SES­SIoN shenani­gans

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

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

It has to hap­pen at some point, with any luck and a fol­low­ing wind. If you pick away at the com­mer­cial mu­sic face for long enough, even­tu­ally you’ll hit pay dirt. Yep, I re­fer to yer ac­tual real live, paid recording ses­sion, a frankly bizarre en­gage­ment in which the sole pur­pose of the date ap­pears to be struc­tured to cap­ture mu­si­cal sound as ac­cu­rately and fas­tid­i­ously as hu­manly pos­si­ble.

How weird is that? No messy com­pro­mises. No slic­ing and dic­ing of the com­poser’s in­ten­tions to fit the charm­ing mo­ment where the lit­tle girl kisses the poo­dle’s ear (or vice versa). No cam­eras. No ca­bles. No direc­tors with tin ears. Nope.

Noth­ing but proper recording en­gi­neers, as­sis­tants (“tape ops”, back in the day when tape was tape, men were men and sheep were ner­vous), a pro­ducer, a com­poser, an artist and even a copy­ist if the bud­get hap­pens to stretch some­where north of posh.

A brethren gath­ered to­gether ex­clu­sively to make boo­ti­ful mu­sic. And money, to be fair. But you know. Un­less the record la­bel has filched the last Arts Coun­cil grant in town or the artist is for­merly known as Abramovitch that’s just the re­al­ity of life in this post truth, post Trump, post-early-for-Christ­mas world. Of course, yet again and how­ever, there is a mul­ti­tude of po­ten­tial sce­nar­ios that might un­fold shortly af­ter that vi­tal stu­dio ques­tion, “Where’s the cof­fee?” has been posed.

You may have been asked to bring but one spe­cific in­stru­ment to the gig, which is handy but har­row­ing if there’s a last-minute change of artis­tic di­rec­tion (“Surely not?” I hear you cry, in four-part har­mony). No. It’s prob­a­bly wiser just to bite the Bigsby, load up the Mondeo with as much gear as a Tup­per­ware Ladies’ morn­ing, and hope for the best.

You might be part of a large or­ches­tral ensem­ble. In which case you should def­i­nitely count the day a per­sonal tri­umph if you can cor­rectly identify your chair, gain ac­cess to it with­out crash­ing into the sec­ond desk cel­list and trash­ing her in­stru­ment (worth on its own more than all your equip­ment put to­gether!), and can ac­tu­ally see the con­duc­tor from the broom cup­board in which you’ve been in­car­cer­ated (“Sorry, it’s noth­ing per­sonal. There’s too much spill if we don’t put you in here.”) Oh. And can you play the part cor­rectly and in time with a bunch of dis­en­chanted di­vas who re­gard a click track as the work of the di­a­tonic devil?

On the other hand, you may be in for a day of over­dub­bing on pre-recorded tracks un­der the watch­ful ear of the pro­ducer and per­haps the artist too. You might be pro­vided with metic­u­lously scored parts. Or just a chord chart. And more of­ten than not you might think, noth­ing at all other than the poi­soned plec­trum pre­am­ble of, “We’re look­ing for a killer gui­tar solo here, right af­ter the tam­bourine break­down sec­tion. What can you give us?” Er, apart from a large in­voice, I take it?

Sadly, there is no in­fal­li­ble guide that I can give, to cop­ing with the stress of be­ing obliged to de­liver su­perla­tive, in-the-pocket, in­stan­ta­neous mu­si­cal­ity at the blink of a red light. There is one help­ful car­di­nal rule, how­ever. You’d bet­ter love the song, the artist and the gig to death - and if you can’t do that, then fake it, baby. This project is some­one else’s blues-eyed boy and they want you to un­der­take the lonely, tor­tu­ous jour­ney with them. Well, for three hours any­way, with a 15-minute break.

And there is no way of pre­dict­ing the out­come. In my time I’ve walked into a room with noth­ing but a Span­ish gui­tar, a bunch of emery boards and a wan smile and yet emerged 20 min­utes later with a solo, fills, and rhythm part in the can. And a num­ber one record to tell my bored-to-bits kids about. Al­ter­na­tively, I’ve spent an en­tire day play­ing con­tin­u­ous semi­qua­ver chords on a 12-string gui­tar, punch­ing in end­lessly on the track un­til the pro­ducer was com­pletely sat­is­fied that each and every up-and-down strum was ex­actly in time. Like, EX­ACTLY.

Six hours of arthri­tis-in­duc­ing, barre-chord pur­ga­tory, my friends. Don’t try it at home.

So. They pays yer money. And they takes their choice.

Just be sure to get the ad­dress for the bill be­fore you leave.


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