Playing for a studio recording is a whole different animal for a brass player than playing for practice or live performance. No matter what genre you are playing, many considerations must be made while preparing for the studio, including stylistic changes, embouchure fatigue, and frame of mind. Here are a few tips for getting ready for a recording session.
Practice playing on all articulations, across your entire playable range. Articulations done while recording are often exaggerated. Staccato notes should be shorter and cleaner than you would normally play them. This allows engineers space to add reverb and other effects.
This is especially important across a section. Practice listening to others and matching their articulations in musical passages. People involved in the recording process who are not brass players may not know how to verbalize what they are hearing, they may say that parts “sound sloppy” or “aren’t together”, when they are really only listening to attacks and releases on notes.
While preparing for a session, try reading through some pieces that you are not comfortable with. This is true even if you know the music you are recording. Last minute changes and additions are very common in the studio, you will often be expected to read them down without rehearsal.
Practice clefs that your parts are not normally written in. Trombone/Tuba players, brush up on your treble clef reading. Trumpet/Horn players, learn to transpose a part written in C on the fly. Arrangers often make a single part and photocopy it for all the musicians. Having to rewrite parts can take up valuable time.
Begin to work out imperfections in your overall sound weeks before your session. Does your sound get thin in the high range? Do you lose breath support when playing low notes? Minor issues such as these can be exacerbated when playing the same thing repeatedly, and are near impossible to fix quickly. Address these problems ahead of time.
Tuning issues are absolutely unacceptable in the studio. Practice staying in tune, especially as your embouchure gets tired.
The easiest way to check your progress on all of these items is to record yourself playing and listen back to it. You will find notes you consistently play out of tune, articulations you don’t like, and other problems with your playing.
The Day of Your Session
Be sure to warm up before you play. Running a warm up routine you do regularly is the best. This will extend your stamina during the session and make you more comfortable when you start. Play across your whole range, and at various volumes. Don’t play so long that you tire yourself out.
Clean Your Horn
I like to clean my instrument and reapply cream/oil the day before or the day of, so I know it’s in top working condition. There is nothing worse than a sticky valve or slide when you are trying to get things perfect.
Take a Shower!
Although it may sound ridiculous, nobody wants to spend hours cooped up in a small room with someone who smells.
Bring normal amenities you may need for an extended session – plenty of water, something to eat, extra layer of clothing, etc.
By Kyle M. Bagley: http://www.kylembagley.com