Interacting with Clients


Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou


Lesson Info

Interacting with Clients

Interacting with our clients. Um, so first, who is the client? In my case? It's usually the bands that I record, but in in other people's cases, that could really vary. You know, if if you are doing d I y recording, then your client is yourself, and sometimes I mean, my my own client, a lot of times, like when I record converge records, I'm my own client, I stuffed a work for aunt I wouldn't wish wish me on anybody else, you know? And then my band mates are my clients. So if you're doing d I y recordings, maybe, you know, maybe you're in a band, you know, your your band mates are are your clients or, you know, uh, maybe if if you know you're a little further along in your career, you might consider the client to be the band's management or the band's record label, or or even or even the band's audience, you know, depending on with bands, goals are, you know, if you know a degree of commercial success seems to be their their goal, which isn't really the type of man that I record too oft...

en, but but once in a while, you know, like you know, I think I think music's become very competitive lately and some some bands are keenly aware of how people respond to their music in relation to their contemporaries so if a band is really putting sort of their business goals to the forefront you have toe consider that stuff so you know, you got to know about advance audience I think I think that I think about the bands audience even for like underground records you know, like those I recorded high and fire but a year and a half ago at this point and they are a favorite favorite band of mine so I'm actually one of their audiences so I'm as I was making their record I was thinking like not just you know doing what the guys asked me to do and supporting the record that they're trying to make but I'm also thinking about it from the perspective of the audience like hey, I'm a fan of this band and what I want to hear from this band and what what air their strength of what caused me to fall in love with this band and, you know, thinking about what what my favorite recordings of theirs were and then trying to make sure that what I did as an engineer kind of supported what the fans of the band wanted to hear so you know usually what the client is is some amalgamation of, you know band fan record label so forth and so on although for the purpose of this course I'm going to talk about clients mostly as they pertain to me, which is the band um but keep in mind that that that term can be more broad than just about so now that you've identified who your client is, you want to know what their goals are are they you know are they a band that's competitive with with their peers? Are they concerned about having, like, the loudest record of fastest record or the most innovative record or you know, whatever or are they are they just a group of friends that are really just really enjoyed playing with each other and they're mostly concerned about having a really positive interaction with their friends and an enjoyable recording process that they can be proud of making a recording with the representation of who they really are or you know, but they maybe they maybe they I don't want that maybe they want an idealized version of themselves and just trying to determine what what that ultimate goal issue no, I've recorded some bands that have, like, you know, quite frankly the records might have been better had they kicked out their drummer and gotten somebody else or something like that, but um you know, maybe you know, just the experience of a group of friends doing something together it is more valuable um then the final result of the record and, you know, I know I think about that a lot when I'm when I'm picking who who I work with, you know, I want I just want to enjoy my life and I want to work in my studio and enjoy the music that I'm working on, but also enjoy the interactions with the people that I'm working with that kind of care about that creative process in the excitement that you you get in the creative process mohr than I do the final result because I can always just not listen to the record what it's done, it doesn't come out good, and but if you know if I spend a week or two weeks or however long with a band I want, I want to enjoy that creative process and share that with them so you know, and if that's their goal that's great and I try to work with man's that have that have that is their goal, but you know that being said, you know, if if the band is entrusting you with their baby, you really want to identify what what their goal is and try to help support them in achieving their artistic goals and if if their goal is to, you know, to make a record that's, super polished and competitive with with, uh other you know other other bands of their genre than that's your job and if if you don't feel as though you're the right person for that job then you should be honest with them and tell them that you know hey, maybe I'm not the right person for you to be working with and maybe this there's somebody who's better at helping helping you pursue your goals that I am and you know I do that regularly so let's see what we've got next year um yes so interacting with clients these are seven rules that I sort of think about regularly as I'm as I'm interacting with my client's first one is to be transparent um well actually this this be transparent thing is not a rule this is this is optional and this goes back to one of the clients goals and who is the client you know from recording a band that have much of a recording oriented people in the band that were curious about what my process is and you know why am I using this mic on that ball a lot you know, perfectly happy to tell them but there's also a lot of people I record who are intimidated by the recording process and don't want and or are easily stressed out I don't want to get bogged down in the minutia so for those people I try to make the recording process is transparent to them as possible keep keep keep them on task let them worry about playing music and then let me worry about the engineering stuff you know? So you know if a microphone goes down or mike pre europe cable or something like that and I know I'm not like oh god you know we've got to do this and like but now we gotta fix this mike pretend otherwise it's going to sound different than the last song about you know they don't care they just want to play music so I don't let them sweat any kind of headache you're going through and also if you sort of clue abandoned too much on what you're doing as an engineer or more not so much what you're doing but if there's any if there's any technical hurdles that you're having um if you clued them in on those technical hurdles a lot they can start to lose confidence in you and you don't you want to present yourself with confidence you want them to have confidence and use that they'll perform their best um so number two is be malleable you know I have a way that I like to do things in my studio that I think sounds best in my studio but if a band isn't comfortable with recording that way then I'm I'm malleable I can record you know, record the way that they want to record in the way that they feel comfortable I think that having people perform well is way more important than getting the ultimate sound quality out of something, you know? Tad and I were talking earlier about about live recording in his studio, he records, ah lot of the bands a life and, you know, tell me about avandia recorder recently that came in super prepared and could just, you know, play altogether and just kill it. You know, a lot of bands can do that. A lot of mia's can't sew, you know, try to figure out what type of vanya recording and in which type of recording method is goingto work best for them don't don't let your own personal taste or style's totally dictate the session if you feel as though a band wants to record in a way. That's, totally different from what your style is, and you don't feel a ce though you're capable of it, let them know and then say, like, hey, you know yes, that's cool, but, um, it's, not really my strength, and maybe should record it with somebody else whose it is their strength, or or let them know that it's, not your strength and you're willing to try but make sure they understand that it's not what you usually do and it will be a little bit little bit new for you and, you