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Overproduced? You Can’t Afford to be Overproduced!

Brandon Drury —  July 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

YouCan'tAffordToBeOverproduced
Over the years I’ve ran into quite a few bands who have a HUGE fear of being over-produced. The idea is some sleazy producer is going to turn their Motorhead-esque sludge into something that could be played at praise and worship featuring Boyz To Men and Mariah Carey.

I just finished watching Def Leppard’s Hysteria Classic Albums on Netflix. If anyone is going to make an argument for or against big-time production, that album certainly has to be up there. I see they used two reels of analog tape for every single harmony and we are talking multiple harmonies. Very few bands imagine that they’ll be spending the entire day on one single harmony on one single song. I’ve done enough entire albums in one day, for better or worse.

More importantly, who can afford this? The documentary goes on to say that Def Leppard had to sell 5,000,000 copies to break even. Obviously, they came out of this adventure alive (and then some) or there would be no article or documentary discussing it.

So what I want to know is what band has that kind of coin lying around? Adele is the biggest thing we’ve seen in some time (pun optional) and she sold 4.6 million copies in 2011. (Just a few years ago Disney On Ice was the best selling album of the year.) That means she would have been in the red if she used Def Leppard’s budget. Obviously times have changed. The point is very few people are moving enough units for the big time production treatment even if studio costs are plummeted.

This Fear Of New Tools

With this fear of overproduction comes the disdain for new tools. There are tools out now that can save you time, money, or simply improve the intensity of your recordings. (This has always been the case, but a compressor from the 60s doesn’t scare as many people as snare drum replacement or Autotune.)

I’m not necessarily advocating that an engineer automatically start meddling with the sound of a band, particularly if that band has a definable sound. However, there’s no reason to ignore technology that helps a band get THEIR sound when maybe the mics aren’t picking up the sound in their head.

I deal with quite a few bands who are dead-set against Autotune and sample layering (but almost never against brickwall limiting). They’ll site how they, “Don’t want the T-pain sound”. Really? You don’t want your Iron Maiden-esque band to sound like a hip hop artist from 2009? I had no idea! These bands dig up examples of a tool being pushed to the extreme and then judge it.. “I don’t want to ride your children crusher. I think I’ll walk to the studio.” It doesn’t make sense to judge studio tools based on times when they’ve been intentionally abused.

The real issue here is trusting the engineer. If you are working with an engineer you don’t trust….WHY???? If you can’t listen to their previous work, sit down and have a chat, and not say to yourself, “Yeah, this is a guy we want on our team” then you shouldn’t be working with that engineer. It’s as simple as that. There are enough good recording guys out there who will do your music justice to settle for anyone who won’t.

When you tie an engineer’s hand behind his back, you are simply asking for trouble. Asking a handyman to ditch the screwdriver just because you read some whackjob article in Guitar World is absurd. What the hell do you care! You don’t tell him how to do his job. You just need to make sure the engineer knows exactly what you want. (They should be the most adamant about finding that!)

Overproduction, My Ass

I’ve been doing this 2001. I’ve had a few band tell me, “Go Mutt Lange on it, dude!”. The truth is I’ve never been able to figure out who in the hell has the time to spend 30 straight days recording harmonies. Don’t you have shit to do? Go to the post office? At least spend 10 minutes with the wife? Bills to pay? Take a shower? Something!

Forget the time it takes. I just don’t hear an improvement on a record by taking a million years to make it. Maybe I’m just not naturally the Mutt Lange type even if I dig a lot of his work.

While it’s difficult to argue with the results of Mutt Lange, after we have 2 good harmony tracks that maybe took 1-60 minutes with a good singer I’ve never been all that impressed by adding eight more tracks. In most cases it just kind sounds the same but with a bit of chorus on it.

The Classic Albums: Hysteria mentions a similar effect. Def Leppard has been accused of using backing tracks in live shows for their huge harmony sound. They said they don’t. That’s just the way they naturally sound live. I’m not surprised at all. Layering 22 tracks doesn’t sound that much cooler than three tracks.

Conclusion

With a good engineer any band is going to sound like that band regardless of whether they do 2 vocal tracks or 100. To actually sound “over produced” is going to cost BIG money…the kind of money that labels aren’t even forking over for recording anymore. The risk of a band’s sound changing due to some properly used tool are so microscopically small, it’s not even worth mentioning.

Lastly, if you don’t trust the recording engineer at hand, just don’t work him! If you are going to work with him, let him use whatever screwdriver he wants. :D

Brandon

Saved Comments

Stan_Halen – 07-09-2012, 02:50 PM Edit Reply
Times have changed for sure! And comparing the 80′s to today, in terms of budgets and record company layouts is like comparing the Roaring 20′s to World War 2. Back then, with the BIG record companies, a lot of it was big boys taking big risks while inhaling big piles of “blow”. Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” was a huge deal, as was ZZ Top’s Eliminator (not as high budget, but heavily produced with synthesizers), and Van Halen got paid $3M to perform at the US Festival (sponsored by billionaire Steve Wozniak, formerly of Apple).

I don’t know what the budget for Adele’s record was, but I read that it was very easy and quick to record, with her doing minimal takes and with live musicians on the basic tracks with minimal overdubs.

Great rant on the role of the engineer! Thanks Brandon!

awesome – 07-09-2012, 04:41 PM Edit Reply
amen. thank you for this

redworks – 07-09-2012, 05:11 PM Edit Reply
right on. that is the truth. the fear of new is ridiculous. if it sounds good than it is good dude.

aj113 – 07-09-2012, 06:01 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by brandondrury
…..That means she would have been in the red if she used Def Leppard’s budget. Obviously times have changed. The point is very few people are moving enough units for the big time production treatment even if studio costs are plummeted.
……..
Ithink this is a bit too simplistic. Money is generated for the artist more through gigs, merch sales etc, so although you are correct that direct sales won’t necessarily cover the costs, the production has to be good enough to motivate people to spend their money on the artist’s other products.

