10/4/2010 3:58 AM
I was engineering an album for an overbearing producer.
He must have blown out his ears at one
point, because he kept asking for insane amounts
of treble; and also, he was never, ever wrong. I
tried to explain as diplomatically as I could that it
wasn’t a good idea to produce music that caused
physical pain, although I was a little nicer about it
and just said that the speakers in the studio
tended to be a little “shy on treble,” so he didn’t
need to add so much He wouldn’t have any of it,
and insisted on cranking the audio on most tracks
starting at about 3kHz. Ouch.
I hated to get into some kind of clash of the
egos, but I also knew this wasn’t doing the band
any favors—they weren’t all that happy either. But
then I remembered reading about a trick where
someone had dealt with a similar problem, and
come up with a devious—but clever—solution.
Would it work for me?
This was back in the days of big mixers with patch
bays, so I re-patched the channels to include a lot of
blank channels in between. We were going along
fine, and I was setting up the sound for the lead
guitar. Then it came: “Can you make it brighter?”
Despite my protests, he absolutely insisted
the guitar needed to be brighter. So, I made a big
deal of reaching over to the channel’s parametric
EQ, dialing in a shelf around 4kHz with the top
band’s shelving function, and slowly turning up
the gain by about 3dB. “How about a little more,”
he said, so I kicked it up to 6dB. “Perfect! See? It
really did need that extra brightness.”
I whole-heartedly agreed, and proceeded with
the mix. And this was one time I really was glad
some people do mix with their eyes: I never told
him I was adjusting the EQ on the next channel
over, which wasn’t patched into anything.