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Sixteen ways that playing in the studio differs from playing live

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I saw this on LinkedIn and thought it was kind of interesting and that some of you might want to check it out...




What do you think are the biggest differences between live and studio playing? Did the author get it right, or did he leave something you consider important out?

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I think live players feed on crowds. I call it skimming. Hustling the crowd so to speak. Otherwise known as entertainment. Studio guys could look to the material for inspiration but there's little to that until it's all canned. The ethic may be closer to professional remodeler where the floor guy comes in, lays it down and the cabinet guy comes in and hangs his boxes and doors etc... only the architects and contractor with any idea of what is taking shape. So these guys would probably feed off pride in their craftsmanship.


Just a theory.

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for me, the connection is to the instrument first, regardless of others presence.

both situations have trade offs, though live is sometimes more beautifully unpredictable. my best efforts always seem to come from what i originally see as a mistake... live, i can follow that... in the studio we call for another take or whatever, it gets lost.

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Cool article Phil...Count on you to always find some interesting stuff...


For me, playing live was always absolute terror, usually preceded by vomiting, and followed by self-loathing.

Whereas working by myself only produced mild self-loathing.



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I think the article was well written from a production studio aspect.


There are many who record in their own home studios however, and the collaboration aspect can be added.


What it boils down to is this.


When you play live you read from a book or a script that's memorized.


When you record you write that book or script.


The article is focused on studio musicians who are well versed in freelance writing, coming up with good material in a live brainstorming session.

That type of writing takes allot of experience and a unique level of talent. Not all musicians can achieve it coming from a background of playing live where your parts are all mapped out.


A player who fills in for live bands who is well versed in jamming will do much better as a studio musician because his mind isn't cluttered with fixed barriers. On the other hand a studio musician may not be able to cope with having to play an entire night off the cuff and when it comes to complex arrangements may totally miss those well rehearsed breaks that are essential to a piece of music.


But lest add a third element here. If you have a home studio you don't have to write all that music out. You can simply write the music live to disk, then listen to what's been recorded, meditate on it and make improvements at will. Its like an author sitting in back of his typewriter. He may write a chapter and have no idea what the next chapter will be until he starts it.


The entire worm may change too. He may go back and modify that first chapter to create links that tie into later chapters or cut and paste things that become more relevant as the work progresses.


Its the same recording. The difference in a professional production studio is the professionals recording are the ones making those decisions, or at least amplifying the creative writing of the author of the music. This is commonly done when a movie studio buys the rights to a book then converts it to a script for actors in a movie. Much of that comes from necessity because actors are seen as well as heard.


The home studio can remove all of that and leave all that's involved in creating a recording up to a single individual.

This can be a daunting challenge and few can actually wear that many different hats an create great works of art.

Having a professional studio record your works adds in many aspects that a single person simply cant do all at once, plus you have many skilled minds at work helping invent and refine the music as you go.


The last aspect is, is a studio, yes you are under pressure to perform well. Its not the same as playing live however. Live you have to plow through the music no matter how you feel or how you may be feeling physically. If you have a back ache from hauling all that gear in and setting it up, that's just plain tough. You still have to play the best you can to entertain that crowd.


In a studio you can pace your energy better (if you're willing to pay for that time) you can break up the recording sessions into blocks and focus the mind and body for powerful bursts of focused performance which can produce a much greater impact in a short period of time. A session musician is great at doing a 50 yard dash. A liver performer is a long distance runner which paces his energy so he can give that last burst at the finish line doing his encore.


Can an long distance runner or a dasher change roles? It can surely be done but it does take allot of hard work.


The other thing about collaboration, There's no reason why some work can be done by some musicians in one studio and other work done in another when recording. You have some of this playing live when you bring up guest musicians but those kinds of open mic shows can become tragic if those guests aren't on the same page with the band or the band has a hard time sharing that lime light. Bands on stage tend to be highly defensive and offended if guests outperform them. In a studio, an excellent performance will likely be seen as a benefit and not a detriment to the recording.


The differences are definitely there and it takes experience and hard work doing each well. The good part is if you learn to record well it does make your live performances better and vice versa.

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Some interesting points, but an article that seems incredibly narrowly focused on western pop songs, and a certain set of them within that description. Some musicians take improvisation quite seriously, which obviates some of the points made.


The one that made me arch an eyebrow, though, was this: "Most recording sessions happen with little or no preparation." Uh, hmmm. I must have been seen as a real taskmaster, then, because I made sure artists rehearsed the material prior to recording sessions.


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