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Can the session musicians do this for a non-English song?

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Can the session musicians do this for a non-English song?

Postby Library user » Mon Oct 12, 2020 9:53 am

Could you pls advise and explain whether professional session musicians can do this? Thank you

First, I am a songwriter who writes in a foreign language, not in English. That means I only need the session musicians to record instrumental stems to make a backing track. (Afterwards, I will use the backing track for a foreign vocalist to sing.)

It seems to me that the session musicians will still be able to record the instrumental tracks as long as I give them a guide demo track of my song.

But I will need a musician to play the melody of my song as well, so that I can recognize the structure of the instrumental. So basically I may need something like these tracks:

- Key
-Bass
-Guitar
-Synth
-Melody of the song

Do you think this is something that can be done by the session musicians?

My sincere thanks,
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Re: Can the session musicians do this for a non-English song?

Postby adrian_k » Mon Oct 12, 2020 1:05 pm

If all you are providing is a demo of the song I don’t think that will be enough. Of course it depends on genre, how well you know the musicians, whether you can co-locate etc, but I would always try to provide a lead sheet for the song and probably a score for each instrument, particularly for those playing strong melodic or harmony lines.

For some sessions I would want to attend the recording, at least via Zoom or something, to make sure I could explain exactly what I’m looking for.

If the song is fairly straightforward then you might get away with asking the musicians to learn it themselves from the demo, but you are then completely in their hands. If you know and have worked with them before this might work, personally I’d want to provide more direction.
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Re: Can the session musicians do this for a non-English song?

Postby CS70 » Mon Oct 12, 2020 2:08 pm

Library user wrote:Could you pls advise and explain whether professional session musicians can do this? Thank you

First, I am a songwriter who writes in a foreign language, not in English. That means I only need the session musicians to record instrumental stems to make a backing track. (Afterwards, I will use the backing track for a foreign vocalist to sing.)

It seems to me that the session musicians will still be able to record the instrumental tracks as long as I give them a guide demo track of my song.

But I will need a musician to play the melody of my song as well, so that I can recognize the structure of the instrumental. So basically I may need something like these tracks:

- Key
-Bass
-Guitar
-Synth
-Melody of the song

Do you think this is something that can be done by the session musicians?

It shouldn't be any problem? It's what overdubbing is all about.

Basically you want everybody to have an idea on what they're "playing with" at any given time. So, for example:

- Record a quick guide demo. What matters is that the BPM and feel are right and the demo has all the structural elements of the song (ear candy can be added later, or even instrumental solos). In the demo project, you want to have individual tracks for each instruments and vocal, so that you can remove/re-add them as you want.

- Make a fake book or Nashville style chord chart for the demo, so that everyone can know what's what from an harmonic point of view. Doesn't need be complicated since people will simply use it as a reference against the demo.

- If there's drums and bass, it's common to go first with them - talk with the session drummer and bass player to find out which one wants to have a go first. Often the drums.

- Mute the drums in the demo, and send the bounce to the session drummer. He will record and send back his individual drum tracks or a drum stem (you're better off with the tracks).

- Add his drums to the demo, mute the bass and send the bounce to the bass player, which will give you back the bass line.

- Continue like that until all the structural elements of the demo have been replaced by the final versions. Vocals and soloist parts are usually the last.

- Then you remove all the original quick demo tracks, record any further ear candy as you like, and mix the song.

The quality of the result depends on a few things:

- try to make your quick demo with similar dynamics as the final result. If you want the band to go low, go low, if you want it to go loud, go loud. Use explicit comments on the chart sheet. Dynamics are extremely important in a good band and it's imperative that everyone's aware of what you mean. If you can't play the dynamics yourself, use automation in the DAW simply to raise and lower the volume of the instruments you want when you want.

- try to make the guide demo with the same rhythmic feel than you want. That's why using a drum machine is way better than a metronome... Use a pre-made loop, sequence some hits, anything to give the drummer and the bass player an idea of the syncopation, swing, etc - that you want in the final track. It doesn't need to sound good but it needs to groove enough that they can understand and replicate it . You can also use reference examples for that, if there's songs you know with the same groove.

- one of the property of a good band (except perhaps some metal and most EDM :) ) is that the tempo is not exactly fixed but varies a little bit - the band using that variation to create excitement and tension and then release it. That is the hardest thing to replicate because most DAWs (and DAW users) will naturally tend to have a perfect timing. Nothing wrong per se (and the drummer will never be as perfect as a drum machine, so some variations will be introduced anyways) but it's the one dimension that often misses from "gridded" productions. The trick here is easy in principle - use the DAWs tempo maps to create these variations already in the demo. This may make the job of the drummer harder however, so it's best to talk with him about that - usually session drummers able to record offline are proficient enough with DAWs to be able to stretch the demo they get themselves (in this case, you have to ask also for the "stretched" demo)

- of course the quality of the musicians, but for session people it's rarely a problem. The main issue is to communicate your rhythmic and dynamic ideas clearly enough... even in classical music, with scores and all, that's the director job and a long process. It's harder when you are far away from each other. Also If you can get drum and bass to play together, it's usually a big plus. For the rest, it makes little difference as anybody else uses the drums and bass groove as an anchor and reacts to that.

A lot of work.. but on the other side, no more than having a band or orchestra rehearse for many hours to gel a specific piece.

Best of luck!
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Re: Can the session musicians do this for a non-English song?

Postby shufflebeat » Mon Oct 12, 2020 3:03 pm

It will be very easy for musicians to record what you want. The difficult part will be for you to explain, out of all the possible approaches, what it is you want.

Good communication is the key.
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Re: Can the session musicians do this for a non-English song?

Postby Library user » Mon Oct 12, 2020 4:52 pm

Wonderful replies. Thank you so much for all your kind advice. I will try to communicate with the session musicians.
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