Session Sensei Don39t Let Em See You Sweat Part I

March 1, 2010

In the studio you need to focus and play great, while doing business, networking, and maintaining the vibe that keeps a client calling you back. This is even harder if you’re at the edge of your comfort zone as a player. I was recommended last week to lay down an accordion track on a band’s new record, and the accordion and a mic in the same room makes me nervous. I’ve done a fair amount of recording accordion, but it’s not my first instrument, and still makes me feel like a nervous kid. But I do have some coping strategies that help me maintain my cool studio veneer.

Homework. The producer had told me the tune was Rockabilly with a Tex-Mex flavor. “Think Flaco (Jiménez). Think Conjunto.” I hung up the phone, hit iTunes and YouTube, and started to study one of the world’s greatest recording and performing artists. I grabbed my squeezebox, hit the woodshed, and tried to cop the basic feel.

Show ’em what you got, not what you don’t. I brought three accordions, each with a distinctive sound — giving a client a choice breaks the ice and gets them listening. When asked “Which one gets the sound I want?” I could’ve launched into a lecture about the difference between an authentic button box and the piano accordion I play, but I just presented my trusty little Hohner, which comes close. The client loved it, and that was that.

Don’t panic. The tune was fast, long, multi-sectional, and very grooving. There was no chart, so I grabbed a piece of paper and made myself a roadmap: Intro, verse, chorus? No, pre-chorus, then chorus — second time through the verse is a bar shorter (good to know). I tried to get the form right and understand the energy and arc of the song. No one has noticed that I’m just hanging on; on the contrary, they’re impressed that I’m transcribing a tune in real time, something my Nashville friends can all do in their sleep.

A little showmanship goes a long way. Turns out feel was more Rockabilly than Conjunto; the chords were bluesy, so I could do my rootsy Americana thing, mix in a Tex-Mex turn, and it would work just fine. As I donned the headphones I looked up. Through the glass I could see my audience: the band, engineer and producer, plus their friends and family eagerly anticipating my performance — gulp! This was beginning to feel like a show, and I was act one. Now how does this tune go again? Tune in next month to see how the story ends. . . .

Keep up-to-date on the latest news
Get our Free Newsletter Here!
Show Comments

These are my comments.


No records found

Reader Poll

What best describes your dream job?

See results without voting »