SES­SIoN shenani­gans

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment, as told to us by Mitch Dal­ton. This month: Stu­dio ses­sions... and how to sur­vive them, part the 6th.

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - For more on Mitch Dal­ton, the man, the leg­end and his mu­sic, do hop along to: www.mitch­dal­

Isug­gest that there is a motto, a mantra or per­haps an aide memoire which might to serve to com­fort the un­wary plec­trist as he sets sail on the Sea Of Ses­sions. And since “Be pre­pared” is one that the Scout move­ment has er... pre­pared ear­lier, the in­struc­tion “Ex­pect the un­ex­pected” might serve as a use­ful al­ter­na­tive while riff­ing along life’s Rocky Road. You might rea­son­ably be­lieve that, hav­ing ac­quired the req­ui­site skill set of as­sid­u­ous study, a smidgen of tal­ent, a gen­er­ous slice of luck and a car park­ing space, all that re­mained would be to turn up, tune up and drop in. The fol­low­ing smor­gas­bord of the sur­real will surely dis­pel that naive as­sump­tion. Here are a few string bend­ing, dou­ble-stop­ping mo­ments drawn at ran­dom from my de­fi­antly ana­logue mem­ory. Only some names have been ex­punged. Not in or­der to pro­tect the in­no­cent or to avoid pos­si­ble le­gal dis­com­fort, you un­der­stand. Quite sim­ply, at this point in my ca­reer, the day has been a tri­umph if I can even re­call who I am with a de­gree of ac­cu­racy.

Let’s be­gin with the stu­dio date that I un­der­took for a gen­tle­man who is now one of the all-time Hol­ly­wood movie com­poser greats. Back in the day, cir­cum­stances and bud­gets were a tad more mod­est as I pre­sented my­self for over­dub­bing duty at a small South West Lon­don fa­cil­ity. My mis­sion (and yes, I did choose to ac­cept it) was to pro­vide taste­ful rock stylings to visu­als that fea­tured in­di­vid­u­als of above av­er­age at­trac­tive­ness and en­ergy as they went about their daily busi­ness. This line of work seemed to place much em­pha­sis on the artistes’ in­cli­na­tion and abil­ity to dis­robe ef­fi­ciently, mostly in groups of be­tween two and four. Para­dox­i­cally, my em­ployer seemed con­sid­er­ably more in­ter­ested in the qual­ity of his lunchtime sand­wiches than the cel­lu­loid equiv­a­lents on of­fer, paus­ing only be­tween mouth­fuls to prof­fer oc­ca­sional en­cour­age­ment while his tape op stared glumly into the mid­dle dis­tance.

“This one’s in E. Just smash out your usual Pen­ta­tonic licks. It builds. Just watch the pic­ture and you’ll know where to reach the er, cli­max. Yeah, that’s it. Great. The next one’s eas­ier. The one with the two blon­des in A. Hmm…I think it’s in A. But I’m pretty sure about the blon­des.”

I guess there are harder ways to earn a liv­ing. Stop it. Now you’re mak­ing up your own jokes. Per­haps we should we move on swiftly to the world of... Com­edy.

Very well do I re­mem­ber a pleas­ant ex­cur­sion to bu­colic Berk­shire and a day’s record­ing at stately Crutch­field Manor, as im­pos­ing a piece of real es­tate as you could rea­son­ably wish for in your lot­tery-fu­elled fan­tasies. For it was here that my com­poser and sax­o­phone play­ing col­league Ron Aspery was king for a pro­duc­tion mu­sic day. My ve­hi­cle was crammed as he had re­quested with any fret­ted in­stru­ment that might con­ceiv­ably lend it­self to laughs. Gui­tars of any flavour were ex­pressly for­bid­den, so in­stead the con­verted sta­ble block wel­comed a banjo, man­dolin, ukulele, cha­rango and bouzouki to an am­ple por­tion of its cramped stu­dio bo­som. My col­leagues shuf­fled their stands and chairs re­sent­fully to ac­com­mo­date this un­wel­come in­tru­sion into their space as I clat­tered through their ranks, tuned up and waited ex­pec­tantly.

The red light gleamed, Mr Aspery counted us in and the band roared away. The first cue seemed to be a Key­stone Cops pas­tiche, very much part of the brief and skil­fully writ­ten to boot. The is­sue for me was that pro­ducer, com­poser and en­gi­neer all seemed de­lighted with the first take de­spite the fact that I had played not a note in laugh­ter. And for good rea­son. There was an el­e­gant folder on my stand bear­ing the leg­end “Mitch” but con­tain­ing noth­ing. Nix. Rien de tout. Zilch. Be­ing a man of rare per­cep­tion and in­tu­ition, I im­me­di­ately sensed that all was not quite the ticket.

“Er, Ron?” “Yes? Ah, you want to know where your parts are. Didn’t I men­tion it when I rang you? No? Sorry, mate. There aren’t any. At all. For the en­tire day. Just sit there and lis­ten. If you hap­pen to think of any­thing comedic or quirky to play well, just join in! If not, not to worry. I only booked you be­cause you’re funny and I like you. The money’s the same.” Happy days.

Next month I’ll share with you, dear read­ers, the tale of self­pro­duc­ing some­one else’s ses­sion, how to stum­ble into the Bond films via a demo stu­dio in Lu­ton, how to re­ceive a not in­sub­stan­tial roy­alty pay­ment (twice) from blun­der­ing about on a banjo for 20 min­utes and much less.

But only if you ask nicely...


Mitch: with more stu­dio sto­ries to en­rich and en­liven your sum­mer days

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