Music Player Network Home Guitar Player Magazine Keyboard Magazine Bass Player Magazine EQ Magazine
Topic Options
#1683531 - 07/31/05 09:53 PM THEORY: Control
BrianK Moderator Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
One of my favorite concepts in recording is control - AND the lack of it.

I have the feeling the records I love the most (from ALL decades) are those with a significant amount of control (songwriting, performing, sounds, mixing). However, they have not "over-controlled" the track, as is so common now - there is a significant amount of humanism and sometimes even real slop!

As I grow (older), I find the most exciting music to be that which has LESS control, not totally loose, but significantly human: Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain", The Who "Live at Leeds", King Crimson's "Red", etc. I'm still a fan of things like Abba and Spice Girls (overproduced wonderfully to make a sugar pop record), but the people who try to overmanipulate things seems WAY out of hand nowadays.

I often say most records nowadays are made "on the wrong side of the glass". I am fully guilty of this at times, because I do love overdubbed pop/rock music and that feel. But it seems odd to "let things go" - keep the vibe and looseness, even when it's not perfect, because you hear a GREATER power in the moments that DID happen.

How do you feel about your control - or lack of it?
_________________________
Relax and float downstream...

Top
#1683532 - 08/01/05 02:11 AM Re: THEORY: Control
Philip O'Keefe Offline
10k Club

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 17674
Loc: Riverside,CA,UNITED STATES
Wrong night to ask me that... \:D I just spent all day in the studio with a rather cool band... but they took a rough home the other day (to "live with" an edit for a while to see if they liked it or not) and came back with ALL SORTS of changes - problem was, none of them could agree on anything, and they really had no idea where they wanted everything to go - no focus or direction. I'm the kind of guy who doesn't like to just say "NO!" and put the brakes on everything without giving it a fair chance, but OTOH, they're were just spinning out of control completely and were in jeopardy of falling victim to "option paralysis"... so I had to do a little more controlling than I might normally do. I think it's all going to work out in the end, but it was touch and go there for a while, and I agree that control can be a tough line to walk. It's got to be appropriate and for good reason / cause - not just to make everything "perfect", which, IMO, can really kill the humanity out of a track when it goes too far... and far too often these days, IMO, it does. \:\(
_________________________
Phil O'Keefe
Sound Sanctuary Recording
Riverside CA
http://www.ssrstudio.com
http://www.philokeefe.com
pokeefe777@ssrstudio.com
My New Forum on Harmony-Central

Top
#1683533 - 08/01/05 02:16 AM Re: THEORY: Control
Anderton Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 01/28/00
Posts: 7378
"If you want to kill a lily...gild it"

A lot of bands don't know when to stop. Good luck, Phil.
_________________________
Craig Anderton
*check out my podcast at www.cyberears.com

Top
#1683534 - 08/01/05 02:50 AM Re: THEORY: Control
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
I started recording with a glam rock band today. It's so funny, because I decided to record to 2" 24 trk, and the guys kept asking me if something was broken as I was aligning the machine! Anyway, I really, really, really wanted to capture an authentic vibe. I even gaffer taped dish towels into the top half of that toms to get that Gary Glitter sound. As I was bouncing down the handclap tracks, and listening to the ancillary noise of the five people standing around the mic during the sections they were not clapping, I made the conscious decision to not clean it up. I think one of the problems of being able to see the tracks the way people can in DAW is that they tend to clean everything up to where the track is pristine. Also, the singer was good enough that I just did one solid take with him and then we doubled it. We punched the spots where the double flammed, but I decided that I didn't want to do any comping. It's freaking glam rock. It's not Steely Dan, and I want to do everything in my power to leave it that way. I want somebody to listen to it and say, "Hey, was this recorded in 1973?" and not say "Oh, I see they are going for that glam thing."

I love being friends with Brian because he is such a good influence on me in the respect that I will never be tempted into making a Mutt Lange type record.
_________________________
Friends don't let friends act like rockstars.

Top
#1683535 - 08/01/05 02:56 AM Re: THEORY: Control
Philip O'Keefe Offline
10k Club

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 17674
Loc: Riverside,CA,UNITED STATES
Funny you should say that Craig... I was just thinking about that exact same phrase after I posted my last reply as I was making a sandwich... that's exactly what they're doing. \:\( We've got all the basics, and most of the overdubs and vocals down, and they're not just talking about a additional overdub or edit here or there, but completely redoing arrangements on some of the songs and even retracking drums on several tracks just so they'll have "different" drum tones than what they already have on several of the songs... and hey, I'd be all for that if I had the budget to do it and Ross Garfield around to retune the kit while I worked on something else (not to mention some of his drums for additional flavors), but OTOH, they're a three piece, and they've already got a cool thing going on with what we've already got down... and they don't have a clear, focused idea of what they want to do other than a bunch of conflicting ideas.

