Originally Posted by darjama
The garbage in / garbage out thing has already been mentioned, but I thought I'd get a little more specific on the garbage points that bug me.
1. Performance quality: While you can pitch and time shift a performance to be on key and in time, you can't edit in emotion/feel. If the level of musicianship is high enough, who is going to think about the quality of the recording?
True. But it in a commercial environment it's not the engineers job to make that determination. We record what they play.
It doesn't bug me since it's their music. We - engineers getting paid to be engineers - should be neutral unless asked not to be. We're not generally paid to be producers.
And to your point I've heard great or very good playing - and especially singing - ruined
by the engineer fiddling with things that he probably shouldn't be fiddling with. So yeah... the "quality of the recording" ...
Translation: What the engineer chooses to do *to* the recording during and after tracking.
... can come into play even with a high level of musicianship. Some people feel compelled to turn knobs (or insert plugins) even when it's not necessary.
2. Arrangement: Does the song have an ebb and flow to it? Are there changes in texture, and do they make sense? You can fake this a little bit thru mixing and editing, but if it's not in the song, then you've got your work cut out for you.
See the above. This also is the producers job. Yes, you can engineer in a little fake emotion with automation but this is the producer's and the talent's job, to make sure it's a good song to begin with.
If your song sucks *before* I hit record ... whose fault is that?
3. Instrument quality: I don't have anything against affordable gear, but gear that's not properly maintained is painful to record. If your guitar isn't properly intonated, microphonic pickups are causing extra clanking sounds in your bass, you've got grounding issues that's causing things to buzz, or your drum hardware is squeaky or not stable enough to stay in one place, you're building barriers between yourself and a decent recording.
Now this *is* the engineers job in the studio.
We tape down squeaky drum hardware and troubleshoot ground loops as best we can. Slap a direct box in line and throw the ground lift or whatever.
4. Bass mud: High pass your stuff. Just because your guitar tracks, vocals, and snare sound awesome and full when soloed without the rest of the mix, doesn't mean they'll fit in with each other. This is especially true in the bass frequencies when dealing with close-miced stuff.
Agreed. Engineer's job. Whoever is serving in that role at the moment.
Point being, that when an artist takes on the engineers role for himself he must multi-task to levels that are sometimes detrimental to the overall project. Some pull it off and some don't.
Artist, producer, engineer and mastering engineer. Usually something suffers. Again, the theory to learn to avoid unnecessary roadblocks (Yep's chat) to good recording/mixing quality is an entirely different subject from a discussion about how good a song or musician or a particular band are as musicians and/or songwriters.
That's a whole 'nother conversation.
You can make a beautiful recording and mix (i.e. technically sound product that translates well and presents what's there very faithfully) of a truly crap song. That's the mission, record and mix the song. It's for others to judge if the song itself is any good.
Of course we all think all of our songs are great.
When you put on the engineers hat (even for 20 minutes) put the other ones down.