Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou

Lesson 4/30 - Interacting with Clients Q&A


Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou


Lesson Info

Interacting with Clients Q&A

Any more questions relating to this draft with clients stuff we definitely have questions we've been just for those of you who might be new to creative life we do like it's all the questions that you put in the queues room we put into a document we've got them here so we'll ask them as we have time so we do have some time love if you guys have any questions we're going to help questions as well and you guys have a chance to as well so be thinking about that I would love to start with one from halves ghost says kurt how active of a role which you say you have as a somewhat passive audio engineer versus a very involved producer and does it change on ah per job basis? Yeah it's very very much though it changes based on I probably shouldn't talk about this in the interacting with clients thing there's a whole segment on that I should I should talk about which is after identifying the each member role within an ensemble is identifying what role they expect you to play and that's that's cruc...

ial in determining how you behave within the studio are they looking to you to strictly engineer their record or are they looking to you to really produce their record and direct them? I think that the first I should I should back up a second say that I think that the the term producer is often thrown around too liberally I would say that the majority of the records that I work on I'm an engineer although people frequently credit me is a producer let's say like, you know, like a band like nails for example if you're familiar with them, you know, when I recorded nails album it's usually less than a week and those guys particularly todd the guitarist singer have ah very specific vision of what he wants out of the record, you know, he's really the producer I mean, I may have been credited as producer and I said I certainly have a vision for what I want and I you know, my stamp is certainly on their albums, but I'm really the engineer so and as engineer my opinion only goes so far, you know, I don't I don't get that I don't get the final call on anything there they always get the final call on you know what? The guitar tone what's the mix and what's the song structure and so forth and so on. But, you know, some bands really want a lot of interaction that kind of all scale my how much I chime in to say arrangements and tones and production aesthetic based on a how much they want that and b how much time I'm spending on the record, you know, if it's like a you know a week long project is probably not really time for a whole lot of production unless we're just doing a song or two but if it's you know it's like a month long project I might be a little more heavy handed about that we might actually spend you know, a few days or maybe up to a week just sort of dental ing and pre production before even start the record just to make sure that the songs or totally dialed in before we start recording in that case you know, sometimes I even like writer refer to that happened so it really is it's all about sort of determining what your role is, what your role should be and then also understanding when when you're overstepping your bounds and understanding when it's time to step up and take the reins and you know, figure out when the when the group is kind of stalled and when they need a little push if you had answers the question so uninterested in one kind of along the lines of coaching them to get the right performance on this is something that I think is uh interesting question that kind of informs the rest of your process. What does kurt have to say about the band being tightened in sync on the beat in terms of sound? I'm asking because some wild, chaotic bands aren't always tight all the time but then again sometimes they sound awesome how do you sort of balance that like loose vs tight with without click tracks like um yeah, I mean I think that that that's really in the in the group's hands and I think you want to play to the group's strength you know likely continue on with nails as an example like that band is a wild animal, you know? They're not certainly not the tightest band that ever recorded, but they've got this sort of wild raw energy about them and, you know, so sort of like a grid based editing for that band would actually I think be a hindrance to them because they they're the excitement from that band comes from the rawness of them I think you know and they're certainly other bands kind of doing that style there are maybe a little bit more precise, but I think that they're they're not as exciting and that is raw so if that's the strength of the band that I try tio capture and enhance what that strength is, you know so it might mean might mean some live recording it might mean, you know, making sure there's tons of feedback every time the guitars have a little pause it might be no employing a lot of room mikes on the drums and guitars and whatnot maybe it's handheld, this super distorted vocals or something you know, like it's I think it's important to know the bandit you recording and if you could go see them live awesome or if not like watching videos on youtube and try to get a feel for what their live shows air like and if it's a you know it's kind of a wild like live feeling ban and that's the that's the impression that they want to present on their on their record you know do that but if it's a band that wants to feel you know super super tight and precise and clean you know then that's your goal to then you have to figure out a way to further the further that goal. So how about note from zach denham could kurt discuss endless