Having an Objective View of Your Abilities

ZikO

New member
This thread may not be directed to you, so grains of salt are recommended.

Gear is nice. Having the right bit of kit for the right project is of supreme importance - whether it's a mic, a guitar, or a cymbal.

Having a well-treated room is important, too. A well-treated room is going to sound more open and balanced than an untreated one. Money spent on room treatment is generally money well-spent.

Now for the rub: If you have a tin ear, none of this is going to help you turn around a decent product.

If you don't have an ear for pitch, and your instruments are out of tune with themselves and other instruments, your recordings will suffer.

If you are a "producer", and don't have a knack for arrangement, or understand how to incorporate space and silence into an piece, your client's recordings will suffer.

If you are a musician in a band, and you lack the ability to transpose chords, use different inversions, or envision and arrange your parts as pieces of an ensemble, your recordings will suffer.

Before you spend a fortune on things that will expose and highlight deficiencies in your technique and approach, work on identifying deficiencies in your technique and approach. That is, put the horse in front of the cart.

With all of that said, you are in the right place to learn, and the world is full of internet know-it-alls just like me.

Jump in and make it happen.

WoW. This is really nice topic. If one wants to be a good musician, regardless of the style, one needs to make instruments, of any kind, to sound like one wants. This comes with experience and a lot of hard work. But countless number of hours will not be with fruition if some fundamentals are not there. And by fundamentals I mean whatever is said in first post here, although I'd add that this is your brain not ear that process note and make you "feel" music in proper way.

This is like with any art. Not everyone can be a painter. I can't :p
 

Btyre2013

New member
great thread, I like the idea that each person in a recording has thier own role, this reminds me of a recent mix I did for a client where everything was great apart from the guitar DI parts which were out of tune, dull and sounded out of time, I'd rather poke my eyes out with a stick than try editing such a bad source lol
 

terraamb

New member
I hate to say this and I know im opening up a can of worms here, but my personal belief is that if you've never laid hands on a real instrument and learned to appreciate the nuance of playing something by hand and the space between the sounds, you really can't be a great engineer producer. I know, I know, flame city... and I'm not suggesting you have to be a master musician, nor am i suggesting that there aren't those who have turned DJ-ing into an artform, but if your whole world revolves around loops and beats and canned whatever, and you've never felt the thump of a kick drum in your foot or the pluck of a guitar against your fingers and the subtleties of human interaction with an instrument... i.e. if you've only ever relied on other peoples musical process to make your "own" music, then there is something fundamental missing. That "ear" training that has been mentioned above never happened so it can't be applied.

I suggest before getting wrapped up in live or vegas or garageband, and the plug and play tools they provide, just pick up and instrument and pluck and bang. find a voice, then apply the voice.
 

gecko zzed

Grumpy Mod
I'm not going to enter flame city exactly, but I will disagree.

I do agree that being able to okay a real instrument will give you an appreciation of the musical nuances associated with that instrument, but I can't see it being a necessary nor sufficient condition for producing great recordings. Yo might have an ear for an instrument, but that doesn't equate to having an ear for a performance as a whole.

For example, the director of a stage play may be a crap actor, but instead may have a profound ability to extract the most out of cast members who can act.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
I also disagree with Terraamb. It feels like a rant against rap by the back door. Regardless of whether one likes the "music" or not, those that produce the genre are damn good in their field and are no less musical than the rest of us. This
but if your whole world revolves around loops and beats and canned whatever, and you've never felt the thump of a kick drum in your foot or the pluck of a guitar against your fingers and the subtleties of human interaction with an instrument... i.e. if you've only ever relied on other peoples musical process to make your "own" music, then there is something fundamental missing
might have been closer to the truth in 1980 but the genre and it's associated offshoots have gone well beyond that now.
 

Atkron205

New member
I hate to say this and I know im opening up a can of worms here, but my personal belief is that if you've never laid hands on a real instrument and learned to appreciate the nuance of playing something by hand and the space between the sounds, you really can't be a great engineer producer. I know, I know, flame city... and I'm not suggesting you have to be a master musician, nor am i suggesting that there aren't those who have turned DJ-ing into an artform, but if your whole world revolves around loops and beats and canned whatever, and you've never felt the thump of a kick drum in your foot or the pluck of a guitar against your fingers and the subtleties of human interaction with an instrument... i.e. if you've only ever relied on other peoples musical process to make your "own" music, then there is something fundamental missing. That "ear" training that has been mentioned above never happened so it can't be applied.

