Record producer Sean Kenny talks about his art and links with Cyclones mastering facility
To most gigging musicians a recording studio is a completely alien environment?
For the uninitiated, the studio session is a hand holding exercise with reassurance and assistance the main priority. From help with instrument tuning and intonation set up, to the unthinkable… “pointing out playing inaccuracies” and helping them adjust their style for the sake of the recording. Dangerous ground this may be, but when handled in an easy going matter of fact way, most players will readily take on board this kind of information when it makes sense and it’s coming from a player.
So how do I know? Because I’m a player.
Having done over 2000 gigs in the past 30 years and been a recording enthusiast for almost as long, you tend to pick up a thing or two along the way.
The classic reply I’ll get from guys is “it doesn’t sound like that when I play live” and as I readily point out to them, without a rewind button,… how do they know? Indeed, I always stress the point that the recording session is a degree of navel gazing that most players have never experienced before. The resultant shock to their self confidence has to be handled in a reassuring and diplomatic way.
My objective on any session is that by the time we’re set up and everyone’s loving the sound and happy with monitor mixes, the atmosphere should be both a relaxed and inspired one. To this end I installed CCTV in every area of the studio, which in spite of the cost and the existing large windows throughout, really helps players with that extra close up visual feed back by displaying a matrix of all camera views in each screen, so that in one glance players can see everyone else comfortably.
Whilst I’m happy to work to a click track, in my experience tracks groove a lot more without it, especially if players aren’t used to them. Playing to a click and learning to allow for your own timing idiosyncrasies is a skill in itself. Throwing that at a band for the first time can be counter productive and waste time. A common argument for the click track, “..then we’ll be able to cut and paste the vocals”.
Whatever happened to the performance?!
If the players are good enough to play to the click, then they probably don’t need it and if they’re not, then they DEFINITELY don’t.
You’ve probably guessed by now that my favoured approach is F…orget the click track!
Our in house Pearl Masters Custom kit is popular with most clients. As well as offering a top quality drum kit, the advantage of not having to haul their own drum kits in, set them up and hope that they sound any good is a big plus to most clients. The fact that my son and I are both drummers and we re-skin and tune the drums prior to each session is a huge time saver for the bands and ensures a great drum sound every time. Subject to the player of course.
As well as “delivering the goods” for the client, the studio experience should be an enjoyable and inspiring one that leaves them in no doubt as to where to record their next session.
Then comes the mastering stage.
Mastering is a fine art and a skill best acquired by doing it for about 20 years.
When you need to delegate the extremely important and specialist task of mastering to a third party it’s reassuring to know that not only do they have the same quality control standards as yourself, but also an accurate acoustic environment, the right gear and a good ear.
By now you’re all thinking that this is just a mutual back scratching “flower throwing” arrangement (oops pardon the pun) between myself and Graham.
Well, yeah.. you’re right…BUT… (and this is the God’s honest) about six years ago, when I was trying to find a company to design my new studio and had already discounted most of the cowboys that advertise in many of the popular music tech magazines, I went and asked someone whose judgement I valued (largely because of his own facility and the results he’d delivered for me in the past), “who should I use to design my studio”?
That person was Graham Semark and the company he recommended was Recording Architecture.
Good call? Take a look for yourself.
I always recommend Cyclone to my clients.
Sean Kenny – Ten21 Studios