Artists and Engineers

I was reading an interview with Bil VornDick in Premier Guitar magazine the other day. Bil is a very successful, highly respected Nashville engineer and producer who has been practicing his craft for many years.  I have been thrashing about in the home studio recording swamp for a while and I thought it would be interesting to see what I could learn from an expert.  He had a lot to say about how he mics certain instruments and how he works with artists to get the best performance.  A lot of good information is in the article.

However, one of his answers really leaped out at me.  When asked where someone who is setting up a home studio should spend their money he had some suggestions.  Then he said, “…I work with a lot of artists who should just be artists but they also want to be engineers and they don’t realize that there are two hats.”  He goes on to talk about songwriters who spend so much time trying to learn recording that they stop writing songs and guitar players who stop practicing their instrument.  They end up being not as good at either as they could be if they focused on one – the one they are already good at.

Now, I’m not sure that I agree entirely, but I can see his point.  I wonder, though, if it is too easy to equate a level of technical polish with an equal level of value.  It seems to me that there are less than perfect recordings that are way better than some that have better technical attributes.  Beyond a basic level of acceptable technical quality it is still the performance that drives the quality standard.  If you play well, if it’s a good song, if there’s some heart and soul in the performance that will come through.  That will move the listener.

Still, there is, I suppose, a certain level of arrogance that leads a guitar player to think that it will be easy to learn how to record and mix well.  I can just imagine what I would think if the engineer told me that he was going to start playing guitar and it shouldn’t be that hard.  After all, he had learned how to be a good engineer.

Author: Ron

I started playing guitar in high school bands playing songs by the Ventures, early Beatles and other British Invasion bands. With excursions into many types of musical styles and genres in the intervening years I have developed an appreciation for the unique skills of the guitar accompanist. The accompanist serves the song and serves the singer, enhancing rather than competing with the song and the performance. This blog highlights those skills and the practitioners who exemplify this important bit of artistry.

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