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MikeRivers

Do You Believe In Magic?

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In another thread about patience beyond the call of duty (tech support), I posted an example of another case of too much patience that many of us can relate to. I said I didn't have the patience to sit through (for example) a guitar player to do 30 takes of his solo and/or punch it in phrase by phrase. Fortunately I don't work on projects where people are inclined to do this, but I know that it's not so uncommon.

 

In passing, I acknowledged that some artists won't play a note without knowing that the recorder is running in the event that something interesting came out of some noodling or, more seriously, discussing how a part should be played or a harmony should be voiced. Or maybe it was a "rehearsal" where some "magic" happened.

 

I accept that hearing some music can be a magical experience, but I don't believe in magic or dumb luck when performing or recording. If you played something unplanned you liked, you should be able to remember it and play it again, probably better. Or if you made a mistake that sounded cool at the time. chances are eventually it will sound like a mistake. If the only reason why you got a good take was that you were lucky, well, so be it. Maybe you should consider yourself lucky that the tape was rolling.

 

Anyway, Phil countered my comment saying that he has always recorded any time there was any music happening in the studio, even with tape, even if the artist hadn't request that everyting be recorded - because if the artist said "Did you get that?" and you didn't, you'd never have that artist as a client again.

 

Patience.

 

I realize that it's a no-brainer to keep the virtual tape rolling when disk space is cheaper than dime store cassettes, but the price is in having to try to find out if there's a pony under the pile of manure. Some got the money, some got the time, some got the patience. Not me. I expect that by the time someone decides to record, he has something that he can record, does it to the best of his ability, and then it's done. No magic involved. The magic happens when someone hears the recording for the first time.

 

 

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I do believe in "magic" but I use the quotes because it's not magic in the conventional sense. If I think too much about music then it becomes an intellectual exercise rather than a spiritual experience. If I get my ego out of the way and let the music play me then someone asks me to play the same thing again it's as if I have to switch sides of my brain and something gets lost in that process.

 

When I studied with Ed Bickert, who played jazz on a telecaster, he would play something but when I asked him to show it to me again it always came out a bit different. Of course, as working musicians we can always deliver the goods without "Divine" inspiration but for me, the best performances are when the music seems to come from somewhere else and I just watch myself play stuff I didn't know I could play.

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Sometimes when I'm recording I'll play a wrong note. But the wrong note will sound better than the one I intended to play, so I suppose that's a kind of 'magic'

 

With regard to takes, I'm a one or two takes person. I'm definitely not one of those people who records a track a hundred times and then picks out the best bits and splices them together. I tend to record a complete performance, which is probably why my songs sound so rough :D

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Improv has been a pretty important musical technique for some time - sometimes the magic is there, sometimes not, even for the best of the best who produce that kind of music.

 

I know for myself, and I've heard other players (better ones than me) say that, when improvising for an extended number of measures, there's no way to remember much of it and play it back unless it's recorded. Maybe a phrase or two here and there, some ideas, but not much more. Whatever my brain is doing when soloing, I'm definitely not doing much thinking at all in the conventional sense - to remember it would be like trying remember what the water looked like while swimming - almost all the brain power is tied up in just feeling and doing, not thinking and remembering.

 

But that's different than obsessing over some conventional lick, or if the vocal feels "perfect" or not to some fussy performer, or going for another take to get the timing 2 milliseconds tighter. And a whole lot different than piecing long sections together from endless takes of 2-4 measures 'cause it's being written as it's being recorded, or because the player is using studio time to get the part down.

 

I do think home recordists can fall into the trap of endless takes, hoping for some magic to appear...magically. And I give myself a hard time if I can't play something pretty much through in as few takes as possible. But I do it anyway - it's my studio, my time. I would know better than to go into a formal recording session planning to record that way. Dylan would - but I'm no Bob Dylan for better or worse.smiley-happy.png' alt='16x16_smiley-happy.png.a1cb19ed0a13aa15d5339265141016d6.png' alt='smiley-happy'>.png'>

 

nat whilk ii

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by nat whilk II
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I'm more in Phil's camp.

 

But along with this, I will say that most of those "magic" mistakes are just that.

 

Mistakes.

 

But if there's a good idea, we've recorded it, and it can be perfected. Not everyone remembers what they played. Not everyone is wired the same. Maybe it's an odd sound. Bang. You've got it recorded.

 

By the way, I record both ways as a musician.

 

In a band, I'm really well-rehearsed. I walk in, I have my sound, I know what I'm doing. Bang. Done.

 

But I also record improvisational music or improvise parts myself when recording. I want that thing rolling. All. The. Time. I want to listen to various ideas more objectively.

