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Author Topic: bizarrest mastering session?  (Read 5096 times)

jazzius

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bizarrest mastering session?
« on: April 06, 2005, 05:37:53 am »

I'd like to hear any funny/weird session stories people have...this came to my mind from the "brightness" thread and the idea of making the customer happy, however much you may dissagree with what you're doing.

This was by far the weirdest experience i've had to date:

A few months ago i mastered an album of a Croatian guy.....he was a survivor from the Sarajevo siege (i think this was a factor!)

The material was mastered from 1/4 inch which had been recorded on some sort of Nagra analog recorder with simple stereo mic'ing and sounded very nice (wierd acoustic hippy music.)

Right from the beginning of he session the guy exhibited utmost unease and indicisivness......he was constantly complaining that he couldn't relate to what he was hearing (Nautilus 800, Cello amp)...that it sounded different from the headphones that he used at home....

...i struggled on to the end of the day, and gave him a listening copy...

A few days later i got a call.....he complained that on his headphone sets (he had numerous pairs), the mastering sounded different on each one...on one pair it sounded bright with not enough bass, but on another pair it was too dull and the low-end was too much.....he wanted to come back to try and fix the problem! So i suggested he bring all his headphones along so we could find some kind of compromise.

Back he came....we started trying some eq'ing things, but (predictably?), the problem of the headphone balance was unsolvable...i tried to explain to him that it was impossible to make the sound brighter on one set of cans while simultaniously duller on another.....he refused to believe this and we blundered on for many hours...

Eventually i insisted he settle on a "favorite" pair of phones (20 year old 2 euro walkman phones!) and we just aim to make him happy on these.....i also donned a pair of cans and turned off the Cello amp......

Then it got weirder!.....he started asking me to do insane eq'ing tweaks.....hi passes at 200hz, low passes at 9k.....boosts and cuts of up to 15dB in tight notches all over the midrange (my theory is his hearing was wrecked in the Sarajevo siege)....then i had to start adding in missing bass notes using a wave generator.....every song had to be cut in multiple sections, each with different ammounts of stereo manipulation....volume curves drawn all over each song.....

And the worst part.....the volume crept up all the time....he would keep asking for a song to be made louder....but then later would notice that another song was now too soft...so that one would have to go up....and on and on..into terrible and excrutiating digital clipping.....try as i might, i could not convince him to just turn the whole thing down to give us some room (the job was spread over about 6 session and he noticed if i seruptitiously turned it down)...it would go like this:....we'd start at the first song...after about 5 seconds he would say "now it must go louder".....after another 10 seconds:.."now louder still"...throughout the entire album!...so the volume would creep up insanely throughout the album!

...by this point i had already stopped listening (i unplugged my phones) as i found it impossible to listen to the appaling mess we were creating.....i was just blindly (deafly) following his instructions.


At the end of each session he would insist on 3 different versions of the master (so imagine all the above work x3)....at the next session he would then ask for compromise of the 3 versions (an incredibly complicated job to do with all those volume curves and edits)

I could go on but i won't......needless to say he was delighted with the end result....

Top that!

jackthebear

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2005, 06:38:16 am »

I once mastered an album where the client insisted we record a ride cymbal and guitar overdub at the session. Bizarre but hey whatever.....

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jazzius

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2005, 06:50:48 am »

Seems to happen more often!

I can just imagine CA saying to his wife: "I won't be home for dinner , dear".

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JGreenslade

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2005, 06:52:28 am »

I once attended a vinyl cut where the ME's nose was streaming throughout the session, and he had to keep a box of Kleenex next to the console. The cut didn't come out well, and I was mildly annoyed that the ME would take on work whilst in the grip of a 'flu bout. (I should add that the suite had wacky monitoring acoustics so I wasn't able to trust what I was hearing)

A couple of years later I met the studio manager at a party. Not being backwards in coming forwards, I mentioned my dismay to her relating to the cut, and how anyone could attempt to master in such a condition. She replied "Oh yeah, we had to let *** go because his coke habit got out of hand...".

Justin
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turtletone

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2005, 08:41:44 am »

I have a client that had a special box (size of a coffee table) that he calls the switcher made sometime in the 60's. Basically it pans stuff based on amplitude. He likes to wheel this thing in and we run the whole mix through it and it pans the mix from left to right and you have these big knobs to move around to adjust whether it sweeps or jumps. It clicks and pops and rolls both the highend and lowend off and crackles but he loves it. We've done several full albums of panning mixes, Jazz albums!!! I feel like i'm sea sick after the session. I tried to get him to switch to something that wasn't so noisey or even use panning that we could automate but he insists on using this switcher.
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bblackwood

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2005, 09:06:24 am »

Not too bizarre, but...