Jeronimo Mora – 07-09-2012, 06:11 PM Edit Reply
Fear of samples pisses me off. Stupid ass bands don’t realize that 80% of their favorite records feature or exclusively use drum samples.

the evil – 07-09-2012, 07:56 PM Edit Reply
I think the oveporduced phenomenon started when bands starting put out albums that felt like their raw energy was gone, comparing to their previous work. The kids all of a sudden feared this would happen to them and wanted to be as tough sounding as possible even when doing a horrible version of blink-182. Then the even cooler kids wanted to be the complete opposite and be lofi and analog when the digital world starting taking off, stating it sounds digital and overporduced… On the flipside you have the metal kids that can barely play and want it to be overproduced because they want that sound, but no matter what you do they will never have it. Of course these are just my opinions and i have in no way seen this actually happen… So what is being overproduced? I think for the band its when the sound they hear in the practice room and on stage is totally different from whats on the album. Thats the fear.

I think the notion that equipment used on these great sounding albums just means its been proven, time and time again that the equipment works and is very capable of getting good sounds in the hands of the right people. Whenever something new or unproven hits the market everyone is either gungho for it or completely against it. If it comes from a reputable brand name or has a high price tag many jump on the bandwagon. If it comes from some company you never heard and boasts huge claims, its very easy to be skeptical. this site has proven its not always the case time and time again.

DLChuckles – 07-09-2012, 08:33 PM Edit Reply
I think a contributing factor to the fear of autotune and the like is the fact that the vast majority of musicians don’t know jack shit about recording, let alone the tools used to do it. to most of them, EQs and limiters and sampling programs aren’t tools, they’re magical items. when they start associating a particular tool with some kind of music they don’t like, their minds label it as “black magic”, psychology kicks in and they put up mental barriers to the thought of using it themselves. Part of the problem is that they don’t know it’s just a screw driver. They think it’s Harry Potter’s magic wand (or, i guess, it’s the bad guy’s magic wand in the case of a tool they don’t like)

garageband – 07-09-2012, 09:05 PM Edit Reply
Band: “Hey, man, don’t overproduce our music!”
Producer: “Don’t worry. You don’t have that kind of money.”

aj113 – 07-10-2012, 03:36 AM Edit Reply
Band: “Hey, we don’t want Autotune”

Producer: “Well sing the bastard in tune then.”

kakeux – 07-10-2012, 05:18 AM Edit Reply
nice one Brandon!

witzendoz – 07-10-2012, 07:55 PM Edit Reply
Ha Ha, over producing would be the least of my worries, here is part of an email I received the other day about a booking:

“We’re looking at an estimated 8-10 songs for a day recording and we’re on a very tight budget of approximately AU$500 for a whole package,
We hope to make an EP. But essentially, we intend to release them on the net”

We won’t have anytime to actually listen to the recordings let alone produce, edit or auto-tune or even mix. I replied that it was not possible and that maybe they should try for 1 or 2 songs as a good demo, and I got no reply.
Alan.

jj3pa – 07-10-2012, 08:30 PM Edit Reply
I think the whole idea of trying new stuff is not unique to the recording industry. My main job is in computers as a programmer. Some non-technical people (not programmers) are perfectly fine using a COBOL program written in 1970 … If it works, don’t fix it … In spite of the fact that there are lots of things that have been improved over the years. Some people are just the opposite — they want to be on the bleeding edge, even if you don’t want to be. But they read some article somewhere on some new device and despite the fact the device or OS or whatever has bad (or no) press in the trades, they want to have it.
As an observer with no experience in this field, I was wondering if you have those types in this business too .. the customer that wants all the new toys.
Of course, there’s the majority that say “this is what I want, you’re the expert, let me know how we can do it” .. .then you can have rational discussions about choices…
The one time I was in a band that made a CD, I thought it was a good balance. We told the engineer what we wanted, the feeling , the effects, and he worried about how it got done. As a geek, it was cool seeing what equipment he had and how he used it, but as a musician, we all deferred to him.

ellwood – 07-10-2012, 09:02 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by garageband
Band: “Hey, man, don’t overproduce our music!”
Producer: “Don’t worry. You don’t have that kind of money.”
Yeah OR…. Hey man, Don’t overproduce our music

No worries kid, your music is not worth even trying!

Cailyn – 07-10-2012, 09:51 PM Edit Reply
I listen to a lot of internet recordings on sites like Reverbnation and overproduction isn’t even on the radar with most of these recordings. Bad vocals top the list IMO. Vocals badly sung, badly produced, autotuned to death, followed by poor production with too much limiting and reverb. This is usually followed by bad drum sounds, bad drum recordings, bad performances, and worst of all, poorly programmed virtual drums. A long list of sins follows. Since this is a home recording forum, my comments are really directed at those efforts though I’ve heard local studios that don’t do much better.

Overproduction is one of the many evil phantoms that can ruin an otherwise perfect home recording…

Un huh.

rook2c4 – 07-10-2012, 10:26 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by Cailyn
Overproduction is one of the many evil phantoms that can ruin an otherwise perfect home recording…
True indeed. Home recordists sometimes don’t know when to stop – when enough is enough. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you necessarily should. A lot of music is just more effective without slapping on an elaborate Phil Spector-type wall-of-sound production. Effectiveness should always be the fundamental goal when creating music.

paul999 – 07-10-2012, 11:57 PM Edit Reply
Awesome article! The whole idea of over producing is actually kind of funny because as many have stated most of us could not get Mutt Lang productions if we tried. Alot of big name mixers couldn’t IMO.

challman – 07-11-2012, 07:02 AM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by Jeronimo Mora
Fear of samples pisses me off. Stupid ass bands don’t realize that 80% of their favorite records feature or exclusively use drum samples.
I come from the recording business with a slightly different attitude towards this stuff. For me. I love the tracking process. The best artists I know come into my studio and play for ME? I just capture those moments. Overdubbing? Of course. Taking a performance and turning it into a computerized representation thereof NO! I Have a musician I use a LOT who records midi stuff for me for additional tracks. He is constantly telling me…. It’s midi, we can fix it later…. NO. If you can’t perform it I don’t want to record it. Get it right!!!! I like music made by musicians, not music scientists! I will occasionally fix a few midi notes, but the expression, and a good performance must be there 1st. As a drum maker and technician, and a hand drummer. I love the sound of drums. I want drums on my recordings.

