Thursday, November 29, 2012

problem solving as engineers

Some of the most underrated features of an engineer to me is problem solving, troubleshooting, and creativity. Anyone can sit at a desk and hit record and stop, but when problems arise is when engineers really show their worth to me. In the studio problems have to be solved quick because the artist is on the clock. In mixing you've got more time to think and go through options. Sometimes taking a step back and looking at the situation with all your options can provide a solution when your first thought is this can't be done.
For example in this mix I'm currently working on, my client pointed out a pop in the middle of the song. Then came those three words every engineer hears......."Can you fix it?" When I checked it out I realized it wasn't a digital pop, but a pop caused by the way the other artist featured on the song was saying a particular word, It was like a high pitched lip smack. Ok, so this is normally an easy fix. Grab the word from another hook and paste it over the one with the pop. Well I soon realized EVERY time the word was said in the song there was the same pop. At this point I was about to say its in the recording and there is nothing I can do about it. I had actually typed that in a reply in the email, but then before I hit send I said to myself is there anything else I can do before giving up.
So I got to brainstorming and came up with the following ideas.

  1. fix it with eq.......... naw, eq cut could compromise the vocal
  2. zoom in, find the pop, delete it.............could work if I paste in a portion so there is no gap there. Would be time consuming but possible. 
  3. use an effect to mask the pop..........mmmm......reverb, delay, or distortion wouldn't fit the song
  4. what if I masked it with another instrument........dammit the music is a 2track mix. 
  5. what if I faded in just the beginning of each time he says the word thus reducing the pop..............AH HA! In theory not only should this work, but is also the quickest resolution. Lets try that!
Fading in the beginning of each of the words worked. And took me less that 5 mins to apply the fade to word 9 times across 3 hooks. As engineers (though sometimes we have to) we should really hate to say the word's "I can't". So next time your faced with a problem you think you can't solve, take a step and go weigh your options. Like I said anyone can sit at a desk and record someone, but problem solving, troubleshooting, and creativity is where an engineer really earns his worth to me. 

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