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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Session Etiquette - Part One

The way you act at a session many times counts for so much more than your performance. If you make anyone uncomfortable in the slightest way, you can bet that you probably won't be asked back, so being aware of proper studio etiquette is extremely important.

Studio etiquette applies to before, during and after a session as well. In part one, we'll look at what's expected before the red light is turned on.

These points come from The Studio Musician's Handbook, but most apply to everyone connected with a recording session as well as the musicians.

Before the session begins:
  • On any session, always know who your point of contact is.
  • ALWAYS SHOW UP EARLY. To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is almost like not showing up at all! If the downbeat is for 2PM, show up at least a half-hour early at 1:30!
  • Let the powers that be know you’ve arrived. Make your presence known at a session as soon you roll up on the studio property. If you’re there and no one knows it, you can cause the session to start late if you’re hanging out in the lounge instead of the studio while everyone is waiting for you because they’re unaware that you’ve already arrived.
  • Load your gear in quickly and quietly. Accept help with this if it’s offered. If it’s your first time there, introduce yourself to those you make contact with, and find out what the plan for the session is.
  • You may be immediately welcomed in the studio or control room, or you may not. You may be asked to wait in the lounge instead. While you’re waiting, use those people skills and find out what’s going on. Be friendly and respectful but don’t be overly formal.
  • After you’re set up and ready to play, keep your warm-ups and noodling to an absolute minimum. Get your sound and follow the producer’s or engineer’s direction “to the t”. If you’re playing an electric instrument, it’s totally cool to turn your volume all the way down and do your warm-ups.
  • If there are headphones in use, try putting them on with the volume all the way down (studio headphones are capable of being loud enough to cause hearing damage, so don’t hurt yourself), and slowly turn them up to see what’s happening with the mix. If there are other people in the room, you might want to “keep one ear on, one ear off” until recording begins in case someone talks to you. Always keep your focus on the music and what’s right here, right now.
Part 2 next post - Etiquette during the session.

Rolling Stone's Albums Of The Decade

Rolling Stone magazine just released their Top 100 albums of the decade. As with any subjective list like this, there's always reason to debate the choices, but they're still pretty interesting to look at.

My first thought after looking over the list is, "It was a pretty creatively barren period."

Here are the the top 20 albums, but you can find the entire top 100 here.

1 | Radiohead: Kid A
2 | The Strokes: Is This It
3 | Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
4 | Jay-Z: The Blueprint
5 | The White Stripes: Elephant
6 | Arcade Fire: Funeral
7 | Eminem: The Marshal Mathers LP
8 | Bob Dylan: Modern Times
9 | M.I.A.: Kala
10 | Kanye West: The College Dropout
11 | Bob Dylan: Love and Theft
12 | LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver
13 | U2: All That You Can't Leave Behind
14 | Jay-Z: The Black Album
15 | Bruce Springsteen: The Rising
16 | OutKast: Stankonia
17 | Beck: Sea Change
18 | MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
19 | Amy Winehouse: Back to Black
20 | The White Stripes: White Blood Cells

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I don't know how long the following video will stay online since it seems to be a lift from a BBC documentary on recording The Beatles, but it's a wonder to listen to while you can. The video is just the audio portion of "Something" off the Abbey Road album and it's a great study in how a hit was put together using only an 8 track tape recorder.

First of all, the sounds are wonderful, even though you only hear them through the monitor mix (especially the strings). Second, listen to how all the parts fit so well together. A few of them, like the guitar through the Leslie speaker and piano in the bridge, only play for a short time in a turnaround but they make a huge impact in the arrangement. The vocal double in the chorus is a trick still used today on perhaps the majority of records.

It's a great song that's become a standard, a beautiful arrangement, and great recording that's stood the test of time.

The Real Reason Why Apple Bought LaLa

It's not exactly what you think.

Does "cloud computing" (see the picture on the left) ring a bell?

Check out the Music 3.0 blog for the story.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Greatest Selling Record Of All Time

What's the best selling record of all time? No, it's not Thriller by Michael Jackson (reported numbers are said to be inflated so it's difficult to even tell how many copies it's sold). It's"White Christmas" by Bing Crosby and written by songwriting legend Irving Berlin. The single is said to have sold over 50 million copies alone with the album putting total sales over 100 million.

Recorded in 1942 just after the World War II started and debuted in the movie "Holiday Inn" with Crosby and Fred Astaire, it's widely held that the war actually had a lot to do with the song gaining popularity. Since millions of troops were overseas and longing for family, the song brought a little bit of comfort and the feel of home. From that point, it's become ingrained in our consciousness as a standard that's played constantly (over and over and over again) throughout the holiday season.

There's a lot that's interesting about songwriter Irving Berlin, He was self-taught and could only play using the black keys of F#. Because he was self taught, he also frequently wrote with unusual cadences, and many times never bothered with a song bridge, which was contrary to the times. Still, the song has outlived hundreds of competitors over time with more introduced every year. Despite all the famous songs that Berlin wrote that everyone somehow knows, ("Alexander's Ragtime Band,""Easter Parade," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "God Bless America."), White Christmas will be the one he's best remembered for.

So if you really want to make your mark as a songwriter, write a holiday song.


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