I guess I must be getting old, but if we go too far down this path, No one will be able to perform music any more.

My 2 cents

m24p – 07-11-2012, 09:57 AM Edit Reply
@Cailyn: I suspect some people may be confusing “overproduced” with “badly produced”. The second one is a real menace to home recordists. Rather then trying (and failing horribly) for a polished sounding drumkit performance to back your tracks, and indy band could do well to just do other random percussion (bang on a table, clap your hands, use a shaker, snap your fingers, clink a glass) or even an electronic beat that attempts nothing more than to sound like a drum machine.

It’s not the tools that’s a problem, and it’s not getting everything so perfect and polished that there’s no human element that’s a problem (in home recording land). The problems are unobjective listening and too big expectations for what can be achieved with the level of effort and work they put in. No, you’re not going to get a great vocal take when you don’t even know the melody. Sit down with whatever instrument you know best, and play the melody. Just soaking it in reverb doesn’t fix the problem.

Joe1982 – 07-11-2012, 10:25 AM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by Stan_Halen
Times have changed for sure! And comparing the 80′s to today, in terms of budgets and record company layouts is like comparing the Roaring 20′s to World War 2. Back then, with the BIG record companies, a lot of it was big boys taking big risks while inhaling big piles of “blow”. Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” was a huge deal, as was ZZ Top’s Eliminator (not as high budget, but heavily produced with synthesizers), and Van Halen got paid $3M to perform at the US Festival (sponsored by billionaire Steve Wozniak, formerly of Apple).

I don’t know what the budget for Adele’s record was, but I read that it was very easy and quick to record, with her doing minimal takes and with live musicians on the basic tracks with minimal overdubs.

Great rant on the role of the engineer! Thanks Brandon!
Personally speaking I feel most music in a sense of the arrangements are under produced. This in my view is due to technology making it easier for less to sound bigger. The arrangements of say Philip Spector or Earth Wind and Fire were incredibly complex brilliantly thought out and the talent to come up with the ideas in the first place was awesome . So when we talk of being over produced I take it in its full context as in arrangement, song writing, outboard and plugin production, music and vocal arrangement. Point me to a piece of music today that compares to boogey wonderland in regards to the complexity in every sense of that song.I recall Prince says young musicians should study the arrangement s of this band. I think it’s kinda like that old debate which mike which compressor etc etc they my differ but they get you to the place you wanna go no matter what. I seen forums mocking the U87 yet it’s the most used vocal mic in recording history to this day. Yes we all have our favourate go to mics plugins etc that we love or maybe it’s just we found a sound that’s fine and couldn’t be arsed comparing others as the difference as Brandon said in regards to 10 or three vocals would be minimal. The overall arrangement harmonies etc etc are what count so come on big producers lets hear a proper over produced magical imaginative song today with the arrangemens of Prince, Phil Spector, Trevor Horn, Quincy Jones, Earth wind and fire, David Foster I dare you in fact I double dare you I am well up for hearing over produced with limited cost of course.

garageband – 07-11-2012, 10:40 AM Edit Reply
I seen forums mocking the U87
I find those times depressing. It’s a drag when the internet brings out the worst in people.

cporro – 07-11-2012, 11:25 AM Edit Reply
i’ve never worked with anyone who had the patience and will to track mute lang style. maybe if they had a $10,000,000 carrot dangled in front of them. most people i’ve worked with want to bang it out. some musicians are meticulous and work best that way. others loose energy after the 3rd take.

talking about music can be very inefficient. i ask for samples of what they like. i ask for exact times in their mix where they don’t like things. there was a good quote i read some time ago…a big time mixer…and he said something like this to the artist “i’m going to loose every argument we have. you are the artist and your name goes on it. but i’m going to be honest with you and give you my opinion.” once an artist realizes he doesn’t have to fight because he’s going to win every time i think they can relax and work with you better.

midKnight – 07-11-2012, 03:15 PM Edit Reply
Hell, I’d love to have someone come up to me after a project and say damn, you really over-produced me… that would be a serious compliment.

The closest I’ve come to that so far is I’ve had a few people tell me that I have made them sound much better than they actually are. So that’s still a pretty nice compliment, but doesn’t push me into Lange territory yet.. :P

Vic Demise – 07-11-2012, 03:44 PM Edit Reply
I think we need to discuss the definition of “overproduced’.

I like my music to sound human, meaning somewhat flawed- like humans. In a nutshell, I find “perfect” music to be BORING.
(Now define “perfect”. Sigh.)

Sometimes a great song, recorded poorly, is still a great song- particularly when it captures the uniqueness of that one performance, that will never EVER happen again(!) . I don’t really care about “perfection”, I care about emotion- So, there’s a little tape hiss, or a 60 cycle hum, and the chair squeaked, and your voice cracked…but did you FEEL that emotion? Sure, we could re-do it, and get rid of the hum, the hiss, and the squeak- but you’ll never recapture that performance.

What is it I hear when I say, “overproduced”?
Hmmm…. well… Hmmmm…
I guess the first thing that comes to mind is just being too damned consistent (every verse/chorus sounds like a copy/paste of the first verse/chorus, and quite possibly IS a copy/paste!).
Then there’s over-compression/brick-wall limiting/ear-fatigue inducing type stuff (a lack of dynamics, or the “louder is better” mentality).
These days I work alone, at home, as a hobby. I started back in the mid 80s with two boomboxes and would layer by taping from one box to the other while adding a track (the results were just terrible! Talk about HISS!) so it became my goal to get my recordings out of the mud- so they’d sound like “real” music.

First I got my hands on a Tascam Porta-One 4-track recorder, and I thought it was just the end all!
However, after a while, by comparing my sound (as if I even HAD “a sound” at that point!) to my favorite albums I raised my standards, and progressively got my hands on better and better recording equipment, but my tracks still had hiss, poor dynamics (Really MY bad- not the equipment’s!).
Then I got into digital, (first just Audacity- a fine program for what it is) and the game changed completely.
My recordings were SO clean that they revealed the many, many ways, that I, and my tools and techniques, simply SUCKED.
Now I have a Cubase/Ableton setup, and I find I’m trying to get BACK some of that grungy, dirty sound I had fought so hard to get rid of! I mean my recordings were/are sounding comparatively PHENOMENAL- but frankly, lacking in SOUL or ****th.

