Having had a break (and not in a good way) Adam Goldsmith decides to take it down a notch
Things I always remember to take with me on sessions generally include pencils, a capo, a slide, an EBow and a variety of spare bits and pieces. But, this week, it also included crutches, as I managed to break three bones in my right foot while playing football. Mercifully, my arms, hands and fingers were left intact by the (not so) beautiful game, and so I continued via taxi to Air Studios in London’s leafy Hampstead to record the soundtrack to a forthcoming Hollywood film entitled Judy – a biopic of Judy Garland starring Renée Zellweger. Apart from being tripped up by the engineer’s dog as I arrived in Studio 1, things got off to a fairly smooth start…
Many films made in Hollywood actually have the soundtracks recorded in London. This is for several reasons. First — and not to denigrate players in other countries — here in London, we have some of the finest and most experienced studio musicians in the world. We also have some of the greatest studios (Abbey Road, Air and Angel being the prime suspects for this type of work), but we also had Margaret Thatcher in the 80s. I have no doubt that many will fail to see the last point in a positive light, but with her defanging of the trade unions, it removed a lot of the royalties associated with music performance and recording. In the long run, this meant our American brothers and sisters are a lot more expensive in terms of residuals and royalties, whereas we receive enhanced upfront fees, but fewer royalties, which I would imagine makes it easy when setting budgets.
However, I digress away from our topic. As the music for the soundtrack is generally big-band-style jazz with a few orchestral numbers thrown in, I’ve elected to bring my Martin John Mayer acoustic and a Gibson ’59 reissue 175. These two guitars are fairly new but both sound warm and old. The combination of modern playability and reliability with vintage sound makes them ideal studio guitars. Air Studios is housed in a large converted church and used to be owned by George Martin, and, as such, is superbly well equipped. In front of me, the main acoustic guitar mic is a Telefunken ELA M 251, which gives me one of the best recorded acoustic sounds I think I’ve ever had.
Gently Does It
There are quite a few ballads featured in the film. This did make me think that while we guitarists spend a lot of our time trying to get our technique together to play fast electric guitar, a good amount of what I get asked to play on films is slow-tempo acoustic. Playing consistently in time to a click track (a metronome that keeps you in time with the rest of the band and the music synced to the visuals) at slow tempos can be a real challenge, and if you can get some way towards mastering this skill you’ll definitely be in more demand as a freelance guitar player.
It’s pretty rare, with the exception of live gigs, that I get asked to record shredding 80s solos, simply because the current fashion in the more commercial end of music is not for guitar solos. However, playing good rhythm guitar, possibly at slow to mid tempos is an almost daily demand. On a side note, I remember being silently ecstatic after I was asked if I’d mind playing a completely over-the-top solo in the style of ‘Lukather on steroids’ for Little Mix’s Word Up.
Whenever the subject of rhythm guitar rears its head in my private teaching practice, I advise students to practise slowly, with a metronome. A good starting point for checking out rhythm guitar players would be Freddie Green (Count Basie’s guitar player), Nile Rodgers and Steve Cropper. If you want to go further forwards chronologically, then you could do much worse than checking out Eddie Van Halen’s rhythm playing (he has incredible time and inventiveness) as well as Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine. Adjust to taste, but the point being your rhythm playing is what’s going to keep you working as a professional guitar player.
Adam luxuriating in the Air Studios with his Martin John Mayer model