Studio Log - Part 1 ( V 2.0 )
(22 Apr 02)
Introduction and general stuff
Hi and welcome...
... to "Studio Log Part 1". This is the start of a new series, called "EV Studio Logs". If you have read some issues of the Guitar Player magazine in the late 80s and / or early 90s, you might be familiar with the "Studio Log"-series by the late "studio-kingpin" Tommy Tedesco (Rest In Peace, Tommy!).
Every month he wrote about one of the many sessions he had done throughout his long career, and he described how he worked, how he learned the songs, picked his gear, he published lead sheets and some notation to illustrate the articles etc.
Lately I have gotten a lot of requests to write something about work in the studio, and since I had been planning on writing about it anyway, here is the first of my "Studio Logs"... more to come soon.... Of course I am not playing as many sessions as Tommy used to do, but I have been involved in some quite interesting ones ...
But, as an introduction, here is some general advice regarding work in the studio (especially if you are going to work as a "hired gun", a session musician... ):
1. The session I am gonna tell you about in this "Studio Log" has has been a collaboration between a singer and myself, and I was involved in the arrangement and songwriting. Fortunately, the pressure was low, there was plenty of time to work on the arrangement, experiment etc. But usually, you don´t have much time, there´s a lot of pressure on you... you´ll have to offer a good-sounding, appropriate piece of guitar playing in as little time as possible... no time for much experimentation, and you won´t have many takes to waste...
My advice for that: Try not to get nervous. If you get nervous because you feel rushed or because you made a mistake, you will make even more mistakes, and it might have some influence on your time etc.
And: Make sure you are happy with the part you recorded... don´t stop just because you barely managed to play your part... maybe you want to play it again to see if you can do it better this time... (Don´t go too far here neither... each minute can cost a lotta money in the studio ...)
2. Prepare yourself. Make sure your gear works properly... your guitar should stay in tune, should be free of things like noisy pots, microphonic pickups... there are lots of things to look for. Even Security Locks can be noisy in a recording situation, believe it or not. The strings should be fresh, but you should have played them for a while, so they sound regular. Very fresh strings tend to have bunches of harmonics, they sound very bright & treble. If you wanna record a part that features a lot of harmonics you can use that effect, otherwise: make sure you have played those strings for at least an hour or two. Stretch them so they won´t slip out of tune all the time. You might wanna put some graphite into the nut to prevent the string from being caught there (which would make them go out of tune)...
3. Be friendly and patient. Of course, if the session lasts for a few hours, you might get nervous, or exhausted. But still: you should try to stay in a good, patient mood. Don´t start to bitch at everyone... because you are most likely replaceable... and it makes work easier and more relaxed if you (and the others) are in a good mood.
Remember: you are there to do a job for someone, and there are many others who´d like to be in your place.. and the producer knows that (Hint Hint)
4. You gotta develop some kind of sense for what the producer and / or artists wants. Some of them just need you to play a part exactly the way they want it / composed it. Others expect you to suggest some things (after all, YOU are the guitarist), so you gotta bring in some creative input.
It sometimes helps to get familiar with the style of music you´re supposed to record. Of course it can bring interesting results if you´re i.e. a strict metal-player, and you get booked for a bebop-session, but most of the time, it is an advantage if you listen to some related music a bit to get a feel for common arrangements etc.
And, on top of that, you´ll surely learn something from it!
Now, let me tell you about the session I chose to talk about this time... you just gotta turn the page...