This is not to say that modern tools yield soul-less music!! (Duh!)
Perish the thought!
It’s just that I don’t really know what I’m doing! I’m just a songwriter who’s trying to be an engineer and producer as well, and frankly, that’s not a good plan for most of us.

Back on point-
I think overproduced is easy to spot- because overproduced songs generally sound GREAT- until you hear then a few times, and then they become boring, because they lack the flaws, the little human landmarks that make a recording truly special.
If I love a song on Monday, and I’m sick of it by Thursday, then it’s prolly overproduced- in my opinion, and that album is headed for the used bin at the local record shop.

Think of your favorite song (okay, ONE of your favorite songs), something you have been listening to for years, even decades, and listen to what’s going on- and chances are it’s got all sorts of “flaws’ that if removed would render it as boring as…Ruben Studdard.
Bright Eyes is a prime example of what I’m talking about- particularly his early work (though don’t go back to his childhood recordings!). His albums are wonderful collections of “good enough” recordings that capture the emotion he was trying to convey, not examples of technical perfection. It’s like he does a take and says, “That’ll do. It’s got all it’s parts and you can hear the lyrics. So, what’s next?” and he moves on.
I can listen to his stuff again and again and hear nuances I never heard before. Try that with the modern, radio-friendly music of today- and you’ll find it’s been pre-digested for you- STERILIZED even.
I’m always going to be willing to sacrifice some sonic impact for a truly human-emotion inducing recording that may be lacking in production.

As far as using things like auto-tune on you client’s projects-
just DO it, and don’t even tell them (at first) and while they’re marveling at how good you made their song sound, THEN tell them HOW you did it. It will change their opinion in a second (particularly if you A/B it so they can hear it without the applied “magic” and with it.).
Personally, I have never used auto-tune, and probably never will, but if someday my producer uses it, and it sounds good- what the hell?
(Sorry for rambling)

sparqee – 07-12-2012, 01:15 PM Edit Reply
Brandon hit it on the head when he said that it’s a “trust” thing. I’m of the camp that trust is earned. I don’t give a hue amount of trust to a total stranger. If I heard a guy’s work and liked it, then he would get a certain amount of my trust. After discussing what I wanted from our business situation I might grant him more trust. Once we were working if I felt that we had good communication then I would probably say “there was trust”.

The best ways to screw up any chance of trust:

1. Hide things while discussing how a session will go (e.g. you’re planning on using auto-tune, samples, etc. but you say nothing about it)

2. Intentionally mislead the client about the quality of their performance (e.g. “that was great, let’s move on” while all the time you’re thinking “that was good enough to auto-tune to an acceptable level”).

3. Sneering behind the backs of your clients because they’re “dumb ass punks who don’t know shit about recording”.

IMHO the biggest problem with most recording sessions is not that the band is ignorant about recording. The problem is usually that the Producer/Engineer is arrogant about his knowledge and looks down on the band, usually because he thinks he’s a better Producer/Engineer than the band are musicians. If the Producer really is an experienced professional and his clients are not experienced then part of his professional responsibility is being the “mature” one and having the patience to help the band build experience. If you (the Producer) are above this sort of thing then you should only be accepted experienced clients. IMHO

Bottom line: lots of young bands have fear because of their inexperience and their feelings of “helplessness” in the studio. Match this with an arrogant Producer/Engineer who is basically a prostitute taking money from people he looks down on and you have a recipe for disaster.

cporro – 07-12-2012, 01:51 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by sparqee
IMHO the biggest problem with most recording sessions is not that the band is ignorant about recording. The problem is usually that the Producer/Engineer is arrogant about his knowledge and looks down on the band, usually because he thinks he’s a better Producer/Engineer than the band are musicians.
i’m now realizing that some artists have spent a lot of time getting their sound together. often they know more about a tiny genre then i do. it’s not about sounding produced, or pop, it’s a sound but not anything close to commercial. they know what’s out there. they know how people are responding. faith is a 2 way st and now i consider each artist a possible education. i ask for mix cds and links of artists they like.

Michael Fugazi – 07-12-2012, 03:34 PM Edit Reply
Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” is a great example of alleged ‘over-production’, and it makes for great listening. Apparently some/most of the guitar parts were done by recording each note/string individually then bringing them together producing a beautiful “stadium-like” sweeps with a ‘cleanness’ rarely heard were it not for that level of ‘over-production’. In passing, thank you all at Recording Review, I read every article/item that each email I receive informs me of and, being busy, rarely contribute to any discussion. I truly value Recording Review and my mornings are brightened up a little more than just coffee alone when I receive the emails. For purely interest sake some of my music can be heard here:

Michael Fugazi | Brisbane, QLD, AU | Rock / Progressive / “Alternative” | Music, Lyrics, Songs, and Videos | ReverbNation

I’m no professional – I use whatever I’ve got at hand to get what’s in me out into a tangible item. My dad was far more qualified and gifted on the recording side of things. Growing up listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” via a pair of Celestion Ditton 66 Studio Speakers did it for me and guess what? “Dark Side Of The Moon” is one of the most ‘over-produced’ albums of all time , and one of the most celebrated and successful albums of all time too. Cheers fellas, truly appreciate your input/comments and insights, Mf

Dahla – 07-12-2012, 07:33 PM Edit Reply
I don’t know about all this over-production stuff. I guess it all boils down to whatever you/the band is after. Imagine Rolling Stones producing a record the same way as Def Leppard. It wouldn’t be the same now would it? Def Leppard was the perfect band for Lange to go crazy bananas with, and the band WANTED him to bananas and make them sing a couple if hundred vocal overdubs for Gods of War. But they wanted it, they wanted to perfect the sound they started on Pyromania, they wanted to create the rock version of MJs Thriller. There is a difference between production values, and everything is relative. If a band comes in and want to sound like The Rolling Stones and you make them sound like Def, then you are most likely over-producing the sorry bastards.

Some are into production stuff and that’s cool. Some do not care and that’s also cool. If everything sounded the same, there would be no comparison and everything would sound glorious. And suck. Alot.

