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Author Topic: Nurturing The Creative Process  (Read 2565 times)

Geoff Grace

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Nurturing The Creative Process
« on: April 24, 2004, 04:20:14 am »

These questions go out to both George and to forum members:

1) Is there anything that you do to nurture the creative process in recording sessions? If so, do you have any tips to share?

2) Where does one draw the line between nurturing and meddling?

3) Do you discuss your creative role in advance with artists or do you let it evolve?


Best,

Geoff
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Loco

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Re: Nurturing The Creative Process
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2004, 11:01:20 pm »

Geoff Grace wrote on Sat, 24 April 2004 04:20

These questions go out to both George and to forum members:

1) Is there anything that you do to nurture the creative process in recording sessions?


Stay out of the way as much as you can. Just make them feel like at home, and the talent will make its way to the tape.
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Fletcher

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Re: Nurturing The Creative Process
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2004, 09:39:38 am »

I have found that my role in the creative process will evolve over time, and is different with every artist with whom I work.  

There was one artist with whom I worked where we were 2/3rd of the way through the second album I'd done with them before I felt comfortable enough to make a suggestion... there are other artists where I have made suggestions before we note one was recorded.  

Every situation has a different dynamic, and you'll have a different comfort level with each individual artist... in other words... I think you'll know when it's cool to suggest [or you'll find out pretty quickly that it wasn't cool to suggest... I've been asked to 'shut the fuck' up a few times in my career]
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CN Fletcher

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If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
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Re: Nurturing The Creative Process
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2004, 10:00:30 am »

I need to think of something clever so I can use "whom" as many times as Fletcher....

Oh never mind. I've had the same basic approach as Fletcher, feel each situation out and go with the flow. The key thing is to accomodate the vibe of each individual artist.

The other thing I find is its good to have a really mellow very hairy studio dog.
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Greg Youngman

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Re: Nurturing The Creative Process
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2004, 11:03:37 am »

It seems obvious to me, but I've been to many sessions where interruptions like visitors, phone calls, cell phones brought the train to a screeching halt.  I'm most of the time a one-man shop, but I always insist that no cell phones enter the building.
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Bill Mueller

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Re: Nurturing The Creative Process
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2004, 12:11:59 pm »

Geof,

1. Start with respect. Respect the artist as a human being who is about to open their soul and expose their weaknesses to a perfect stranger. We all have insecurity, but being under the microphone (scope) brings an artist's worst nightmares to daylight. Does my song suck? Does my voice suck? Am I a looser? Should I go back to working at the gas station?

We are on a relationship ladder with each artist and producer we work with. When you are just starting out, everybody is above you so it's pretty easy to feel respectful. It actually becomes harder, the better we get and the more experience we have. Eventually you will be a wizzened old pro with a Grammy nomination and some kid will walk in with his "beats" on cassette and want to make a record. Thats when it will be most important to respect your client.

2.+3. For the last 20 years, before the session starts I have asked what level of comment the artist wants from me as engineer. Before that, I just jumped in with both feet, eager to engineer, produce, arrange and sing for every band that came through the door. Eventually this enthusiasm (meddling) brought me a spanking at the hands of my favorite band, so... now I ask.

I used to work with a guy who would snicker at every mistake an artist would make, but would not lift a finger to help them tune their instruments. The snickering was subconscious and the not lifting a finger was his way of not meddling. The end result was that no one wanted to work with him.

From an engineering perspective, nurturing the creative process can be a result of always thinking of the artist first. Get the headphone mix BEFORE getting your monitor mix. Take lunch when it is a good time to break, not when you are hungry. Show your respect for the artist currently at the mic and the rest of the band will follow suit. They will have confidence that when they are out there, you will take good care of them as well.

STAY OUT of political infighting and political mixing. DO NOT TAKE SIDES. If there are two strong personalities trying to force a mix in two directions, stop, ask the band to assign a emmisary to you (usually the bass player) and then have them decide their issues before bringing their decision to you.

Be flexible. Do not make dogmatic demands on your clients. Engineers are servents to the artist and the producer. I truly believe that if you try to force the artist out of the mix session, you will get exactly what you are asking for. You will be alone, attempting to survive in an art form that requires collaboration between people.

Hope this helps.

Best Regards,

Bill

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Geoff Grace

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Re: Nurturing The Creative Process
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2004, 02:43:09 pm »

Thanks to all of you for your wide variety of answers. And I think there should be a wide variety of responses because the answer to just how involved one should be in the artist's creative process depends both on the artist's needs and on what one was hired to do.

I'm especially enjoying the tips. We each have a unique set of circumstances from which we've learned; and as a result, we should each have something unique to share as well.

There are so many topics about gear but so few about the creative process. I'm glad we're discussing it here. Please keep those responses coming!

Best,

Geoff
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Josh Tidsbury

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Re: Nurturing The Creative Process
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2004, 03:45:41 pm »

I would agree with a lot of the comments on here.  I always try and get a feel for the level of comment that the artist is looking for even before we get into the studio for the first time.  Quite often, the need for comment evolves through the session as everyone becomes more comfortable.  What may start as a session with little dialogue may end in a session that involves a lot of discussion.  Many artists are open minded, and understand that being in the studio is a growing experience for all involved no matter their role in the project.

The necessity for comment tends to elucidate itself in time, but I definitely start on the side of caution until I get the feeling that the artist WANTS to know my opinion.  If it is evident that they don't want to know, I am very careful to tactfully keep it to myself.  The last thing you want to do is make them feel humiliated through a misplaced comment.

This whole point about communication in the studio is an interesting one, and one that comes to surface regularly the recording classes I teach.  Thanks to Geoff for starting this post, as I think it's an important one to discuss!

Take care,
Josh
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Josh Tidsbury
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Re: Nurturing The Creative Process
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2004, 03:54:20 pm »

It depends on the protocol whether I have the oppurtunity to have input in the creativity department. When a session is booked, I like to have a good 1 to 2 hour (at no charge) with everyone that will be involved and get to know them, their places and what they expect to accomplish. If at this time, no one comes to the table as the session director, then we make a decision on who will be the session director (most of the time it is me). This valuable time certainly helps to keep the sessions focused and comfortable for all involved and to keep conflicting attitudes in check for the most part. Face it. If the musicians book a session and are not prepared to lay the tracks and need practice, the studio serves as an awfully expensive practice room.

The higher quality/seasoned musicians usually love to hear some creative input from me. Many occasions I will be asked during a production of "what do I think" and this is the time that if I hear something in the arrangement that could go a different direction, I gently spell it out. An example would be "I hear a cello part back there, think it is workable"? It all depends on who you have in the studio...whether it is an intimate setting with a producer and artist or two..or whether you run into a logistical nightmare as we all have been involved with because of "too many experts".

Mixing is considered "creative control". Mastering certainly is a form of creative control as well. If communications and a strong positive vibe fills the studio and everyone is having fun and meaningful relationships in their perspective duties, then sessions go smooth and everyones input is certainly paid attention to. It is when you get one person that wants things "certain ways" and that indivigual does everything to throw a monkey wrench into the works of an otherwise smooth session is when it becomes "studio hell".

Sessions without a general session director can go smooth but if no one assumes that role, then I am happy to do so. It will save them money overall.
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