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In The Studio: Uncovering Hidden Gems In A Song
Finding a phrase, or a note played against a chord, or something else, that adds real magic...
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Only The Strong Survive
There is something about performing a song live that exposes it’s strengths or weakness. For a small fraction of time, it forces you to be unbiased… Or as close as you can when you’re the composer.

Practice In Patience
When an artist or band comes in with a stack of tapes (remember the olden days?), we take our notebooks and pencils out. I suggest not using your phone for notes. The reason? It’s easy to get distracted with texts, emails or a zillion other notifications that can distract your attention. Focus is important.

During playback, we’ll take a lot of notes. Don’t even kid yourself that you’ll remember the line you dug was in X rehearsal or X performance during the 2nd verse. Yaaaa right!! The solution to prevent a future hunt of good ideas is to…? Use pencil and paper.

After we’ve researched the workshop tapes, I’ll leave them to hash it out before our next meeting.

Scribble Dibble
Organizing the way you make notes is important.

—Song title

—Performance location

—Date of performance

—Time during song cool thing happens

—Notes on cool thing

Let’s say I’m listening back to rehearsal of “The Long Goodbye” I mentioned earlier. In the notes section, I might write something like “play low F# in second verse.”

Don’t fret (get it?) if you don’t know music theory. Find another way to explain what you like. You’re not being graded on your music theory knowledge. The only thing that matters is you get your ideas across. And don’t forget to write down the min:sec it happens.

Father Time
I’m certainly not suggesting that you should be workshopping songs for years. There is an expiration date on creativity for a song. You won’t reach that expiration date as quickly with performances as rehearsals. Rehearsal if overdone can wear out all emotion of a song.

The adrenalin in a live setting acts as an artistic preservative of sorts.

Wrap it Up
This should give you enough homework for the time being. You will be graded, but don’t worry, I use a sliding scale based on gifts.

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC.

Be sure to visit The Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article, go here.

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