SES­SION SHENANI­GANS

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment, as re­lated to us by Mitch Dal­ton This month: Stu­dio ses­sions and how to sur­vive them - part the third.

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - *eXis­tenZ. Direc­tor - David Cro­nen­berg. Mu­sic - Howard Shore. (Just in case you hap­pen to be­lieve that I make this stuff up. If only.) For more on Mitch and his mu­sic go to: www.mitch­dal­ton.co.uk

The story so far. Our hero has emerged from his first live TV date, dam­aged, dis­ori­en­tated and de­mor­alised, into the cold night air of the Real World. If one can so de­scribe Bore­ham­wood. Let us as­sume for this ar­ti­cle’s sake that the ex­pe­ri­ence has not nec­es­sar­ily driven him to re­nounce all ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions and seek refuge in the near­est Monastery Of Sound. And per­haps he has per­formed to a stan­dard barely ad­e­quate enough to pro­duce an in­vi­ta­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the record­ing of a movie sound­track. Which brings us clunkily on to...

Film Ses­sions. First off, the good news, of which there is more than a mod­icum. Say “hello” to an en­vi­ron­ment ded­i­cated to the ex­press pur­pose of cap­tur­ing per­fec­tion in mu­si­cal sound, al­most re­gard­less of ex­pense and time. The build­ing will likely have a fa­mous name like ‘Abbey Road’ and a his­tory to ac­com­pany it, evok­ing mem­o­ries of The Beatles and Cliff and The Shad­ows (Stu­dio 2) or even Ye­hudi Menuhin and the first record­ing of The El­gar Vi­o­lin Con­certo un­der the ba­ton of the mae­stro him­self (Stu­dio 1).

Nos­tal­gic pho­tos of iconic al­bums, film posters and mem­o­ra­bilia adorn the walls. Fa­mous faces drift by at re­cep­tion. Oc­ca­sion­ally, they may even scowl at you. In short, a mu­si­cian gets the dis­tinct feel­ing that he is less of an un­wanted in­con­ve­nience and more a minute part of the fab­ric of mu­sic his­tory. For a morn­ing or a week, at least. Plus, there’s break­fast. Even if there is still nowhere to park.

As is the way of the mod­ern movie, nine times out of 10 your pluck­ing mis­sion will in­volve com­ing up with a sound that aug­ments the emo­tional needs of what’s up there on the screen. Of­ten the com­poser may have very spe­cific ideas. In my time I have been asked in ad­vance to pro­vide an ex­act make and model of gui­tar and am­pli­fier and a spe­cific dig­i­tal de­lay pedal cal­i­brated in mil­lisec­onds. As were the other seven gui­tarists on the ses­sion that af­ter­noon*. And you read that sen­tence cor­rectly, just for the sake of col­lec­tive re­as­sur­ance. On the other hand you might be asked to come up with a sonic sen­sa­tion that evokes suit­able shades of fear, sus­pense or vi­o­lence. Per­son­ally I find I do my best work while visu­al­is­ing my tax re­turn. That’s just me. Or it may turn out to be a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween com­poser, direc­tor and gui­tarist.

How­ever, whichever way the com­pressed cho­rus crum­bles, you’ll find your­self most likely repli­cat­ing that self same sound all week. The cues will have cre­ative ti­tles like 1M3 or 3M7. They may be five sec­onds or eight min­utes in du­ra­tion. The tempi and dy­nam­ics may fluc­tu­ate. But that sig­na­ture sound you came up with at 10.05am on a wet and wild Mon­day morn­ing will come back to haunt you. Es­pe­cially if they like it. At this point I should give fair warn­ing that al­most all mod­ern scor­ing is recorded to a click track, which eases the com­poser’s prob­lem of hit­ting the dra­matic points along the cel­lu­loid con­tin­uum. How­ever, do not think that you have parted com­pany with your mar­bles if you be­gin to be­lieve that the click is speed­ing or slow­ing, some­times sub­tly. Be­cause it hap­pens. Of­ten it’s marked on the score. But some­times, well...it ain’t. And, with the red light glow­ing, a hun­dred mu­si­cians blow­ing and just you and a TV mon­i­tor in­car­cer­ated in an ad­ja­cent iso­la­tion booth, a chap can be­gin to ques­tion his own san­ity.

Any­way. Just when you think that you may have this movie malarkey nailed, the film lo­ca­tion will switch capri­ciously to Brazil. Or Mex­ico. Or wher­ever the pro­duc­tion team fan­cied their va­ca­tion last year. So do be pre­pared for re­quests to bring your Cha­rango (Peru) to the ses­sion. Or your Re­quinto (any­where Por­tuguese speak­ing). Or your Saz (Turkey). Or your Oud (Google it). Which, by the way, is where I hap­pen to draw my per­sonal line in the sound­track sand.

Next month - Com­mer­cials, Record Dates and much, much more! Or­der your copy now!

JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE THIS MOVIE MARLAKEY NAILED, THEY SWITCH THE LO­CA­TION TO BRAZIL

Mitch loves movie dates, even if there’s still nowhere to park

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