Saturday, January 28, 2012

January Recording Report: Part 3

The horns recording session went really well, with Erin on sax, Cecil on trombone, and John on trumpet. The different sounds horn players make when they’re warming up are great: John buzzing his lips together, Cecil moving the trombone slide in and out, Erin testing her octave key, all of it resonating in the space.

The studio gets very cold on account of being in the basement of a 19-century factory building made of stone and brick, and while the heaters work well they’re also really noisy, so while we’re tracking we have to shut them off, and if the horns get too cold they start to go flat. Playing them helps keeps them warm, so we had to keep up a steady pace.

Don set up the three horn players in a row, each with a different style of microphone, plus a big condenser to capture the blended sound. Cecil mock-complained that his mic was the plainest looking, until Don told him it was the same kind of mic Phil Collins uses to record his vocals. Zing!

Early in the intro of “Be My Man,” you can hear either Heather or me saying, “oops,” which was funny every take. Also funny: every time Don referred to the headphones as “cans,” which was all the time. Cecil had to work to find a way to wear his where he didn’t hit them with his slide.

I’m still new to working with horns, and don’t really speak horn yet, so there was a certain amount of English to English translation going on. “Let’s leave off the tag at the end of the first chorus” seemed self-evident to me when I said it, but it took a little explaining to clarify that I meant hold the note instead of playing a melody, not stop entirely. Luckily there seemed to be the critical mass of people to make good communication possible, and the couple of critical directions I had to give made sense to everyone.

So interesting, the different kinds of muscularity that are required of the musicians, so much of it invisible in breath and mouth, Cecil asking Erin how she’s tonguing a particular note, the three of them coordinating the moments when they breathe to make the sound cleaner. In the end we got multiple great-sounding takes on both songs, and the new parts for Anais sounded just right.

Next up: me on uke and vocals! My strumming nail looks like it might want to break, so I’m hoping it holds out for a couple more days…

Cecil and John on trombone and trumpet

Erin on sax

Erin's horn arrangement for Anais

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