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The Jenny Sue Syndrome - What it is and how to cure it.

Mar 24, 2022

"Jenny Sue" Syndrome -
What is it? And, is there a cure?

 

The Jenny Sue Syndrome: [ jen-ee ][ soo ] noun
            A female given name, a form of Jennifer.

Syndrome
-noun: syndrome;
a group of symptoms that consistently occur together, or a condition characterized by associated symptoms.

  

The Jenny Sue Syndrome is an affliction defined as someone with the mentality of a 13-year-old girl from somewhere in the middle of the country that has only ever listened to music via an iPhone and Bluetooth earbuds. As a result, the afflicted person has never had the pleasure of hearing music as it was intended to be heard. Analog!

As of this writing, the only known cure to JSS is to introduce the listener to analog music. Then, slowly, to not overwhelm the senses to the point where the brain will reject the pleasure of listening at all.

JSS comes from only ever hearing music as an mp3 via streaming services like Spotify, Youtube, or Tik-Tok.

I know you might think that this is funny or meant to be satirical. But, this is an actual disease that affects too many of our youth today. So, our job, NO, our duty as audio engineers and producers to try to help in any way possible to help those affected by this “Jenny Sue Syndrome.”

Let’s show the next generation how things used to be in audio creation. Recording, mixing, and mastering.

Meet Sir George Martin - Abby Roads Studios - UK




This is kind of what I am talking about. ANALOG! Let’s try to get back to working in the real world of how sounds are heard. Analog

Look, it doesn’t mean we all have to go out and buy an analog console and an old tape machine and outboard gear (although that is the dream, right?) But, we can try to remember what it was like and at least offer a choice to the public. So, let’s let Jenny Sue decide how she likes to hear your music. 

There are more than 60,000 songs that get uploaded to Spotify every day. That’s almost one song every second. Dude, that’s way too many songs to have to sift through to get to the one that sounds awesome. 

Even if the song has the best lyrics and the best melody and the drums are banging, the beat feels good. Suppose it sounds like garbage because of how it was mixed. It is garbage, and no one will want to listen to it.

There is a saying in our business - “Record like you’re not going to mix and Mix like you’re not going to master.”

This means to make your thing sound like what it is supposed to sound like and record it that way. Don’t try to have your computer make the sound for you. That’s is part of the problem. Too many producers and engineers are just lazy when making the thing sound the way it should. Maybe it’s a time thing? Do clients want everything done too quickly? Let’s book a 2-hour session in a recording studio and record like six songs. Yeah, that works. We can just download some beats from Youtube, write some lyrics real quick, record and mix/master, and send it to Soundcloud. Six songs done. 

I’ve heard engineers say - “Don’t worry about that note, I’ve got a plugin that can fix it” - Wait, What? Why not get it right NOW?

What is wrong with you? Can you be a little more proud of your work than just getting the song out fast? Are you sure you want to put your name on that song? Do you really want other people to know that that was you?

Remember, as an engineer/producer, you are only as good as your last, worst product. Just try not to have a worst product. Take pride in making your productions as well as your engineering, mixing, mastering skills sound better than your last one. Stop phoning it in. 

I told you that this was going to piss some people off. At the very least, this will polarize some of you. Some of you may think that it’s OK just to get stuff recorded quickly. And then just add a bunch of plugins to make it sound different and then mix it, drop an L2 on the master fader and send it straight to SoundCloud or Spotify. But, come on. Let’s get real and do it right the first time. Make your stuff sound fantastic, and be proud of your work.

Who was it that first took a cool-ass 808 hit and distorted it by cranking it up past the clipping point and thought - Man, That’s Awesome!

Look. Being a recording engineer, you’re usually not thought of as part of the creative process. Most people don’t understand what it is we even do. 

I was an engineer in a session a few days ago. Not that extensive. It was a simple V.O. session with two actors reading lines.

We had three directors/producers on the session via Zoom. (I don’t know if you guys have experienced this yet). But, it is a little intimidating. Having to deal with others who have mad, crazy ideas and opinions, they are not even in the room. They are only on the laptop screen. Maybe they feel anonymous because of Zoom?

Anyway, one of the ladies in the Zoom session told me to “Just shut up and press the buttons.” I had heard a mistake in one of the lines that one of the actors had said, and I pointed it out. - OK, I get it. After she told me that, I just didn’t say anything else. I just pressed the button: mistakes and all.

Then, to top that off. One of the “Actors” (I guess he was a Pro Tools Expert), While in the booth and on the mic, was trying to explain why and how to turn on the pre-roll feature in Pro Tools. I just kind of laughed at that one.

I got on the talkback asked if he was trying to give me Pro Tools tips. I then told him about how Avid calls me with Pro Tools questions. 

So. needless to say, it was not one of my favorite sessions to be a part of. We all have at least one of those, right?

Back to the topic at hand. “The Jenny Sue Syndrome.” Yes, there is a solution (cure). But, first, we need to understand that we, as engineers, should take a little more pride in our work. Sure. We can do it fast, good or cheap. Pick one.

Some of us may cringe when we hear another engineer take an 808 hit and turn it up to past the point of distortion. But that is the way things are with the music of today.

The same thing could be said of the engineer who forgot to turn off the listen mic on the 1980 Phil Collins session (In The Air Tonight) and discovered a drum recording process that we still use today. (It’s F**ing Awesome, BTW ).

But, at the time, I’m sure there was an engineer somewhere saying the same thing. “What is wrong with that guy? That doesn’t sound good”.
It’s all about preference. I’m not trying to get into a discussion about personal preference of what sounds good and what doesn’t. It’s more about how we, as engineers, should go about recording and making things sound as good as possible.

If a client wants us to simply make things sound a certain way that we disagree with, Should we do it? We want to make our clients feel that we are a part of their creative process. But, at some point, we need to speak up and say, “Hey, that sounds like garbage. Let’s not do that”. 

I’ve refused to put my name on some projects because they just sound like crap because of something the client demands that I do. Such as, 

Client: “Hey, turn up the snare drum. I can’t feel it.” 

Engineer: “Are you kidding? That’s all we hear, is snare drum”

Client; “Just do it. I don’t need any input from an engineer. This is my song.”

Engineer: “Cool. No problem. Just don’t put my name on this project. I don’t want anyone knowing this was me”.

Then, they get aggravated and go somewhere else. Even better. Now, I don’t have to worry about my name on a project that sucks.

As engineers/producers, we have a reputation that we would like to maintain.

Being a part of a mediocre project that the client feels is best if everything is distorted and swimming in reverb because they don’t like how their voice sounds. We may need to speak up and say something about it.

If another potential client hears that song, they may not want to work with us because of how that song sounds. They might think. “Man, who did this mix? It’s awful”.

So, the moral of this story is simple.

Let’s take a look at how we do things. Or why we do things the way we do things. Take your time. Take pride. It’s not about how fast or hard you can be. 

Take your time and get the signal you are recording to sound right and then record it. Let’s all try to help Jenny Sue understand what music could sound like.
Let’s try to help those afflicted with the Jenny Sue Syndrome. Do your part - 

For more information, contact the Jenny Sue Syndrome helpline (800) 867-5309.