And btw, listening to Earth, Wind and Fire is great if you want to write or mix complex music like Earth, Wind and Fire. It makes no sense if you are a musician that play in a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band. Not every musician is a recording engineer either.

Dahla – 07-12-2012, 07:41 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by Michael Fugazi
Apparently some/most of the guitar parts were done by recording each note/string individually then bringing them together producing a beautiful “stadium-like” sweeps with a ‘cleanness’ rarely heard were it not for that level of ‘over-production’.
There is a great article in this months Guitar World about hysteria. Apparently, that is not done all the time. There was a part where Mutt didn’t want a chord to be hit normally because a chord always sound a little arpeggiated when a guitarist strums, so they did one string at the time. When the chord hit all the strings would sound in unison.

But it wasn’t for most/all songs.

bigjames – 07-12-2012, 07:45 PM Edit Reply
Well fellas… I totally hear what all of you are saying… and in most cases totally agree.

But here’s what occurred to me while I read some of the comments.

First of all… I remember being in a “band”. The fellas and I wanted to sound bigger than Boston (oops… am I dating myself?)… but when we tried… it always sounded “overproduced”.

What did we mean by “overproduced”? It meant it sound like crap… a mess… a swooshing, phasing, over-delayed mix that sounded like we were playing in an extra verby gym.

So, I submit to you that when a band exclaims that they don’t want to be “overproduced” IMhumbleO I don’t believe they mean, “We don’t want our mix to sound polished”… because even the garage-y, grungy “famous” bands put out polished mixes… though the band itself may intentionally not sound “polished” because that’s they’re act.

I believe what a band is really saying is, “We know you’re not Dave Pensado but we’re hoping that after we spend our hard earned money with you, our mix doesn’t sound like a swooshing, phasing, over-delayed mess that sounds like we were playing in an extra verby gym”.

I’m only offering this so that the next time a band comes in saying, “We don’t want to sound “overproduced”… you fellas that work with bands won’t immediately think they’re dipshits for not embracing modern technology. Believe me… I was in the “band” side of the music business for years and there’s nothing like starting off on the wrong foot with an engineer the entire band has previously agreed is “the man” (or wo-man to do the job. We come in resting our hopes and dreams on your shoulders.

So… what to do?

Well, I don’t normally share this… but my best friend on the planet happens to have been nominated over a dozen times for an Oscar for mixing the films you’ve loved and treasured for years… and I’m talking about big bad-*ss blockbuster films that crumble the walls of theaters. Every morning he goes to work and sits down at a several hundred input Harrison MPC4-D mixer (harrisonconsoles.com – Consoles) that’s about as long as 4 or 5 of those long “office” folding tables lined up.

Now let me tell you why I share this with you. One day I was sitting with him on the soundstage and even though I had hung out with him many times over the years while he’s mixing billion (literally) dollar blockbusters, I couldn’t help but just (as always) feel so impressed sitting in a room that cost tens of millions… because the soundstage is it’s own building… to build. All just so that my bud and his partner could sit at a console (with over a hundred people in the back rooms on Pro Tools rigs, film editing rigs, administrative support, etc) and mix the sound of a movie.

They were on a break loading up the next thing and I rolled my chair over and asked him, “Dude… what’s your secret? What do you attribute your success to? I mean can you tell me what’s the ONE thing?”

I asked him this because (as anybody in their right mind probably would) I thought to myself, “Wow… how does someone get a freakin’ glamorous, sexy job like this? What do you have to do?”

He leaned over, and I leaned in hard… because we were (and still are) very close… and I thought, “Yes! That’s my bud! He loves me and he’s about to give me “THE TIP!”

Wanna know what he said? (rhetorical question mate)

“Let’s give it a shot.”

I was like… wha… ? Wait… whaddya mean? That’s it?

Of course… that’s not all of it… you also have to know your sh*t reeeeeally well… inside out.

He said that he learned at a very young age that engineers tend to size up the client and make up their mind in the first moments… and from there forward have the attitude that, “I’m the engineer… ME… that’s why you’re here because I know about this stuff and YOU DON’T.”

He learned from other successful engineers (he worked for Clearmountain for years when he was a kid) that an engineer has to concentrate and focus really hard to break through that “ego” thing and just be like, “Let’s give it a shot”.

So people started to want to work with “that positive kid” that was always willing to “give it a shot”. He became quite well-liked and people wanted to have him around (and THAT is the trick, being someone that people want to have around… works great in relationships too). So he got invited to work at another studio and another studio… and so on… until he was invited to work at Warner Brothers. He’s not longer at Warner’s… but he was there for years.

To this day he tells me that even though he sometimes believes he totally knows it probably won’t work to do whatever the director is asking him to do on a scene… he still (even though he’s a “big shot” now”) says, “Let’s give it a shot”.

He’s a humble guy… and he admits, with a very positive attitude, that sometimes he’s completely surprised that something he was totally certain should not work audiowise (can you make that low end sound more “airy” there?), it turns out to be exactly what the art called for.

So remember fellas… you’re helping us with our art. It really is art. So is your work. We’re all creative people here… we’re all “artists”… so let’s just give it shot… together. : – )

One last thing (yes… I can be pretty long-winded).

Anything Dave Pensado tells us he does… he TRIES it on Sends, Inserts, on a duplicated track, on the entire Stem, on the entire mix. In other words… when Dave gives us a tip… he really is giving us a tip. I’m not “buddies” with Dave… by any stretch of the imagination… though I sat in his chair a few times when he was out or on a break back when he had a room at The Enterprise. My nephew worked at The Enterprise for a couple of years so I had the opportunity to chat with Dave a few times… and I’ve also corresponded with him via email and on Facebook. I tell you this so you’ll know that I’ve spent enough time communicating with Dave to believe that he really and totally wants us to “get it”… and he also wants us to “give it a shot”.

I’m thinking that’s why Dave’s where he’s at… and also my bud… because they really are technical artists that really and truly want to help us create the best art possible. Who couldn’t love a guy like that? That’s how I wanna be when I grow up!

