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#1683479 - 07/29/05 04:51 AM THEORY: Limitations
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
I have recently developed a theory that more than 5 choices (or something like that) is too much.

5 amps to try, 5 vocal mics, 5 mic pres, 5 plug-in EQs, 5 vocal takes to comp, 5 speakers to check your mix on before you can decide, 5 kinds of coffee... plenty!

Of course - sometimes even 5 is too much. But I've found I usually have a good enough choice among the 5. More time spent is rarely well-spent - you can get lost in a sea of choices (and they take up a lot of room!)

This was somewhat a self-imposed limititation, but also to keep band members from trying "everything" to make sure they had exercised all options.

Whaddya think? Do you impose your own limits regularly?
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#1683480 - 07/29/05 06:01 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
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I won't allow more than five rototoms on a drumtrack. I don't let guitarists with more than five fingers per hand play on my sessions. Hell, I'd say you can make an argument for no more than four choices, Bri.
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#1683481 - 07/29/05 11:23 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
Yeah - if Ringo's not going to sing it - they stopped there.
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#1683482 - 07/29/05 12:27 PM Re: THEORY: Limitations
philbo_Tangent Offline
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Registered: 10/08/00
Posts: 1175
Loc: Iowa
I think 5 is too many. 3 is better, but 1 is simplest...
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#1683483 - 07/29/05 01:49 PM Re: THEORY: Limitations
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
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Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
But on a serious note, I completely understand where Brian is coming from. I think that one of the things that separates the men from the boys in production is the ability to commit to a decision. Pro Tools has simply added to this syndrome, because of the unlimited amount of tracks and takes one can do.

A few years back, a friend was making a record with a guy, who has become famous as a mixer, as the producer. They were going to do a tambourine track and the producer took an hour and a half auctitioning different mic pres for the tambourine. I mean, come on. So many records were made using just one console and only that console's mic pres. It's just absurd.

Use your instincts, use your ears, use your brain and make a decision. As Brian likes to say, the number one job of a producer is to actually finish the record. Indecision and endless choices are impediments to finishing. Besides, I always say that I'd rather get a great take that isn't sonically as good than kill the vibe for the musicians by making them wait endlessly while I figure out the best way to capture a now lifeless take.
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#1683484 - 07/29/05 01:50 PM Re: THEORY: Limitations
miroslav Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by BrianK:
Do you impose your own limits regularly?
It's the only way I like to work.

Right off the git-go...I try to limit myself to no more than 24 tracks.

I also record first to tape, and I rarely record second/third/fourth tracks for later comping.
I like to keep it "as it falls" on the tape, rather than plan on doing a lot of DAW edits later. So if something isn't happening, it may take a few passes, but, it gets finished right then and there...no waiting to get it into the DAW and slice-n-dice 'til the cows come home before I have something useable.
Worst case...I'll just punch in on tape if I have to fix a bad phrase or lick.

When it comes to mics...I kinda' know which ones work for what...so I don't turn every sessions into a lab experiment…nor do I try and use EVERY piece of gear on everything...
...though sometimes I’ll try new approaches whe I get board with something old.

For my drum kit, the mics are always up, I just cover them when not in use.
It takes me about 10 minutes to set up for the drum kit. I pull the covers off the mics, power up the 4-channel pre...check the mic position and the pre settings...and I'm ready.

Same thing with my guitar amps...there are mics in front of the cabs, always on the ready...but I may pull out a second or different mic once in awhile...depending on the sound I'm going for.

Then with the arrangement and production, I try to have a clear idea of what I am after...before I start. I'll work out parts, try different harmonies...and then I go with that…no endless variations, recorded to a gazillion DAW tracks. Rarely do I just record away, leaving the arranging and producing to be done in the DAW.
In this manner...I tend to start mixing as the first tracks go down and throught out the tracking of the rest.

If I do transfer to DAW...it may be for limited edits only...and just some level adjustments and minor tweaks. Then, I go back out through and analog console and outboard gear...and I don't even need automation for the most part.
I even have 32 channels of mute/level automation available my console...and I can't remember the last time I powered it up.
But then...24 channels are not that difficult to mix by hand…and especially when during the entire tracking phase…I was already making final mixing decisions.
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#1683485 - 07/30/05 07:34 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
>>I think that one of the things that separates the men from the boys in production is the ability to commit to a decision. <<<

Repeated with emphasis.
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#1683486 - 07/30/05 07:36 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
I usually don't NEED 5 choices. I have 5 amps to try - but only one or two might apply for given sound. Same for vocal mics etc.

The ONLY thing I find constantly needing variety is compressors. Not mics or mic pre's, those compressors really make a single track "work" or not.
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#1683487 - 07/30/05 08:33 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
Bill@Welcome Home Studios Offline
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I don't actually find the choices to be the problem; the problem is the idiot who, when confronted with choices, cannot make up his mind.