know, maybe even cut him some slack if you're if they know that your guinea pig on them cut him some slack on the price of the recording so that they don't you know it just it took compensate for their subtle lack in confidence in you so be jovial keep keep the mood light in the studio you know different people respond different ways psychologically, but I find that most of the bands and I'm recording I just want to feel like they're hanging out with their friends they they can be intimidated by studio environment so no rip a fart tell ajoke by everybody pizza, beers or whatever you know, whatever they're into everybody loves a yeah, I'll probably be farting many times over the duration of this course. So I believe the fact that party great life history right there well, anyone who's been in my studio knows that I like to fart it's an important part of the creative process I find I find that it is we'll see look mean, you just broke the tension in this room by talking about farting farting is farting is an excellent recording tool in fact way changed this uh thing to just put farting up there I call that warner out of the mix yeah, yeah yeah um I like to use a d sex on him a fart yeah, yeah, I am it was not a far thing, but I but I recently worked on a project that needed hand claps and the hand claps were actually done by the bass player's banking the guitar players asked so I mean it's like recording can be kind of it can be kind of like a locker room, but I think that that's so and sometimes it smells a lot like a locker room, but I think that that's okay, um, but again, you know, like know know your audience and I know you're you know, you're no your clients and if that works for them, you know, like, if you have, ah band of mixed genders, they might not want to be his locker room me or maybe they want to be more locker room e I don't know, um speaking of mixed mixed genders er if for any any females watching, I apologise if I talk about the drummer as ahi, I do mostly record males, but but I love recording females as well, and if you're a female audio engineer of more power to you that's awesome and keep it up um okay, so back to back on task, speaking their language I don't mean french or german if they happen to be from france or germany, but if you do know french in german, use it, but mostly is sit back and listen to how band communicate with each other and try to use they're terminology, you know, like I was recording span call camilla talk last year and when they say dish, that means a symbol with a bass drum when they say pish, that means symbol without a bass drum, or maybe means a symbol with the snare kind of forget that there's like little little things that different bands we'll use and, like it's it's amazing how broad people's definition of the measure is it's not one, two, three, four sometimes a measure is like one, two, three, four sometimes it's an entire cycle of a riff, you know, it could be anything. So try toe band, I record the tune to dropsy, but when they're explaining rest, they go, you know, like open toe one is e f so like a ripple go e f five six so you want to, like, identify like, okay, these guys are, you know, or maybe maybe, you know, they're like this's the minor sevenths us too or whatever like they might talk in musical terms that I might talk in total cave man terms and try to identify what terminology they're using and how they interact with each other and speaking their language and which sort of harkens back to be malleable is don't don't make them conform to you try try, try your best to conform to them and and it'll make the whole process move along quicker and easier. All right, keep them in the loop. This is sort of the opposite of be transparent if there's something going on that they need to know about, don't hide it from them, whether that's like, you know, pro tools excuse me, pro tools to shit the bed or you accidentally deleted a bunch of tracks or, you know, or you, uh you know, you have to take your dog to the vet or, you know, whatever, just let him know what's going on being left in the dark, I think, is the one of the worst feelings in life, you know, I, uh I can't I can't I can't stand what I'm what I'm trying to get an answer out of somebody and they just don't keep in the loop in the in the same come it also, it happens when you're booking bands too and that's why I usually like tio book bands via email so that there's like a like a paper trail of of what you talked about because if they don't if they don't understand what's going on it's going to piss them off so you always want to make sure they were in the loop on any a decision that directly affects them they think they might be interested in, um and then also keeping them in the loop build consensus there's we're talking a little bit soon about the different personality types within a band and you'll find that they're certain leaders in a group for different subjects but don't discount anyone's opinion within the band even if they're if they have trouble articulating their opinion that there's a lot of people who who play music who they don't give themselves enough credit they might not be able to communicate technically with you, but they still might have some great ideas and if you're patient with them and and try to learn how they articulate their ideas and try to communicate with them in a way that they could understand you might actually get some great information out of them I know that there was a band that I recorded late last year was a fantastic band the was the guitar player of the band was sort of the driving creative force of the band but he was a decent initially not super confident in his communication of his ideas but the but the drummer was very confident articulate in his ideas so he kind of got his way all the time and you know his his ideas were totally valid but in the end once the guitar player sort of gathered a little more confidence that I realized that he was really the one who had the vision for where the song should go on dh I wish that I had spent a little bit more time with him trying like dig dig his ideas out of him so I had a better picture of what the band wass as a whole so make sure that you don't just listen to the most vocal person in the group that you you spend time with everybody and and make sure you really understand what each of them want that build consensus within the group before before proceeding you know because you know if you don't do that whoever the loudest voice is is going teo is going to get their way and in some cases like no nobody of the man is very confident and then you end up getting your way which is cool assuming your way is best but your way is not always best or you might think you have a vision for what the project is but you might actually not so make sure you just listen to everybody and build consensus but the opposite of build consensus is fear compromise so the easy solution if two arm or band members have conflicting ideas is to find some sort of, you know, compromise between the two you know, this guy wants yellow and that guy wants green but you know, compromises wait what what makes brown colors make? Yeah so all the colors so whatever, you know, everyone's got their own ideas sorry that was off the cuff I have had our class for a long time so you know all the you know you and if you try to find this middle ground sometimes you get the goal of a compromise is always like the best of both worlds, but the result of a compromise is often this sort of middle of the road brown so I'm not saying never compromised but be be wary of compromise and sometimes it's best teo, you know, build consensus but then decide upon a direction and go one hundred percent in this direction like, hey, yeah, we're going to make this record super roar hey, yeah, we're gonna make this record super precise and sometimes if you try to make a record raw and precise is the same time just kind of comes out is middle of the road and bland, you know, so that's it look like virtual pizza and the chattering pointed out like you khun just apply this toe like personal relationships. You know, your girlfriend or boyfriend, like all of those things, are appropriate to just dealing with humans. Yeah, like doing with clients. A lot of clients are human life lessons with character. Sometimes they're corporations, but usually they're humans. Yeah, absolutely, yeah, I mean, um, yeah, totally. I agree that I don't agree with virtual pizza concept, though. I wanted real pizza.