I cut a record on a classical gtr player years ago where she insisted on attending though the label fought her on it - I later learned why. Though she never heard anything in my room before, she immediately started telling me that the 'trebles were too bright', needed to be darker. Spent 8 hours on the record and it sounded like it was being played from behind a door. Later found out that she had been going to this renowned classical gtr player's house listening on his stereo (which had the treble knob at '10', literally), so we had to remaster the entire record (without her presence, this time). Turned out actually sounding good in the end.
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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2005, 10:39:46 am »

Weirdest for me was one client who brought in the most horrendous sounding mixes of home wreckordings when I was working out of my own project studio.  Anyway - after determining there was no way a remix could happen I spent a lot of hours turd polishing to no avail.  Meanwhile this guy is chain smoking 420 and drinking can after can of Bud lite at 2 in the afternoon.  A little uncomfortable but I get done the session and he seems real happy.  Anyway - he brought back this same exact project with the same crappy recordings something like 5 more times! - each time spending hours trying out different sequences and making me cut different versions or to try and polish one of the turds a little more.  Which wouldn't be a big deal except the entire time I'm working he sits there getting loaded and gets annoyed that I simply can not possibly make this stuff sound any better than it already is even though I tell him from the get go that there is nothing I can do to help the mixes at this point.

Finally I just refused to book another session for him and referred him to a friends studio (who also refused to book sessions for him after a couple of times because he just grated on the engineers nerves way too much).

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Steve Berson

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2005, 02:09:25 pm »

Jazzius wrote...
Quote:

C'mon Bill, let's have some stories of your bizzare antics during sessions!

How about sleeping through a video shoot of the studio for an artist?? Does that count? Complete with dollies and tracks.
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Gold

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2005, 04:46:47 pm »

I was cutting lacquers for someone that is very enthusiastic about vinyl. Always ply's me with lots of questions. Usually right when I need to make a spiral at a crossfade.

He likes to pop out for a hit or two every few minutes. So he gets back as the side is done. He asks if he can look in the microscope. Of course I say sure. While he is looking through the microscope he proceeds to drool on the lacquer. I stare in amazement and quickly realize I'm going to have to recut the side. It made a horrible stain and will not silver properly for plating. So I look through the microscope, say it needs to be recut and add a "setup" charge to the bill. He can't look through the microscope anymore.
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jfrigo

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2005, 06:02:34 pm »

jackthebear wrote on Wed, 06 April 2005 03:38

I once mastered an album where the client insisted we record a ride cymbal and guitar overdub at the session. Bizarre but hey whatever....


I've set up a mic a couple times to grab a background vocal or make an intro skit for a rap album. I've even had a client come in and see my half size little P106 wurli piano I keep in back to amuse me if I'm burning copies or something, and he decided I should play a solo over an outro vamp. Cool enough; it was good material. Got two credits on that record.

One artist came in with an ADAT tape as source. He had called ahead saying everything was mixed, but he need to get some stuff off ADAT, so I had a machine ready. Turns out it's an unmixed ADAT tape of course. It was basically his DJ performance, a couple stereo tracks he would fade in and out of, a couple live tracks (guest rappers, his live mic etc.), and some audience (all done at a club one night). He didn't quite grasp the difference between mixing and mastering. It had to be finished "yesterday," so we pulled a Mackie 1604 out, put a reverb on an aux for the live tracks, and got up a basic set of levels with minimal EQ, and proceed to use that mix to "master" from.

By the way - these were both major label artists that any 90's hip hop fans would know, if not by name, at least by the bands they were originally in before these solo albums. Hmmm...
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eligit

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2005, 07:04:45 pm »

jfrigo wrote on Wed, 06 April 2005 23:02

jackthebear wrote on Wed, 06 April 2005 03:38

I once mastered an album where the client insisted we record a ride cymbal and guitar overdub at the session. Bizarre but hey whatever....


I've set up a mic a couple times to grab a background vocal or make an intro skit for a rap album. I've even had a client come in and see my half size little P106 wurli piano I keep in back to amuse me if I'm burning copies or something, and he decided I should play a solo over an outro vamp. Cool enough; it was good material. Got two credits on that record.

One artist came in with an ADAT tape as source. He had called ahead saying everything was mixed, but he need to get some stuff off ADAT, so I had a machine ready. Turns out it's an unmixed ADAT tape of course. It was basically his DJ performance, a couple stereo tracks he would fade in and out of, a couple live tracks (guest rappers, his live mic etc.), and some audience (all done at a club one night). He didn't quite grasp the difference between mixing and mastering. It had to be finished "yesterday," so we pulled a Mackie 1604 out, put a reverb on an aux for the live tracks, and got up a basic set of levels with minimal EQ, and proceed to use that mix to "master" from.

