Captain Fantastic: Walk Thru #2

What a difference a day can make. The Saturday walk through of the Billy Joel set was a continuation of the mostly great rehearsals SPG1 had for the Aerosmith show. Sunday however was a struggle. The difference was like night and day.

Sunday’s rehearsal centered around thirteen classic hits by Grammy Legend Award winner Sir Elton John. The biggest difference between the two rehearsals seemed to be the simple fact that the Billy Joel set, for the most part, had clearly defined guitar parts. Where Elton’s music did not. Due to this simple fact, the guitar players came in and struggled on 70% of the music. It didn’t help that his chord progressions are long, and difficult to remember. Or that articulating his more intricate movements requires a higher degree of skill.

When there isn’t a clearly defined part, the musician is forced to create one. In this case the students did not communicate over the break among themselves, or with my self about who was doing what type of part, nor do all of them have the skill necessary to create these types of parts at this point in their development. Which left many of them coming in playing the same, often flat and lifeless, or simply wrong version of the progressions.

Then there was the sonic mess that they were creating with their clunky guitar parts, combined with multiple (mostly correct) keyboard parts. You might not be able to imagine the chaos of 2 keyboard players and 2 guitar players (sometimes 3) all playing a “version” of the same harmonic progression. Generally it’s the musical equivalent of combining all of your holiday party left overs smashed into one giant bowl and adding the remainder of the “beverages” on top of it.

So there was that. Which resulted ultimately with teams of guitarists being kicked out of the room to straighten out their parts as best the could on their own. With the plan going forward to be meeting with the guitars, keys and bass players as a group to have what we call at the Collective a good old fashion chord check. That’s where I walk the whole group painstakingly through the whole song confirming that each instrument, at the very least, agrees on what the chords and bass notes  are, and when they change. A time consuming task that I will undertake this week. After that we will designate parts, voicings, etc. and we should be on track.

So the only songs that were up to par on Sunday were the small amount of songs with very clear parts for the guitarists. For the rest of the scheduled time we pounded our way through what we could, knowing that we still had the coming week to resolve the issues.

After the rehearsal, we moved down the hall to the recording studio to record the audio for our soon to be released Captain Fantastic and the Piano Man promo videos. Time wouldn’t allow this to wait another day, so in spite of the already long day we settled in for a long evening of recording.

Recording audio is always a challenge. Every part can be clearly heard, and that clarity makes everyone paranoid, and of course puts every subtle mistake that would be lost live on clear display. We do however let a lot more go in this process then we ever would if it was a professional recording.

We used a click track, which gave the drummers fits. A click track is a loud metronome played through everyone’s headphones, used to keep the tempo of a recorded piece consistent throughout. Which is particularly challenging for some players.

The students mostly engineered, while I produced. In the end we recorded three of the four songs, and set a day and time for finishing the fourth song. Next up will be the next recording session Tuesday, the video recording sessions Wednesday, a few chord checks, and full rehearsals this coming weekend. Stay tuned, as we begin to pull it all together.