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Scoring Biz: Now and in the Mesezoic era ( with live players and minimal computer help )

I would guess I am no doubt the oldest person on this list .. Therefore, I will answer to the following names: Eminince Grise Dinosaur Old Fart ( or others of your choosing ) Anyway ..since I've been doing this ( "this' being writing all kinds of music for money ) for over 40 years, I have been priveleged to watch the industry evolve in an interesting fashion over the years, both for good and evil ,depending upon your viewpoint. When I started recording in the mid 50s ( cutting rock and roll tracks @ Schneider Recording in Cleveland OH, we had two track -period. And yes, often my drum kit was placed down the hall in the loo for natural echo. Later on, We went to three and later four track machines ..whee! But we STILL recorded everyting all at once ( except accasionally vocals ) ,without cue and no punch ins. It was a lot of fun because back the the music allowed for some pretty big ensembles and it was fun writing and playing wiwth a bit of an edge so as not to be the guy that blew a take. Over the years, I watched the recording gear get more advanced ,with more tracks available and changes that allowed recording differeing groups at different times, and the ability to "punch in " made all of us a bit lazy ,cuz we knew we could fix it. Then came the synths ..and slowly , the number of musicians employed for dates got smaller and smaller. Pop dates done previously with full bands gradually dropped off to 5/6 horns and a handful of string players. ( But the music had changed as well, and all these things made sense ..especially economically. And yes, even though I wasn't really fond of the electronics at first, I like everyone else learned to use them ,and gradually warmed up to their potential a bit. Plus, by the time i "retired" from the commercial and film business about ten years ago ..everything had gone digital ..and samples had gotten good enough ,that most of the remaining LIVE players had been replaced, and it got very lonely in the control room with just you , the engineer and a lot of blinking lights on various bits of electronica. Now that I've embarked on my retirement "hobby" ( recording and producing jazz projects ), I can happily stat I've come full circle ..the bands are AGAIN live and all in the room at once ..and thanks to ProTools, no more punching in! I find it somehow ironic that I had to Quit music "as a living" to enjoy it again! ..and I am!!! I'd invite everyone to tell me how they work now and how they use the great technology available today ..and do they ever miss working with live players ?

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Comment by Edward L Szymczak on June 8, 2007 at 9:52pm
Phil,
So negative, yet somehow you remain endearing.

I agree with you. Only, I want to inspire ways of bending the rules. Making the extra effort to twist the budgets to allow injection of "the real" in whatever project possible.

I also like to keep the company of those better than me... and while I am challenginng myself in all my endeavors, my friends are moving forward in that regard, as well-- or so they fall off my radar.
A lot of those friends my age (in there thirties) are constantly re-inventing themselves to adapt to the environment.
I brought up Chris before in conversation, and I am doing so again because I think you have a certain intuition about the guy plus I work very closely with him a lot.
Anyway, Chris sees the need for real intrumentation... samples only take the project so far... and while he hires a ringer whenever possible, he is constantly learning pushing himself to learn every instrument he can get his sweaty hands on (man that guy can ruin a set of strings over night if he doesn't rub 'em down after playing).

It's this kind of posture that sets Chris' stuff apart from the hacks. And a good producer, the kind you want to work with again and again senses this.

Keeping it real...
Comment by phil Kelly on June 8, 2007 at 1:28pm
I wish I could be really positive on there being a rennaisance of the live players in recording, but having observed how the technical improvements over the past 40 years have gradually diminished the work opportunities for the session guys and live recording, I'm afraid that history has shown that is not the case.

It's a real shame too, because for all the wonderful tools that have been developed over the years ( and yes , the great things one can do with them and the spectacular colors and textures they provide), there are still so many musical qualities that a bunch of live pro players working together add to ones music it's a shame to seem them not being employed as much any more.

Also, as we all know, the down side of all this technical largesse we have at our disposal, has created a surfeit of "composers" that with marginal talent , a few loops and ProTools have succeeded in flooding the market with a lot of mediocre stuff.

This really creates problems for the younger composers with real talent and a desire to write effective music for film to get a break.

All this combined with a lot of bottom feeding producers with little musical taste going for the "free deals" make this a really tough business to get into these days.

Along these similar lines, I'm contempating a rant on "ambient scoring" for the blog .This pastiche style of scoring ( while sometimes effective in the hands of skilled writers ) in many cases seems a bastardized cop-out for adding a drone to the sound designers gig.

all in my opinion, of course ... :)
Comment by Edward L Szymczak on June 8, 2007 at 11:16am
Yep. I've been spoiled.
There's got to be some light on the horizon, Phil.
What's the another perspective from where you sit?
I work with Chris a lot... the best times and the best tracks we get is when we invest time in miking a guitar rig proper (for example). It takes me back. That's how I get my kicks as an audio nut. I get onto Merritt when I see him tracking canned guitar. "We're going to re-track those, right? Or at least re-amp, right?"
Bless him, he puts up with me and sees the value in having an "audio nut" around.
Along these same lines, though Phil, it's tough for us audio pros out there. Hell, that's why I'm in distribution right now--
Merrittmusic is my fun time, and my light on the horizon.
Comment by phil Kelly on June 7, 2007 at 3:09pm
Those super pro guys are still out there, and working with them is a pleasure I hope all of you
get a chance to work with them sometime before the economics erase their jobs permanently.