This comes from two problem areas. Number One.... he doesn't know what these choices sound like. Number Two... He doesn't -really- know what he wants to hear. So you end up endlessly throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. Amateur Hour.

To a recordist knowing his gear, choices are like colors on a painter's palate. More choices won't hurt him, as he knows what he is after. He picks his colors and starts to paint.

Not knowing the gear, and he becomes like a child on his first visit to Toys 'R Us. Everything is interesting and facinating, and he wants to see and touch it all, all at once.

Bill
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#1683488 - 07/30/05 08:56 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
miroslav Offline
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True Bill...but I don't think here it was only a question about limiting "gear" choices...
…at least not the way I understood it.
I thought it was more about trying to limit yourself in the overall production approach...
...though what you are saying, IS a part of that.
If you have 10 amps...and you already know which one you want to use...in effect, you have imposed a limit on yourself. \:\)

But yeah...too many gear options CAN get your head spinning when you start chaining one piece to another and another...
...I've been down that road!

Though there actually may be a time when it is good to spend time doing just that...messin' with the gear and trying out weird things, in a very experimental approach.
I think by doing that at some point, or every once in awhile...THAT is what yields the experience that one day, allows you to just reach for the right piece…without any hesitation.
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#1683489 - 07/30/05 09:25 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
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Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
Quote:
Originally posted by bpark@prorec.com:
Not knowing the gear, and he becomes like a child on his first visit to Toys 'R Us. Everything is interesting and facinating, and he wants to see and touch it all, all at once.
That is genius. I love it.
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#1683490 - 07/30/05 10:10 PM Re: THEORY: Limitations
Jeff Klopmeyer Offline
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Put me in the school that 5 is too many.

The magic number for me is three.

Within a certain range -- three large diaphragm condensers, three tube amps, three takes on an overwrought solo -- is plenty. If I cann't get it going within three, something's wrong and I'd better scrap the thing and look for alternatives.

- Jeff

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#1683491 - 07/31/05 03:59 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
BrianK Moderator Offline
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Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
I remember once a story about a Dokken album where they first auditioned dozens of amp heads. THEN they took their favorite and started auditioning tubes!
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#1683492 - 07/31/05 06:53 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
wireline Offline
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Registered: 10/08/02
Posts: 1646
I get so tickled if casual reading, so annoyed if working on the clock, at people that want to audition everything before the song every even starts...

Especially those who have read about these 'processes" but have no idea how to apply them (the guitarist that cannot play a 1st position C major barre chord, for example)

FWIW: Its a commonly known psycho-babble trick that works well in these situations...given a 'choice' people will usually take the latter/last offered when there are only 2-3 from which to choose....if you want them to select the 57 thru the API (or whatever) give that option to them last....99% of the time that's what they'll choose.

Here, its almost always 3 choices, using the technique above. If it ain't there in those 3 choices, chances are it won't be after 30 choices either....

My opinion only.
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#1683493 - 07/31/05 09:32 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
miroslav Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by wireline:
...given a 'choice' people will usually take the latter/last offered when there are only 2-3 from which to choose...
I'll have to try that out. \:\)

But I've been lucky up to know, and with the sessions I've done in my studio...the "talent" kinda' just leaves it up to me to make most of the gear choices.

Though, I don't deal with recording on a large, commercial scale like some of you folks do. It's all private projects, where I have a major controlling interest. \:D
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#1683494 - 08/01/05 02:30 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
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Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
You know, I just realized how many manufacturers are guilty of this. When I got sent all those mics to review for the September issue of EQ, you would not believe how many types of Audio Technica "professional" condensers there are. I swear to god, they sent ten mics, and they all looked the same. And you know what happens as a result? People post stupid threads in forums like these that ask question like "Which Audio Technica mic is best for a Fred Durst type singer?"
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#1683495 - 08/01/05 04:22 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
Philip O'Keefe Offline
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Besides, I always say that I'd rather get a great take that isn't sonically as good than kill the vibe for the musicians by making them wait endlessly while I figure out the best way to capture a now lifeless take.

Absolutely!