I suggest before getting wrapped up in live or vegas or garageband, and the plug and play tools they provide, just pick up and instrument and pluck and bang. find a voice, then apply the voice.

Sorry, but I cannot disagree more. one of the best engineers I ever knew did not play anything. He was a wizard at mixing anything from rock, jazz, to country. he was my mentor when I was starting out in the live sound world. he could take a crappy set of drums and make them sound like cannons. he was a master at setting EQ's, he could hear any frequency and in a split second tell you what it was and how to fix it. my point is he had a awesome set of ears and a uncanny memory. Another example, I am a project manager in my day job. I have managed all types of projects I have not had any on hands experience with. if you learn the mechanics of anything you can manage it, same thing with sound. if you learn how to pick it apart and learn what makes it tick you can put it back together. Does playing make it easier? you bet. but I do not feel it is a requirement to being a good engineer. For instance, I am really good at mixing horns only because I love Earth Wind and Fire and spent many a hour on the road listening to them ( and bands like them) and trying to figure out how they got the sound, also toured for a year with a big swing band so I got a lot of practice, have no idea how to play one. I would record the show and listen back to it to determine how bad I sucked and learn how to make it better. sorry to ramble. Good topic.:D
 

guitrman56

New member
all good advice, people,,but remember just because someone doesn't like Beethoven doesn't mean he/she has taste in his/her a**. Many things go into making a recording, but like I said in my prelim post, I want basics to do with HOW to get the mixer to "talk" to my iMac.. and what settings do I need and what software do I need to make my software spit out a song for me.
I realize Home Recording isn't the first thing we all look at when we get online, but it shouldn't take a week to get a response to my "newbie" question.
 

TheGM

New member
Well newbie here and i just joined and i have just finished reading the complete post. A lot of information and things to chew on. I guess the biggest things i can take away form all that reading is. Be patient when starting up, purchase what you need to get started and don't go over board, learn from all your mistakes, be self-confident and self-judgmental, and self-aware. And that is just a start.

Thanks for the topic.:guitar:
 

Strumzilla

New member
Possibly the title for this thread should have been "have an objective view of your objectives." I've played guitar for over fouty years, and I'm still a poor guitar player. Of course, I knew when I was twenty that I wasn't much of a guitar player, but I still enjoy playing and it makes me feel good. I don't have all of the top-of-the line equipment, I record on a notebook computer, and I use a $40.00 DAW and a few freebie VST effects.

While it is absolutely true that a lot of the members of this forum are expecting to produce music like Barbara Streisand in Capitol Records studios without having developed enough talent and technical knowledge, it is equally true that many (most?) of the members of this forum are recording for fun and personal enjoyment. A pair of $20 dollar dynamic microphones meet my expectations (today).

I think that some of the overzelious 'techno Gods' on this board are every bit as out of line as the 15 year old rock star wanna bees. This is a home recording forum - not a pro-audio forum (although today's cheap technology is far superior to the pro-audio equipment of 20 years ago).

Anyways, recording my playing and being able to listen to it objectively has done more to improve my playing skills over the past year than anything else over the prior 39+ years. And actually listening to my singing has led to enough of an improvement that my Wife no longer has to leave the room when I sing and play guitar. I'm rather proud of this (my wife not having to leave the room or the house) when I play.

On top of it all, the advise and suggestions that people have made on this forum have really done a lot to make me sound better than I am, That is my objective here and it is being fulfulled rather well (THANK YOU ALL).

Great input, especially the part about recording yourself. It's amazing at how different you sound when you listen to a recorded version of yourself versus the live sound you hear when playing.
 

Rod Norman

New member
All good thoughts. One of the most damaging phrases is "Fix it in the mix." For some reason, there is a prevailing belief that EQ, compression, faders, plug-ins, amp simulators, etc and all there to make us sound good. If you notice, the first stage of American Idol auditions are done Au Capella. No music, no lighting, no mirrors and no BS. The number of people who so clearly were in love with themselves singing to CDs suddenly hear themselves for real. Maybe the best thing is to record yourself and then after a week listen to it again. That objective observation will help a lot. I call the recording the best producer because it will not lie, it doesn't care whether it hurts your feelings, and it always tells you the truth. So many of the questions I see are focused on mic placement and selection; things that sound a little like, "I don't like how it sounds, maybe I'm recording it wrong." A guitarist I know makes his Strat sound like bagpipes. When asked how, he says, "It's in the fingers." Developing your craft as a musician and writer and arranger is the most important step. As a photographer once said, "To take beautiful pictures of food, first you need beautiful food." If you are starting out, go back and read each reply. Focus on the product first, then work on the process. Start with something beautiful to record and the recording part will get a lot easier. Good luck,
Rod Norman
Engineer
 

