Hearing ourselves - Research!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by KMJ Recordings, Nov 22, 2006.

  1. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    From another thread:

    Taken in conjunction with The Music Man’s mantra “Perception is reality” and also this statement from my guide to recording “Be realistic about the outcome. Even the best engineers and Producers in the World will not make Eccleswick Colliery Silver Band sound like YBS!”, I’ve got a few questions about how we perceive how we sound (I’m putting together a talk about how to get the best out of recording sessions for next year – so I guess I’m looking for homework answers :D )
    • How do we react when we hear ourselves play?
    • It’s becoming increasingly common for Bands outside of the Championship / 1st Section to record CDs (thankfully ;) ) but what exactly do we expect up front? Do we compare ourselves to our CD collection? If we do, do we use a ‘fair’ comparison – so a Band from a similar section? Or are we hoping for (expecting?) a CD that does indeed come close to YBS, Dyke or Grimey?
    • Is there a middle ground? Do we accept that there may be some things that either aren’t covered or maybe can’t be fixed?
    • In the limited time that’s available to cover all your programme material, do you expect there to be compromises made and if you do, what are they? Accepting the odd split note? A bar of dubious intonation?
    • What are your post-production expectations – what is your perception of what can be done after you’ve recorded?
    • What happens if the recording falls outside your expectation? (and this last thing is the perception / reality thing I guess – if all of the perception of my playing career was reality, I’d have won every contest I’d ever entered ;) )
    Feel free to give opinion on anything else that falls in this general category – I’m just looking to see if there's anything people would like to see in this colloquium (in addition to stuff from the guide that’s already written).
  2. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Seems to be either a tricky or sensitive subject for tMPers to chat about. I'll try and kickstart some debate ...

    As a performer, although you listen and watch players (not forgetting your MD) around you it is difficult with a lot of focus (and adrenalin) to be entirely objective about the performance. It might be that detail might be missed and only picked up by the audience (depending on acoustics and where they are seated). So maybe the sensation or experience of playing is different to that of the listener?

    In a studio situation, the producer and recording engineer have to expect the performers to be prepared to give their best on the day(s). Again excitement and nerves may play a part but this might not be obvious to the recording team as they might not have a standard for that band to assess from. The recording session is only for a fixed period of time and agreement must be made from both conductor and recording team for any retakes and fixes. But, who's responsibility is it for the final cut? Because of the time restrictions, surely it must lie with the conductor as he/she has the most knowledge about the band and players? This is especially critical for lower section bands. Once the session is over, that should be it finished. The engineer can only enhance performance and minimise error to a certain degree and this is dependent on the number of mic. channels available for editing. They cannot be blamed if the conductor was happy with the recording session and then discovers that things didn't really go as well as he/she thought.
  3. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    I would say it's almost impossible!

    Absolutely. When Middleton recorded their recent CD with KMJ I was in the odd position of both playing and writing one of the pieces; when we recorded my piece there wasn't time for me to listen to playback and when I heard the first edit I heard a lot of things, both good and bad, that I didn't even notice at the time because I was focussed on playing my part. If that applies to a piece I wrote and therefore know inside out, how much more will that apply to something that I've done a few hours rehearsal on?

    Hmmm...this assumes that the average lower section MD has the same knowledge/experience as the average record producer, who for brass band recordings are often "moonlighting" top section MDs. In the lower sections MDs are often learning their craft, and will need more guidance from the producer(s).

    To try to answer a few of Keith's questions;

    It's human nature to sit through a session where you've given your all, and think you've just produced 4BR's CD of the Year; if you then hear the inevitable slip/split, or dodgy intonation on the final edit it's then also human nature to be disappointed. Bear in mind that most of us, even those who play in a lower section band, don't actually hear that many lower section bands - the bands we listen to on CD or the radio are mostly Dyke, BAYV, etc. So when we hear a recording of our own band, it's almost inevitable that the comparison will be made, and will be slightly disappointing. (Of course, Middleton's CD will sound like Dyke, BAYV, etc., won't it Keith? ;) )

    That said, I'm certain that most lower section players and MDs are aware of the limitations of their band in a 2-3 day recording session, and if they're being honest, will realise that it isn't possible for a 4th section band to knock out 12-14 flawless tracks in a weekend. In fact I think the post-production wizardry and "improvement" that can be achieved actually surprises many players, especially those who are doing their first recording, or those who last did an LP in the 60s or 70s.

