February 2005

OK, so by now you're probably a pretty mean, kick-ass blues guitar player. You've done some local live gigging, but what you're really aiming for is to do some recording studio work. I mean, what is it that separates you from really in-demand studio guitarists? Well, to start with, in-demand studio guys are not just good blues guitarists, they are literally masters of a large number of styles, everything from metal to polka. But for the rest of us, there are a few things that I've found that work well in getting a good performance in the studio and please the people you're working for.

1) If you can, insist on having a copy of the song(s) preferably a week before the session. This time gives you the opportunity to come up with a few different ideas to try on the day. If they only have the song(s) in demo form, guitar & voice only, whatever... it's fine, just as long as the chords and arrangement is clear.

2) Be sure to ask them what they want. Producers/musicians can sometimes be very vague (e.g. "Just go with the vibe on the day, dude") and, conversely, be incredibly specific (e.g. "I want a series of ascending, dissonant, single-note phrases, with a guitar tone that sounds like it's underwater"). Remember, at the end of the day, you're giving them what they want primarily and what you want second.

3) If the producer/musician mentions any particular guitarist/band or artists whose sounds they're primarily influenced by or going for, be sure to seek out some of their work.

4) The day before going into the studio, make sure you get a good night's sleep, as studio playing is about 20 times as mentally exhausting as live playing. I also like to make sure I get some time in listening to a great studio guitarist, with Mike Rutherford's work on Genesis' "Invisible Touch" & "We Can't Dance" as my personal favourite. Hey, you may think some of the songs are cheesy, but you've never heard such perfectly "in-context" guitar playing.

5) Remember, when recording a song for someone else, the aim is, even when soloing, to support the song. This really should have been point number 1.

6) Make sure you have ready access to good quality coffee at all times.

7) Ensure your guitar strings are fresh and "bent-in" and that your leads, amp & pedals (if you do an electric session) aren't making any hissing, burping or farting sounds.
That's only really the tip of the iceberg, but it definitely covers some key areas. If you have any questions about this month's column, drop me an email at meston@chariot.net.au.

Until next time, all the best in blues,
" Sweet Baby" James Meston

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