Your WORST studio experience?

lrod1707

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Not exactly a bad experience with the studio but a bad experience at the studio. I was18 years old and was recording a demo with my band. First couple hours was ok until I suddenly collapsed on the kit in the middle of a recording due to massive intestinal pain. The pain was excruciating! They had to carry me out and take me to the hospital. I had massive food poisoning. It was a really bad day at the studio, Lol!!
We were able to finish the demo 2 days later!
 

drummingbulldog

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The worst for me is when working with newb singer songwriter types that don't know what they want. It brings a level of stress that is bad in a supposed creative environment. That can lead to all sorts of arrangement issues. The other, for me, is adding drums last to songs recorded without clicks or with clicks. There is an art to doing tracking & then there is playing to pre-recorded tracks. The artist and or other musicians have no idea how much a drummer is relied upon to set the tone for a track or just really dictate the time in general. If you have ever multitracked vocals it's the same thing. You will hear in piano/bass/guitar/lead guitar/any section instruments/horns that everyone has a different idea of where the beat or one is. I have tracked drums to demos lots of times after basic tracks were laid so it isn't the stresser that it once was but my favorite is tracking drums first with the music.
 

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My bad recording experience was the catalyst that got me out of music. I have chronicled bits and pieces of it in other threads, but will try to keep it brief, yet descriptive.

The time with my gigging band was rounding the corner to being finished, as I was tired of the merry-go-round. I was still wanting to play music as my playing was the best it had ever been. A person I had collaborated with for many years prior with hundreds of hours in his home studio wanted to record the “quintessential album”. He rounded up a band to do this, and all of us (save for one) had jammed together for years.

The guitar player brings in his buddy who is a singer. All talk, full of excrement. He was trying to wrest control of the band. He talked like he could replace me with a guy in a locally famous Pink Floyd tribute band and add all these other people. Last I heard, he is in a jam band with none of these people he thought he could add to the band being discussed here.

The engineer/producer/studio owner was this twerpy little hipster. Just a real jerk of a kid. He had worked with one of these so cool you had almost never heard of them unless you get “Banjo Center ads in your mailbox bands” , so his cred was “over the top”. He couldn’t grow a beard or he would have had one. He treated my band leader like an ATM and saw him for a sucker.

Between the band leader changing arrangements all the time, the singer trying to wrest control of the band and the producer and I not seeing eye to eye, it was pure torture. The band leader wanted everyone to split costs even though he called all of the shots and we only played his songs. The producer screwed around with the drum track in Pro Tools (as you can nudge a track to sound off) on one song so it sounded like I couldn’t play anything right (and I called him out on it) and let it out like I played it that way. There was so much drama with the whole thing and the studio owner contributed to much of it. In the end, that experience soured me on playing music for a long time. Friendships were strained or destroyed. The band leader was crushed when (after I left the fold) this producer told him to seek services elsewhere, as he finally had the roster of bands that passed his discriminating taste that was going to sustain him financially.

That year led me to the conclusion that if I ever am in a band again, it’s going to be my band. If said band were to record, I am the executive producer and everything will be nailed down before going to the studio. And the studio owner will not treat me like an ATM.
 

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Another frustrating experience was replacing all the tracks on an album that had been recorded with a drum machine. The producers wanted it to sound more "human". The problem was that nothing on the album sounded "human" as the drum tracks were what they recorded to. Not easy to change the feel of something like that. I wasn't happy, and I don't think the producers were either.
 

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In 1999 a local studio owner/engineer completed the tracking for his personal solo album then he later decided he didn't care for the drum tracks so he calls me.

Get this.

He wanted me to replace the drumming - except they hadn't used a click track for the original basic tracks, so no grid (yikes) so I ended up re-doing the drums on 4 songs by essentially playing along to the songs a bar or two at a time using numerous punch-ins and referring to my notes to anticipate the point when the tempos would fluctuate..... a very backwards arduous & time consuming task but it worked out and he released the cd.