Hey, it's part of the job, and I'm sorry if I sound like I'm complaining... I just don't want to see them gild the lily and throw away something that's already clear, focused, and cool - and totally representative of who they actually are.
_________________________
Phil O'Keefe
Sound Sanctuary Recording
Riverside CA
http://www.ssrstudio.com
http://www.philokeefe.com
pokeefe777@ssrstudio.com
My New Forum on Harmony-Central

Top
#1683536 - 08/01/05 03:06 AM Re: THEORY: Control
BrianK Moderator Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
>>I love being friends with Brian because he is such a good influence on me in the respect that I will never be tempted into making a Mutt Lange type record.<<

Ah, thanks! But one of his albums is my ALL TIME favorite production... For about two albums in his life - he anal-ed things to death, recording for months, and YET made it sounds like a "band in a room". Highway to Hell... it is tight, dry, punchy, warm, arranged perfectly, and sounds JUST like the band too. Perfect.

One of my FAULTS is the lack of precision and attention to detail, but I must say that I ALWAYS get "the forest" right. Which matters so much to me...
_________________________
Relax and float downstream...

Top
#1683537 - 08/01/05 03:09 AM Re: THEORY: Control
BrianK Moderator Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
Philip - sounds like one of the TRUE tests of a producer. Leading a band of unleadables through a dense jungle of options. Psychology is MOST of it, right?

SO - How did you do it? Mind games, experimentation, pitting them against each other?
_________________________
Relax and float downstream...

Top
#1683538 - 08/01/05 03:16 AM Re: THEORY: Control
Philip O'Keefe Offline
10k Club

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 17674
Loc: Riverside,CA,UNITED STATES
I hear you JJ... you know, to me, it's kind of like Navajo blankets.. the Navajo intentionally weave a flaw into their blankets... I've heard various explanations about why, ranging from it being a "spirit pathway" to being so that the gods will not be angered by man's attempts at perfection... and to me, nusic should have a few of those flaws left in there. Too much on the wrong type of music and it sounds like you were not paying attention to detail and just got lazy / sloppy, but too little and IMO, you risk "angering the gods". Or at least killing the humanity, the feel and the vibe. I COULD probably make a "perfect" record, but who would want to listen to it? I don't think *I* would.

I'm a HUGE fan of powerpop - that's probably my favorite genre. And some of my favorite records have flaws and mistakes all over them. You mentioned Mutt... and while I can appreciate what he does, I remember playing some old Cars records for the guys in Alien Ant Farm one night a couple of years ago, and showing them the difference in approach between the Roy Thomas Baker produced (earlier album) tracks, and the later, Mutt Lange produced records... and to me, the RTB tracks, while not nearly as polished, just feel better. And the guys agreed. \:\)

Ever notice on some Beatles tracks where the doubled vocals get a little out of sync? Or some of the mistakes on CCR records? Or Jellyfish for that matter (yes, I love Jellyfish - Spilt Milk should have been a MUCH "bigger" record insofar as public acceptance)... they're not perfect records, and IMO, they're all the better for the little things that were not cleaned up, quantized and autotuned to death, etc. etc.

The trick is in knowing what to leave in and what to fix. ;\)
_________________________
Phil O'Keefe
Sound Sanctuary Recording
Riverside CA
http://www.ssrstudio.com
http://www.philokeefe.com
pokeefe777@ssrstudio.com
My New Forum on Harmony-Central

Top
#1683539 - 08/01/05 03:56 AM Re: THEORY: Control
Philip O'Keefe Offline
10k Club

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 17674
Loc: Riverside,CA,UNITED STATES
Quote:
Originally posted by BrianK:
Philip - sounds like one of the TRUE tests of a producer. Leading a band of unleadables through a dense jungle of options. Psychology is MOST of it, right?

Absolutely... I think a psych minor might have been a good idea after all. ;\)

SO - How did you do it? Mind games, experimentation, pitting them against each other?

Well, I'm not a fan of mind games usually. I listened to them, and decided the majority of the day / night was going to be a wash... but a needed one. I listened to what they had to say and tried to make sure we were talking from the same frame of reference and that the terms we were all using meant the same things to each of us. Communication is crucial IMO, and terminology just can't be "assumed" to mean the same things to different people...

I gave them the opportunity to try a few of their ideas, and sliced and diced a few things in PT so they could hear some of their proposed arrangement ideas. I gated drums. I normally don't, but I think that went a long way towards making them feel comfortable again - if you can nail a sound they have in mind, even if it's not the right thing in your mind, it reinforces the idea that you know what you're doing and also gives them a chance to actually hear why you think it's not the best approach... and sometimes you even wind up feeling their approach IS the better idea once you actually hear it. ;\) So I did some quick scratch mixes with various changes they were tossing back and forth so they could hear them. Some they liked, and some they discarded... some I had to point out the flaws in, some I actually liked, and some they had no problem hearing the flaws in themselves once it was actually coming out of the ol' ADAM's.

