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Classic studio engineering errors......


Beedster
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I've got my first real session as engineer coming up. I was talking to a drummer last week and he told me that he'd just done a session in which the engineer had simply failed to press 'record' at the beginning of a take, how at the end of it the whole band had agreed it was the best performance they'd ever recorded, and how the engineer had to then explain that they hadn't actually recorded it! So, I was thinking that if an experienced engineer can do that, what sort of horrible idiotic mistakes am I going to make next weekend, and thought you helpful lot might steer me away from the majority of them by commenting below? No suggestion considered too stupid for inclusion!

Chris

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Having to deal with crap stage mics can bring problems in itself (so you should be ok here!) I once started recording a drum track and I noticed that one of the drum mics wasn't working. It took me ages to figure out why. Turns out I accidentaly switched the mic off when I was putting it in the mic holder :)

I've done that thing of accidentaly hitting the play button when I actually wanted to record before. Thankfully no where near as high stakes as that though! I find if you want to avoid that then having the metronome only on record and not playback helps as an audible aid as to when you're actually recording :)

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[quote name='EdwardHimself' post='1025947' date='Nov 16 2010, 03:16 PM']I find if you want to avoid that then having the metronome only on record and not playback helps as an audible aid as to when you're actually recording :)[/quote]

That in itself is a very useful tip, thanks EH

[quote name='yorick' post='1025955' date='Nov 16 2010, 03:27 PM']On our last recording, the engineer had muted the vital guitar solo track on one of our songs for our personal copies of the recording. Fortunately he'd actually recorded them............... :lol:[/quote]

LOL, reminds me of a session last year. We all turned up a month after tracking to hear the finished songs. in the meantime we'd all been listening to the rough mixes. Anyway, in one song we're al awaiting a pretty average guitar solo, and......

Nothing......

The guitarist, face like thunder, thought the engineer had chosen uncomfortable silence over his solo in mixing down. Turns out he'd just used the wrong performance (which is, I guess, another classic engineering error), but man, it was worth it just to be able to say to the guitarist "well at least he left my part in the mix" :D


[quote name='Hobbayne' post='1025959' date='Nov 16 2010, 03:28 PM']I think the most famous engineering error was on The Beatles Hey Jude, where the open mikes picked up a shout of "f***ing hell!! on the vocal track which still makes me laugh when i hear it! :)[/quote]

Excellent, I didn't know that, where in the track is it?

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Many moons ago a Drummer friend of mine took a phone call from an engineer in the early hours of the morning,
'could he take a bass drum up to the studio' and overdub a kick track.
There was a final mix down due at 10.00am and he was in a panic, the producer had gone home the night before very happy with everything.
During clean ups, the engineer had erased the kick!

The track........

Knock on wood - Ami Stewart.. :)




Garry

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[quote name='Beedster' post='1025971' date='Nov 16 2010, 03:36 PM']That in itself is a very useful tip, thanks EH[/quote]

What you can also do is ask the recording software to disable the input monitoring during playback which would also help in this regard since it'll be pretty obvious you hit play instead of record if you can't actually hear anybody lol.

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I think just failing to back stuff up is poor. When we did our last album over the summer the engineer was always backing up. We've lost whole tracks in the past and it is always annoying - especially as you then build up a picture in your mind that the lost take had some mystical quality that it almost certainly didn't really!

Our engineer did "lose" a bass & drum track which he later found. We re-cut it but our singer preferred the original's feel so the engineer was made to find the tracks and line them up with what we'd recorded. I'd have been tempted to tell him to shove it but I guess he felt guilty that he'd mislaid the tracks in the first place.

And good luck :)

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I would:
Test all the loose cables your going to use,
Keep some pretty detailed notes on how everything is setup & set and exact equipment details & settings,
Also as mentioned earlier save, save, save/backup, backup, backup, at every opportunity possible.

Good luck Chris!

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I quite often forget to double check the gain at every stage and end up with clipping drums that I have to re-do! Also drummers tend to knock mics - don't forget to move them back! Turning headphones on with the volume set insanely loud. Forgetting to tune everything to a digital tuner. Forgetting to tune the drum kit!

One I do quite often which might be specific to me, is come back to my studio where everything's still set up, and plug my PC in. I plug in the soundcards the wrong way round, and record snare onto the vocal channel, kick on to the bass, no vocals etc... just because I get two plugs the wrong way round and don't double check before hitting record.

Another mistake we make quite often is getting drunk during mixing.

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[quote name='cheddatom' post='1026616' date='Nov 17 2010, 08:44 AM']I quite often forget to double check the gain at every stage and end up with clipping drums that I have to re-do! Also drummers tend to knock mics - don't forget to move them back! Turning headphones on with the volume set insanely loud. Forgetting to tune everything to a digital tuner. Forgetting to tune the drum kit!

