Coping with a bad recording session

NerfLad

Silver Member
Today I had a session. It was going to be smooth sailing. 4 or 5 tunes, cut live, all pro, fun stuff. Some moments were better than others, but overall I felt like I wasn't giving them what they wanted. It was really not my best work and today I drove home feeling like an athlete that lost the game.

Most importantly, I think they're at least happy with how the tracks turned out, with the exception of one. It was a really heavy rock cover of "Come Together", and it just wasn't, erm, coming together, for any of us. It will probably be thrown out.

I'm feeling somewhat guilty because I was paid for this session that didn't go as well as it could have. What about you, DrummerWorld? Any bad (or good) session stories to share?
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
The whole session going badly is very different to everything else working well but you sucked. If there's a poor vibe amongst the musicians for any reason, everyone picks up on it & it drives the session down. A good outcome is a shared thing, same with a bad outcome. I take it you didn't screw up your part, it was just a case of everything being a bit lacklustre?
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I've only done a few professional recording sessions but each time I've done it I've walked away disappointed with myself and the other band members keep reassuring me that I played well. Some have gotten frustrated with me because I wanted to do extra takes.

What I've learned is that when the recording light is on, I focus much more intently on the parts that I'm playing, and I realize that I'm not happy with what I was happy doing in a regular band practice scenario. It really makes me a different person. Some thoughts that might occur to me; why am I using the ride there? Hats sound better, shit I missed a crash on the start of the new section, oh no that fill was sloppy, serves me right for trying to be flashy or (the opposite) well no ones going to be impressed with that etc etc etc

The second thing I notice about myself is that in a recording I seem to hit harder because I'm trying to play with more intensity and conviction; but that works against me because I don't normally play or practice that hard. So that means I can't play the things that I normally can and it hits my self esteem.

Also I found it very stressful trying to get the hire kit setup quickly, and settled for a layout or some tom angles that I wasn't actually comfortable playing - it really felt limiting.

I think it should get easier each time and in a way you can get prepared but I don't know of a way to prepare for that feeling you have when the heat is on.

The thing that I noticed after each recording session was that I walked out of the studio being much more aware of the parts I should play on the songs, and that made me realize I'm not attentive enough to begin with.

I actually quit my last band after a frustrating day of recording... I definitely made the right move but I've just shone a light on my own attitude and I realize that I become quite intense in that scenario.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
I've always felt that the best playing I do is when I'm not really "trying" all that hard but rather "trying easy" so when you get into the clinical environment of a studio there's always that "don't mess up" mentality.

Best advice I can give is to remember to have fun because that's why we do this. Well.. I do it because rent don't pay itself but still...it's all about the fun. :D
 

BacteriumFendYoke

Platinum Member
The 'professional' in you is always going to hyper-critical. I remember a few years ago there was a video going around of Vinnie C playing 'Manic Depression' by Hendrix. The playing was mind-blowing and it sounded great. Vinnie learned that the videos were going around the web and most of them were removed - apparently he wasn't happy with the take.

You're a very good player, Eric. If you're doing professional sessions, you're at a point where your playing is good enough to track even on an 'off day'. Like a sportsman, there might be days when the playing isn't where you'd like it to be and days when it all clicks - but the playing will always be good enough to keep, even if you don't think it is.

The real mark of a great professional in any field is to be able to do the job well, even when you're not at your best. Great professionals in every field are constantly analysing their work and looking for errors to improve, even if nobody else picks up on them. It's healthy to analyse and criticise but if you've got the job done, you've done well.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I feel that way every time I record. At some point. A friend of mine thinks that in the studio you can usually expect to perform at about 60% of your normal abilities, and I think he's right. But listen to the tracks in a couple of weeks, when everyone has forgotten what they were trying to do, and see what you think then-- usually you wonder what you were so depressed about, because they sound fine, or good. In the future, just try to have faith that if you execute your part accurately, it's going to sound good, whether or not you feel great about the way you're playing.
 

BobC

Member
I have a doozy of a story about a bad session. In 1985 or so, my band at the time went up to Warren, Rhode Island, to record a demo at a studio that was owned by an old friend of our bass player. The owner was a very good guitarist and producer, but a real character. We set up-I had to bring drums because there was no studio drumset, to my dismay-and it took hours to get drum sounds. Now, I was tired. We started tracking, and the producer ordered me to play with a click, which I had never done before. He demanded perfect time with the click, and I couldn't do it. We kept stopping, and he berated me every time in front of my fellow musicians, embarrassing me terribly. I wanted to die.

He then said, hit the snare, hats and bass drum as hard as I could consistently. Ever try doing that? He had noise gates purposely set to the point that they wouldn't open up unless I hit everything like thunder. Sorry, that's wrong. The whole time, I could see him waving his hands and gesturing to our bass player in the control room about how I was screwing up the session. I took it all calmly, but I wanted to go into the control booth and strangle him, then pack up and go home. But, I presevered. He finally turned the click off, adjusted the gates to where they should have been, and we tracked three songs. My time wasn't great, but I got through the session, and he stopped busting my balls.