But probably what saved my butt the most was that I was willing to listen, and then was able to (hopefully intelligently) answer their questions (they're a young, fairly inexperienced band) while also showing that I actually cared about what they were feeling and had to say, but having good explanations for them as to why something might not be a great idea when things got really "out there".

I had them play me some CD's with the tones they were considering... and much of it was really scary stuff in some respects... here we were with these really nice, organic sounding drum tones that worked with these warm and full bass parts (which a couple of outside people, who have heard the tracks, and who have opinions I value, had previously commented that they'd "kill" to be able to track like that \:o ) and they're playing me some highly processed 80's kits... Phil Collins gated snares and toms, clicky drum machine kicks... It got pretty scary there. \:D They have good drum sounds, but they're comparing them to other (less cool IMO) and quite dated things and second guessing themselves...

So anyway, I sugested I run off roughs of everything that we have to this point and that they spend a week listening to them together, and taking a lot of notes and doing a lot of discussion and trying to come to a consensus about who they were and what they wanted their record to sound like. And that was after a long discussion about our abilities to do nearly whatever they wanted (it's "their" record - I'm just a producer who is trying to help them make the record they want), but that also included several comments about how I hear them and what I see their strengths as... and how it was important to not just consider what was important to each of them individually, but how a decision regarding their part could / would affect the rest of the parts. And how important is is to step back and hear things in the overall "forrest" view.

We decided that if they couldn't come to a unanimous agreement on any issue, then I would serve as the final tiebreaker... but I explained that they had to all agree with that in advance, and that I don't want to see anyone getting all butt-hurt if they don't get their way on something... MY concern is that they ALL sound good, and that the record sounds good and represents who they are in the best possible way. Any decisions I end up making are always done with only that in mind. So while I don't like to think of it as pitting them aganst each other, I was trying to get them to come to a mutual decision about who they are and how they want their record to sound...

There was a LOT more to it, and I'm leaving a bunch of stuff out, but I think I restored their confidence in me - and more importantly, in themselves. But it was a long and tough day. But again, that's part of the gig sometimes, right? \:\)

_________________________
Phil O'Keefe
Sound Sanctuary Recording
Riverside CA
http://www.ssrstudio.com
http://www.philokeefe.com
pokeefe777@ssrstudio.com
My New Forum on Harmony-Central

Top
#1683540 - 08/01/05 12:26 PM Re: THEORY: Control
miroslav Offline
Cosmic Cowboy
10k Club

Registered: 05/23/00
Posts: 14215
Loc: NY Hudson Valley, USA
Limitations and control go hand in hand.

As you limit yourself, you impose a certain amount of control over the process. However, when control exceeds the “productivity threshold” and becomes an exercise in anal/obsessive nitpicking and/or indecision…it rarely benefits the production.

By limiting yourself in the first place…by setting certain restrictions that are not meant to impede creativity, but rather to help move the process forward…
…you impose the right kind of control on the process.

To allow yourself to get trapped, by creating endless options and decisions that you will need to make in order to control every step of the process…you can end up limiting the same creativity that you are trying to liberate!

Setting yourself up with numerous options/decisions…while it may seem a good way to go, because you think “more is better”…will actually lead to frustration, and often less fulfilling results.
You will always keep wondering about the “other twenty” options that you passed on…
…and that kind of shit will keep you up nights.

With limitation…the type of control that you end up having, tends to cut-to-the-chase…and move things forward.
_________________________
miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

Top
#1683541 - 08/03/05 01:17 AM Re: THEORY: Control
tripit Offline
Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 20
Loc: LA, CA. USA
Bachman Turner Overweight use to have a 2 take rule (I believe it was 2 or maybe 3) Anyway, the point was..you got two takes and that was it. Whatever you got you got. And that was for the whole damn band, which tracked everything together. While they might have been thinking in terms of saving money, (I've heard they were notoriously cheap bastards) I like to think it was because they didn't want to over produce the tracks.
And it seems most bands (cough) nowdays don't rehearse their music as they should before they attempt to make a record. The all too favorite Bro Tools has help usher out rehearsing with snap to grid editing, auto tune and the general malaise of "fix it in the mix" syndrome.
_________________________
What the hell is that thing?

Top
#1683542 - 08/03/05 02:31 AM Re: THEORY: Control
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
Thelonius Monk had the rule, long before BTO or overdubs. If you messed something up, then you had to live with it!

Tripit, stop using my comedy material, bud! LOL.
_________________________
Friends don't let friends act like rockstars.