mixed notes for a manned and how to stop the madness? Yes I am I'm going to talk about that tomorrow in our mixing session I have a whole section on how to do mix revisions how to interact with with the client in solicit feedback from them and revised the mix in a logical progression I got a great one here from our l can you talk about dealing with clients and finance pluses and minuses of say, charging a flat day rate no matter who it is versus coming up with creative ways of getting yourself paid properly for your time yeah, yeah I mean a lot of people struggle with that and I actually actually put out call on my facebook maybe like six months ago or so about that because I was I was curious about people asked me a lot actually if when they they emailed me and say you know hey, what are your rates and then I tell them and they say is mixing included in that and to me that's like like my mortgage is the same no matter what I'm doing if I'm like recording a band or mixing a band or you know, sitting at home waiting for a ban it's late or you know, whatever so you know, my my my rates air you know, based on my expenses and I certainly record for the love of recording and you know, I charge what I charged that that I can continue to do it and every every person's situation is different so I'm actually not gonna have really great advice here I apologize, but I'll say that every person's financial situation is different every person's sort of studio situation is different maybe you have, you know, studio similar to mine or maybe you have like maybe you're an engineer who's freelance working out of another studio or maybe your house engineer another studio or maybe you have like some sort of setup in your garage your basement or maybe your digital musician you know, I guess you gotta think kind of like, well, what can you charge um and uh you know what? What is? What is your time worth? But also what air your expenses? You know, if you charge two little can you even continue to do this? You know, if you're I mean, I have a friend who's, you know, fantastic and well known recording engineer, but he's also he's also I'm I mean, I don't know the details of his finances, but I believe that he's quite wealthy from work outside of audio, so he mostly records bands for free. He doesn't do it very often, you know, maybe he makes five records a year, something like that, but he he does all that stuff for free just for the love of music because he's he doesn't he doesn't need to make any money, um, through recording so yeah, it's it's just it's really all about what you should charges is based on your situation, and I also think that ah, it's important for for clients, not teo judge a person's quality of work based on what they charge because everybody has a different situation, you know, sometimes a stocking, a friend of mine recently who has a client who's kind of like putting him in a bidding war with another studio sort of, and he doesn't really want to participate in the bidding war because yes, he has certain expenses, he has a he has a studio that he has to maintain in this rent there, and this equipment has to be maintained, and he can't charge less than many charges otherwise he wouldn't be able to continue making records when it comes to it. I think one of the components of that question wass, you know, dead, dead beat bands, you know? And that it just happens and, uh, you know, this certainly I'm probably owed, like, ten grand right now by various bands, you know, sometimes people don't pay you in it bad karma for them, and you know, this not ton you can do, you can slander them and or you can get aggressive with them and sort of pursue them aggressively, but I'd be wary of doing that for fear of burning certain bridges because bands or friends of other bands and they have, you know, if you're an asshole to them, they're goingto let their friends know in other bands that you were bad to them. So just just, you know, think, think about, think about karma and think about benevolence and spreading goodwill as here as your tracking somebody down. If there's somebody that you really don't trust, you know, the certain bands I know that, like, cancel all the time where there now the book time three or four or five months in advance things like oh yeah, we're totally gonna like write songs before the date and then like a week comes up like a week before they're going to record with you check in with them like, hey, how song writing coming along there like way haven't written anything and then they cancel on you, then you lose your time so sometimes like a band like that either like a band I know is going to do that to me or a band that I don't know personally I'll try to get a deposit from in advance tio confirm the dates and that that could be helpful and then it makes them financially invested in making sure they're prepared and that they that they pay you because I have to pay you up front and make sure that if you do take a deposit that the band understands that the deposit is not is tied to a specific set of dates. Some bands will think like the bacon canceled last minute and we're sort of postponed last minute and that all of their deposit will apply to their their new session. But you can't really work that way because you know you lost a week or two's worth of work and you have rand or a mortgage or something that you have to pay and now all of a sudden it's too late to book something else into that time slot that would otherwise cover your expenses but you know, just just be fair and open about the way that you handled billing and you should be fine um another thing I was gonna say about that space on it um you know that money is great money sucks and I try not to like focus on money too much because it's you know, it