Initially, I begged him to just start over as a completely new session and record the basics with me and a click and adding everything else on later (vocals, keys bass, guitars) but he said he was extremely happy with the way they came out and he "didn't think they could recapture those parts satisfactorily with the same vibe" Lol, whatever. He paid me.
I did this entire album that way - originally recorded and unreleased in 1978. In '84, the plan was to only keep the vocals. Of course, no clicks used 1978 (it would've been a rarity if the had) - and about 20 years too early to straighten it out effortlessly in Logic/ProTools/etc. So I had to do simple kick/snare/HH tracks by myself against the original - while trying to smooth out the serious speed bumps (of which there were lots). Then the new band played to my new tracks - then I came back in and performed the "keeper" drum tracks listening to them.
Overall fun and challenging - but fraught with compromises...

 

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I did this entire album that way - originally recorded and unreleased in 1978. In '84, the plan was to only keep the vocals. Of course, no clicks used 1978 (it would've been a rarity if the had) - and about 20 years too early to straighten it out effortlessly in Logic/ProTools/etc. So I had to do simple kick/snare/HH tracks by myself against the original - while trying to smooth out the serious speed bumps (of which there were lots). Then the new band played to my new tracks - then I came back in and performed the "keeper" drum tracks listening to them.
Overall fun and challenging - but fraught with compromises...

That sounds crazy. So you sort of made "roadmap" tracks that the band played to--and then replaced those as well? Were you syncing up 24-track machines? I'd love to hear the whole story. I ask because I work with someone who insists on using click tracks, except he stinks at playing to them, and then expects me to overdub drums to his wobbly, out-of-time songs. Pain. Just pain.

Dan
 

dcrigger

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That sounds crazy. So you sort of made "roadmap" tracks that the band played to--and then replaced those as well? Were you syncing up 24-track machines? I'd love to hear the whole story. I ask because I work with someone who insists on using click tracks, except he stinks at playing to them, and then expects me to overdub drums to his wobbly, out-of-time songs. Pain. Just pain.

Dan
This all hints at what I think is one of the big misconceptions regarding clicks - and "perfect time".

I guess most basically that listeners - even really discerning listeners care, need or desire to listen to ruler flat - metronomic - time. Almost every loved and revered record made before the 80's - were made completely without click tracks.... all of the rock, jazz, country, even tons of the disco was recorded totally without clicks.

Which doesn't mean the time on those records are even remotely "wobbly" - they just weren't metronomically perfect. The 2nd chorus might be 1 or 2 bpm faster then the first chorus. There might be a slight speed up on the build-up to the bridge. Up until the late 80's - we just called music like that... music. And there are many to this day - that avoid using a click whenever possible. Anyway a whole big topic in itself.

Except to point how those kind of time variations are different than "wobbly time" against a click. The problem is this. Without a click, a band may be cruising along at 108bpm... and then while playing some exciting build may ramp up over a bar or two to about 112, then when they hit the next downbeat resume right in tempo at 108bm.

Now lates do that same thing while playing to a click - so, we're playing at 108 - and then as the click continues, we play that ramp up, beat by beat pulling further ahead of the click... until we land on that next downbeat....and Boom... that's where we're supposed to resume playing 108. But we can't... Because we're stuck up there in front of the click.... way in front of the click.... and the only way to get lined back up with it is to S L O W down. Usually in the form of the first couple of beats after that exciting downbeat... we have to play at 106 or 104 until we can resume playing 108 with the click.

That rushing part can sound fine - you can hear those moments on tons of great records. But what you won't hear on a ny great record - is that horrible slowdown... the ultimately groove killer. This sudden dip in the time - that serves no musical purpose. It exists only to get back on the click.

And of course the listener doesn't hear the click - only this unmusical dip in the time... Yuck. So what I think most learn about playing to the click - is that I can never ever indulge myself that subtle but exciting nudge forward - because every time I allow it to happen, I have kill the feel with the horrible slowdown correction.

This is way so many people making groove records pass on using the click... because you always have to go for correct - and really can't go for magic. But again - another whole big topic. Back to 1984...

So what I faced with the '78 Springfield tracks were perfectly fine musical performances played by great players (that version of the record was later released, I think most of it was on YouTube.) So the time moved some times a little, sometimes a lot - and I think it worked perfectly fine for that band playing those arrangements. But now it was 5 years later - the producer was looking for much more '84 style current arrangements - so that pointed towards the time being a bit less fluid.

