Tag Archives for " Recording Engineers Handbook "

7 Traits Of A Great Assistant Engineer

Great Assistant EngineerYou may never work in a studio that has an assistant engineer, and if you own your own gear, you may never be one yourself, but it’s good to find out what an assistant in a major facility like the Record Plant, Capitol, Oceanway or Avatar really needs to know. These 7 tips are excerpted from my Recording Engineer’s Handbook, and many come from the legendary Al Schmitt (who’s won more Grammy’s than any other engineer). They will help you understand what’s expected of an assistant and how to run a professional session, regardless of the level that your on.

1. Good assistants are well-versed in Pro Tools. There are a lot of great DAWs available, but as of the writing of this book, Pro Tools was the standard in every major recording and post studio in the US. Most assistants will also be in charge of running the DAW, and they are better at it than everyone else in the session.

2. Good personal hygiene is a must. No one likes to be in a room with someone who has body oder or bad breath, and artists and producers won’t put up with it. Take a bath, put on clean clothes every day and keep the breath mints handy if you want to keep your job.

3. Good assistants are transparent. When you need them, they’re there; when they’re not needed, they’re in the background. A good assistant is always seen but not heard. He never offers an opinion even when asked. He always has a great attitude and leaves his ego at the door.

4. Good assistants admit mistakes. If you make a mistake, admit it as soon as possible. You may have to take your lumps, but we’ll fix it and move on.

5. Good assistants don’t guess. If someone asks you something that you don’t know, be honest and don’t guess. There are plenty of ways to find something out in a hurry if you don’t know right now.

6. Good assistants keep a notebook. They keep track of all the details of the session, from the setup to the players to the mics used to which songs were recorded in what order, to everything else. It’s a great learning tool, but it may also come in handy later in the project, or the next one.

7. Good assistants know how to make coffee. Coffee is still the fuel that powers a recording session. The better the coffee, the happier everyone will be.

If an assistant engineer exhibits the above traits, it’s likely that they won’t stay an assistant for long if they work hard and have the right attitude. Are there any traits that I missed?

You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

The “When All Else Fails” Recording Checklist

When All Else Fails Recording ChecklistIt happens to all of us. We’re trying to recording a sound source and for some reason it’s just not happening. What to do? It’s easy to just try a bunch of random things but sometimes that makes you more confused than ever. That’s when to try this following recording checklist when all else fails.

The “When all else fails” Recording Checklist comes from the 3rd edition my Recording Engineer’s Handbook, and it’s a sure way to set you on the right path the next time something just doesn’t sound right. Here we go:

Change the source, if possible (the instrument you’re miking)

Change the mic placement

Change the placement of the instrument or vocal in the room

Change the mic (don’t be afraid to try something that you think won’t work)

Change the mic preamplifier (again, the most expensive isn’t always the best choice)

Change the mount of compression and/or limiting (from none to a lot)

Change the room (the actual room you are recording in)

Change the player

Come back and try it another day

The last point is really important and often overlooked. Unless you’re on a tight deadline and just have to get something recorded (in which case you won’t be picky about the sound anyway), sometimes it’s just better to pack it in and come back and try it another day. You’d be surprised how much different things can sound on fresh ears and a fresh mind.

This also applies to playing as well. Many times a player just can’t seem to get a great take with the right feel even though he’s playing the right notes. Once again, coming back the next day with a fresh mind does wonders, and often times you’ll get it in the first or second take.

You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

So You Want To Buy A Cheap Microphone

Real vs fake U87

Can you spot the fake?

I’ve received a lot of questions lately about my opinion on some very inexpensive vintage microphone clones. I love finding a great cheap mic as much as the next guy, but there are some things to watch out for before buying. I thought it might be helpful to repost the following from 3 or 4 years ago.

In many ways we’re in the golden age of audio gear. On the whole, inexpensive audio gear (under $500) sounds better than ever and is a much better value than even a decade ago and way better than 20 years ago. The same can be said for mics, as there is a large variety of cheap mics that provide much higher performance for the price than we could have imagined back in the 70s and 80s.

That said, there are some pitfalls to be aware of before you buy. Here’s an excerpt from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook 3rd edition that covers the potential downside of inexpensive mics.

“One of the more interesting recent developments in microphones is the availability of some extremely inexpensive condenser and ribbon microphones in the sub-$500 category (in some cases even less than $100). While you’ll never confuse these with a vintage U 47 or C 12, they do sometimes provide an astonishing level of performance at a price point that we could only dream about a few short years ago. That said, there are some things to be aware of before you make that purchase.

Quality Control’s The Thing

Mics in this category have the same thing in common; they’re either entirely made or all their parts are made in China, and to some degree, mostly in the same factory. Some are made to the specifications of the importer (and therefore cost more) and some are just plain off-the-shelf. Regardless of how they’re made and to what spec, the biggest issue from that point is how much quality control (or QC, also sometimes known as quality assurance) is involved before the product finds its way into your studio.

Some mics are completely manufactured at the factory and receive a quick QC just to make sure they’re working and these are the least expensive mics available. Others receive another level of QC to get them within a rather wide quality tolerance level, so they cost a little more. Others are QC’d locally by the distributor with only the best ones offered for sale, and these cost still more. Finally, some mics have only their parts manufactured in China, with final assembly and QC done locally, and of course, these have the highest price in the category.

You Can Never Be Sure Of The Sound

One of the byproducts of the rather loose tolerances due to the different levels of QC is the fact that the sound can vary greatly between mics of the same model and manufacturer. The more QC (and high the resulting price), the less difference you’ll find, but you still might have to go through a number of them to find one with some magic. This doesn’t happen with the more traditional name brands that cost a lot more, but what you’re buying (besides better components in most cases) is a high assurance that your mic is going to sound as good as any other of the same model from that manufacturer. In other words, the differences between mics are generally a lot smaller as the price rises.

The Weakness

There are two points that contribute to a mic sounding good or bad, and that’s the capsule and the electronics (this can be said of all mics, really). The tighter the tolerances and better QC on the capsule, the better the mic will sound and the closer each mic will sound to another of the same model.

The electronics is another point entirely in that a bad design can cause distortion at high SPL levels and limit the frequency response, or simply change the sound enough to make it less than desirable. The component tolerances these days are a lot closer than in the past, so that doesn’t enter into the equation as much when it comes to having a bearing on the sound. In some cases, you can have what could be a inexpensive great mic that’s limited by poorly designed electronics. You can find articles all over the Web on how to modify many of these mics, some that make more of a difference to the final sound than others. If you choose to try doing a mod on a mic yourself, be sure that your soldering chops are really good since there’s generally so little space that a small mistake can render your mic useless.”

You can read additional excerpts from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook or my other books on the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.