All told, it was initially a horrendous experience, but I toughed it out, went home and bought a drum machine, with which I programmed a click. Months of practice with that click did wonders for my time, so in the end, I had to thank that producer for kicking my ass into reality; a bad situation that turned out positive. The next time we tracked in another studio in NJ, I worked with the click and it was easy. Since then, I have never had to use a click, much to my relief, but if I did, I would definitely have to go back and shed with one again. The sessions I've done haven't required it.
 

NerfLad

Silver Member
The 'professional' in you is always going to hyper-critical. I remember a few years ago there was a video going around of Vinnie C playing 'Manic Depression' by Hendrix. The playing was mind-blowing and it sounded great. Vinnie learned that the videos were going around the web and most of them were removed - apparently he wasn't happy with the take.

You're a very good player, Eric. If you're doing professional sessions, you're at a point where your playing is good enough to track even on an 'off day'. Like a sportsman, there might be days when the playing isn't where you'd like it to be and days when it all clicks - but the playing will always be good enough to keep, even if you don't think it is.

The real mark of a great professional in any field is to be able to do the job well, even when you're not at your best. Great professionals in every field are constantly analysing their work and looking for errors to improve, even if nobody else picks up on them. It's healthy to analyse and criticise but if you've got the job done, you've done well.
Thanks for the kind words Duncan :)
I love that clip of Vinnie.


Update: I sat down with the bandleader yesterday. We had a gig scheduled this weekend and I'm off of it. I don't think they're using the recordings either. He told me they wanted someone with more of a modern gospel feel but, even though he himself plays drums, couldn't quite articulate what that meant, nor did he tell me that in the studio.

When I think of modern gospel, I think of a really active groove and heavy Dennis Chambers/Dave Weckl chops. I certainly wasn't just going to come in and start blowing all over his record without being told explicitly to do so. I've talked to a few people and apparently these guys have a bad reputation around town. They also fired a bass player friend of mine who plays circles around them. Nice to know it isn't just me.
 
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DancingMadlyBackwards

Senior Member
Thanks for the kind words Duncan :)
I love that clip of Vinnie.


Update: I sat down with the bandleader yesterday. We had a gig scheduled this weekend and I'm off of it. I don't think they're using the recordings either. He told me they wanted someone with more of a modern gospel feel but, even though he himself plays drums, couldn't quite articulate what that meant, nor did he tell me that in the studio.

When I think of modern gospel, I think of a really active groove and heavy Dennis Chambers/Dave Weckl chops. I certainly wasn't just coming to come in and start blowing all over his record. I've talked to a few people and apparently these guys have a bad reputation around town. They also fired a bass player friend of mine who plays circles around them. Nice to know it isn't just me.
Some artists might never be satisfied....and I have the same experience in my business with certain customers; what I do with those customers is send them out to pasture and let someone else deal with the headache.

Grab what learning you can from the experience and let the rest float right on by. Of course I don't know the artist, but my experience tells me when people can't articulate what they want...or are too picky about what they want...then they don't know what they want and they have elevated their music (or whatever) to some unreachable level in their mind.

Let it go and move forward.
 

sandstrom

Member
Of course we all have bad days. But if you want to take something from the experience I suggest you take a pen and paper and write down what the problems were. The next step would be to analyze and see if there's anything you could have done to prevent those things from happening. If yes - work on those things in your playing/planning for the next session so it doesn't happen again.

Just a suggestion.

/Richard
 

brady

Platinum Member
Today I had a session. It was going to be smooth sailing. 4 or 5 tunes, cut live, all pro, fun stuff. Some moments were better than others, but overall I felt like I wasn't giving them what they wanted. It was really not my best work and today I drove home feeling like an athlete that lost the game.
I know that feeling well.

I'm coming off of a gig (Saturday) that I thought was about as off as I've been. Nothing really bad, but nothing really good either.

The piano player in the quartet said the same thing about her playing. I told her the whole gig felt "completely average" to which she agreed.

Luckily, I had it recorded. I listened to it briefly after I got home but still couldn't pinpoint what was wrong. I kept it to listen to again a few days later but accidentally deleted it. I wish I hadn't as I really want to know what happened at this gig for us to feel so off.

The same lineup had a great gig a few weeks ago. So you basically just have to realize that you aren't as good as your great days but you aren't as bad as your bad days either.
 

TOMANO

Senior Member
If it didn't go as well as it might have, but you still gave it all you had; move forward. You were hired for a reason. You delivered. Chances are YOU are not the reason the song didn't breathe. A session is a collaborative effort. You were paid for your time and talent.

I've had gigs that went south. FAR SOUTH in some cases. I played a Chicago show with a famous blues legend that fell apart like The Titanic Meets Earthquake. No rehearsal. No flippin' set list. I should've known better. I destroyed the gig.

Two months later that same blues legend asked me to do 2 weeks in Arkansas, then go to Europe.

My exact words: "I love you, and I appreciate the offer; but working with you was the worst gig of my career." He laughed, called me an expletive, and we're still good 10 years later.

Swallow it. Analyze it a bit. Learn from it. Go forward...

Peace, MT
 

groove1

Silver Member
These days I don't record that much but the audiences always are recording our gigs.
One thing that has helped me considerably is to play "as if I'm in a recording studio" on
every song on every gig. It has made me much more focused over the years and improved
my playing.
 
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