By the way - these were both major label artists that any 90's hip hop fans would know, if not by name, at least by the bands they were originally in before these solo albums. Hmmm...



ODB?  i love that crazy solo record which sounds like it was done on a crap 4 track while wasted and using a $20 tape player for backing tracks.  forget the title...he "sings":

"first time...ever you *&&* my &^%# i felt the earth tremble under my *^&%*(&

was that the one by any chance? hilarious.
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TotalSonic

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2005, 07:44:58 pm »

Gold wrote on Wed, 06 April 2005 21:46

I was cutting lacquers for someone that is very enthusiastic about vinyl. Always ply's me with lots of questions. Usually right when I need to make a spiral at a crossfade.

He likes to pop out for a hit or two every few minutes. So he gets back as the side is done. He asks if he can look in the microscope. Of course I say sure. While he is looking through the microscope he proceeds to drool on the lacquer. I stare in amazement and quickly realize I'm going to have to recut the side. It made a horrible stain and will not silver properly for plating. So I look through the microscope, say it needs to be recut and add a "setup" charge to the bill. He can't look through the microscope anymore.


LOL!  Now that's funny!
Kind of why I try and keep to a "no client within 5 feet of the lathe" rule when I can.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2005, 07:47:16 pm »

Steve, tell them breathing on it may disrupt the harmonic integrety of the wax....and that will keep them at bay..

Smile
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OTR-jkl

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2005, 09:14:43 pm »

Not mastering sessions, but bizarre moments nonetheless from my recording days:

1- I worked with a local band who's purpose for recording a CD was to get their songs on the radio. They asked me to also help produce their stuff and gave me a previously recorded CD of the same tunes that they wanted to redo so I could get an idea of what to expect. I discovered that these tunes were in no way airworthy but did have plenty of potential - I could tell it was gonna be alot of work.

On one of the rock tunes, there was a place for a bass solo. As we were getting ready to track that song, the bassist pulled me aside and asked if I could teach him a solo to play. He said something like, "Make it cool, but don't make it too hard for me to play!" So I spent the next 1/2 hr - on the clock - giving bass lessons...

In that same song there was a part that was just screaming for a couple of really easy 2-note blues chords. When I suggested it to the gtr player he just sort of stared blankly at me and said he didn't have a clue what I was talking about. So I went in there and taught this guy how to play a couple of blues licks and he was like, "That's so cool!!"


2- Another local band had 2 guitarists - one who was pretty good and the other who was not so good. The lesser of the 2 (we'll call him Gtr2) was up for overdubbing his parts on one of the songs. It was a rather easy part to play but for some reason he just couldn't get it down. After about 30-45 minutes of trying and trying and trying again and again and again, we finally discovered what the problem was. He was having trouble playing a couple of the chords w/o letting some "extra" notes muddy up the sound. These were really easy rock power chords. He just couldn't for the life of him keep the low E string from singing away while he was playing the other chord - and it clashed really bad.

We ended up having to have Gtr1 go into the room and pull up a chair behind the neck of Gtr2's guitar and lightly put his finger on the E string to keep it from ringing whenever Gtr2 played the problem chord and then let go at just the right time for him to play the other chord.   Rolling Eyes   Gtr1 was doing way better at that than Gtr2 was at playing his easy part.

On yet another song, Gtr2 just flat couldn't play his part so after wasting what seemed like an hour, I taught the guy who was producing how to run the Auto Locator (MCI JH24 2" machine) and how to adjust the cue and went out into the cutting room and strapped on my guitar and played Gtr2's part and then stacked it - all on the clock of course.

These kids, I tell ya...  
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jfrigo

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2005, 10:20:19 pm »

eligit wrote on Wed, 06 April 2005 16:04

jfrigo wrote on Wed, 06 April 2005 23:02


By the way - these were both major label artists that any 90's hip hop fans would know, if not by name, at least by the bands they were originally in before these solo albums. Hmmm...



ODB?  i love that crazy solo record which sounds like it was done on a crap 4 track while wasted and using a $20 tape player for backing tracks.  forget the title...he "sings":

"first time...ever you *&&* my &^%# i felt the earth tremble under my *^&%*(&

was that the one by any chance? hilarious.