really is it's like uh worrying about money is awful and money between friends is awful and you wanna have, like, an amicable relationship between the people you're working with and you don't really want to like harp on the money thing. Um but it's uh it's necessary you got going to reimburse me for my extra bags on the plane, right? Ooh, I would love to her. I really would unfortunately out of my hands. Yeah, I think we got a question here in the room. Yeah. Can you maybe touch base on getting or being the right kind of or having the right kind of objectivity? Like, I know a lot of d I y guys out there trying to record their own bands and and maybe they're not hard enough on their selves or hard enough on their band or too hard or how do you be productive and still come out of the good finish product I guess it's it's tough especially when you're reporting around ban because you have to wear two hats and I think that you know people define their relationships with each other based based sort of on how they interact with each other when they first meet on dh so you if you're if you're playing in a band with a group of people you know they know you as the guitar player or they know us the songwriter and they think of us like you know you're appear in that ensemble but then when it comes to recording your own ensemble now all of a sudden you're in charge but sometimes it can be hard to put your foot down and let you know let your appears from your band know that you're in charge of the recording or or sometimes it's hard for them tio you know, depending on their personality types sometimes it's hard for them to relinquish that control to you to be in charge of the recording and I think I don't have an easy solution I think that just as you as you do more of this as you do more of it you um you build confidence in yourself and they build confidence in you and I think it's it's like anything it's just it's just practice practice, practice and experience, experience, experience and you can't just jump right into it and expect tio to excel out you know, he's going to spend a lot of years and make a lot of mistakes and hopefully I'm still giving that you know, I don't I don't think I'm very far from perfect and I'm I'm still learning and improving and, um, you know, building confidence in myself and building confidence in my clients and I think I think that's how you do it does that help? I mean, do you ever say ask your band mates or whoever hey, did I suck on this recording or anything like that? You know, yeah, that is maybe maybe not probably not in those in those terms um but, uh, I certainly want to make sure that they're happy and I will I will check in with them as we're approaching the end of the record, and if I feel like they're not, what happens to me a lot when a mixing is that, um, you know, for some reason, like, like, all I'll mix the record and people won't really give me a whole lot of comments, I think that some people have the feeling that that engineers make records and they're producers make records and the bands don't really make records, but but no that's not the case, I think bands make a record and my job is just like not to fuck it up, so I want them to really interact with me and provide you with a lot of feedback and them or feedback they provide me with the better the mix is going to be so I find myself checking in with them a lot towards the end of the mix and if they're not providing a lot of feedback, make sure that I know that it's wanted and welcome and please provide me with a cz much feedback as possible and then a little more on topic bands that I've recorded more than once sort of as we're setting up to do say our second or third record together I'll you know be like so what did you like about the last record and what do you think we could have done better or what? What do you want to focus on improving for this record and you know then they'll they'll tell me you know, this could be better I like this about the record but I want to make it mohr such and such yeah it's not usually if I really really fuck it up they probably wouldn't come back to may really sucks when it's your own band maybe yeah, yeah they fortunately they maybe it's just that they're they're lazy and cause we all live also for our drummer now we all live pretty close to each other they just don't want to travel to record with somebody else but maybe they seem tio they seem to enjoy or they seem to like the results we've gotten recordings enough that they've entrusted me. Tio continue to make records, and I know that I'm very thankful to have a group of people to play with that have enough confidence in me that, you know, they trust that I can that I can make a record, you know, at the same time to like, I wantto have those kind of working relationships with everybody, but I worked with, you know, I like, you know, in my circle of friends that kind of have, like, a bit of a closed economy. I know that, like, if I need a carpenter, I can call like this guy from that man, and if I need, like, you know, if I need a record label, I can I can talk, teo, somebody from within my community to put out a record. Are you saying you seem with mastering engineers and artists and whatnot? You know, like jake, the singer, my band, he does all of our artwork and he's, a fantastic artist and graphic designer, and we have, like, one hundred percent confidence in his ability to create incredible packaging. And, you know, I'm thankful that the other guys in my band have that same confidence in me. In making records. But that's, like it's, just about building trust in that. And that takes time. And you know it does, doesn't happen overnight. But just keep at it, and it'll be great.

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.