Monthly Archives: March 2015

Meeting my Session Drummer and Arranging Recording Dates

Today I met with the session drummer for my project, Casey Howden. I had been introduced to Casey through one of my close friends and immediately saw it as a great networking opportunity. I described my project for this semester and he explained how he was a musician keen for work so we exchanged numbers. I contacted Casey yesterday and we agreed to have an informal meeting at a particular reputable Café chain at 1pm Wednesday 11th March.

We met and discussed ideas for the project and I showed him potential rough tracks and he seemed really interested. He explained how he had studied drums at The British and Irish Modern Music Institute in Brighton (see references for website) and mentioned all the kit he had. This included 3 snares, various sticks and brushes, cymbals and toms etc. He also explained his previous experience in recording drums, his style and talked about how he likes every detail to be accurate – so much so he tunes each bit of kit to suit each song. Casey also took notes, seemed keen and appeared to have a vast understanding of his instrument. I explained I would not be able to pay him as such but I would of course cover basic costs such as travel and food but this was not a problem as Casey said he was ‘all about the music’. I offered him the role of session drummer and he gladly accepted.

As Casey works as a session musician his schedule is quite disjointed so we sat down and took advantage of the free wifi by scanning the bookings I had made previously via the University’s media loans website. There were some dates Casey couldn’t make so we arranged for some new bookings where I could take advantage of the MHT buildings extended out of hours service.

Therefore I shall aim to record drums on the following dates:

Saturday 21st March – 7pm onwards

Saturday 28th March – 6pm onwards

Monday April 6th – 6pm onwards

Wednesday April 8th – 1pm onwards

I decided on four sessions as we agreed we would be able to record two songs a session to a high standard. It means we will have one and a half sessions spare as contingency, which can be used for extra recordings and further percussion if needed. This gives Casey time to stay relaxed and spend a good deal of time setting up the kit as I set up the mics, which ultimately should lead to a more creative environment that will aid the quality of the recorded music. This also gives me a month to record various other session musicians and I feel it was key to get the drums tracked first.

Straight after our meeting, I emailed my assistant engineer Daniel Marnie and asked if he was free on the dates suggested. He responded quickly with a ‘yes’ which was fantastic as I feel it will give me a bit more breathing space to take a step back and really flourish in my role as auteur producer. As I am playing acoustic guitar on the E.P., it will also allow me to record at the same time as Casey as Daniel controls the desk. This will allow us to develop a groove or ‘feel’ for the song and it will give me a rough guide for timings when I overdub with guitar later in the process. I also hope to contact my proposed Bassist and invite him to the same sessions to enhance this ‘groove’.

It was a great experience to hire my first session musician and I can feel myself developing into the A&R aspect of producing as well. Now that I have scheduled my first instrument I cna begin to contact other session musicians and book them in to record on the latter dates. I look forward to working with Casey in the future!

 

Following this meeting I also,

  • Set up a studio timetable
  • Arranged Media Loans out of access
  • Contacted my Bassist

Please follow the links to see these posts.

 

References

http://www.bimm.co.uk/

Logging my Recording Schedule

After arranging my first session musician (drummer Casey Howden) I decided it would be prudent to arrange a schedule that I could keep track of easily to see all of the available recording dates I had booked out.

In order to do this, I opened Excel and organised a table that featured the headings –

  • Date
  • Time
  • Instrument(s)
  • Artist(s)
  • Hired Equipment
  • Engineer

This table will contain all the key information I need to know prior to each session. The date and time speak for themselves, the instrument section states what I aim to record and the Artist(s) column shows who I am recording. The hired equipment segment shows what equipment I have hired for the specific session and the Engineer area confirms whether my assistant Daniel Marnie can make the session.

The table is obviously not complete yet but I shall upload a final version when I have arranged all my potential musicians. This should leave room for contingency dates as well, which can be used for general overdubs and taking advantage of the high quality monitors by mixing and mastering.

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Creating Session Sheets

After booking all of my sessions in the studio, I realised it was important to keep track of them in a formal way. This is why I have implemented the use of session sheets in my practice. I have done so in order to keep track of my studio dates and note any problems / issues during the recordings. This would stand me in good stead for when it comes to mixing as I have a detailed account of the session that will guide my editing and mixing process.

Finding a correct template was difficult but I managed to find the best sheet possible for demands. This included 24 tracks to keep note of what microphone and instrument was being recorded on each channel. This was prudent as there was the rare occasion where Daniel (my assistant engineer) or I would get caught up in the session and not name the tracks in Pro Tools. It also included spaces for any particular notes that would need taking in the studio, for example if a particular take was good or anything that would aid and save time when mixing.

