One of our roles as producers is to work with musicians. Whether that be a musician an artist knows, or a session instrumentalist hired for the album.
We will consider their role and how to encourage the best from them.
Who sets the atmosphere?
As the producer, you have the opportunity to set the atmosphere and tone of the recording session. Creating an atmosphere of encouragement goes a long way into helping any musician feel at ease.
Similar to an artist, it’s always good to get to know the musician before jumping into recording. Get a feel for who they are and what they are about. This will help them to feel listened to and respected, which results in a much more creative session.
Let them bring their ideas.
Good musicians will often have ideas they would love to try straight away. Explore those ideas together. Ultimately, the artist or you as the producer are the ones that make the final decision, but good musicians have good ideas.
Shutting down ideas can negatively affect the atmosphere in the session. Having an approach whereby ‘every idea can be flagged’ can keep the momentum in a session and keep the confidence level high.
Having a pool of musicians you can draw from when working, is incredibly useful. Often artists may not have many musicians in their circle. Not only does it make your job easier to work with people you know, but it also helps keep those musicians busy with work.
The more you work with people you trust, the more risks you can take in the production process, which can often create a better result.
Make sure at least to have a drummer, keys player and guitarist/bass player available.
Getting the best from musicians.
Working with the players in your session is a constant back and forth to refine parts or sections together and find something that fits perfectly.
Acknowledging what is working, whilst trimming what isn’t working, is the balance challenge we all face.
The ‘Feedback Sandwich’ can be a great approach. Start with something you like about the part. Next recommend some changes that are needed. Finish with an encouragement on how they have adapted to the changes.
Many professional musicians will have a ‘Session Fee’. This could be a day rate or an hourly rate. Communication about this before the session is vital to ensure mutual respect and that the rate doesn’t blow out and become overly expensive.
Even though you may not be able to afford their typical day rate, having a respectful relationship can often work wonders in sorting this out.