Today's session was a lot of what Bill described - the guys who don't really quite know what they want to hear... coupled with disagreements between various band members about the validity of an idea when someone actually was able to communicate one. Loads of fun was had by one and all. ;\)

I usually don't Reamp. I pick a drumset / tuning / snare drum when we start, and while I CAN use SoundReplacer, I try very hard not to. IOW, while I might leave a few decisions for mixdown, and I do tend to use a bit of a "subtractive mixing" approach, I do try to make decisions as we go along. And normally, when we are going to track something, I have a pretty good idea of what we're shooting for, and a pretty good idea of how to get it from the tools at hand... I might try two or three different things to see what works best, but I won't do a dozen different trials just to figure out which dynamic mic I'm going to put up close on a guitar cabinet... If the e609 is too dark, I grab an Audix... if that's not right, I try a ribbon with a distant condenser... if one of those don't work, then maybe we need a different guitar or to change the settings on the amp or to just scrap the idea completely... but it normally doesn't get anywhere near that far with the trials. One or two changes and I can usually get what I want... and I'm willing to live with it thereafter. ;\)

I hate option paralysis, and IMO, the best way to avoid it is to have a clear vision of what you want firmly in mind, a decent knowledge of your tools so that you know how to get whatever sound you might be thinking of, and the willingness to make decisions and go with them instead of putting everything off forever.
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#1683496 - 08/03/05 01:35 AM Re: THEORY: Limitations
tripit Offline
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Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 20
Loc: LA, CA. USA
It seemed to me that a lot of producers (at least the ones I worked with) were guilty of taking everything to extreme from the 80's and into the 90's. Maybe it was the idea that if you have the choices you had to use all of them because then someone might not think you were worthy as a producer/engineer.
But, I've think that the times have changed and it seems that a lot of them have gone to less is more.
Also, bands like The White Stripes and others seem to have had an influence on what can be done.
Like Brian, as I got older, I like to limit things to 3. It's a good number. You have 2 main choices and a backup. And if you can't get it to work with 3 choices, then you are probably doing something seriously wrong.
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#1683497 - 08/05/05 12:23 PM Re: THEORY: Limitations
rankus Offline
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Registered: 08/04/05
Posts: 10
Loc: Vancouver Canada
You mean you guys let the "talent" have a choice? .... Well OK, sometimes I will put up 2 mics and record two tracks of vox so we can choose later. But for the most part I never even bring the subject up.. I try not to distract the talent from the singing and song in any way... (I try to keep the engineering completely invisible) But then most of my "talent" isn't ;o)

My main reason for posting is to say congrats to JJ for the great gig! I will stop in as much as possible JJ.... You, remind me of me... Running a rehearsal AND recording facility... (Although mine is considerably more low tech) It takes a certain breed! Rock on brother!

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#1683498 - 08/05/05 02:36 PM Re: THEORY: Limitations
miroslav Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by rankus:
You mean you guys let the "talent" have a choice? ....


....I never even bring the subject up..


I rarely discuss gear choices "out loud" with the talent...
...though I tend to have ongoing conversations in my head, with my alter ego, as I work!!! \:D

Unless the talent is quite knowledgeable about gear and recording techniques...it only gets you in trouble...
...'cuz you might say out loud, "This pre is kinda’ vanilla and that one is kinda' chocolate"...
...and then the talent ends up second guessing you.

But I will try sometimes to make people a bit more knowledgeable and understanding of what is going on…though I try not to get into it too deep.

Let them concentrate on playing/singing!
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#1683499 - 08/09/05 08:21 PM Re: THEORY: Limitations
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
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Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
tripit and I were discussing something today. We were saying that track limits are your friend. I was saying that one of the reasons I like working on analog is that you have to use discipline and forethought to stay within the boundaries of the track limits. A great example is how I think Jason Falkner's 4 and 8 track demos generally outdo the 48 track megaproductions on his solo records. (I think he might tend to agree, too.)

Track limits make you think about what part is important and what is superfluous. When in doubt, leave it out. The endless amount of tracks and takes in PT has been a bad thing, I think. Too much of that, "Well, we have it and the mixer will figure out what to use," type of mentality.

Making a decision is part of production. And I have yet to see an instance where endless options made for a better record. Anybody who has heard Extraordinary Machine seems to concur with that sentiment.
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#1683500 - 08/10/05 12:43 PM Re: THEORY: Limitations
rankus Offline
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Registered: 08/04/05
Posts: 10
Loc: Vancouver Canada
Well we DO have track limits in the box as well JJ.

For instance my upper limit is about 85 tracks with pluggins.... SO I always limit myself to around 80 tracks.... TFIC (Tongue Firmly In Cheek)

But, truthfully: I do have my "go to" template that I start most sessions with that is limited to about 34 tracks... And I rarely go that high. The fewer tracks / mics the easier it is to get a clear mix! My last drum session (with Gerry Adolf woo hoo) we used 6 mics on the kit and it sounded phat....

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#1683501 - 08/10/05 04:32 PM Re: THEORY: Limitations
Philip O'Keefe Offline
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Limitations are a good thing. I wish more newbies would start with an old four track analog deck... you learn a lot that way. I use a PT LE system... it does what I need, and since I "grew up" on analog machines (4 and 8 tracks, then graduated to 16's and 24's), the 32 track limitation doesn't really bother me - it's a different way of working - more old school, make decisions as you go along approach, but it works for me.
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