How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musician?

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How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musician?

Postby Drumstruck » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:35 pm

Wondering what your expectations are regarding this?

If you have a new song and you're engaging someone to sing/play on it........

- do you expect them to walk in and start performing "cold"?
- how much time do you give them to learn the song?
- do you give them the song prior to the session to learn?
- do you spend some time with them going over the pre-production plan?


thoughts and advices? thankyou
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby Manning » Tue Jul 16, 2013 1:06 pm

OK I've been both the player and the producer in this scenario.

When I was a session player in the US in the late 80s and early 90s you were expected to play a song perfectly, first time, reading straight off a chart you had never seen before. But that was in an era where full-time session players existed, players could work on their reading chops every day and those expectations were reasonable. Times have changed, and it's now been so long since I last did any cold chart reading I'm sure I'd be scrappy.

My 2013 expectation - I expect them to walk in, tune up, have a technical run-through for the engineer's benefit and then lay down the track in 1,2 or 3 takes at most. I don't care if they rehearsed for 10 minutes or ten hours, as long as they did it before they arrived at the session.

Before the session I will provide them with demo recordings, a rough mix of whatever stems I have, plus a chart and any notes. I will also talk to them at least a couple of days before the session to know they are OK with everything. There are players around who don't need that level of hand-holding, but it's better to fall on the safe side.

Hence if I (as a producer) haven't done my share of the prep work, then I can't really expect the player to deliver in the above manner. Some players need more time to prepare than others, and if they are walking in with no preparation then you have to put up with whatever they need to get prepared.

That's my approach - I'm keen to hear how others go about it.
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby The Tasmanian » Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:22 pm

People will do anything if you pay for their time.
Most muso's wont put in the homework beforehand, when all that is offered is money to record.

So, if I want someone to do their homework,I make it clear that I am paying them extra $ to rehearse and prepare the song.

Eg $250 for the session PLUS $100 to have the piece rehearsed and prepared.

If they come in unrehearsed, they get $100 less money.

Money speaks..
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby Chinagraf » Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:55 pm

I just usually have a written part and a guide part already recorded. Have a listen with the player in the control room a few times and talk about the vibe I want and how close to the chart I'd like them to stick, then run a few takes, come in have a listen then a few more takes and it's usually done. I don't ask people to rehearse stuff as a single session player and I generally am using session players that do it all the time so they don't need it. If it was a band I go to where they rehearse and go through stuff before recording but that's different.
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby Drumstruck » Fri Jul 19, 2013 9:34 am

thankyou gents - I shall use most if not all of these recommendations :ymhug:
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby ChrisW » Fri Jul 19, 2013 10:23 am

The Tasmanian wrote:People will do anything if you pay for their time.
Most muso's wont put in the homework beforehand, when all that is offered is money to record.



That's sad and something I've experienced locally.
I haven't been a regular session player for probably 15 years, but the competition was so fierce and professional pride so important I would never turn up to a session and start rehearsing something if I'd had the track for a few days beforehand.
The original question is slightly vague for me.....
If the parts are all worked out by the producer and/or songwriter, I would definitely be expecting myself to nail the perfect performance within two to three takes, say 1hr of studio time (max).
If no one has solid ideas on the drum parts it's going to take longer, and the producer and/or songwriter is equally responsible for any time wasting while parts are tried, then parts are recorded.
I've done many albums when the first time i heard the song was 5 minutes before tracking the drums, and as i said, if the drum part is mostly there I will expect to nail it within three takes.
I always take notes as I listen to the song the first time, and I add notes if the producer and/or songwriter makes specific requests. When watching other sessions I'm always amazed how many other people don't do this.
It's COMPLETELY unacceptable to me to play a perfect take, but screw up because you forgot the second verse had an extra couple of bars, or forgot there was an ending to the song not a vamped fade out.
Notes, notes, notes!
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby The Tasmanian » Fri Jul 19, 2013 11:40 am

The amount of sessions I have found where somebody has put no effort into prep, by having a quick read of it beforehand, and hoping to get away with it.
I agree Chris that this is a very sad lazy approach.

I did a jazz album a couple of years ago where the guitarist did exactly this.
Now this was one of the top guys in Sydney, huge session, top players & studio etc.
Whole thing was recorded live, but because of his lack of effort, we had to do hundreds of hours of edits, even building guitar solo's out of various takes,notes,phrases.
Fortunately I had his amp in a booth.

