Session Work Techniques?

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Session Work Techniques?

Postby jeffl » Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:34 pm

I got a call from a musician/record producer last weekend. The guy's an aspiring music producer...young, about 27. I met him through the music store I do business with and loved his band when he was fresh outa high school. He's produced two albums of his own band and one of his solo work; he went to Nashville a coupla times last year to do session work on guitar and learn better songwriting and producing skills. He's pop, not country.

He's doing another CD with a different band and wanted a harper for some tracks. He'd heard me play, but not much.

I've never done studio recording (yeah, he's got a real studio), and was wondering if anybody had any tips about session work from a standpoint of techniques that might pertain to recording vs. live playing. He's gonna ship me some tracks first, but I told him that I didn't want to beat those to death before I got an idea of what he wanted vs. what I heard after listening to the tracks.

I read music, but I don't expect that'll matter with this task.

BTW, this deal won't pay much; he's got a budget of $1500 for the sidemen, not counting his band. And, it might take some time, 'cuz I know he's picky, based on how long he worked on the mixing of his last CD.
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Re: Session Work Techniques?

Postby gheumann » Thu Oct 21, 2010 6:10 am

bring a range of mics and amps. In general small amps record very well. Don't be afraid to suggest that he try various mic'ing techniques. Close, far, in front, behind, inside, etc.
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Re: Session Work Techniques?

Postby jeffl » Thu Oct 21, 2010 2:06 pm

Thanks Greg. I own just two harp amps, so I'd have to rely on him for anything else. The mic situation I've got covered.

It's strange, but I've found myself wondering if I've tolerated things in my harps (like slightly out of tune reeds) that'll jump up and bite my butt in a recording scenario. I agreed to do this primarily for two reasons: first, he's a long-time acquaintance and I'm not in the habit of denying any normal request that I can accomodate, and secondly, it's a learning experience that hopefully will help in my networking. One of my aspirations has always been to do "call" work when bands come through the Minnesota clubs and casinos.
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Re: Session Work Techniques?

Postby bottleneck » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:27 am

i've done a good amount of studio work,lots of it for people i don't know.don't worry it is a piece of cake.the only hard thing is if someone wants a sound you don't want to play.i once had a session where they wanted very basic first harp.i still don't know why they hired me,haha.good luck!!

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Re: Session Work Techniques?

Postby jbone1 » Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:55 am

i have gone in on several projects. all have been different in one way or another. recording will definitely open your ears to things you are doing right and wrong. one project i spent most of an afternoon laying harp tracks on ended up using just a bit of backup harp and 2 solos. others have used every note i blew. doing a demo with a band i worked with some years ago, i had to redo the same line of a solo like 7 times before i got it "perfect". but it really needed it, the defect in my playing was obvious and not pretty!

the hardest thing for me was always that things like harp usually go last, so they're recorded last. unless you're doing live or scratch recording and you totally nail it, you may be doing several takes of the same thing. it can be a long day or even several trips to the studio, where you wait for the engineer to get everything ready, and do your thing several times until it's "right".

it is a good idea to know what you'll be playing on but i've never rehearsed to death before hand. i like it to be somewhat spontaneous.

it's a pretty cool process to be involved with. sound engineers can do some amazing things in the booth!
Last edited by jbone1 on Wed Nov 03, 2010 3:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Session Work Techniques?

Postby jeffl » Mon Nov 01, 2010 1:26 pm

I pretty much knew that it'd be a good learning experience for me; I have alotta respect for this youngster who approached me. It's really weird but another studio owner (more estabilished than the first, with maybe 50 CDs under her belt) approached me after a memorial jam last weekend. This girl used to be a backup singer for Fleetwood Mac and met her husband when he was doing guitar work for Fleetwood Mac. She's doesn't have anything cookin' right now, but she got my info.

I've ratcheted up my networking a little more again in the last couple years, largely due to the fact that I'm approaching retirement age (I'm 59) and I'll hopefully soon have more time for gigging and practicing. I'm really interested in doing "call" work in Minnesota. There's not alot of harpers around here... anybody from metro areas in other states would be shocked by the paucity of decent harpers.

I've got alot to learn too. All I've got really is decent chops. My knowledge of discology, titles, etc. sucks. I've always been a sideman harper; never led a band with harp or keyboards. If you asked me to play the signature lick of more than a few tunes, I'd ask you to hum a few notes and then I'd be fine alot of the time, but I also may blank. Give me a few days to work on something off a recording and I'll probably get it down unless it's real demanding. But, hey, it's great that there's alot to learn; it keeps you going.
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Re: Session Work Techniques?

Postby TC6969 » Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:45 pm

Don't automatically assume that he knows more than you about making things work.

When I first started doing session work, I just went in and did what I was told until one night we spent 2 hours trying to get a particular sound doing things the engineers way.

I knew exactly how to do what he wanted but kept my mouth shut and tried to let him run the session the way he thought was right.

Finally he gave up, put his ego in his pocket and asked for suggestions.

I gave him some and we had the train back on the track in about 5 minutes!

We BOTH learned something that night!

He might know how to record and manipulate the sound, but he cant do jack until he gets the sound and that comes from YOU!

DONT be afraid to speak up!
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Re: Session Work Techniques?

Postby too2tall » Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:29 am

I just did some studio work over here in Japan for a J-pop singer songwriters new CD. The producer wanted me to play dry with no amp. I must have done 8 takes and was experimenting with mic distance to get different tones and add to the dynamics when I tried a deep cup and started playing through the cup hole of my hands into the mic and using that far away tone you get and man did it fit the song. The producer sent me the final copy not long ago and they added some reverb and fattened it up plus mixed about 4 tracks into one but it sounded really nice. You never know what to expect at a session so go in open minded and be ready to experiment to find the sound you need.
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Re: Session Work Techniques?

Postby jeffl » Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:40 pm

That sounds cool 22! I guess I'll jus' chill a little and not get anxious here. You guys have settled me down a little, along with having some time to get adjusted to the idea of a different challenge.

I've done enough home, rehearsal, and gig recording to know that you almost always hear things on the recordings that you don't like. I also know that most of us are our own harshest critics, but I don't think too many of us use that as an excuse not to work hard at getting the job done.

It's fairly easy though, to please a live audience while not playing at your best-- as long as you play fairly well and have a good time, etc. But, I've always been a little intimidated by the fact that live performance and recording presented differing obstacles.
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Re: Session Work Techniques?

Postby jbone1 » Wed Nov 03, 2010 3:26 am

what i like best recording-wise, is to be recorded as live as possible. for better or worse i find that live recordings- warts and all- are my favorite. even with that drunk patron showing just how loaded they are 10 feet from the stage, those kind of recordings just capture the spontaneity i love so much. it's like a record of connecting with an audience when it goes well. and i think my best comes out live.

the last band recording i was in on, the drummer we were using was fairly new to us and was kind of hesitant. and we just couldn't seem to hit the groove we wanted on the first few songs. finally the engineer and his helper had a heated discussion and the assistant went over the the drum booth and told the drummer, "man, you may just pack up and leave after i tell you this, but STOP PLAYING LIKE A PUSSY! you are not in church, these guys need you to hammer the tom and snare into the floor and kick the bass drum right through the wall of the booth!" and amazingly, the guy did just that and we hit the groove immediately. we nailed 11 original songs in one session that day. after the session we talked about it a bit and the drummer told us he didn't want to go over the top. but when you're all wearing phones and going live, you really need that bottom end. the engineer can model the sound you're getting in the phones but there has to be some good raw material for him to work with.
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