Banging your head against the wall

I’m working on some new music in the studio with my two buddies Kent and Matt. This is like our millionth studio project. We get together to work on some kind of music every Wednesday.

Last week we started to work on the drums of this new tune. We have some basic dummy tracks down from the week before (bass, keys, theremin). The music we usually do is very technical. This tune however, is much more straight ahead and simple. The tune has a shuffle groove at a medium pace. As a drummer (and a musician) I find it harder to play slower tempo tunes and sound tight than fast ones. This tune is no exception.

I did take after take last week on this simple tune. I just couldn’t get the groove happening to my satisfaction. After about 3 hours I threw my cans off and called it a night. My chops just weren’t there that night.

I played a gig last Friday night and I had hoped maybe that would get my chops back. It may have done the trick because tonight I sat down and did the tune after about 15 minutes of tracking. Not only did I do in 15 minutes what I couldn’t do in 3 hours last week, it sounded decent too. It just happened with no extra concentration and no forcing it.

So the moral to the story for me is something that has bugged me about doing studio work for the last 20+ years as an engineer. You have to be able to tell when your takes are happening and when they are not. If you sit there in the studio doing it over and over and over forever then move on! Do something else…go to dinner…do jumping jacks. Playing the same freaking take a million times will not usually result in an good sounding & inspired cut. If you can’t get it in the first few takes do yourself, your bandmates, your engineer and your record label a favor TAKE A BREAK.