    [Legend has it that Otto Klemperer was appalled by the concept of editing together a complete performance from multiple takes, turning to his daughter and muttering "Lotte, ein schwindel!" in disgust]
  4. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    (This one's aimed at Brassneck without a quote seeing as I cross posts with Andy.)

    Interesting stuff, thanks.

    By "the final cut" are you referring to when you essentially accept that things aren't going to get any better and you should move on? IME, the Producer has to retain absolute control over timing aspects or you run the risk of not covering the ground you need to cover. Obviously, some flexibility has to be built in by the nature of the beast - and you should be accommodating as possible, but if the 5th take is no better than the 1st, where do you draw the line?
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2006
  5. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - it was loosely phrased but in essence was meaning the end of the band's recording session ... that the conductor is happy with the efforts and no more can be contributed. I wasn't referring to the last moments of editing and shouldn't have used an 'in-house' term.
  6. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    The biggest thing for me is the potential perspective difference, depending on how you record the track. I quite like CDs that are recorded from - for want of a better phrase - an audience perspective. This is obviously different from that which is gained by standing on the podium. This is even more relevant when the final product is heard by someone who sits, say, on 2nd baritone - it's bound to sound different in balance etc than that to which you're used to hearing.

    You were obviously concentrating on what you should've been doing ;) shame about the unexpectedly long visit in the venue - we certainly did have a plan for you to approve tha balance on the session but, as you say, time became of the essence.

    It's very rare in brass band circles (using an established Company that has experience of the beast that is) - except in the higher echelons - to get someone that isn't of that nature. Paul Hindmarsh is the obvious exception (although of course Paul has been involved with Bands at the highest level, most notably as MD of Besses as well as in his BBC role). I think Brassneck's comment is really geared to the MD knowning when not to flog a dead horse - but if the Producer is as experienced in Banding as I believe they should be, then that'll be obvious to them anyway.


    Fred's comment was "I couldn't believe it was us"....I'll just leave it at that....for now.

    Post-production is fine in principal - but the biggest realisation is that if it's not in the can, you can't always 'fix it'. We've discussed offline some concepts for fixing split notes, timing issues etc but again there's a danger in thinking the Black Box can fix all of them - it can't.

    A friend of mine - the Technical Product Manager from Sennheiser UK holds the same belief - it should be about capturing a performance, not about manufacturing one. I'm a bit of a half way house, but I'll deliver what the client wants.

    Hopefully ;)
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2006
  7. I think your audience makes a difference. If you are selling to casual brass band fans, they might not notice the details at all, and enjoy the overall musicality; and that makes it seem ok to you aswell. But if a connoisseur wants to listen to it, you might suddenly get a bit embarrassed and make excuses. That is, your perception of yourself is influenced by your perception of the perceived perception of your audience ;)
  8. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    In my salad days I worked as the Librarian for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, at the time we were recording the major Mozart operas for Telarc (one per year, before the Edinburgh Festival) with Sir Charles Mackerras conducting. The producer (James Mallinson, I think?) was also of this school of thought; that "patching" was a neccesary evil but he'd far rather have one contiguous take than a patchwork of edits, however well done it was.
  9. Ffion Flugel

    Ffion Flugel Member

    Surely this couldn't possibly imply that brass band fans aren't in the same "connoisseur" bracket as other music fans?
  10. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I think the thing maybe to realise here is that we're dealing with music which is all about expression. There are some things - marches, for example, that are relatively regimented and your takes should be pretty much bang on the same tempo. The implication here is that it's relatively easy to edit things like this and it'll be a consistent performance (given that all the blips and blops get covered on the session). There may be balance issues between takes that you may or may not be able to address, but generally they're relatively minor.

    To go to the other extreme, you might want to record some kind of romantic work that involves molto rubato. This kind of thing occasionally varies wildly from take to take (you could argue that it shouldn't - but it might ;) ). It's correspondingly more difficult to edit this kind of material such that you maintain the musical line and not stamp all the musical life out of something. It's certainly not impossible - it's done all the time to greater or lesser extent - but it's more difficult.

