How An Audio Engineer Who Didn't Read File Notes Put A Piano Out Of Tune

12-23-2014 09:42 PM

A tale perhaps not in the league of ‘A Christmas Carol’ but still enough to teach many of us a lesson.
A friend emailed me today to say he had just got an email from a client who had taken the piano tracks recorded at my friend Dan’s studio to another ‘professional’ studio. The email was a complaint which read “Dan your piano is out of tune, I want my money back.” The email went on to describe the piano tracks as ‘unusable.’
Concerned by the complaint, Dan not only checked the piano by ear he even dropped it into Melodyne to check he wasn’t going nuts. The piano was in tune, no doubt about it.
As Dan began to try and fathom out what was going on all became clear… the other engineer had not read the file notes sent which showed the BPM, Sample Rate and Bit Rate. The file had been imported and was being played back at the wrong sample rate, hence the difference in tuning. The effect of doing this doesn’t simply put the file ‘out of tune’ it changes the pitch considerably.
We’re not going to name the ‘professional’ engineer for not reading the notes, we all make mistakes. However any professional worth their salt would have spent some time trying to understand why the audio was wrong, being not simply a little out of tune, but a completely different pitch. Not checking the file notes is one thingbut then having a client blame another professional is not good, especially one who has worked with the client for 10 years. We all live and die by our professional reputations, trashing the reputation of another is not cool.
The lesson… it’s one thing to be professional enough to write notes when sending files, it’s another thing to be professional enough to read them.