Hey, and welcome back to the blog, where we’re coming to the middle of our focus for this month, Making The Best Out of A Bad Situation. I thought we’re talk about a slightly shorter topic this week after the previous 2 blogs have been much more in-depth and highly specific in their topic; so with that in mind I want to talk about a common occurrence, but one that can really put the brakes on a session if you’re unprepared for it to happen: changes to line-ups within a band, or members leaving entirely.
If this hasn’t happened to you yet, then hopefully that remains the case, however, I’ve had this happen more times than I can remember properly, so I have a few ideas for you all to refer to if and when the time comes.
Let’s dive in!
Thankfully, we live in a world which if ever advancing in almost every area of technology you can comprehend, and one of the session altering advancements that can save the band having to grind to a complete halt if a member leaves, are in the form of samples. I have maybe a dozen of so different drum libraries alone, along with many other instruments ranging from synths to orchestral, through to sampled acoustic guitar, bass and electric guitars, and every single one of them has come in handy when I’ve needed to rely upon them to help either myself, or a band in dire straights.
A great example of this occurring mid-session is with a band I finished up with earlier this year called Piston Dreams, and when recording the first EP with me a couple of years ago, they hadn’t been able to find a drummer prior to the recording dates starting, but where optimistic of finding someone while we worked away. As the sessions progressed, and shows where booked for the release of their music, they still were having no luck with finding a new member to work with and came to the conclusion that they either used their sampled drums live or didn’t play (which wasn’t an option for them).
Once the EP was finished, many who listened had no idea that the drums were sampled, and playing live, no one cared that there wasn’t a drummer - in fact, when I caught up with the band later in the year, they’d since found a drummer but hadn’t been searching nearly as furiously as they were when they were still recording as it just didn’t seem to bother any crowd they played in front of! This mirrored a similar scenario with a much larger band called Periphery, who at the time had been playing alongside Adam Getgood as their bassist, however he decided he needed to focus on his studio work and instead he played a live tracking of all of his bass parts which were played out the PA instead of played live; again, no one seemed to be phased on bit by the swap!
Superior Drummer 3 was a life saver during the sessions with Piston Dreams, allowing us much more realism and dynamics to build a near perfect 'fake performance' for use live.
In the studio, usually bass isn’t an issue if you’re working with guitarists as it does come second nature to be able to play both when you can play one - but it does help to have a couple of sample packs ready to one side in case you or the band are looking for a specific playing style such as slap and pop, or the more gentle finger played which can be tricky to play accurately if you’re not familiar with it.
Maintaining Morale, and Prep Ahead
I realized I hadn’t spoken on this point yet, but it is something worth thinking about when this sort of situation, or the ones I’ve written about within this month's focus do happen; keeping morale up is an integral part of coming out the otherside of these problems successfully. I know it almost goes without saying, but it’s worth reminding yourself and those around you working towards a solution that as long as the mindset stays positive, then the likelihood of finding a solution will manifest itself much faster, and with greater ease.
Sometimes, as the producer or engineer of the sessions, you’ll be looked to for your knowledge on how to fix the issues at hand, which can seem daunting if you’re also unfamiliar with the problems too - trust me when I say I have had to pretend like I know what I’m doing more times than I can count in order to try and maintain both my own morale and that of the others around me; but it does get a lot easier if you plan ahead for these sorts of issues.
A couple of other ways that you can prepare yourself for a bolt out the blue halting the sessions that isn’t a member leaving are more common sense items such as 9v batteries, spare strings in various gauges for various instruments, spare valves for preamps or amps, spare drum sticks and skins in various sizes - the list goes on. But when you’re next online looking for a new addition to the studio, think about what could save your sessions from disaster if you need it and do have it?
Did you know you can order a bulk order for sets of your favorite strings? It seems like an expensive investment at the time of purchase, but in reality you will save a huge amount compared to single set purchases.