Rod Norman

New member
There seem to be several view here. One is concerning the original post: To consider objectively your own abilities. Another is about those who did great work in spite of limitations. Another is the value of equipment in creating. Another still is the need to be true to your own vision. To the original post, I think it is important to use what you have for the best outcome. You don't sing well? Write well. You don't know much about recording? Keep the process simple until you do. I think creativity is about making something better out of something that is not so great. My last advice is to get help and always expose your work to people who don't care. Maybe it will wake them up. But the worst mantra is: "Fix it in the mix." Never happen. Make something good; record it accurately; get help mixing and mastering it.
Rod Norman
Engineer
 

The Uninvited

New member
This was (sort of) a point I made a while ago. I am not a vocalist. Never have been and never will be. I disguise this with an array of gadgets and gizmos and sing through a Shure SM58. I could buy a very expensive, high quality condenser mic but it aint ever going to make my voice sound better.
 

TAE

All you have is now
It's extremely hard to be objective of yourself because of the perspective you are seeing it from..from within. Asking for an opinion from close friends or family puts them in the awkward place of being brutally honest or coloring the truth. In todays cyber world it is easy to get a unbiased outside opinion and from there decide if you want to try and continue.

A condensed version of Rod Normans take above on getting a good recording is "Garbage in garbage out" Try as you might you can not polish a turd.

In the end playing music is a primal part of our being and what is "good" is really just a collective subjective opinion... That frog croaking in the middle of the night hoping to get laid may be the schizzel dizzel of frogs in the pond..but we hear it as a damn frog croaking...

If YOU enjoy doing what you do, you're golden whether the rest of the world likes it or not.... Music is from the soul, though the music business turns it into a business...music, in of itself is NOT a competition.
 

Supercreep

Lizard People
I remember reading Paul McCartney commenting about the days when he didn't use tape recorders to jot down his ideas: he was of the opinion that he didn't need to jot anything down, his logic being that if he couldn't remember it, it couldn't have been any good in the first place. I thought that was a load of raffifia then and I still think it now.

For me, if I'm playing or humming or contemplating the parts pretty regularly (arrangement doesn't really matter, just parts that go together in transition) either in physical or mental practice then I won't forget it; if I'm not, then I'm just not that into the part. Sometimes little parts or transitions will hang around for years before finding a home somewhere and actually being recorded. If I like 'em a lot I can use them over and over, as you've pointed out. :)
 

Supercreep

Lizard People
I could buy a very expensive, high quality condenser mic but it aint ever going to make my voice sound better.

Try the marvelous and reasonably inexpensive RE-20 with a preamp that can push lots of gain. It's not magical but it is flattering to just about anything and is forgiving to those who lack mic discipline, like me. I prefer it to condensers in most cases.
 

Supercreep

Lizard People
If YOU enjoy doing what you do, you're golden whether the rest of the world likes it or not.... Music is from the soul, though the music business turns it into a business...music, in of itself is NOT a competition.

This, emphatically.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
For me, if I'm playing or humming or contemplating the parts pretty regularly (arrangement doesn't really matter, just parts that go together in transition) either in physical or mental practice then I won't forget it; if I'm not, then I'm just not that into the part. Sometimes little parts or transitions will hang around for years before finding a home somewhere and actually being recorded. If I like 'em a lot I can use them over and over, as you've pointed out. :)
I think there are lots of people who will remember certain parts or indeed, whole songs and never need to write them down or record them in order to remember them. I'm definitely not one of those. I get so many musical parts running through my head in such a variety of situations that if I don't hum them into the dictaphone right away, I'll rarely remember them. It has actually happened that a piece I've not stored, then forgotten, comes back to me weeks later, but that's pretty rare.
But the part of McCartney's statement that I vehemently disagree with is the notion that if you can't remember it, it can't have been any good in the first place. That's daft. Some people just don't have great memories for lots of combinations of musical notes. I have tons of musical bits stored away on the computer. When I'm recording the song they are part of, I'll listen and work them in ~ as I was thinking of when the piece came to me. But otherwise, I can't recall them. When I do listen to various bits though, it's nice to be pleasantly surprised although sometimes, I'm baffled as to what my intention was because it might be 5 years ago that I hummed the piece and I can't see how it fits !
 
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