I had a session the other day worth a mention as it required being able to give options to the music that the writer didn't realize where there. It happens every so often when you are called into a recording as a 'session guy' and there is already a bass line down. Right there, the writer already has that line embedded in his mind but the engineer felt there needed to be more.
Usually you would be called in to do the whole album but they are on a tight budget and could only afford this for one song, so they pick the one they feel is there better tune and go full bore on fixes.
The call went like this; Hey Don can you come into the studio tomorrow we need this tune to be bumped up a few notches. I said, "Well, let see that would be Valentines day, my wife's birthday is also the day after that. If I screw up Valentines day by taking a session and not bein' around, that 'mishap' will spill over into the next days birthday, puttin' the pressure on and if I mess that up (like I did Christmas already) it's gonna be a L-O-N-G year gettin' the "Happy" back in 2009. Soooo I'm gonna have to say, "Let's pick another day! After 34 years of marriage let me get one year right. (and so we scheduled it for later in the week).
And now back to the studio...
I brought my NS/Stick, the engineer said they had a lovely studio Fender Bass that sounds great if we needed it, (we both new the NS would most likely end up on the track and it did.)
I heard the track and the original bass line was nice, did the job but didn't move with the drummer, they weren't in groove sync and it left the track feeling like it was harmonically correct but without 'that spark'.
All the players were wonderfully recorded and fine players. The background vocals were incredible and the tune well crafted. When the writer showed up (I'm 99% of the time 1/2 hour early) usually whoever the session is for is late... and so they were fashionably late as I had started getting familiar with the tune already (no chart was written, not even a chord chart). No worries, I like to 'punch and play'. A lot of the sessions I never hear what I played on the tune top to bottom until the album releases. I record all the verses, chorus's then bridge... grab the last donut then leave lol..... This was a well run session where the writer and producer knew what they wanted once they heard it, and so you're out the door in no time. I like that.
Anyway when the writer came in I said, "I need you to listen to the options, the bass line you have is a "D" note held through 3 different chords. It sounds wonderful however the melody to me suggest different notes and the drums suggest a pocketed rhythm. (in other words, the feel and harmonic tonality is going to be altered changing what you had, a lot! - hang on to your hats kids.)
The chorus has such beautiful moving vocal harmonies that, that held bass note masked their movement. Once I moved along with it, it opened it wide open and let the harmonies breathe.
This is my favorite part (aside from playing), when you see the "Light" go on in someones eyes that says, Wow! That's what I want, that makes a huge difference. (then my mind says, good now find the rest of the budget money to hire me for the rest of the tunes!!)
Anyway, we left a nice impression and off we go. That engineer coined a funny saying that has stuck in my mind for years. Many years ago... we did an Eddie Money album together and yikes was there budget tight, SONY records was squeezing each dollar. There were all sorts of problems and finally they shell out $20,000 dollars to fix things. This engineer shakes his head and says, "There's never enough money to do it right the first time but plenty of money to fix things!" Great saying.
I'm thinking of changing string gauges on the NS for this upcoming Rocket Scientists tour. I'm thinking of bass gauges throughout all 8. I'll grab a dozen of the donut shops finest and head over to SE this week and see what Emmett thinks would work best. Emmett is the greatest thinker, I love to ask him question while I eat a donut and he thinks. Sometimes I get through 2 maybe three donuts if it's a good enough question. I may need a few jelly filled for this one.
(PS, on a side note: On the BBC.com news I heard Tim Horton donut shop stocks went up! On my last visit to Canada "I did my part!" Maybe I'll get a 'royalty' donut in the mail!