Class Description

In this two-day course, prolific producer Kurt Ballou will take you behind-the-scenes of GodCity Studios to show you exactly how the magic happens. This all-access studio pass will immerse you in every aspect of Kurt’s distinctive sound — from choosing and setting up gear, to tracking and mixing.

Kurt will show you the basic and advanced techniques he uses in his studio every day, and teach you how to apply them to your own recording — regardless of whether you’re working in a studio or at home with a DIY setup. Using anecdotes from his years behind the board, Kurt will also teach you his best practices for working with bands to extract the best and most inventive sounds.


Keith Foster

First off, even though I'm neither a beginner nor a recording professional, this class is absolutely worth the money you spend on it - especially if you plan on making heavy music. There are enough tips, tricks and guidance in here to get your money's worth many times over. That said, as an indie artist who goes to a studio to record drum tracks, then does the rest ina home studio I found some of the things disheartening. Much of the class follows a "I do this thing using item / amp / microphone / plugin (X), it's pretty cool" vibe, and it sounds cool.... until you check the price. As an example, the 'stereo buss processing' section sounds fun to try, except for the part where the three pieces of gear cost about $8K. As a result I found myself figuring out how to incorporate the essence of what he was saying without the gear budget to do so. Maybe I'm not the intended audience but a little more concept and less gearhead would have been even better. That said you should totally get it, it's a low price for so many hours of great content.