Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Recording Session That Changed My Life (Recording With Richard Martin)

Every so often in life, something happens that completely alters our course or perspective in a very substantial/meaningful way.

I had one of those today ...

For the very first time, I did a recording session in a completely analog studio. I also worked with a producer who was very calm about taking as much time as necessary to get something done properly.

But anyway, working with analog was completely eye-opening... I record myself pretty frequently, because I'm frequently jamming or improv'ing or writing music & garage band is essentially my musical notepad (after all, it's much easier to record to jot something down than it is to transcribe it). In Garageband (or ProTools/DP/Audacity or any other DAW), I can look at what I'm doing visually. I can also record take after take after take & replace individual notes with relative ease & have an unlimited amount of tracks and data manipulation within instant control.

Recording straight to tape is a whole different story. First of all, this recording setup did not go through a computer, and that's a revelation in itself. It went straight to tape - meaning the visual aspect of editing is just about non-existent. This was a completely different world for me, considering the most recent session gig I did before this involved a *ton* of editing & looking at waves & matching stuff, etc., etc. (as does my current editing project). The second thing was that there were very few remaining tracks to use for each song, and the producer did not like punching in/out. What this meant is that I had to get a really great whole take.

This was a revelation for 3 reasons: One, this is how bands like Metallica (and everyone else) used to have to record. Two, it makes a *huge* difference in the outputted track ... it forces you to take more time to work on a track & the track really develops a character of its own .. something often missing in modern recorded music. Three, It forces you to actually play well, which led me to realize that (in addition to just not accepting mediocrity in my playing), I need to look at The Whole, instead of pieces when I'm practicing (and aim to play the whole perfectly, instead of just the parts). Some people have this rule that you have to play something x times perfectly in a row before moving on (where x is a number 10 or higher) ... I think this is a good rule, and plan to apply this in my practice from now on.

I also learned about some things I need to work on technically - for one having spot on pitch (I have decent pitch, but it does not cut it for recording ... One method I'm going to work on is shifting/doing scales without vibrato). Two, playing every note in the left hand like I really mean it (meaning having my full weight down into the night). Three, being able to shift with ease from any note to any other note (I also remembered that the way to develop this is to start with shifting so that you hear the entire gliss. This means that all your weight is down & helps you develop the proper motion/method of shifting). Four, remembering to shift with the upper arm first. Five, being able to consciously choose whether I'm playing flat-fingered or curved-fingered and being able to do both with ease. Five, counting/feeling syncopations with ease.

On top of all that, I actually had to play to a track that wasn't metrically perfect/consistent. I am sad to say that that was actually a challenge! I'm so used to striving for rhythmic/metric consistency that (like playing with vibrato) it actually became a challenge to turn this off & to really feel the track.

In general, I feel like I have a pretty good/developed innate sense of music/musicality (at least in rock music), I have lots of ideas & feelings, etc. ... But, I often lack the technique to really put them into use. This session took substantially longer than it needed to (about 9 hours), and there were a variety of reasons for them, but one of them was that I was underprepared. You hear stories about session players who come in and just nail the tracks on their first or second take. That's what I want to be ... not what I am.

So, Final Lesson: I need to consistently practice more ... more as in 4 hours everyday ... It's time. Because if I don't do it now, I won't ever be that good.

1 comment:

cello4u said...

Excellent lesson indeed.