What would you charge me for recording at my studio for:
A one hour session
A two hour session
A three hour session?
The question came in an email from a producer for whom I had played a couple of live events. After my reply regarding rates, we set a time for recording percussion at his studio.
Later in the week, the producer emailed a “rough recording” of the song. After downloading the tune onto my iPod, I listened to the song several times. The “rough” contained no vocals but as I listened, the form and major melodies began to become apparent to me. It was then easy to make a “skeleton chart” of the song on manuscript paper so that I could mark the measures where the major sections of the song began and ended.
The tap tempo feature on my Boss Dr. Beat DB66 metronome (http://www.bossus.com/) informed me that the song was recorded at a consistent bpm of 95. I set my Beatnik Rhythmic Analyzer (http://www.tuners.com/ ) to 95, grabbed some sticks, and began to warm up. (I wanted to ingrain that tempo and subdivisions into my brain and hands.)
Listening to the recording several more times with the “skeleton chart” and pencil at the ready, some ideas about instrument choices and parts sprang to mind and were added to the paper.
The session was scheduled for 1:00 P.M. so I left my home in time to arrive at the studio by 12:30. The producer seemed grateful that I was early and impressed that I had concocted a chart.
My chart also contained approximate times (min/sec) where major sections started. With this information handy, it was easy to tell the producer/engineer to skip ahead to certain min/sec areas as we recorded, thereby saving time for everyone.
The producer wanted to record parts for several instruments and choose segments to use later as he mixed. The time spent in preparation paid off as we recorded parts for congas, tambourine, shaker, rhythm triangle, Chinese bell tree, suspended cymbal, and more in about 1 ¾ hours.
Certainly there are studio situations when there is no recording (or chart) to study before the session. However, when such materials are available, take advantage of the opportunity to prepare thoroughly.
I think this guy might call me again.