As wonderful as the new toys are ( and yes, I really loved and used the features and sounds they were capable of ) it is a sad fact that the recording business of today is not good for the session guys.

I consider myself priveleged to have both played and written for them for as many years as I was able to ,and will continue to do my "retirement projects" with the remaining live guys!
Comment by Edward L Szymczak on June 7, 2007 at 2:03pm
Every now and again I get what I call the "itch."
I was a recording engineer in album production first, and I was on staff at one of the few world class facilities doing rock and pop at the time in Nashville. We tracked everything to 2-inch. Layed-off to 1/2 inch.
Oh, to be in the same room with a world class player-- whether it be drums, guitar, or one guy I remember could make a leslie spin in ways i thought impossible. And oh, Lord a ROOM full of these masters?
The icing on the cake for me at that time was being on the control room side of the glass, after the first engineer had dialed in his settings... a world class player, playing to a world-class engineer in a world class true 20hz room! And me assisting on the side taking it all in. It all seemed so effortless. Time wasn't spent fixing and punching in because there were no mistakes... nuh uh. Multiple takes were made to capture several versions of the perfect take. Catch my drift? Time was spent on the art... not on the science... the science was nailed-- I think it was John Doryk who likened it to Karate in one of the postings on his page. These guys in the recording studio are black-belts-- masters of the science behind what they do. Now they were free to explore direction and growth and I got to be the fly on the wall!
Holy smokes. I am ruined forever.
So, every now and again, I get the "itch" to do something world-class. To call up the pros and do something REAL.
Comment by phil Kelly on June 7, 2007 at 1:38pm
Thats why doing my last CD projects have been lots of fun : Everybody in there at once, no stops , no punches!! ..and all recorded in two doubles.

I got a couple complete takes on each tune and sorted it all out later with ProTools!

( also ..much less stress on the band as well )
Comment by larry collinsworth on June 7, 2007 at 10:14am
I remember the days of a buncha players doing the sessions but I only remember the 16 tracks analog days and beyond. I still like to track a part all the way through if at all possible and use as many players as I can but sometimes the cost prohibits. It's always a pleasure to hear a great player not punching in no matter what style you're going for!
Comment by phil Kelly on June 6, 2007 at 2:21pm
I must admit that the "equipment chase" was a large factor in my packing it in when I did. For a time in the early 90s, if the client couldn't come by your stido in your crib and see the "latest " gizmo in your rack, he'd be dissapointed. ( Amazing how those guys knew the names of all the new gear, but didn't have the slightest idea if it was really adding anything to the project )

Anyway, when I discovered the costs of new gear was bypassing the actual profits from the gigs, ( plus, being over 50 the younger clients didn't "trust" you any longer ) .

All the above helped me to decided to pull the plug on the business, bequeath my home studio seup to my son, and pack my pencil ,score pad and my old suitcase Rhodes and set out for the Pacific NW ..

little did I know what I'd be doing now!!
Comment by Adrian Ellis on June 6, 2007 at 1:21pm
Hey Pete - neat - we both have the same background, coming from Fine Art to composing. I see the solitary aspect of it the same way.

I like the total, maniacal control and 'playing God' aspect of today's techno-composing. I play in groups, though, and I love the excitement, dynamic, and in a way, freedom that provides. I often try to emulate those 'happy mistakes' that make music sing, in the studio, using chance operations or just plain f'n around.

As regards "punching in" and laziness - I see the point and agree, but on the other hand, I've found that not worrying about 2 inch fostex running, limited tracks, single takes, etc, means that you can say - don't worry - the recording light is ALWAYS on, so relax. People play much better when not worried about screwing up, and sometimes, you want those screw ups because they are so damned brilliant!

It seems that now, as tech. either moves so quickly and in certain cases uselessly (do you really need the latest version of X? is it really going to change anything? Will you even use it, amongst the six million other things you have on your HD?), people are beginning to mix it up a bit more - trying to have a balance of ivory tower control freak hermitism and lovely fleshy music robots making beautiful music together.

The tech is just THERE... what will we do with it? Ol' Shaky says - shake it up!
Comment by phil Kelly on June 5, 2007 at 11:25pm
Composing and arranging is by its nature a somewhat solitary profession, and the interaction with live musicians was the icing on the cake for me ( regardless of the mundane aspects of the given project
and/or client ..):^(> .. blecch

hearing your stuff" come to life" is a pleasure I'm sorry many of you have been missing

OTOH: with all the great toys availble now, you get a much better aural picture that I did in the old days ..when a pencil and paper was all I had to work with.

However, it did really teach me to rely on my inner ear!

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