Top
#1683543 - 08/03/05 10:51 PM Re: THEORY: Control
tripit Offline
Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 20
Loc: LA, CA. USA
Come to think of it, I think I did hear the "bro tools" frist from you. I don't know if you coined it, but it's a good one.
Hey JJ how about a thread about coined phrases?
_________________________
What the hell is that thing?

Top
#1683544 - 08/04/05 01:53 AM Re: THEORY: Control
J.J. Blair Moderator Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/22/05
Posts: 329
Loc: Hollywood, CA
I can't claim credit for "Bro Tools," unfortunately.
_________________________
Friends don't let friends act like rockstars.

Top
#1683545 - 08/04/05 04:01 AM Re: THEORY: Control
Philip O'Keefe Offline
10k Club

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 17674
Loc: Riverside,CA,UNITED STATES
And it seems most bands (cough) nowdays don't rehearse their music as they should before they attempt to make a record. The all too favorite Bro Tools has help usher out rehearsing with snap to grid editing, auto tune and the general malaise of "fix it in the mix" syndrome.

Preach it brother!
_________________________
Phil O'Keefe
Sound Sanctuary Recording
Riverside CA
http://www.ssrstudio.com
http://www.philokeefe.com
pokeefe777@ssrstudio.com
My New Forum on Harmony-Central

Top
#1683546 - 08/04/05 02:37 PM Re: THEORY: Control
FIBES Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 209
Loc: HELL
There's a difference between overprepared and overpolished.

Just last night i had a songwriter in who has done two records before elsewhere (one with a shit brain and the next was a Nashville cookie cutter) and she's been toying with working with me or my mentor on the next one. she asked why she should work with me rather than my mentor and although he's a better engineer than i'll ever be my repy was very aligned with the theme of this thread. I told her that the one thing i felt i could bring to the table that was unique was the fact that I don't have standards (heh), audiophile pre-requisites or cookie cutter approaches/sounds pervasive in my work. That i prefer organic over polished and emotions over perfection.

So i too am interested in the forest. The rest can fall as they may.

How would one produce a record described as Brill meets Brion?
_________________________
FIBES
"you can like it or you can not like it."

Top
#1683547 - 08/05/05 03:25 AM Re: THEORY: Control
BrianK Moderator Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 228
Loc: Los Angeles,CA,UNITED STATES
>>>So i too am interested in the forest. The rest can fall as they may.<<<

I think this is all to often forgotten. Forget the sounds, the mics, the mic, the mastering levels. Does it "rock", "work", "make you cry/think", and most importantly - DOES it make you want to play it again and again???

>>>How would one produce a record described as Brill meets Brion?<<<

Jon Brion is a good friend - and I really like his self-descrptive phrase: "I'm not HiFi, nor LoFi. I am ALL-Fi". I like that - it demonstrates flexibility of tones to suit the material.
_________________________
Relax and float downstream...

Top
#1683548 - 08/05/05 11:48 AM Re: THEORY: Control
wwittman Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/07/01
Posts: 120
Loc: peekskill, NY, USA
One thing that's different these days is that even on the more "controlled" or produced records, it used to be that the producer would brow beat the guitar player to play perfect 8th notes all DAY, and then double it all the NEXT day and then triple it... and so on.
Now we capture one good bar or even one good NOTE and paste it.

It isn't just that it's control room INITIATED; it's that it's never PERFORMED.
No matter how long you spend, human performed 8th notes aren't perfect.
Grid pasted ones are.
and that sterility adds up.

Some people were always seeking perfection.
EVen in the original glam rock days, people had noise gates to remove the ambience around the hand claps, JJ.
The difference is that now there is so MUCH "perfecting" that can be done.

It's okay to STRIVE toward perfection, but perhaps not so good to attain it; especially artificially (maening it never WAS played or sung "perfectly")

The Beatles are perfect even in their mistakes.
That should be a lesson for everyone (even if you don't love them)... they are revered and emulated down to their tiniest ERROR or oversight.

Top
#1683549 - 08/05/05 02:44 PM Re: THEORY: Control
miroslav Offline
Cosmic Cowboy
10k Club

Registered: 05/23/00
Posts: 14215
Loc: NY Hudson Valley, USA
Quote:
Originally posted by wwittman:

It's okay to STRIVE toward perfection, but perhaps not so good to attain it; especially artificially (maening it never WAS played or sung "perfectly")
Preach it brother!

I'll rehearse something to try and get it sounding as perfect as possible...but then, as it falls on tape...that's how it will stay about 90% of the time.
So...if it's not right....I erase, and do it over.

I know...it's long an tedious doing it like that...
...when you can easily just keep tracking and then comp/edit it into perfection later...
...but, I'm funny that way! ;\)

There are those glitches that I will go out of my way NOT to clean up.
_________________________
miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

Top


Moderator:  BrianK, J.J. Blair