Again - all analog. And they didn't want to destroy the original 24 track. This was done at Sound City - where I understand one night they rolled two 24 tracks together and made a straight 24 to 24 track copy. That copied tape is what we worked with. They did some bouncing or submitting either during that transfer or after to free up some tracks for my rough drums. Then we started with me playing all or some parts of the original - along with the vocals - with an idea of the new feels. If there was a particularly rushing section (like there was a bunch on Bruce) - I tried to start them earlier in order to make them more gradual. Ultimately for each song - the test was to listen to the new drums with just the vocals. If that felt OK - then we know we had something they could build the new tracks on.

Doing it this way allowed everyone including me to not worry about what the drums should ultimately sound like - it just let us focus on the time against the vocals.

As far as re-tracking again and last - for projects where the arrangement is being built a part at a time or in layers, I greatly prefer going on last. This allows me to play the right part based on everything the listener is going to hear. I can't tell you how many times on projects where I went on first, I just groan when I hear the final mix. Thinking "I would have never played that if I'd know this was going to be happening on top of it - I would have played this instead". It can happen with fills - with accents - and with whole time patterns. I love recording once everything else is done.

Anyway that was the process for Beautiful Feelings - as it turned out, my only Top 10 single (at least regionally) and Top 40 LP. Which was never really the point for me as a player - but still felt cool to get to accomplish. :)
 

Dan Dakabin Drums

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My first studio experience was my worst. It was in late 90s. I was in my very early 20s, had toured a while and logged lots of gigs. I was thought I was a solid groove drummer. Not flashy just a meat n potatoes player.

Wow. I knew nothing. Those mics revealed every flaw in my playing. All the inconsistencies in my backbeat, overplaying the cymbals, rushing and slowing, that pesky flutter on the bass drum batter because of bad foot technique (which I am certain I still have BTW...). Oh what a freaking mess.

It was a hugely humbling few days and the producer was actually quite good to me and explained what I needed to do. In the end though, I got canned and a session player was used. I was really down for a while but it showed me what was required in order to cut it in the studio. That was my worst day, there have been others of course for different reasons, but that time around early 97 was my rock bottom. Almost gave it all away. In retrospect it was probably a good day because it helped me improve. I had to learn to start from the bottom and claw my way up very slowly. Still on the journey...

It amazes me to watch guys on the Gregg Bissonette or John Riley level walk in and nail a take perfectly from the first downbeat on unseen and unheard music.
 

DrumWhipper

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Last March I got a call from a praise and worship group that needed a drummer for some studio time. The leader of the group sent me the music ahead of time. I get to the studio, get set up, and come to find out only the musicians knew the songs. He didn’t share the music with his vocalists.

We decide to try to cut tracks and the guitar player is all over the place in regards to tempo. They wanted to play without a click. The engineer asked if I could play to a click and I told him yes. He told the band the best thing to do is to play to one and just follow me.

That turned into a disaster which led to me getting frustrated and walking out simply because this group didn’t take the time to rehearse the songs before they came to the studio.
 

equipmentdork

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This all hints at what I think is one of the big misconceptions regarding clicks - and "perfect time".

I guess most basically that listeners - even really discerning listeners care, need or desire to listen to ruler flat - metronomic - time. Almost every loved and revered record made before the 80's - were made completely without click tracks.... all of the rock, jazz, country, even tons of the disco was recorded totally without clicks.

Which doesn't mean the time on those records are even remotely "wobbly" - they just weren't metronomically perfect. The 2nd chorus might be 1 or 2 bpm faster then the first chorus. There might be a slight speed up on the build-up to the bridge. Up until the late 80's - we just called music like that... music. And there are many to this day - that avoid using a click whenever possible. Anyway a whole big topic in itself.

Except to point how those kind of time variations are different than "wobbly time" against a click. The problem is this. Without a click, a band may be cruising along at 108bpm... and then while playing some exciting build may ramp up over a bar or two to about 112, then when they hit the next downbeat resume right in tempo at 108bm.

Now lates do that same thing while playing to a click - so, we're playing at 108 - and then as the click continues, we play that ramp up, beat by beat pulling further ahead of the click... until we land on that next downbeat....and Boom... that's where we're supposed to resume playing 108. But we can't... Because we're stuck up there in front of the click.... way in front of the click.... and the only way to get lined back up with it is to S L O W down. Usually in the form of the first couple of beats after that exciting downbeat... we have to play at 106 or 104 until we can resume playing 108 with the click.