    I guess the bottom line with this one, then, is which is more important - the music and the emotion that goes with it, or the technical perfection of not having the split top G even though it makes less 'sense'....
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    How much does the recording team intervene when something is 'seen' not to be of an acceptable standard? Is it purely a technical issue rather than a musical one? If the team had to jump in at every musical error, I suppose the band and conductor would less than amused ... :confused:
  12. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    The 'technical issues' are relatively easily dealt with by use of the split note meter ;)

    Seriously, though, I guess it's down to the individual Production teams and the style of working may vary. IMO you have to take the sessions as a whole rather than individual pieces or sections of pieces - you've got a finite amount of time and budget to get to the best possible end product you can. Taking that into account, you'll probably find that most Producers will stop you for technical things such as splits, intonation (& general tuning), not playing together and so on. They'll also ensure appropriate tempi are maintained.

    The question of musicality is a tough one as it's so subjective. There are, of course, some things that may stick out - for example a rallentando or a ritenuto that doesn't really work. You could find that the Producer and Engineer will manufacture it in some way by asking you to play one note, or maybe play up to the break at tempo primo, then again at the tempo for after the break and do some jiggery pokery.

    The bottom line is, though, that you're there to capture the Band & MD's musical performance and not that of the production team (unless it's contracted that way) - and musically, IMO at least, you should let them get on with it....unless you can help them.
  13. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I guess another answer would be to quote a member of one of the Bands we've recorded:

    "It's like having an adjudicator sat next to you, telling you what you've done wrong - but you get another go at it".
  14. #

    Not at all - every style of music has its casual fans and its connoissers. I went into a loca shop a couple of months back, and the owner was enthusiastically playing our band's CD on the shop hi-fi. The CD is full of errors, but she loved it - so, good for her. To someone of a more critical disposition, it might not sound so great - and as a player, that influences how you listen to your own playing.
  15. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Isn't that something to do with the one who paying the bill? Does that person not have final say?
  16. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - this goes back to an earlier thread asking about tradesmen and jobs completed to the satisfaction of the customer. There is one big difference in this context ... it's the actual performances that are the subject material and everything is dependent on them being prepared properly (in my opinion). What's that old saying ... 'rubbish in, rubbish out'? Time is money and if the band should really have things ready for the recording session. At least some of the allotted time in the session is given towards any retakes if unforced errors do happen.
  17. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Double edged sword here - and my answer is yes and no depending on what exactly you're looking to achieve.

    As a bill payer, you have absolutely no control on what the Band delivers on the session in terms of technical proficiency. All you can do is throw money at a project (in terms of it taking longer - not all quotations are on a fixed start to end, and certainly not outside the Brass Band world), and hope that eventually you'll get something you're satisfied with.

    Similarly, unless you're specifically contracted otherwise I wouldn't expect an outside bill payer to have any direct influence on the 'musical' side of things either. Again, the performance aspects have to be decided between the MD, Band and Producer - why else would you hire them?

    As the bill payer (and maybe Executive 'Producer') you retain the right (contract allowing) to dispense with the services of any of the involved parties, not put tracks on the CD etc etc

    Of course, other Companies will doubtless work to other protocols and YMMV.
  18. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Disagree strongly with this sentence Keith.

    If I am paying the bill there is no way on the planet that I would be prepared to accept the comment... "and hope that eventually you'll get something you're satisfied with."

    As the bill payer, if I ain't satisfied, I ain't paying. Why on earth would I have to pay for something I was not happy with? As bill payer, I would ensure that I had set expectations as to what I wanted to hear, how fast or how slow etc if that's what was required. Couldn't care less if an MD disagreed with me or not.
  19. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    The point I'm trying rather badly to make is you can't pay people to not split notes. It's a bit of a trite example. All you can do is extend the session until the result you want is in the can, if you don't extend the session then all you've got to work with is what's on tape.

    I agree totally that you should get the product / service you're paying for - but the brass band world is limited budget. You aren't going to get the equivalent of the Vienna Phil in Symphony Hall on the funds that are (usually) available. Again, it's down to this idea of 'realistic'.
  20. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Oops - ran out of time for the edit.

    I meant to add - unless you're working with outstanding musicians (of which there are loads in the Brass Band fraternity) and the best rooms (which generally cost more than the entire recording budget including the manufacture of your' normal' CD)

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