Last and totally final (I promise) item… have you guys heard of Indaba? Indaba Music. It’s a place for mixers and other music and technical artists. The way I understand it, “home studio” guys are being connected with big names. Check it out.

If you got to here… you gave me a lot of your precious time… so I hope something here helped you… and will continue to help you.

Brandon… this is still the best and most honest site for those of us who want to learn about creating our own groovy mixes… even if some of us here are not “engineers” per se. : – )

OK fellas… peace out.

akabigjames

Michael Fugazi – 07-12-2012, 09:16 PM Edit Reply
Thanks for the clarification regarding Mutt not wanting a chord to be hit normally for the reasons you say Dahla. Haven’t bought guitar World for ages so I’ll grab a copy – sounds interesting – I missed them when they played Brisbane October last year.

Michael Fugazi – 07-12-2012, 10:19 PM Edit Reply
Recently a band I know, Trubador, went into a studio in Nashville to record their songs on an album titled “Earth”. These guys have a raw grunge/metal/classic rock kinda sound and the lead man, Marcoe, said he felt the album was “over produced” (his words) as they are strictly a Live band and play/record always Live (evident when you hear/see them). Personally I love the album and felt it was more in the Mastering that had produced the “over produced” sound, meaning that, in the opinion of my ears (which have lost certain abilities to hear mid to high frequencies) it sounded as if the Mastering Engineer had smashed it to the max (and perhaps beyond(?)using some vintage comp giving the songs an edgy and, at times, a slight crackly effect (which, in this instance actually works well in my opinion). What Marcoe was conveying to me was simple, he felt that the entire recordings had been mixed in such a way as to either lose that Live feel/tone/vibe or it was a ‘poor’ attempt to achieve it due to the possibly (I stress “possibly”) that the environment they recorded in wasn’t perhaps conducive given the nature and sound of Trubador which, as I stated in the above are a raw grunge/rock outfit. I think that the band felt that the space and distance were missing and the drums, guitar and bass were too merged and flat (whilst still, I must say, preserving their integrity to good effect, again in my opinion). Just remembered that so thought I’d whack it on this particular topic/thread, Mf. Example of some of their sound is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7S2…Q&feature=plcp

Obviously captured using their camera’s microphone(s) but still, that Live vibe is there even via a camcorder, which is lacking on the album recording of this song.

rook2c4 – 07-12-2012, 11:12 PM Edit Reply
Many fans consider the Ramones album “End of the Century” to be overproduced. Not that the production is bad in itself, but because the very polished sound goes against what the Ramones had become famous for on previous recordings and live shows – a raw, gritty, simplistic garage band sound.

One way to define “overproduced”: the inappropriate use of production techniques. For example, a punk rock album awash in layered string sections or synth pads.

Dahla – 07-13-2012, 04:29 AM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by Michael Fugazi
Thanks for the clarification regarding Mutt not wanting a chord to be hit normally for the reasons you say Dahla. Haven’t bought guitar World for ages so I’ll grab a copy – sounds interesting – I missed them when they played Brisbane October last year.
Yeah, the latest GW is great! There is a good article on Van Halen as well.

Dahla – 07-13-2012, 04:43 AM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by bigjames
Well fellas… I totally hear what all of you are saying… and in most cases totally agree.

But here’s what occurred to me while I read some of the comments.

First of all… I remember being in a “band”. The fellas and I wanted to sound bigger than Boston (oops… am I dating myself?)… but when we tried… it always sounded “overproduced”.

What did we mean by “overproduced”? It meant it sound like crap… a mess… a swooshing, phasing, over-delayed mix that sounded like we were playing in an extra verby gym.

So, I submit to you that when a band exclaims that they don’t want to be “overproduced” IMhumbleO I don’t believe they mean, “We don’t want our mix to sound polished”… because even the garage-y, grungy “famous” bands put out polished mixes… though the band itself may intentionally not sound “polished” because that’s they’re act.

I believe what a band is really saying is, “We know you’re not Dave Pensado but we’re hoping that after we spend our hard earned money with you, our mix doesn’t sound like a swooshing, phasing, over-delayed mess that sounds like we were playing in an extra verby gym”.

I’m only offering this so that the next time a band comes in saying, “We don’t want to sound “overproduced”… you fellas that work with bands won’t immediately think they’re dipshits for not embracing modern technology. Believe me… I was in the “band” side of the music business for years and there’s nothing like starting off on the wrong foot with an engineer the entire band has previously agreed is “the man” (or wo-man to do the job. We come in resting our hopes and dreams on your shoulders.

So… what to do?

Well, I don’t normally share this… but my best friend on the planet happens to have been nominated over a dozen times for an Oscar for mixing the films you’ve loved and treasured for years… and I’m talking about big bad-*ss blockbuster films that crumble the walls of theaters. Every morning he goes to work and sits down at a several hundred input Harrison MPC4-D mixer (harrisonconsoles.com – Consoles) that’s about as long as 4 or 5 of those long “office” folding tables lined up.

Now let me tell you why I share this with you. One day I was sitting with him on the soundstage and even though I had hung out with him many times over the years while he’s mixing billion (literally) dollar blockbusters, I couldn’t help but just (as always) feel so impressed sitting in a room that cost tens of millions… because the soundstage is it’s own building… to build. All just so that my bud and his partner could sit at a console (with over a hundred people in the back rooms on Pro Tools rigs, film editing rigs, administrative support, etc) and mix the sound of a movie.

They were on a break loading up the next thing and I rolled my chair over and asked him, “Dude… what’s your secret? What do you attribute your success to? I mean can you tell me what’s the ONE thing?”

I asked him this because (as anybody in their right mind probably would) I thought to myself, “Wow… how does someone get a freakin’ glamorous, sexy job like this? What do you have to do?”

He leaned over, and I leaned in hard… because we were (and still are) very close… and I thought, “Yes! That’s my bud! He loves me and he’s about to give me “THE TIP!”

Wanna know what he said? (rhetorical question mate)

“Let’s give it a shot.”

I was like… wha… ? Wait… whaddya mean? That’s it?

Of course… that’s not all of it… you also have to know your sh*t reeeeeally well… inside out.