Wow, ODB, now there was a character, but nope, not that record.
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Alécio Costa - Brazil

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I GUESS MINE ARE THE DUMBEST
« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2005, 10:44:19 pm »

Junior MAstering...
The guys recorded at home at an 8-track cassete tape porta studio...
Hey, I have heard you may polish it s if it were recorded at a top facility...
I transfer all the stuff to my daw, do the routine tasks, listen to his reference and try to match it...
There were songs one could hear some serious wow and flutter -lol
I give him the final masters..
Oh, It is good... but not as good as XXXXX. what might have gone wrong?
Laughing  Laughing  Laughing  Laughing

Tracking...
A local famous radio dj enters the vocal botth... Oh boy, you do not need to explain anything  to me. You were a baby and I was already recording in NY at late 60s.
I say: ok, Sir...
I am tracking him.. but not looking thru the glass.. his voice disappears....
I call him on the talkback... Sir.. what are you doing at the back wall?
The man: Oh.. have you never heard about the technique of FADE-OUT? I am doing it for you already
Laughing  Laughing  Laughing  Laughing

Mixing...
I was mixing an older guy and his very boring wife close to him.. They were all the time quarreling about mix decisions etc...
Then... I mispress the enter button of the 02R and he says: bingo, you've got it!!! Save this click at the automation!!
Then.. phone rings  and I lower the Control room volume.
2 minutes at the phone and I go back to mix..

The man: hey, Why didn't you save that thing into automix?
Me: but I didn't change anything!!
He says: but now the sound is not that good...

I think for a few seconds... raise the control room level..
Him: You great! You did it! You saved this song!

Laughing  Laughing
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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2005, 11:36:58 pm »

LOL Al
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jazzius

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2005, 01:50:49 am »

Cool stuff...my favorites so far are the crazy panning box and the laquer drooler......keep 'em coming!

turtletone

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2005, 08:02:38 am »

Here's another, it's not mastering but it's funny.

I'm tracking an album for a very big duo. One day the singer decides that he's not going to speak for a year, but will sing. So now we're in the studio and he's scribbling stuff down on a pad and his partner is reading off this and that for me to do. He's sitting next to me and snapping his fingers to get my attention to point to a fader that he want's raised. We get through a couple of days of this and everyone starts freaking out (the label, publisist, managers). So he then decides that he will give 7 people a hand made gold cross. These 7 will be the chosen people that he will talk to only on wednesday and only if they are wearing the cross. If they are on the phone, he makes them clink the cross on the phone to ensure that they are wearing it. This goes on for about 2 weeks. one day I decide that i'm not going to see for a month, I want to play too. I go into the studio and I put artist tape over my eyes so I can't see. I'm sitting at the console with my eyes taped shut, he's sitting next to me snapping his fingers to get my attention, scribbles something on the paper for me to do. I can't read it cause my eyes are taped shut. The assistant reads off the requests and then places my fingers on the correct faders or eq's. We worked for 3 days like this. Then he decides that he will speak to me everyday if i'm wearing the cross but I can't talk to anyone else unless they are wearing a cross (if I take the tape off of my eyes). So now I'm the go between for him and all the other cross barers. They ask a question, I ask him, he gives the answer, I make up something completely arbitrary and tell them. (what color coat does he want to wear for the show thrusday? I ask him, he says purple, I tell them yellow with fluffy cuffs. He hears me say this but can't tell them that it's wrong. He's yelling at me saying that's not what he said. I hang up the phone and hit play on the tape machine. thursday he's on stage with a yellow coat and fluffy cuffs.) He's speaking on friday.
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bblackwood

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2005, 08:05:38 am »

Hahaha, that one's great, Mike!

I've never had such people to deal with. Makes me even more glad after reading some of these...
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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2005, 08:39:11 am »

That's funny, Mike!!
You should've put the tape over your ears...
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Jerry Tubb

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2005, 11:20:01 am »

I have a client that composes "new age" chant music. Each repetition of the chant lasts about a minute, then repeats about 30 times. Per his instructions we combed the entire chant, choosing the best instances of each syllable... yes, I said  SYLLABLE, and combined them in different arrangements to form an hour long chant!

Not quite as easy as that, we had to tweak edits and cross-fade each syllable, remove any offensive breath or other vocal sounds, pencil tool any clicks or pops, and EQ each syllable to sound as smooth and homogeneous as possible!

Not done yet, according to his preference, we would EQ each verse (repitition) to reduce any slight hint of low mid resonance or high mid harshness.

Still after all this work the composer didn't like the overall sound of the chant until I got the bright idea to spread the stereo image about 20%... He Loved It!

The whole project took us about 200 hours over a series of weeks, although very enjoyable listening, my patience had been stretched to the maximum. Kinda like being "hammered" with a powder puff for 200 hours!

