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having a good time
quality players
comfort zone
saving money
independent music
Series: Getting The Best Performance For Your Music Recording
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Series: Getting the Best Performance for Your Music Recording

Part 1. Hire pro musicians.

I've noticed so many independent music makers such as songwriters, producers, music supervisors etc, don't even consider getting the best players to be part of their new recording project. It rarely even crosses their minds, and when it does they often immediately shy away.

Yes ok I know you can potentially make a great world-class sounding album for cheap at home or in your garage. That's true but for the sake of this article I will focus on the recording process subject only and not to have a discussion on albums that get commercial success or not.

I think there are many reasons why many artists don't bother trying to get the top players to play on their recording and why they just go back to their comfort zone. Which is to get friends and friends of friends to come in and hash it out usually for free or for a small compensation that barely pays for expenses to get out to do the sessions. That's great for having a good time with friends tripping out in the studio and stuff, go for it. That's ok for little projects and stuff. But if you want to produce a serious quality record you need serious quality players. Often the problem when you use less experienced and able musicians you often end up compromising your work as an artist. But here's the real cruncher, you often actually don't even save any money, unless it's your own studio and you are not paying anyone to run it with you. And even there at the end of the daytime is money.

The most important thing to keep in mind is this fact; by saving money on less able musicians you will be paying more for studio time. So at the end of the day you do not save money. It just gets distributed differently. So the studio owner gets most of the cash instead of the full time musicians. And if you are paying for studio time, even at a cheap rate such as 25$ an hour or something crazy like that, the money you save on the musicians will go to the studio and the end product will often not be a high quality. Let's face it no matter how good you are at editing if the experience and ability of the players is lacking, consciously or unconsciously, it will be heard on the final product no matter what. So not only did you potentially pay the same amount of money then if you would have hired pro players, you actually end up with an inferior product.

If you care about high quality then using amateurs will make the project much more time consuming. Which means extra unnecessary stress and frustration. Too much of that type of stress will take a toll on your nervous system and ultimately make you week and possibly sick. Not to mention that the stress will actually be imprinted on the music and felt by the listener when hearing the final product.

I think that the underlying reason for shying away from getting top pro players in on a session is often based in the fear of the unknown. An example, which is usually the biggest fear, is based in the assumption that it will be way too expensive. Without researching it how will you know how much it actually does cost? Don't assume automatically that it will be too expensive. Lets face it; it's a tough business to be in as a full-time player. Gigs are hard to come by so any decent work they can get will be seriously considered.

A while a go I was lucky enough to secure a one-album international record deal with Canada's largest independent record company. That gave me the experience to know what is involved when hiring the pro players for a project. Another example of fear is that many artists think that these studio guys will make the music sound mechanical or have less 'feeling' and stuff but that's just not true. They will actually totally enhance your music and bring it to a level that you couldn't have even imagined possible. I have experience with the best players and have found that if you display the proper producing attitude you will get pure magic form these guys. They are actually very accessible and actually want to put the heartfelt love energy into your music. They are 'real' amazing artists who can often interpret your music better than you can and who only want the best for your project. They totally want you to be happy with what they give you and they stand by that, to the point of offering to come back in and redoing something if really needed for no extra charge.

There are other things to consider. One of them is how to properly prepare yourself even before initially approaching pro players to play on your recording and another is how to have the proper attitude as a producer when working with prop players. Which is actually the same work ethic needed when working with any artist. I may get into those two subjects in detail in forthcoming articles. I may also share some great album project and session stories as well.

For now just know that it is important to keep in mind that to produce a quality world class recording you must spend a huge amount of time to be fully prepared for the session(s). Then when you are ready you should meet the bandleader or main musician for the approval of your lead sheets (charts) and make the necessary changes before the session date. You may even need to rewrite all the charts, which is what happened to me. A good tip is to NOT have too much info on them.

Remember you are hiring them for the creative input they have to offer. So don't dictate too many exact details of what you want them to play. That only limits the creative magic that you want from these guys.

One week or less before the session you need to schedule a minimum (3-4) hour rehearsal to get the grooves right and to make sure the charts are ok with all the musicians and once again to make any changes. Best to book a 6-8 hour day to be safe.

When properly prepared and with a great sound tech and his/hers assistant, you can actually record the bed tracks plus a bunch of overdub solo's for 10-13 songs in one 8 hour day! - example: keys (B3 organ/rhodes/grand piano), bass (acoustic/electric), drum kit, guitar (electric/gypsy/acoustic) and some percussions, in (1) 8 hour day = (2) 3.5 hr sessions with a lunch break and then some extra guitar solo tracks in a (2) hour session the next morning.

Most pro's understand from experience that when you go longer than 8 hours the quality can diminish due to fatigue. So there you have it. You can end up with a recording that industry people may call a "masterpiece" and win an important songwriting contest just like my latest recording did.

At the very least you will have a topnotch record that you can be very proud of. Good luck!


Street Talk

Pierre, you obviously have some good experience to share and know your stuff. I hope you keep writing and sharing it. I don't know anything about recording music but found your take on it was sensible and made sense. My husband makes films and his latest he did exactly what you recommended.... hired experienced people who knew their stuff and could bring a lot of value to the project. His short film went on to being accepted into about 15 film festivals internationally, won five awards and signed a distribution deal. As you expressed so well, it pays to aim for 'topnotch' if you're serious about moving to the next level. (Have FB-ed you to fellow authors... some new followers hopefully!)

Reply
  about 5 years ago
  

Hi Heather Thanks so much for your nice comment. Thanks for the FB. I hope I will be writing more articles soon enough. My day job is crazy busy these days. Where can I view your husbands film work?

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Oh we can all relate to that Pierre! I hope you can gain some inspiration from my husband who works full time, juggles his family with great hands on enthusiasm, writes for at least half an hour every day and is planning his next short. The film, Futility, (to me) is testament to one man prioritising the important things in life and following his passion. You can find it at futilityfilm .com There has been a distribution deal signed and I believe the complete film will become available on iTunes.

  
  about 5 years ago
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