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Sometimes when I'm recording I'll play a wrong note. But the wrong note will sound better than the one I intended to play, so I suppose that's a kind of 'magic'

 

With regard to takes, I'm a one or two takes person. I'm definitely not one of those people who records a track a hundred times and then picks out the best bits and splices them together. I tend to record a complete performance, which is probably why my songs sound so rough :D

 

I don't think your songs sound rough at all. I've always admired how polished they are. Personally, I like rawer recordings myself. They reflect my personality. I'm not polished personally or musically.

I'm one of those weird birds that likes amp hum ..

 

 

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Only in a young girl's heart.

 

I don't take any chances - I always "roll tape" (spin disk or burn to SSD doesn't have quite the same ring to it ;) ) unless I'm specifically ordered not to. I learned that very early in my career; I missed capturing a "warm-up" that people wanted by not rolling tape once or twice early on, and the disappointment in their faces (and outright anger from the producer) made me realize I had probably goofed rather badly. After that, I've made it a pretty hard and fast rule for myself, and it has never turned out to be a bad practice, nor caused me any issues...

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PS Some artists do their best work after a few warm-up- passes (recorded or not), while others are one-take wonders - you get their best performance on the first take, then they go downhill from there. Still others have peaks and dips in their performances, while others are more consistent, take-to-take. Craig did a great article on the subject once. It's certainly consistent with my studio experiences - and unless you've worked with the artists before, or have talked to another engineer who has, you usually don't know what you're going to get until you get going... so while I wouldn't necessarily call it "magic", I definitely consider being ready to capture the artist at their best - whenever that may happen to be - to be a fundamental part of an engineer's responsibilities.

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If you played something unplanned you liked, you should be able to remember it and play it again, probably better.

 

 

Whenever I write a piece of music I try to record a rough draft pretty quickly before I forget it.

 

There are some songs that I've written that I will always remember how to play. Others I no longer remember how to play but if I had to, I could probably figure them out by listening to the recordings. And then there are others that I may have a vague memory of but I don't remember how to play them so they are lost to the ages. I've got hundreds of musical ideas on all sorts of tapes, MDs, CDs and hard drives spanning thirty years or so. Some of them I don't even remember writing, much less recording.

 

As far a solos are concerned. Just about every solo I've ever recorded was improvised on the spot while I was recording. Ninety percent of them I wouldn't be able to play exactly as they were recorded if you paid me a million dollars. They are improvisational moments in time and once I'm done I've moved on to the next project.

 

But that's just the way I tick musically. Writing and recording go hand in hand. I start with an outline and fill it in as I go. I realize other people may do things differently.

Edited by Folder

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I don't take any chances - I always "roll tape" (spin disk or burn to SSD doesn't have quite the same ring to it ;) ) unless I'm specifically ordered not to. I learned that very early in my career; I missed capturing a "warm-up" that people wanted by not rolling tape once or twice early on' date=' and the disappointment in their faces (and outright anger from the producer) made me realize I had probably goofed rather badly. After that, I've made it a pretty hard and fast rule for myself, and it has never turned out to be a bad practice, nor caused me any issues...[/quote']

 

Based on the fade in I think "Key to the Highway" from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was one of those cases where the magic started to happened and the engineer scrambled to get the tape rolling

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I tend to record a complete performance' date=' which is probably why my songs sound so rough :D[/quote']

 

...and more importantly, why they connect with people.

 

 

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For me, magic rarely happens if I'm doing a vocal or a guitar solo overdub. I can almost always do better because I've become more comfortable with a song. The "magic" happens during songwriting, or more accurately, "screwing around without realizing that a song is about to plop down in front of me."

 

This was really brought home to me when I was testing out Gibson's Memory Cable. I was just testing, and had no intention to write anything. But I came up with this one riff...and there it was. It ended up being one of the songs I posted on my YouTube channel.

 

So, was it "magic"? I guess you could say that, but a more prosaic explanation was that I played something that pleased me and fortunately, something was recording.

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I actually have a lot more to say about this, and the function of the subconscious, but I'm about to go into the studio...I'll post later, or tomorrow.

 

Props to Mike for a topic that I'm sure will reveal all kinds of interesting insights...

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I will say that most of those "magic" mistakes are just that.

 

Mistakes.

 

But if there's a good idea, we've recorded it, and it can be perfected. Not everyone remembers what they played. Not everyone is wired the same. Maybe it's an odd sound. Bang. You've got it recorded.

 

By the way, I record both ways as a musician.

 

In a band, I'm really well-rehearsed. I walk in, I have my sound, I know what I'm doing. Bang. Done.