He said that he learned at a very young age that engineers tend to size up the client and make up their mind in the first moments… and from there forward have the attitude that, “I’m the engineer… ME… that’s why you’re here because I know about this stuff and YOU DON’T.”

He learned from other successful engineers (he worked for Clearmountain for years when he was a kid) that an engineer has to concentrate and focus really hard to break through that “ego” thing and just be like, “Let’s give it a shot”.

So people started to want to work with “that positive kid” that was always willing to “give it a shot”. He became quite well-liked and people wanted to have him around (and THAT is the trick, being someone that people want to have around… works great in relationships too). So he got invited to work at another studio and another studio… and so on… until he was invited to work at Warner Brothers. He’s not longer at Warner’s… but he was there for years.

To this day he tells me that even though he sometimes believes he totally knows it probably won’t work to do whatever the director is asking him to do on a scene… he still (even though he’s a “big shot” now”) says, “Let’s give it a shot”.

He’s a humble guy… and he admits, with a very positive attitude, that sometimes he’s completely surprised that something he was totally certain should not work audiowise (can you make that low end sound more “airy” there?), it turns out to be exactly what the art called for.

So remember fellas… you’re helping us with our art. It really is art. So is your work. We’re all creative people here… we’re all “artists”… so let’s just give it shot… together. : – )

One last thing (yes… I can be pretty long-winded).

Anything Dave Pensado tells us he does… he TRIES it on Sends, Inserts, on a duplicated track, on the entire Stem, on the entire mix. In other words… when Dave gives us a tip… he really is giving us a tip. I’m not “buddies” with Dave… by any stretch of the imagination… though I sat in his chair a few times when he was out or on a break back when he had a room at The Enterprise. My nephew worked at The Enterprise for a couple of years so I had the opportunity to chat with Dave a few times… and I’ve also corresponded with him via email and on Facebook. I tell you this so you’ll know that I’ve spent enough time communicating with Dave to believe that he really and totally wants us to “get it”… and he also wants us to “give it a shot”.

I’m thinking that’s why Dave’s where he’s at… and also my bud… because they really are technical artists that really and truly want to help us create the best art possible. Who couldn’t love a guy like that? That’s how I wanna be when I grow up!

Last and totally final (I promise) item… have you guys heard of Indaba? Indaba Music. It’s a place for mixers and other music and technical artists. The way I understand it, “home studio” guys are being connected with big names. Check it out.

If you got to here… you gave me a lot of your precious time… so I hope something here helped you… and will continue to help you.

Brandon… this is still the best and most honest site for those of us who want to learn about creating our own groovy mixes… even if some of us here are not “engineers” per se. : – )

OK fellas… peace out.

akabigjames
Wow, wall of text, but GREAT non the less.

Thanks for sharing your buddies tip, truly awesome. I think that that tip is worth living by anyhow. Be it music, sky jumping, life generally etc.

garageband – 07-13-2012, 08:17 AM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by rook2c4
Many fans consider the Ramones album “End of the Century” to be overproduced. Not that the production is bad in itself, but because the very polished sound goes against what the Ramones had become famous for on previous recordings and live shows – a raw, gritty, simplistic garage band sound.
Hey, do you remember rock and roll radio?

rook2c4 – 07-13-2012, 11:33 AM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by garageband
Hey, do you remember rock and roll radio?
LOL If you’re talking about late 50′s/early 60′s, I wasn’t around for that. If you’re talking about late 60′s, yes… actually, I still have my very first hand-held transistor radio from those days!

garageband – 07-13-2012, 12:55 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by rook2c4
LOL If you’re talking about late 50′s/early 60′s, I wasn’t around for that. If you’re talking about late 60′s, yes… actually, I still have my very first hand-held transistor radio from those days!
Mostly just referencing a song from the Ramones record you mentioned. “Let’s all rock and roll with the Ramones!”

It’s sometimes nice to hear, relative to other successful folks, you’re on the right track. I’ve said, “Come on, we can do this. ” (and meant it) many times over the years to other musicians – sometimes on BTR, even. There haven’t been many who were abjectly bad and couldn’t even mount a reasonable effort. And, you know, even with those guys (and girls), I still earnestly hoped they’ll still come through and am pulling for them all the way. Recording music is creating illusion. You have to believe in the validity of the illusion they are trying to create. There is nothing worse than making music you think is stupid or pointless. If you can’t figure their music out and/or can’t get behind it, get out your Rolodex and refer them to someone who can. After that, the production is just details. “Overproduced” seems euphemistic for details the band feels detract from the illusion they are trying to create.

Michael Fugazi – 07-13-2012, 01:49 PM Edit Reply
Sweet, man you made my morning. I dug out a couple of Van Halen CD’s whilst waiting for coffee to brew and I’m enjoying “Just Like Paradise” with my first coffee and cigi. Great vibe and I’d be very happy if any of my stuff sounded like that. Cheers Dahla.

orcasound – 07-13-2012, 03:46 PM Edit Reply
Great post. While every vocal track doesnt need the Mutt treatment, I think that most bands or artists don’t realize the amount of work that goes into making some of their “reference tracks” sound they way that they do – It seems to me in many cases, the sheer level of musicianship has deteriorated over the years…. you’ve got singers that have no business singing, you’ve got a bunch of “Russian Dragon” drummers that cant keep time with their own limbs let alone a click track…. you’ve got a new young breed of guitar and bass players that feel that the “lost art of instrument tuning” is for old farts…. so in these cases when “the” above mentioned band comes in and talks about no drum replacement, no pitch correction….
- Alot of times its not about – fake-contrived perfection – its about making sure the singer is in pitch, and that the instruments are in tune, and the drums are in time… all all thats before we even get to “production”….
- When you hear most popular artists…. regardless of whether its Adele, Blinjk182, Zac Brown, or whoever…. Pitch, timing are tuning are tight…. when its Ben Harper or Jack Johnson… or FLogging Molly, – whether its raw or coolked, 2 tracks or 200 tracks…. there are just certain levels of professionalism – They all sound like they can play or should be playing….. So I start there…. FUnny thing is… for me in at my place… it seems like the ones that are worrying about being over-priduced or afraid of technology – are the ones that need technology the most….

