trying those midi files, much appreciated!

The engineer wasn’t happy that I wanted to take out consolidated tracks from the session as he saw those sweet overdub $$$ “bye bye”, charged me flat fee for the export which was a bit of a d*ck move.

So far tracked all overdubs at home minus bass and possibly some vocals, almost ready to mix.

I’ll take a shot of the mix at finish time and if needed take to someone or back to the studio. The studio has a 2 inch tape so I might actually try printing to that if I feel adventurous enough.


#11

Interesting thread! In my studio, I do not want the customer feeling like they are looking at the clock…ever. I do such an extensive pre-interview that I can give an estimate that is 100% accurate and will let them know if were they may encounter some variables. I make sure the variables are in their control. For example, we may budget an hour per overdub. One might take 1/2 hour, and another take might be one and an hour and a half. That is fine. When someone comes into track drums, for example, I will have all the mics set up on mic stands, patched, basic cue mixes set and session ready to go. They set up their drums, we tune them an get sounds. I want musicians playing and recording their sounds within about an hour. By 1.5 hours we should be doing takes. Any longer than that and they start to wear out before they are even playing for keeps. My studio fee is much higher than $90/ hour but when the deal is struck they can forget about the clock. I keep an eye on the clock to let them know if we are veering off track.


#12

That’s the right approach, of course. You’d like to have a little time left over after the project is done just in case something pops up to add to the creativity, not suck it all out trying to beat the clock. By giving the musicians a reasonable schedule on how long it should take to get everything going, they will realize themselves when they are wasting too much time. It also takes the right kind of engineer to be able to go up to the drummer and ask if he can help with the tuning, politely letting the drummer know he’s not getting the job done, and get things moving without bruising his ego.
I’m sure you find out in your interview process whether the band is ready to get their basic tracks done in a few takes, or whether they will be winging it, which will be a big part of the budget. You also need to be able to gauge whether the band’s goals are realistic; if they are trying to get four tracks done in two days and half of the first day is spent setting up, everybody, the engineer included becomes part of the problem, which is exactly what you don’t want. Tact and diplomacy are priceless in these situations.


#13

Right on Paul. When I worked as head engineer I would prepare for the session and have all cables and drum mics on stands ready to go before the band got there. That was sloppy on the engineer’s behalf…I think he probably figured since he didn’t give us a locked in hourly rate but daily rate which said “minimum 10 hrs” that this was part of it and could drag butt too.

My max setup time was 1.5 and that was changing drum mics in places and adjusting some things to get them to sound better after initial tracking tests.

When I had interns it took even less time - 30 to 45 mins tops.

I think it was needed to work out the kinks in the band as some of the guys are inexperienced on the studio side. The drummer especially :slight_smile: It is apparent to me that I need to seek replacement as the guy is in his 40s and at that age changes in technique and skills usually go down instead of up. Can’t teach old dog new tricks…oh well, we’ll see.

I’ll post test mixes in a week see your takes on that :slight_smile:


#14

Totally unacceptable. That’s what I thought you were saying, but I wanted to be sure. If that really is the case, then yes, it was a dick move. I’ve never had a studio give me shit about this. I’m real up front with the studio managers when I book the place, and they know what’s gonna get tracked there and whats not. If he didn’t want a partial tracking job, he should have turned it down.

Are you sure you wanna keep trying to with this place? Where in the U.S. are you located? Do you have other options?


#15

No, I am not sure…after that last dick move I might not go back.

I was thinking of playing around with the 2 inch analog for mastering though and that’s the only good place around here that still knows what to do with tape :slight_smile:

I’ll see how I feel at the end of day.


#16

Hmm, 2 inch anal log?..They’re typically longer than 2 inches. It’s best to eat a diet rich in fiber/ fibre. :yum:

Seriously though, that guy doesn’t deserve any more of your money. Just leave him alone with his anal logs.:grin:


#17

Haha…yeah, he really seemed to antagonize me. I’ll see how I feel and it is a group decision after all, I am one of 5 people so I can be voted out. But they like cheap so I might wear the mix & master hats as long as it sounds good :slight_smile:


#18

Yeah, was wondering how this thing is coming along.


#19

bassist is slacking off, still need to overdub one song…so no mixing yet.


#20

EP coming out tomorrow:

Whew! It’s done!