 

But I also record improvisational music or improvise parts myself when recording. I want that thing rolling. All. The. Time. I want to listen to various ideas more objectively.

 

I get that. Thanks. I think that why I care about this subject is that I have a fairly clear mental dividing line between recording and composing/writing/arranging. Having easy access to recording can blur that line because recording can be an integral part of the composition process. You fool around, you get some ideas, you listen to what you've done, you build on it, and eventually you have a song. But to me, that's a different process from recording, though an equally valid one.

 

 

 

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Based on the fade in I think "Key to the Highway" from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was one of those cases where the magic started to happened and the engineer scrambled to get the tape rolling

 

That was produced by the legendary Tom Dowd. I can't imagine him not rolling tape or being ready to go, although I suppose anything is possible. Maybe there was a goof at the intro he wanted to hide, or they decided to do it for artistic reasons? I honestly don't know. :idk:

 

_______

 

Okay, I went in search of what I could find about that fade-in - and apparently it wasn't Tom doing the engineering at that point, and I'm not sure who was engineering that session. There are several engineers credited on the album. Apparently when the band started this impromptu jam, Dowd had to yell at the engineer to roll the tape... and the late start explains the fade-in.

 

Had the engineer followed my practice regarding this, they wouldn't have needed the fade-in. :cop::D

 

Scroll down to the Eric Clapton section for the details:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_to_the_Highway

 

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At Berklee I heard story after story about how various big name artistes recorded. So many times I heard that your best peeps come into the studio amazingly well-rehearsed, and knock off solos, vocal lines and other difficult passages... with nary a mistake.

 

But when I listened to the last Barbra Streisand album (and of course it's flawlessly produced) I did get the impression that her vocal lines had been cobbled together from different takes.

Edited by rasputin1963

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I accept that hearing some music can be a magical experience' date=' but I don't believe in magic or dumb luck when performing or recording. If you played something unplanned you liked, you should be able to remember it and play it again, probably better. [/quote']

 

Not sure about that. Sometimes the conscious and subsconscious minds disconnect, and there's a direct connection between what you play and the subsconscious creative process...so you play nothing with a precedent, and nothing premeditated. In that case, you may not be able to remember it because the process of remembering kicks your conscious mind back into action, and the subconscious is no longer free to be subconscious.

 

I realize that it's a no-brainer to keep the virtual tape rolling when disk space is cheaper than dime store cassettes, but the price is in having to try to find out if there's a pony under the pile of manure.

 

That's not how it works with me at all. I don't record and then listen back to see if there's anything good. Instead, while playing I'll know if something good happened and that ends the "let's record to see if anything happens" mode. It then turns into "let's develop that cool thing that just happened."

 

 

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. If you played something unplanned you liked, you should be able to remember it and play it again, probably better.

 

Well if we are talking about recording a compostion or part that you have already written then I can see your point.

 

But sometimes a mistake might be better than your original idea. Also you have to consider getting the feel right can make or break a take. You may play something correctly but it might not have the right soul or mojo. I've made obvious mistakes when recording parts but left them in because they just felt better than other takes that might have been more technically correct.

 

As far as composing or improvising it's all unplanned isn't it? I mean how do you plan for inspiration? Doesn't it just come naturally?

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But sometimes a mistake might be better than your original idea. Also you have to consider getting the feel right can make or break a take. You may play something correctly but it might not have the right soul or mojo. I've made obvious mistakes when recording parts but left them in because they just felt better than other takes that might have been more technically correct.

 

I have no problem with that. You know you're recording so you record, mistakes or not, and you decide what you want to keep. If a client asks me to record everything that's played, I'll be happy to do it. He's going to be paying me for listening to it all, and editing, too (unless he takes the disk home and does that himself) so that's more money I can make.

 

But I get bored pretty easily. I might just hand the client a handheld recorder, send him off to another room, and tell him to call me when's found a better idea and learned to play it so we can record another take.

 

I'm SOOOO glad I don't have to do this for a living.

 

 

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Keith Richards in the latest Rolling Stone magazine interview:

 

Look at that little glass screen there [points to control-room window]. It's blank. If you want a canvas, silence — this is your canvas. So if I try to put music into visual terms: You make a little noise here, set up a beat here, and then you start to add a little bit and then, "Oh, no, take that away." I look upon it as an audio painting, really, when I'm making records. "What's needed here? Overload it with guitars, and then take all of them out and just use a bit of this one." Your paintbrush is that damn desk, with little faders, and it's never ceased to fascinate me.

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/fe...uture-20151008

 

Here's where the magic happens:

 

[video=dailymotion;x2ez3v6]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2ez3v6_rolling-stones-the-making-of-sympathy-for-the-devil-1968_music

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A friend of mine helped me out by letting me use his Tascam 80-8 while he was working 12 hour overnight shifts. The only rule was that the material had to be original. He said "I don't want to come home in the morning and find Beatles songs on my machine."

