Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recording Tip 31: Alcohol of almost any kind will mess up your hearing, especially on the top end.

Two-Step Jack
This tweet has generated a lot of reaction and questions. Some of the comments were quite funny, and some more serious, asking if I meant permanent hearing damage. While of course heavy, long term abuse of alcohol can result in a number of negative outcomes, all I really meant was that whenever I’ve had a drink I notice my hearing suffers.

Beer probably has the least and liquor more so. When I have something to drink the top end of my hearing goes away to some degree, and what remains sounds odd. Of course that makes things like mixing a bad idea when one imbibes. Critical listening is pretty difficult when that’s going on, so when mixing I refrain from even wine, much less anything else.

When it comes to editing, tuning, etc where sonics aren’t a factor, alcohol may play a role in good judgement. You may approve things but when listening the next day wonder, “What the heck was I thinking??” It could be that you approved something awful....or perhaps you were loose enough to have an inspired idea! More times than not though, it won’t be the latter.

I’m not advocating drinking while working, but if you do be aware and know your tolerance. When in doubt, don’t! Especially if you need to drive home.

I’ll finish with a funny story I was told happened here in Nashville a number of years ago. There was a country singer attempting to track a song with a full band in one of the big studios. They’d been working all day and well into the evening on a little country waltz. Naturally in the good ol’ boy way, drinks were flowing freely and they were hard at it. Despite all the hours of trying, the song just didn’t have the right feel. Finally around 4am they had a track they were happy with so they all staggered home to get some rest before returning to record the remaining songs they didn’t get to that night.

Of course it wasn’t till mid-afternoon when they dragged themselves back to the studio to hear what they’d done. They began listening but after a minute the producer stopped the playback with a funny look on his face. “Play back the demo.” The assistant played back the demo and the producer yelled, “STOP!!! What that #$^%#!!! He just then realized why they’d had such a hard time with the song. The demo was a waltz, but their 4am track was a two step! Sometime during the night the entire band dropped a beat to the bar and totally changed the song....and one one noticed!  

I guess Jack Daniels wasn’t a fan of the waltz!