Have you ever heard the phrase “Turn down the suck”? I once had a friend say to me in the midst of a brutal hangover the morning after a particularily bad gig, “Boy, you really had the suck knob cranked to 11 last night, huh?”
The funniest thing I’ve ever heard a sound tech say in a sound check was “Whoops! Must have forgot to turn on the talent switch.” I laughed so hard I nearly busted a gut (or a guitar string).
Many would-be musicians like to believe that there is some magical talent knob that is used in professional studio recordings to make horrible musicians sound like guitar gods, and Rossanne Arnold sound like Britney Spears (vocoder anyone). Though it is true that certain types of effects and tweaks can be used to allow amatuer musicians and vocalists to sound better, there is no such thing as studio magic in real life.
Although we can’t make bad musicians sound good, we can apparently make them look smart. Here is the closest example of real life studio magic.