As Senior states,

‘Small-studio mix engineers frequently overlook proper mix preparation, leading to a frustrating mixing experience and, in some cases, productions that are effectively unmixable. The only way to get on comparable footing with the professionals is to do your groundwork.’ (Senior, 2011, 87)

Here is an example of one of the templates I found.

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I’ve printed off lots of spare copies at the library for my sessions so I should not lose track of all my hard work in the studio.

 

References:

Senior (2011). Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio. London: Taylor and Francis.

Creating Waiver and Release forms for my Studio sessions

As this is the first time that I am producing my own work to such a high University standard, I wanted to make sure that I had official proof that the work was indeed my own. I understand what it’s like when you get into the creative flow in a studio environment and with late nights with session musicians people can get carried away with ideas and forget who has control over the situation. This is where the waivers come in. I wanted official paperwork to prove I had used a wide range of artists while retaining the majority of copyright for the work, I achieved this by researching laws on copyright.

I found a particular contract that matched my criteria perfectly. A ‘work for hire’ agreement is signed by the employer and employee, which gives all rights of the final product to the employer and states that any further payments are unnecessary. However I was frustrated to find that this only applied to the United States.

After much research I concluded that in the U.K there doesn’t seem to be a specific law on this matter. There are recent laws that,

‘require(s) record labels to set aside 20% of gross revenues from sales of all releases featuring session musicians in the extended term, into a fund for session musicians.’ (BPI, 2011)

Of course I do not fall under these provisos as I am not a record label. Nonetheless, it is still important to recognise the fact that the musicians understand the terms of the recording process that they are about to undertake. Therefore this renders the agreement extremely useful. I shall of course give any rights where due, for example in songwriting aspects while also recognising otherwise that I, the producer shall be the full copyright owner when the final product is delivered.

 

I created my own release form by scouring the internet for appropriate free templates and I created my own by editing the most appropriate parts which would be areas of concern for a potential copyright holder like myself. Here is the final document that I, and every musician shall have to sign before we commence the recording session.

 

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During this project I have realised the importance of the A&R side of proceedings and I feel these considerations have helped me grow as a producer. In my next post I shall explain the importance of the managerial and organisational aspects with my custom made session sheets.

 

References:

 

BPI. (2011). Copyright Term. Available: https://www.bpi.co.uk/copyright-term.aspx. Last accessed 3/5/15.

 

United States Copyright Office. (2012). Works Made For Hire. Available: http://copyright.gov/circs/circ09.pdf. Last accessed 5/3/15.

Securing a Guitarist and Bass Player

Even though I shall be playing the majority of acoustic guitar on this project, I am no expert on electric guitar and could really do with another perspective on some of my songs. I had someone in mind for the job straight away and his name is Robbie Caswell-Jones. I had originally met Robbie in first year after seeing him perform at a local gig. I was impressed by his work and range of instruments that he played so I discussed this with him afterwards. I kept his contact details via facebook, and when commencing this project, his was the first name that came to my head.

It was difficult to arrange times to meet and rehearse as Robbie himself is also a third year student and has academic demands as well. However we managed to arrange to meet up regularly at each others houses to rehearse parts for the songs.

Pre-production is an aspect in this project that will be difficult to fulfil as I would hope in a professional environment. Without the support of a big budget behind me to pay the session musicians and the ability the book out the studio for long periods I would mainly have to arrange the songs myself and express my opinions and thoughts to session musicians via email. This is not ideal however it presents a challenge that I am willing to overcome and just endorses one of my learning outcomes further which involves my ability to arrange instruments to a high standard.

As Lipson says,

‘The arrangement has to be exactly right, unquestionably.’ (Lipson in Burgess, 2013)

A fact which Burgess himself echoes,

‘Given a strong song and artist, influence over the arrangement is one of the most powerful tools a producer has and can spell the difference between success and failure.’

Much of the arrangement will have to be achieved via subtle suggestions to the performers on the day as I do have specific ideas as to how I would like each track to sound. I can also achieve this in the editing stage. If I ask the performers to play with different styles and feel, I can take the best bits of each take and compile (or ‘comp’ for short) my ideal arrangement. These techniques shall hopefully overcome the issues I have with pre-production.

 

References:

Burgess, (2013) The Art of music production: New York, Oxford University Press,