To be on Time?...That is the Question
July 31, 2014
Inside the Studios, Part 1
The same technology that has seen incredible advances in computers, smart phones and the like, has also been incorporated into recording gear. It’s possible now to have your own recording setup in your home and produce high quality recordings, from beginning to finished product. Years ago the phrase “going into the studio” had a different meaning. Music was recorded in spaces ranging from two rooms to vast complexes. Every sound we heard, from popular music to commercial jingles was recorded by engineers and performed by musicians. The next few blogs will take a look at the studio scene: the musicians who found lucrative employment there, and the ups and downs that occurred in that setting.
We are going to start our series with a guest post from my friend and bandmate, drummer Tom McGrath. Tom has participated in studio work from both sides of the glass, and in this blog he relates an experience from his years as an owner and operator of a studio in New York City. His clients included well known artists such as Bernard Purdie, Art Garfunkel, and many others.
In the world of the ticking clock (digital and second hand) we are always reminded that time is passing us by. Some of us have “…gone fishin’” while others have their day planned quarter hour by quarter hour. I for one can teeter between the fishin’ and organized chaos. When it comes to performing music, being on time has “necessity” written all over it. Here is my “being on time” story from some years ago.
While living in New York City in the late 1980’s I was fortunate to own a small but thriving production recording studio. Reel to reel tape was the techne’ du jour while digital was for the big boy studios. Just the same, the studio was known for its live rhythm section in support of singer-songwriters; many of who were honing their craft through producing demos. A drum magazine hired out the studio to produce and edit drum tracks. The audio tracks would be put to cassette, which would accompany the featured article. One such article was spotlighting Ginger Baker. Mr. Baker, the master of groove and improvisation, along with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton, formed what was considered the first “power trio”, Cream.
The producer of the drum tracks had scheduled Ginger to arrive at the studio at 9:00 a.m. but reminded me that Ginger would probably not arrive on time, and that he, the producer, would arrive at 10 a.m. Running a business requires you to read between the lines, which I did in this case. I arrived at 8:45 a.m. to set up a few microphones and get the coffee and tea brewing. The ticking clock struck 9:00 a.m. while the rhythmic knock on the door followed seconds later. I was greeted with, “Hello, my name is Ginger Baker” with his distinct majestic English accent. He asked me if I allowed smoking in the studio, I didn’t, but how could I say no to Ginger so I obliged and offered him tea and half of a scone. The vocal narrative overdub session went great and in one take we heard the beginning of Ginger Baker’s life as an English skiffle drummer, simply magnificent.
Reflecting on this now, so many years later, it still percolates in my head, like the coffee that morning, “…even Ginger Baker arrives on time!” It meant a lot to me that someone of his musical stature understood that his timely arrival would or could affect other peoples’ schedule.
Whether you play in a pit orchestra, doing club dates, bar gigs or private parties, if the “downbeat” is 8 pm, 6:30 or 12 a.m., be on time. Allow yourself plenty of time to setup in a comfortable manner; anticipate unexpected travel delays or load-in snafus. Your late arrival could affect the other players on the date and potentially place a dark cloud over the entire gig. In the end playing music is designed to be fun and arriving on time will ensure that fun will be part of the experience.