Oh yeah... I almost forgot, we also did a cassette version, with endless hours of evaluating cassette refs from the duplicator.

And to top all that, over the last 15 years, we've done FIVE of these projects, all with equal amounts of obsessive detail!!!
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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #22 on: April 07, 2005, 11:57:49 am »

I know I should probably limit (pun) myself to one "Bizarre Session" post, but I couldn't resist telling this one, which is totally opposite of my previous post.

Back in the early 90's Austin was quite a "hotbed" of alt-rock music, and still is for that matter. The producer on this session is well known for his edgy style. We spend 6-8 hours mastering this "beautiful" heavy grunge alt-rock project, make DAT dubs, and burn a 1x CD master. It was a challenging session with lots of details, cross-fades, and a few sfx.

I was beginning anticipate that sense of relief that comes toward the end of a long session. About that time producer says "OK now lets run it back through the console with the faders all the way up, and overdrive the master." Say What?. The producer said "yeah, I want to red light the whole thing!" I was incensed!

So we did it, ...twice! Once with solid red lights, a second time, with solid red lights, that at least blinked occasionally! Although the sound was torturous, and the console was almost smoking, he Loved It!!! The label released it, and for a few years, it was probably the loudest, ugliest CD on the planet!

I should add that people called us from all over, wanting that same horrible sound!
... a dubious honor for a ME.
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jimmyjazz

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #23 on: April 07, 2005, 12:03:48 pm »

Hey, JT . . . good to see you here.  I bet I know which CD that is.  I won't disclose my guess, though!
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bobkatz

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2005, 04:20:56 pm »

I can't top that, but I do recall the most obsessive violinist, had me replace small parts of phrases, one or two bars long, that made no musical difference to my trained editing ears. I finally asked him exactly what he was doing, and it turned out that he admitted most people could not hear this difference, but he was doing it so that other violinists would be able to appreciate (or admire) his turns of phrase. This had absolutely nothing to do with the musicality of the recording or the intended listening audience.

Sure ate up the record company's budget...


BK
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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #25 on: April 08, 2005, 11:58:05 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Thu, 07 April 2005 13:20

I can't top that, but I do recall the most obsessive violinist, had me replace small parts of phrases, one or two bars long, that made no musical difference to my trained editing ears.



You must do a lot of soundtracks, Bob.

Quote:


I finally asked him exactly what he was doing, and it turned out that he admitted most people could not hear this difference, but he was doing it so that other violinists would be able to appreciate (or admire) his turns of phrase.



Who is more familiar with the material, you or the fiddler?

And for once it's not an audiophile question!

DC


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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #26 on: April 09, 2005, 12:06:31 pm »

I love reading these stories.  

I started a session last year where the recording engineer mixed it and was making the decisions on the masters for the client.  This was the artist's first project, she was young and (too) trusting.  I mastered a few songs and, in this case, posted them for the engineer to listen to.  He asked for revisions but was having a difficult time trying to communicate what he wanted.  After several frustrating "back and forths" he sent me this email...

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Bob-

In an effort to communicate more clearly and specifically I went ahead and mastered a song this morning.  I think it might help to give you an exact eq of what I am hearing:

GAIN     -10.2dB
FREQ.     482.7Hz
Q           0.6


GAIN     -7.1dB
FREQ.    3.4k
Q          1.5


GAIN    +1.4dB
FREQ.    5.58k
Q         2.4

GAIN    -2.5dB
FREQ.    13.4k
Q          1.8

Oh, and I also rolled of everthing below 48Hz and above 17k.

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Notice not only the gain but the Q settings he recommended as well!  

Just to try to get a clue what this would sound like, I called this up on the Weiss EQ1.  Simply, unbelievably, bad.

I called him on the phone and said "Did you feel good about your mixes?"

"Yes." he replied.

"And you like this EQ you're recommending?"

"Yes."

"For the first time in 11 years of mastering, I'm going to pass on your project and send your mixes back to you."

Leaving him somewhat dumbfounded, I said "sorry we wasted each others time" and I hung up.  I heard the disc when it came out - he "mastered" it himself...
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Bob Boyd
ambientdigital, Houston

http://ambientdigital.com
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Twitter: @bobboyd


Look, I know it's mean.  But sometimes the end justifies the mean.

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Re: bizarrest mastering session?
« Reply #27 on: April 09, 2005, 01:53:59 pm »

Quote:

"For the first time in 11 years of mastering, I'm going to pass on your project and send your mixes back to you."



There you go.

Welcome to the club.
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