SES­SION shenani­gans

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and ful­fil­ment, with Mitch Dal­ton. This month: Stu­dio ses­sions... and how to sur­vive them. Part 2 in which our fear­less hero en­ters through the por­tals of the im­mor­tals.

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - For more on Mitch and his mu­sic go to: www.mitch­dal­

What can pos­si­bly await our starry eyed, hy­po­thet­i­cal friend? Well, if he is in­tent on a lengthy stay in this glam­our pro­fes­sion, an early ar­rival made pos­si­ble by an im­plau­si­bly ear­lier reveille is manda­tory. Per­son­ally, I favour ‘Marimba’ on the iPhone menu to set the mood. That and hurl­ing the alarm clock at the cat usu­ally suf­fices: as close to at­tain­ing per­fect pitch as I will ever get.

The lu­di­crous spare time al­lowed will be con­sumed ef­fort­lessly by at­tempt­ing to gain ac­cess to to­day’s work place (thereby in­con­ve­nienc­ing staff at re­cep­tion and their dili­gent pe­rusal of Heat mag­a­zine), un­load and... park. For there will be no car park ac­cess for you to­day, my friend. Or ever. By 8.00 am, de­luded dreams of star­dom and priv­i­lege lie shat­tered be­neath the grimy wheels of your Mon­deo GL (part taxed, ir­reg­u­larly ser­viced, runs well down­hill).

For the sake of your self es­teem, it’s best to ig­nore the ‘re­served’ signs al­lo­cated to the MD. And the en­gi­neer. And the cleaner. Or the singers, who must schlep their back break­ing clutch bags al­most un­aided to cater­ing. This is the hi­er­ar­chy. Or in your case, the lower-archy. Get used to it now, for the long day has yet to be­gin.

First off - The TV ‘Light En­ter­tain­ment’ Ses­sion. An oxy­moron, as ever was. The first thing to un­der­stand about the Tele­vi­sual En­vi­ron­ment is that ‘vis­ual’ is the key com­po­nent in the ti­tle. No­tice that the word ‘sound’ is nowhere to be seen, if I may be per­mit­ted to man­gle my metaphors. Con­se­quently, ex­pect to be made to feel that you are a nec­es­sary evil, an im­ped­i­ment and an in­con­ve­nience as you strug­gle to your al­lo­cated space. On set, if you’re lucky, but it may be that you are se­creted be­neath a set of stairs, wedged be­hind last week’s scenery or even ban­ished to a sep­a­rate room with a video link supplied.

No mat­ter. You will traipse through a for­bid­ding hin­ter­land whose floor is in­fested with labyrinthine cable spaghetti plus a side serv­ing of cam­eras, in semi dark­ness and with semi in­ter­est from both floor crew and tech­ni­cians. Should you ne­go­ti­ate your way through this ini­tial ir­ri­ta­tion with­out break­ing your neck, you will dis­cover that there is half the re­quired room for your four guitars, banjo and amp, you are seated (as­sum­ing they’ve re­mem­bered your chair) di­rectly in front of the trum­pet sec­tion and the drums, there’s no elec­tric­ity sup­ply and Sound are on their lunch hour. (Note. Sound are al­ways on their lunch hour. It’s a move­able feast).

Suitably en­cour­aged, you en­ter into ter­ri­to­rial ne­go­ti­a­tions with your col­leagues that make those con­cern­ing the Oc­cu­pied Ter­ri­to­ries look like a game of Scrabble and, af­ter an hour of es­ca­lat­ing per­sua­sion, ca­jol­ing and threats, a messy com­pro­mise is achieved and it’s fi­nally time for a line check. Af­ter the in­evitable hum from your gear has been iden­ti­fied in­stantly as YF (Your Fault), it turns out that it in re­al­ity it’s TF (Their Fault), caused in­evitably by RF (Ra­dio Fre­quency) em­a­nat­ing from ap­prox­i­mately 20 miles of sprawl­ing wiring. Quelle sur­prise.

No mat­ter. We move on to the mu­sic, the rai­son d’etre for this ex­pen­sive en­ter­prise. Be­fore your ap­pre­hen­sive eyes there will be a folder of mu­sic cues, beau­ti­fully or­ches­trated and exquisitely copied, if all has gone to plan. Sadly, the band call, your one op­por­tu­nity to nail the charts be­fore re­hearsals be­gin in earnest, will have been com­pressed to the length of a Win­ter’s day in Antarc­tica. But with­out the charm. An abil­ity to sight read mu­sic to a tol­er­a­ble stan­dard sud­denly as­sumes con­sid­er­able sig­nif­i­cance, at least to a level that pre­cludes hi­lar­ity from your col­leagues and the Death Stare from your MD.

And so the end­less day wears on. The show is rou­tined to death. There is a cam­era run/dress re­hearsal. The oc­ca­sional tea break. Fi­nally, a meal break and a fran­tic few min­utes to slip into some­thing a lit­tle more un­com­fort­able.

And it’s... Show­time. At which pre­cise point you make the as­ton­ish­ing dis­cov­ery that you’re ab­so­lutely knack­ered. The abil­ity to ren­der even Three Blind Mice in recog­nis­able form sud­denly seems an unattain­able dream.

Can our hero es­cape the clutches of evil Doc­tor Ter­ror, wrig­gle free and es­cape to the marginally calmer waters of Record Dates, Com­mer­cials and Film Ses­sions? Tune in to next month’s tol­er­a­bly ex­cit­ing episode!


Mitch with an­other joy­ful tale of life as a ses­sion mu­si­cian

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