13 June 2006

session log, volume three

song: "boys"
artist: darcie miner

instrument(s) played: banjo, drums (scratched), mandolin

studio: mad dragon studio, drexel university campus

engineer: toby seay

when darcie and i talked about this song, she heard banjo. and i could hear it, too - although i wasn't sure that what i heard and what she wanted would necessarily be the same thing.

this is the one great challenge of session work - the potential signal degradation that can sometimes exist in the communication line between the artist or producer and the session musician.

the rhythm of the song pushed what i was to play on it pretty hard in one direction - the tempo of the song made it hard to play anything really fast without it sounding overbearing, so i settled into a rolling, eighth-note pattern that felt good for the song. sixteenth notes would've pushed it into take-it-easyville, and it just didn't fit...and anything slower would've dragged it.

so toby mic'ed me up and we took a couple of passes - and i could feel the lukewarm response through the glass. they just weren't diggin' it. toby suggested possibly just doing fills with the banjo, which we tried - but it was missed when it dropped out.

so we took stock of the situation, and abandoned the banjo. i had another idea up my sleeve, anyway, and as it was becoming more and more apparent that the banjo wasn't working, i asked toby to roll the track back and let me try something else. i pulled the mandolin out and had him roll it while i played an arrpegiated part over the top of darcie's acoustic guitar part.

and it fit perfectly. toby swapped out the mic, opting for what i think was a neumann TLM-103, and we cut it.

it added just the right amount of sparkle to what darcie was already playing, and i could imagine that the two instruments could have been mixed to sound like one big otherworldly guitar that doesn't exist anywhere but on that track. it was similar to the "nashville tuning" effect - where you string a regular acoustic guitar with light enough strings that the lower four strings can be tuned an octave higher, like the high set of a twelve string acoustic guitar, but with all the sparkle and none of the jangle.

anyway, after cutting the mandolin, we took two passes at adding drums - i did one pass straight ahead, sticks on hi-hat and snare, but it was too much...then i did a brush pattern on the snare, and that was too little...so it was the consensus that this song just didn't really need the drums as badly as we thought it did. as such, we laid it to rest at that point with darcies' vocal and guitar and the mandolin track.

the track was for the same compilation release that the other songs i worked on was for, due out on Mad Dragon records upon completion.


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