One I do quite often which might be specific to me, is come back to my studio where everything's still set up, and plug my PC in. I plug in the soundcards the wrong way round, and record snare onto the vocal channel, kick on to the bass, no vocals etc... just because I get two plugs the wrong way round and don't double check before hitting record.

Another mistake we make quite often is getting drunk during mixing.[/quote]

Yep that stuff has all happened to me. These days if something ends up slightly quieter than you want it you can just stick it on normalise or up the gain in the software but there is little you can do about distorting the gain stage. Remember that. I also had to re do a lot of stuff because it wasn't in tune. Not been drunk during mixing though :)

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[quote name='slaphappygarry' post='1026802' date='Nov 17 2010, 12:44 PM']I am a recording engineer for a living and I will later on come back with some beauties from when I was getting started...

I think the difference between mine and yours is that my clients still to this day know nothing of my errors. :-)[/quote]

Best you speak to a solicitor first then Gary! Can't wait though :)

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[quote name='Hobbayne' post='1025959' date='Nov 16 2010, 03:28 PM']I think the most famous engineering error was on The Beatles Hey Jude, where the open mikes picked up a shout of "f***ing hell!! on the vocal track which still makes me laugh when i hear it! :)[/quote]

:) Classic :lol:

Theres a few of those:
Clifford T Ward's 'Homethoughts From Abroad' - interference from a nearby taxi rank can be heard.
Stevie Wonder's 'Fingertips' - a voice asking "what key? what key?"
Led Zeppelin's 'Since I've Been Loving You' - squeaking noise from a guitar pedal.

Edited by icastle
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[quote name='EdwardHimself' post='1025947' date='Nov 16 2010, 03:16 PM']Having to deal with crap stage mics can bring problems in itself (so you should be ok here!) I once started recording a drum track and I noticed that one of the drum mics wasn't working. It took me ages to figure out why. Turns out I accidentaly switched the mic off when I was putting it in the mic holder :)[/quote]

We've got about a dozen mics - two of them have switches and have caused similar problems in the past.
We just switched them on and stuck a loop of insulating tape behind the switch to hold it in place - visually you can see the switch is on and it removes the problem.

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My personal ones so far have been:

Overdubbing vocals on a new track and forgetting to mute the old track. Confused the fek out of the singer :)

Forgetting to hit stop at the end of a recording. It worked really well actually as after they had finished they talked for a bit then just played the song before doing another take. The playing of the song was the best version!

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Getting your routeing in a muddle and piping red hot feedback through the cans at ear destroying volume - this will not make you popular - you will do it one day....

Recording a guitar part, only to think that the sound is a bit 'roomy' on listening back to the best take of the day - only to realise you recorded it with the mic that was over a drum overhead earlier in the day and is now on the other side of the room - this is almost always compounded by the awful realisation that you recorded over the drum overhead track by mistake!

Recording a take only to realise that the big swooshy reverb you sent down the monitor for the singer to 'get into it' actually got printed, and is awful in the final mix....

Spending a good hour trying to work out why the singer cant hear themselves in the vocal booth - only to discover they havent put the headphones on / plugged the headphones into the wall socket, the headphone amp is off/turned down / feeding the main live room....

Listening to the opinion of the drummer /guitarist /keyboard player about how to 'capture their sound'... Dont do it, listen to their sound, listen to what they want their sound to be, then go about capturing it using tried and tested techniques, not the way his mate did it in the pub that one time!

Turning on the phantom power, and frying the expensive ribbon mic......

DO document every track, setting, mic used, preamp setting, outboard setting, blah blah blah - this can take a long time. Its worth it!

DO pay very very special attention to the gain structure throughout, or something will be too hot, or too noisy.

DO think twice before using eq / compression when tracking, unless you know exactly what you are trying to achieve, and how to do it. You cant undo it later.

DO spend time to get the mic position bang on - it is worth spending some hours over mic position, then documenting that position (digital cameras rule!) so that it is easier to recapture later. Even better is to be abl;e to spend a day just setting the mics up for the best sounds and levels, then record the tracks the next day when everyone is fresh...

DO use the shortest signal path you can to disk.

DO set the mood: lighting, lava lamps, relaxed fun atmosphere - at least let them believe you are relaxed!

DO NOT let people in when other people are overdubbing or the band is laying down tracks - trackig or mixing by commitee is a disaster

[i][b]DO NOT EVER hand over a final mix without the cash in your hand first!!!!![/b][/i]

DO your best to keep the tracking simple and fast

ESPECIALLY with drums track at 24bit with the levels set such that the peaks are no hotter than -6dBfs

DO a/b against a commercial cd that the band likes the production of when mixing

DO check your mix in the car, hi-fi, ipod to see how well it translates

DO HAVE FUN!!!!

Edited by 51m0n
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