kj

Michael Fugazi – 07-13-2012, 06:15 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by orcasound
I think that most bands or artists don’t realize the amount of work that goes into making some of their “reference tracks” sound they way that they do
kj
I totally agree with that. I’m no expert but I have seen guys work on tracks and songs for months to knock into shape what would otherwise be chronic.

garageband – 07-13-2012, 07:52 PM Edit Reply
Zac Brown, or whoever…. Pitch, timing are tuning are tight..
Interesting. That stuff sounds like it’s been Pro Tooled within an inch of its life.
A lot of times its not about – fake-contrived perfection – its about making sure the singer is in pitch
I dunno. I can hear that stuff a mile away, down to the words they worked more on. When they are getting notes exactly right, pitch-wise, but it still sounds wrong because nobody ever gets them right. A correctly tempered major sixth below the 1st line E they were just on and they smacked it dead-on then held it still for the duration of the note? Gimme a m-f-ing break. Problem is, once you get on fixin’ stuff, it’s hard to stop. If it were really about making sure the singer the singer is in tune, they’d make them sing it that way from the beginning, with all the right notes on all the ornaments and everything. Worked on with the singer at the piano and everything. Yeah, I hear a lot of that kind of stuff: where it’s clear they’re not even singing the right note to begin with.
It seems to me in many cases, the sheer level of musicianship has deteriorated over the years
I’m not acquainted with this. If anything, the drummers from the current generation, as a whole, as much more proficient than in the past.

dudermn – 07-15-2012, 04:54 PM Edit Reply
did you just invent the word over-produced ?

elmagoo – 07-17-2012, 12:12 PM Edit Reply
Just a note, the stacked vocal sound is still very much used today in pop / country music. It’s not un-common for a modern day pop track (like Beyonce / Lady Gaga / Katy Perry, etc…) to have anywhere from 16 – 80 vocal tracks on it for the backing harmonies / doubles. But they’re a LOT more efficient about it these days and get them done quick. You have backing singers who’s jobs it is to come in, nail the harmony, do the X number of doubles of that harmony, and then get out and bring in the next person. Sometimes you can use software like the Antares doubler plugin, but a lot of times they just bring the people in and nail it down in a day.

Another bit that my buddy that went down to Nashville told me is they have the same musicians there who’s sole job is to nail the “perfect” harmony that you hear in country music. My buddy went down there to do an EP of several of his songs, and had one of these vocal guys there. The vocal guy basically observed my buddy singing, took notes on inflection / shape of the mouth, asked a few questions, etc…. Then he went into the booth, nailed it on the first take for all the songs and left. And apparently this is the norm down there. Even the session musicians came in without hearing the tracks, did a few listens of the scratch tracks, then nailed the music in 1 – 2 takes tops plus a few overdubs.

So the big / stacked vocal sound is very much alive and in -use, it just costs a heck of a lot less to do

garageband – 07-17-2012, 12:20 PM Edit Reply
So the big / stacked vocal sound is very much alive and in -use, it just costs a heck of a lot less to do
A nice cheap way to do this to take an alternate take from that chorus, make two of them, write out the lead line, harmonize that and shove the notes of the two harmony tracks around with Melodyne to match the notes on the arrangement. Print that, maybe slide ‘em around a little and there ya go.

cakewalkgg – 07-18-2012, 01:16 PM Edit Reply
Modern vocal production bothers me. Im not talking about stacking harmonies or autotuned to the “yodel” effect. Most really good singers do not hit many of those “lazer” tones (long tones, perfect stable pitch, and no vibrato) naturally. Most of the really good singers have developed natural tools to make pitch sound good. Whether its dynamics in intensity, airiness, vibrato etc.. I hear a lot of singers now that are not developing these defining traits because they just sing in the ballpark and let autotune do the rest. I am not against tuning vocals at all… I am just saying that it’s overuse has, in my opinion, helped to reduce the personality of vocal efforts… at least in the general genres that I have been listening to

I tried to post this in a followup post but its not appearing in the comments.. so I edited this post with the info.

example

Amazon.com: All New Materials: Periphery: MP3 Downloads
Amazon.com: Forever: Sevendust: MP3 Downloads

Both choruses are smooth and im sure both have processing on them but to me there is a big difference. The Periphery vox production sounds unnatural in some way that is offputting a bit to me. The Sevendust track sounds more natural and pleasant to my ear. I hear more personality in the Sevendust production.

cakewalkgg – 07-18-2012, 01:29 PM Edit Reply
example

Amazon.com: All New Materials: Periphery: MP3 Downloads

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00…35802&sr=301-1

While I am sure both tracks have vocal processing going on, and both sound very smooth, there is a huge difference to me. I hear something very unnatural about the periphery vocal production and something very natural and pleasant with the sevendust track.

Jahman00 – 07-20-2012, 01:28 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by cakewalkgg
example

Amazon.com: All New Materials: Periphery: MP3 Downloads
Amazon.com: Forever: Sevendust: MP3 Downloads

While I am sure both tracks have vocal processing going on, and both sound very smooth, there is a huge difference to me. I hear something very unnatural about the periphery vocal production and something very natural and pleasant with the sevendust track.

I totally agree with you Sevendust Sounds better, Perhaps its the Tone of the singers that has a role in it .Lajon from sevedust has a deeper soulful voice in my opinon. I believe if your voice is high certian processes or artifacts with in the processes may clash with the tone of your voice and visa versa. I think over all you need to use stuff that complments your voice.

rook2c4 – 07-20-2012, 08:07 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by cakewalkgg
example

Amazon.com: All New Materials: Periphery: MP3 Downloads

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00…35802&sr=301-1

While I am sure both tracks have vocal processing going on, and both sound very smooth, there is a huge difference to me. I hear something very unnatural about the periphery vocal production and something very natural and pleasant with the sevendust track.
To me, it sounds like the Periphery vocal has been slammed into an inappropiatley setup multi-band compressor – such that the natural vocal dynamics across the frequency spectrum have been ironed out to such an extent that the naturalness has been compromised. If my assumption is correct, I think single band compression (combined with equalization if necessary) would have yielded far better results. In my opinion, multi-band compression on vocal tracks should be avoided or done with caution.

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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