 

I jumped at the opportunity to work with a multi-track so I would struggle to find ideas for things to record and put down just about everything I could come up with. He would later listen to the material, pick out the good parts then I would develop the ideas further.

 

On more than one occasion, he pointed out things I either didn't remember recording or considered throw away ideas just for building recording chops. These "demos" were then refined and turned into songs by my band with a few of them being quite successful.

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Keith Richards in the latest Rolling Stone magazine interview:

 

Look at that little glass screen there [points to control-room window]. It's blank. If you want a canvas, silence — this is your canvas. So if I try to put music into visual terms: You make a little noise here, set up a beat here, and then you start to add a little bit and then, "Oh, no, take that away." I look upon it as an audio painting, really, when I'm making records. "What's needed here? Overload it with guitars, and then take all of them out and just use a bit of this one." Your paintbrush is that damn desk, with little faders, and it's never ceased to fascinate me.

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/fe...uture-20151008

 

Here's where the magic happens:

 

[video=dailymotion;x2ez3v6]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2ez3v6_rolling-stones-the-making-of-sympathy-for-the-devil-1968_music

 

Never seen that video before. How fascinating! :cool3:

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Keith Richards in the latest Rolling Stone magazine interview:

 

Look at that little glass screen there [points to control-room window]. It's blank. If you want a canvas, silence — this is your canvas. So if I try to put music into visual terms: You make a little noise here, set up a beat here, and then you start to add a little bit and then, "Oh, no, take that away." I look upon it as an audio painting, really, when I'm making records. "What's needed here? Overload it with guitars, and then take all of them out and just use a bit of this one." Your paintbrush is that damn desk, with little faders, and it's never ceased to fascinate me.

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/fe...uture-20151008

 

Here's where the magic happens:

 

[video=dailymotion;x2ez3v6]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2ez3v6_rolling-stones-the-making-of-sympathy-for-the-devil-1968_music

 

 

 

That was a great post Folder. :philthumb:

 

While I totally love what Keith said there, and I believe it's a great analogy, what he's talking about and what they are doing in that video is a completely different approach than what I think Mike was referring to - if not a "write it in the studio" approach, the Stones were taking at least a "learn it and work out the arrangement in the studio" approach that has traditionally only been available to a select few - or at least that was the case in the days of big studios and mega-selling artists; with modern home studios of sufficient size and capabilities (enough channels, mics, recording skill, isolation, etc.) taking that approach is probably an option for more people now than ever. Back in the day, you had to have a huge budget to do that - it wasn't very cost effective, but some of the biggest bands liked, and were afforded that approach. Today, given the earlier caveats, it can be done at home.

 

However, I don't think the majority of people are approaching modern recording that way, with a full band working out songs and sounds and arrangements from start to finish in a studio environment - whether the studio is home or commercial. Today, more often than not it's people working on things at home by themselves, or maybe along with a friend or two. For those who are paying for arrangers and multiple session musicians and a musical director / producer, the use of charts and / or having a rehearsal before going in to a (usually commercial) studio is very common. For those folks, once it's rehearsed and locked in, that's what is expected in the studio, and at that level, consistency tends to be quite good, although you still get occasional takes that are "more magical" than others, when everything and everyone just seems to click...

 

Of course session players (singly and sometimes in small groups) do a lot of tracking and overdubbing at personal studios too - whether their own, or the client's. And I think that's great - I love it when there's some musical interaction going on; I think that really tends to be beneficial, especially if you get some really talented people together and give them some freedom to offer their input. No one can have great ideas all the time, and one good idea from someone else can make all the difference. People playing together (or even multiple people on the same track, via overdubbing) tends to sound more interesting to me more often than stuff that was played entirely by one person, although that can occasionally be interesting (and impressive) in it's own way too.

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He would later listen to the material, pick out the good parts then I would develop the ideas further.

 

On more than one occasion, he pointed out things I either didn't remember recording or considered throw away ideas just for building recording chops. These "demos" were then refined and turned into songs by my band with a few of them being quite successful.

 

Oh Yeah outside opinions can be very useful.

 

I've let other people make decisions for me when I couldn't decide which take or direction I wanted to go. Most of the time I think the right decisions get made but there are always a few I still wonder if maybe I should have played a different bass note or a different rhythm or something.

 

I've also helped make decisions for other people. Pointing out sections that may make a good verse or chorus or bridge or what not. Then helping them arrange various parts it into a song.

 

It's called collaborating.

Edited by Folder
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