He tried to fake that he had put in the work beforehand, but it became obvious he had not when mistakes were happening, and he had not thought out/worked out what to play in solo's etc.
A F##ing nightmare.
Nearly ruined the entire session, but we edited our way out of a disaster..
It was that or throw lots of money down the toilet and scrap the album.

The really dependable, professional session guys are a bit of a rarity in this country.
Plenty of guys want to talk about the footy before sessions, rather than study the score, and ask questions.
Ive even seen this from top professional orchestral players.
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby Manning » Fri Jul 19, 2013 11:42 am

Wow, I guess I've been really lucky.

I must admit I'm a bit shocked by the thought of players turning up unprepared. When I was a session player I didn't always get lead sheets in advance, but when I did, I certainly turned up knowing the material.

If I haven't given't the player the resources they need then OK, that's my fault and the player is entitled to extra time.

But otherwise...? I'd never hire them again, that's for sure.
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby Wiz » Fri Jul 19, 2013 12:40 pm

try operating at the shallow end of the recording studio gene pool... 8)


Man, the amount of people who are unprepared, 99.8%, and that is every type of musician.

I actually, now, unless we have worked together before, have a "pre production" meeting with anyone I work with, and go over the material...(lyrics, structure, you name it) the couple of hours I do this (chargeable) saves the client a shitload of cash, my sanity, and improves the end result.

In my world, you end up everything , producer, lyric writer... guitar player drummer...harmony arranger, singin teacher.

I dont mind, as people have to learn somewhere, and its my lot in life to help those who come across my path, like those few generous souls that have helped me...

I would fall over backwards, if someone came in, did their part, nailed it, knew what they wanted and how to get it... man its been maybe 10 years since I worked with someone that good. Except this sax player I record, he walks in, 3 passes and leaves, and its always in there.
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby Manning » Fri Jul 19, 2013 2:19 pm

Wiz wrote:I would fall over backwards, if someone came in, did their part, nailed it, knew what they wanted and how to get it... man its been maybe 10 years since I worked with someone that good.


I had a 19 year old clarinet player on Tuesday night who did exactly this. She was done in 15 minutes, and to be honest, the first take would have been good enough. Beautiful tone as well.

For the record, I emailed her sheet music and performance notes a few days beforehand, and I had a phone chat with her before the session as well. The only mistake she made was my fault (>> forgot to put a legato notation on one bit).
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby Chinagraf » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:44 pm

I think what Chris T said s a valid point though... do you guys feel that if you are booking a player for a specific session call, should you pay them extra if you want them to spend time rehearsing beforehand? Like for instance, if I use string players they are booked for a 3 hour call. Part of that time is spent running the charts while I ask for a few specific things/ alterations which they note down with a pencil on their parts, but they are only minor adjustments to parts I have written out. So I see the rehearsing as part of the call, and don't expect them to be looking at anything before the call date. I know it's different for rock n roll because not many people notate stuff so precisely by the nature of the style.
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Re: How much pre-recording "practice" do you allow a musicia

Postby ChrisW » Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:56 pm

Quite a few different strands of the discussion going on.
I'll try and separate a few out.
Most freelance musicians can turn up to a session unprepared, and nail recording a song in a few takes - maybe three to five takes.
This is how i worked all the time in the 1980's London.
I got booked. I turned up. I'd never heard the song(s) before. I got played the song, discussed what was required, made notes, then got to it. First one or two takes were sighters, but 90% there.
As an aside, I went to see friend Gregg Bissonette do a film trailer session a couple of years ago.
First take (reading a chart) nailed it, but was super energetic.
Second take nailed it again, but was more precise and measured.
Then he offered a third take for the producer that was just mad, going for it. Stuff the producer could edit in if needed.
------------
If given material before the session I would DEFINITELY do some work on it.
Professional pride.
I've actually witnessed musicians who obviously 1) haven't prepared and 2) aren't good enough to look like they've prepared. Very embarrassing.

----------
Should musicians be paid to prepare? No, not in my opinion.
But $250 is not a lot of money for a session IMO. Maybe you get what you pay for? Maybe for $250 or less musicians aren't motivated either to pre-prepare, or be particularly professional when they do turn up.
-----
Gotta say, compared to London/LA I see a lot of unprofessional practice going on here. BUT, in London/LA $250 would be the low end of the scale for a freelance musician. And the low end of the scale is where the inexperienced, unprofessional musicians get stuck.
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