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1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

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1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby blinddrew » Fri Mar 30, 2018 5:01 pm

Firstly a disclaimer, although I have met Paul in person a couple of times we've never worked together or had any discussion more serious than being impressed at Folderol's soft-synth at a SOSage meet. I'm not affiliated with him in any way and paid his standard rate for the tuition session.

Right, that's the ugly bit out of the way.

Paul Ward (aka The Elf) offers one-to-one tuition at your home at a rate of £30/hour. This includes his travel and expenses (within reasonable distances) and he does an introductory offer of four hours for the price of three. All you have to do is think about what you want to ask him, give him a headphone socket to plug into, and top him up with coffee occasionally.

What this buys you is Paul's ears, his experience and his honesty, all in the comfort of your environment and using your gear. I'll give a couple of example of each of those things, along with a bit of background about what I asked him to look at, so you can get some context.

It's safe to say that Paul and I are at fairly opposite ends of the experience spectrum. Whilst I've been dabbling in home recording since having a 4-track cassette recorder in the mid-90's it's only in the last three or four years that I've started trying to do anything more serious. Last year I made my first attempt at recording a band (full drumkit, bass, 2 guitars and vocals) and it was the output of this session (yes I'm still working on it!) that I asked Paul to look at initially.

Paul was careful not to namedrop but the one time he did the name was 'Quincy Jones' - which gives you an idea of his previous resume... Of course this wouldn't mean a damn if he couldn't translate this into a typical home recording environment. But one of the key advantages of this kind of tuition (as opposed to a residential or studio-based course) is you get to work on your stuff, with your kit, in your room and Paul’s approach makes the most of that.

The main question I had for Paul was about how I could get rid of some of the mud in my mixes, and though we did work on a couple of other things, cleaning up and creating space in the mix was the main theme of the session. For the most part we looked at one track (here's a link to the track before our session: https://soundcloud.com/the-southern-wil ... 04/s-r6flZ ) and I should point out that I was reasonably happy with how far I'd got this (with the help of a few people on the forum :) ). At the same time, when I compared it to my reference mixes it wasn't as clear or spacious and I was pretty certain that, despite the budget nature of the recording (more here if you're interested http://blinddrewsmusic.blogspot.co.uk/2 ... art-1.html ), it wasn't my gear holding it back.

Sure enough after a couple of listens through on speakers and headphones Paul started work. He has a keen ability to explain what he's hearing in a way that helps you identify and isolate the problem areas; "muddy" doesn't really help fix a problem, "the plate reverb you're using is very low-mid heavy and I can hear the wobbly modulation down there through the mix," gives you much more to work with.

It's worth emphasising at this point that this wasn't a "mix rescue" session where an expert jumps in and blitzes your mix in a blaze of twiddles and fades, leaving you with a better mix but no more of a clue. I drove whilst Paul provided the directions and helped me work out what I was listening to and for.

Paul will tell you that he's paid to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to. Sometimes this will mean telling you that that plug-in you really like (I really do!) just isn't helping the mix, sometimes it means telling you that the kick drum just isn't well enough recorded and you need to think about some replacement work. But he's not there to knock you down and all of this is delivered with tact and respect, and he's just as quick to point out the positives and highlights. I didn't end the session feeling beaten up, just keen to put things into practice.

Having had a bit more time to work on things this week, I've uploaded a new version of that track that hopefully demonstrates the kind of difference that I'm talking about: https://soundcloud.com/the-southern-wil ... 30/s-QkhcT
To me the changes are subtle but valuable, with both a clearing up of mud and a more coherent 'placing' of the tracks within the sound field. I'm happy with the progress this represents after just one session, and will be applying the same thinking to the other tracks recorded at the time. Your mileage, as always, may vary. :)

To go back to my opening point, Paul hasn't asked me to write this, isn't offering me any incentive to do so, and he hasn't had sight of it prior to it appearing here. Hopefully I haven't embarrassed him too much. :)

In summary, there is an old adage that says, "those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Frankly it was bollox then and remains so now. Paul has a great track record as a music maker and, as far as I'm concerned, an equally strong one as a teacher.
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby Ramirez » Fri Mar 30, 2018 5:26 pm

Excellent.
The Elf has very often helped me out with mixes here on the forum. Respect.

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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby blinddrew » Fri Mar 30, 2018 5:52 pm

Indeed, it was the endorsement of others here that persuaded me to cross his palm with silver. Well worth it. :)
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby Wonks » Fri Mar 30, 2018 6:18 pm

Nice.

Just wondering how Paul manages to hear now you've bought his ears?
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby blinddrew » Fri Mar 30, 2018 6:21 pm

It's like a time-share agreement, but without the apartment in Benidorm... ;)
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby Folderol » Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:52 pm

Thanks a nicely balanced mix... err... review :lol:
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby blinddrew » Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:58 pm

:tongue:
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby Zukan » Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:18 pm

Dude's Jedi!
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby Forum Admin » Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:41 pm

"Elven Jedi is he"
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby Martin Walker » Wed Apr 18, 2018 4:11 pm

There is mushroom in his mixes methinks 8-)
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby The Elf » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:04 am

:blush: :oops: :blush: :oops: :blush: :oops: :blush:
Shucks, guys!

That's very kind of you, Drew. I'm humbled.

I do what I do, and if it works for folk that's a beautiful thing. I'm not for everyone, but neither is coffee, and your coffee was very nice indeed! Liked most of the music I heard too.

Hope it goes well for you, mate.
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby garrettendi » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:16 am

Once my wedding is safely out the way and I have more time and money, I'd love to hire Elf for the same, but I don't think the Sussex Coast counts as a reasonable distance :(

Great review though, and I have a huge respect to both of you, drew for admitting his shortcomings, and Elf for helping him in person, and others and I on the forums.

Oh and drew, you've helped me out plenty of times too!
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby The Elf » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:22 am

garrettendi wrote:Once my wedding is safely out the way and I have more time and money, I'd love to hire Elf for the same, but I don't think the Sussex Coast counts as a reasonable distance
I'm constantly travelling to clients all over this country and elsewhere. With a bit of flexibility we can sort something out - just drop me a PM when you're ready.
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby garrettendi » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:24 am

The Elf wrote:I'm constantly travelling to clients all over this country and elsewhere. With a bit of flexibility we can sort something out - just drop me a PM when you're ready.

Fantastic! I'm getting hitched in November so we'll see what we can do in the New Year!
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby blinddrew » Thu Apr 19, 2018 6:10 pm

As a minor follow up, my band mates have also commented on how much better the mixes are sounding now. So it's a thumbs up from them too. :)
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby The Elf » Thu Apr 19, 2018 6:50 pm

blinddrew wrote:As a minor follow up, my band mates have also commented on how much better the mixes are sounding now. So it's a thumbs up from them too. :)
:thumbup:

Stick to the same principles and see it through - it's well on the way now.
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Re: 1:1 tuition from Paul Ward - customer review

Postby blinddrew » Thu Apr 19, 2018 7:04 pm

Cheers Paul, I'm sure I'll be back in touch in due course with the next round of questions. :)
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