That rushing part can sound fine - you can hear those moments on tons of great records. But what you won't hear on a ny great record - is that horrible slowdown... the ultimately groove killer. This sudden dip in the time - that serves no musical purpose. It exists only to get back on the click.

And of course the listener doesn't hear the click - only this unmusical dip in the time... Yuck. So what I think most learn about playing to the click - is that I can never ever indulge myself that subtle but exciting nudge forward - because every time I allow it to happen, I have kill the feel with the horrible slowdown correction.

This is way so many people making groove records pass on using the click... because you always have to go for correct - and really can't go for magic. But again - another whole big topic. Back to 1984...

So what I faced with the '78 Springfield tracks were perfectly fine musical performances played by great players (that version of the record was later released, I think most of it was on YouTube.) So the time moved some times a little, sometimes a lot - and I think it worked perfectly fine for that band playing those arrangements. But now it was 5 years later - the producer was looking for much more '84 style current arrangements - so that pointed towards the time being a bit less fluid.

Again - all analog. And they didn't want to destroy the original 24 track. This was done at Sound City - where I understand one night they rolled two 24 tracks together and made a straight 24 to 24 track copy. That copied tape is what we worked with. They did some bouncing or submitting either during that transfer or after to free up some tracks for my rough drums. Then we started with me playing all or some parts of the original - along with the vocals - with an idea of the new feels. If there was a particularly rushing section (like there was a bunch on Bruce) - I tried to start them earlier in order to make them more gradual. Ultimately for each song - the test was to listen to the new drums with just the vocals. If that felt OK - then we know we had something they could build the new tracks on.

Doing it this way allowed everyone including me to not worry about what the drums should ultimately sound like - it just let us focus on the time against the vocals.

As far as re-tracking again and last - for projects where the arrangement is being built a part at a time or in layers, I greatly prefer going on last. This allows me to play the right part based on everything the listener is going to hear. I can't tell you how many times on projects where I went on first, I just groan when I hear the final mix. Thinking "I would have never played that if I'd know this was going to be happening on top of it - I would have played this instead". It can happen with fills - with accents - and with whole time patterns. I love recording once everything else is done.

Anyway that was the process for Beautiful Feelings - as it turned out, my only Top 10 single (at least regionally) and Top 40 LP. Which was never really the point for me as a player - but still felt cool to get to accomplish. :)
Interesting story! Thanks for sharing!

You may have a misconception about my misconception, though. I see clicks as necessary evils, occasionally. For me, if I have a say in the production, it is 100% used on a song-by-song basis, no blanket policies. Example: one song on the last album I did sounded great with a click during the choruses and verses, but HAD TO settle back for the bridge. The result? we turned off the click in our phones after verse 2. Freakishly, the entire band landed back on the click right after the bridge...without hearing it! But, in a perfect world, I'd rather avoid the darned click if I could. Thankfully, I've made friends with it.

Point very well taken about having to arbitrarily settle back or rush to get back in sync with the click. Yuck. That is what I have had to do to chase my friend's bad tracking. It's as if he is completely blind to being off with the click when he records. His time doesn't float though--he either rapidly speeds up or slows down to get back on it, so I have to play something that drills straight through the middle, probably a little behind at the beginning and ending a bit on top, if that makes sense. It's funny, the tracks don't feel out of time until you try to put a pulse against it. Thankfully, the all-time most egregious time offender song was cut from the album. I liked that, because the impression is that I AM slowing down, when in fact I am chasing HIS bad track.

And I do have a copy of that Springfield single somewhere. :)


Dan
 

dcrigger

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Interesting story! Thanks for sharing!

You may have a misconception about my misconception, though. I see clicks as necessary evils, occasionally. For me, if I have a say in the production, it is 100% used on a song-by-song basis, no blanket policies. Example: one song on the last album I did sounded great with a click during the choruses and verses, but HAD TO settle back for the bridge. The result? we turned off the click in our phones after verse 2. Freakishly, the entire band landed back on the click right after the bridge...without hearing it! But, in a perfect world, I'd rather avoid the darned click if I could. Thankfully, I've made friends with it.
No - I think I was following you. And we basically agree on the whole click thing in general.

