Friday, September 30, 2011

Reading in the Studio

Below is a fairly simple melody. The tempo was 85 bpm. I was asked to play it on acoustic guitar and lap steel, but with not too much sliding. There was no other music just click. The other elements would be dropped in and around it later. So the challenge is to make it musical or "play it with feeling", while playing alone.

When writing for guitar one should transpose up an octave to get the desired pitch. In other words if you want the guitarist to play middle C write the C on the second space from the top as in the first note of the second line in the chart below. But often composers forget to do that so I ask. In this case the writer indeed did want it up an octave.

Also the first note in fourth bar, second line, is a D. I kept thinking Db because normally one would write C# for the note before it.

It was simple but concentration was a must as it was easy to drop into some presupposed timing. Don't predict, just read. Again it was helpful to memorize the melody for the slide part so I could look at my slide for pitches. Enjoy!


  1. I was recording Pachabel's Cannon for a friend's wedding DVD last night. I could run through it flawlessly at home but when I got in the studio I was awful, just awful. I got to about bar 30 and couldn't get this one phrase (that had never been a problem during practice or having played it live at the wedding). I ended up recording some sections bar by bar virtually. Once Id finished I couldn't listen to the final product back, it was patchy and stuttery with some flaws still in there. I guess what I'm saying is tell me you have off days as bad as this one. Tell me this is just a one off that will never happen again and my dream of being a studio musician isn't over before it's started. Please?

  2. Hey Stevie, I totally understand your frustration. It's not uncommon to edit together parts of piece into one whole for any studio musician. That's why they invented the Punch-In. Usually one is recording to a click track so it is quite easy to edit together sections seamlessly when on a grid like that. However, when playing a piece like Pachabel's Canon you want to be more free with the time and click won't do. The trick here is to engage the punch-in function of the DAW roll back a ways (maybe 3 or 4 bars) before the mistake, and have the record engage right before the mistake and go from there, until the next issue. Then you will be in the flow and feeling the dynamics and timing of the previous take. You can scroll the punch in point left or right until it's seamless.

    I've spent a lot of time with the "red-light" on and still make stupid mistakes or get nervous. But less with each passing session. The more experience you have the better. So stick with it.

  3. Thanks, Tom. Your advice and encouragement is very much appreciated.