Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The ONE THING I Never Understood About Recording Studios!


Long before the interweb and Pro Tools, recording studios were kinda like bigfoot in that you hardly ever saw one up close, but when you did, it was like walking into another world; albeit one that charged by the hour the minute the door closed behind you.

Thanks to albums like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon, Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, and, of course, that first Boston album, the studio itself was no longer seen as cold and sterile, but, rather, a shag-carpeted paradise filled with beautiful bell-bottomed babes and dudes just dying to share their weed, speed, and chest hair with the world.

It was also where musical "Davids" like Lindsey Buckingham and Boston's Tom Scholz became Goliaths who helped transform the image of the recording studio from that of a clinical, isolated environment to one where many now hoped to spend their every waking moment. What wasn't to love? To this day, the acres of outboard gear, the acoustically-treated rooms, the ginormous consoles with the flying faders, and, last but not least, THOSE HELLACIOUS SPEAKERS!!

Sorry, STUDIO MONITORS!!

Holy shit, you have not lived until you've saved up for months to finally go into the studio and, when you do, the engineer immediately starts doing shit that takes all the fun out of performing.

For starters, every microphone in the entire tri-state area is now pointed directly at your drums and, crikey, there are even shop rags draped across your tom toms, fer crying out loud!

 Also, you're completely alone.

The rest of the band are off in other rooms and, from what you can hear in your headphones, having the time of their life. After 2-3 hours of playing each drum on its own while the engineer EQ's, compresses, and pans the shit out of drums you'd never even tuned until today, you're finally ready to record.

When you and the band finally do start playing together...separately, that is...you can hardly hear yourself, or the rest of the band, and when you do get out of solitary confinement to hear the last take in the control room, the mix is ALL drums. Yikes. You didn't sign up for that, did you?

"Can't we just mix this last take and get out of here with at least some of our money?"

 Aw, that's cute, but NO!

"The U.S.S. Enterprise? Nope, that's a recording console, Billy!"

Instead of trying to capture a full band performance, you and your pals suddenly learn that standard operating procedure in the recording studio is that every instrument needs as much separation as possible, so as to be mixed back together...TO SOUND LIKE A PERFORMANCE.

On top of that, the songs were being mixed on speakers no normal person could afford IN THE HOPE that it would both SOUND GOOD ON THE RADIO (because there was never a doubt in our mind that this stuff would get some serious airplay) and, b) sound good on whatever SHITTY FUCKING SPEAKERS 9 out of 10 people still use when listening to music.

Seriously, if the best stereo speakers you've ever owned came with your Ford Escort, trust me, you're not the one exception, which brings us to...THE SHIT I NEVER UNDERSTOOD:

Why the silly expense to create an acoustically-treated environment in which to hear the most accurate representation of the stereo spectrum on studio monitors no regular person could afford when the only way to know for sure if you had a good mix was to then pile into the drummer's car and play it back on shitty car speakers?

Doesn't it make more sense to mix in a setting that mimics the ambient noise of real life on speakers that humans actually use?

The fact that recording studios went the way of the dinosaur makes total sense.

They were asking for it.

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