For me, clicks are more than an occasional thing. And not so much decided on a song by song basis - but just the production procedure.

We hardly ever record everything at all once these days. But in order to not use a click, I think it is imperative that semblance of the essence of the total performance be captured as a basic track. Even if the goal is to work about only getting the drums recorded - the drummer needs to be playing with, at least, one other part. I don't know how many sessions I used to do, where the basic track was just drums and guitar or drums and piano. Even if the guitar or piano was later replaced (and they often were), the drum performance was of the drummer actually playing music. That is very hard, if not impossible to do, while just playing alone.

Two players, two players plus vocals and up to the fun rhythm section plus vocals recording "basic tracks" was the standard MO of literally every album recording since we started using 4 tracks (and even a bit before).

But today - few productions are recorded that way. These days so many projects are created starting with a demo - that sets the time, arrangement and pitch - and is used as the basis for building a final track, one part at a time. And clicks or sequenced parts form the backbone of any project like that - which these days is tons of them. There's practical reasons for this for most production work or TV/Film/Commercial work - but for actual music projects - not really. It's pretty much just for expedience. Or to make up for lack of rehearsal.

Granted we now have musical styles that are very much grid oriented - so it's not all bad or anything like that. But for anyone wanting to build on the tradition of Motown, Stax, C.T.I., the Wrecking Crew, Zepplin, Hendrix and on and on... they need to turn the click off... and learn how to play together in such a way that creates magic... Because it is an unlikely task to be able to manufacture magic, it usually must be captured.

And clicks can really get in the way of that.
 

Dumpy

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Last March I got a call from a praise and worship group that needed a drummer for some studio time. The leader of the group sent me the music ahead of time. I get to the studio, get set up, and come to find out only the musicians knew the songs. He didn’t share the music with his vocalists.

We decide to try to cut tracks and the guitar player is all over the place in regards to tempo. They wanted to play without a click. The engineer asked if I could play to a click and I told him yes. He told the band the best thing to do is to play to one and just follow me.

That turned into a disaster which led to me getting frustrated and walking out simply because this group didn’t take the time to rehearse the songs before they came to the studio.
Not doing homework is a pet peeve of mine. It’s not all going to “work itself out” in the studio, practice room or stage. Was the studio time free for these people? I am thinking not.
 

MrYikes

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The first four songs on a Monday night were always the very worst we could do. By the fifth song we were back together again. This was with one night off. I cannot imagine how people could walk into a room and create that tightness without spending some warm-up time together. I guess you would call them professionals.
 

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I don’t remember a bad recording session other than some normal jitters when tape rolled, that led to retakes. But nothing ever , crazy. I was in the studio though one time in the 80’s when a certain female singer ran back and forth to the rest room to do blow in between an eternity of takes. My tracks were done and I was there to work on the mix, which took days to happen because of the drugs. Sad album that eventually got finished but I never heard it completed and as far as I know went nowhere.
 

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That year led me to the conclusion that if I ever am in a band again, it’s going to be my band. If said band were to record, I am the executive producer and everything will be nailed down before going to the studio. And the studio owner will not treat me like an ATM.
If it's any consolation, my experience is pretty similar. It's not the music, it's the friggin people!
 

DrumWhipper

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Not doing homework is a pet peeve of mine. It’s not all going to “work itself out” in the studio, practice room or stage. Was the studio time free for these people? I am thinking not.
They paid for the time. I think it was their first time in the studio and they just didn’t believe it would be a working setting, and not a rehearsal setting. They tried to treat it like a rehearsal, but no one but the lead singer knew the songs.
 

Dumpy

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They paid for the time. I think it was their first time in the studio and they just didn’t believe it would be a working setting, and not a rehearsal setting. They tried to treat it like a rehearsal, but no one but the lead singer knew the songs.
Again- that’s just weird.
 

langmick

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Yes!!!!

I just had to come to the realization that’s what drove me out!
I played drums in a Pink Floyd tribute band in Michigan, and the lead singer, who was a replacement, and who had no stake in the band, decided I needed to go, for whatever reason...then he left not long after. What a douche...after I left, they ha no idea how to do what I did in putting on concerts and promo, and not being stupid. Guy was very self-destructive.
 


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