Learning to get a "major label" sound

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buwatcha
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Learning to get a "major label" sound

Post by buwatcha » Thu Aug 17, 2006 12:57 pm

I'm using home studio gear (Pro Tools LE, Reason, etc) and I know that this stuff is capable of producing high quality demos or even radio ready albums. But, I'm no production guru personally. So, I'm thinking of taking a class to get better since demo quality is so important. I live in NJ and there are a couple of different programs nearby. IAR and SAE are both schools that teach audio engineering but they are very expensive and full-time.I did find this seminar which looks pretty good: http://www.producerlab.comDoes anyone have other suggestions? Books and DVD's are OK but too abstract. The thing I like about the seminar I mentioned above is they are going to create a radio quality track from scratch and put all the techniques they teach into practice.

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Re: Learning to get a "major label" sound

Post by ernstinen » Thu Aug 17, 2006 1:21 pm

Hey buwatcha,The seminar might be a good idea --- How much does it cost?I've been recording since I was about 20, and have learned the most by trial and error. I HAVE taken recording arts classes, and they were pretty much a waste of time, at least for me.Workshops are great, though. I went for years to a songwriting workshop in Hollywood where our demos were played for the whole class. Something I learned quickly is that the quality of your instruments, samples, musicians, singers etc. make all the difference in the world. This costs $$ of course! To get a "major label" sound takes major talent and professional sounds.That said, I've got many masters signed to music libraries that were recorded on an 8-track reel-to-reel and/or an 8-track ADAT. Geez, the Beatles recorded "Sgt. Pepper" on a 4-track! I've heard some old mono WWII records recorded with one mic on the band and one for the singer that sound fantastic.So if you've got the "ears," you can pick things up pretty quickly.Good luck!Ern

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Re: Learning to get a "major label" sound

Post by aubreyz » Thu Aug 17, 2006 1:49 pm

Quote:I'm using home studio gear (Pro Tools LE, Reason, etc) and I know that this stuff is capable of producing high quality demos or even radio ready albums. But, I'm no production guru personally. So, I'm thinking of taking a class to get better since demo quality is so important. I live in NJ and there are a couple of different programs nearby. IAR and SAE are both schools that teach audio engineering but they are very expensive and full-time.I did find this seminar which looks pretty good: http://www.producerlab.comDoes anyone have other suggestions? Books and DVD's are OK but too abstract. The thing I like about the seminar I mentioned above is they are going to create a radio quality track from scratch and put all the techniques they teach into practice.Unfortunately there is no magic pill, if so somebody would have already made a million on the "sound like a record" plug in. This seminar looks as good as any, but there is no way you can assimilate enough information in a day or two to be able to "mix it like a record". That said, any information is good information. My advice is to read and listen to everything you can get your hands on. It may almost seem like gibberish at first, but the more you engulf yourself in the principles, the more it will begin to all make sense.There are principles and theories to learn, but the application of those principles will change for each situtation. There is no magic compression setting for vocals for instance. There are some rules of thumb and starting points, but trial and error will teach much more than any course or setting suggestion.The big thing is not to learn how to make something sound great, but to be able to know what DOESN'T sound great. What is wrong with your mixes now? What's missing, or what is there too much of? You have to be able to hear what's wrong in able to produce what's right. If you have a mix that has bass, guitar and drums then find something that sounds like you want it to sound and compare them. Mentally isolate each element. What about your mix doesn't sound as good as the example mix? Is the bass punchier in the example and yours sounds boomy and lacks definition? How can that be improved? You may pick up some tricks at that seminar, or in a mixing course, or even from a google search. The point is not to just apply things because you are "supposed" to, but to have a goal sound and use tools to get there. Some mixes might need a boomy, undefined bass tone. It's trial and error. The more you aim at something specific, the better your aim becomes in general. Find a snare sound you love and try to get that sound. I've learned more trying to copy something than I ever did trying to just make something better. Learning how to emulate certain sounds will help you be able to figure out how to get that "sound in your head" coming out of your speakers.Even though the books and DVD's are abstract, they are on hand tools you can refer to time and time again when you come across a question you didn't even to ask when you took the seminar.So, my quick tips:Learn how and why things work. Get to know how compression, EQ, and reverbs/delays and other effects work. Don't just learn what the settings are, but how they function.Listen, try and learn. This is a long road. There's no quicky course. It takes time, and the things you do right on one mix may be totally wrong for the next one. Train your ears. If something sounds good, ask why it sounds good and try to get that same kind of result.Good luck and have fun. This business is like a Rubik's cube for me. I may never get it all right, but I just can't put the thing down.

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Re: Learning to get a "major label" sound

Post by spariam » Thu Aug 17, 2006 2:18 pm

One thing I've done a bit is work in "real" studios in town, either as a customer or as a hired session player. There's a whole lot you can pick up just by working with guys who do it day in and day out.I could kick myself because when I was in a band 10 years ago or so, I had no interest in the engineering/production side of things and we spent a ton of money and time doing two CDs (band money, not my money:). I could have really learned a lot on the band's dime.Not sure about where you live, but where I live there's a state university and a community college that offer audio engineering courses (the certificate programs are pretty expensive, but I think it's possible to take individual classes). Still, I'll have to agree with others...nothing like some hands on, especially if you can mentor with somebody. Seminars might be good for that.For me, besides hooking up with local studio guys, books, magazines (Sound on Sound, Recording, EQ, Mix, etc) and internet message boards are how I pick up info (haven't tried any DVDs), along with the love of experimenting on my own. As Aubrey mentioned, learning how effects work and how to use them is a good thing to learn, and most basic recording books will offer some useful info. One of the UK magazines (can't remember if it was Music Tech or one of the others) just did an aritcle or two on exactly what you mentioned, taking a track though the entire production life cycle. (I spend a lot of time at Barnes and Noble).Anyway, I too have had music placed using some amazingly low-end gear. It's a challenge, but armed with knowledge, you can do more with cheap gear than someone without the knowledge can do with the most expensive toys.

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Re: Learning to get a "major label" sound

Post by augustheat » Sun Sep 10, 2006 9:56 am

buwatcha:First, any workshops or classes you can take on producing and engineering will certainly be helpful. We can never learn too much! However, I'm personally not a big fan of spending $22K on a "production" degree. Not to knock those who have...However, if I've got $22K to spend on becoming a better producer/engineer, I'd just as soon buy the recording gear and get busy myself! Maybe I'd find myself an experienced producer/engineer who would exchange an education for studio time with my new PT|HD rig, Neumann mics, and Apogee converters...hmmm. At the end of my "equipment bought" education, I'd have the means to further hone my craft and make a decent living. At the end of my "diploma" schooling, I'd simply have a degree and be looking for a job. Just my thoughts...While I have gone the workshop route, the best experience I gained was sitting in on various projects with a friend in his professional studio. Sitting in as an observer, turned into co-engineering, which turned into co-producing, etc. That's how I ultimately honed my Pro Tools chops. Aside from that, making dozens of really...really...really crappy recordings also made me a better producer! Same with my songwriting...(Of course, some may say I haven't improved much in either area).As a side note...While I agree with your comment that "demo quality is so important," I can tell you that I've heard a lot of really "bad" songs recorded really well. I've also heard a lot of really "great" songs recorded poorly. Hands down I'll take the great song anytime over the great production. Heck, I'll be greedy and take both!
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