The Extravagant Horn Player

In studio production this week we tracked our horn player who I think surprised everyone in the group. He was excellent to work with as he was extremely passionate and enthusiastic. He even gave us a short history lesson of brass instruments and described the differences in timbre between the three horns he provided: trumpet, flugal horn and baritone horn. He described how the industrial revolution shaped brass instruments with the development of new valve systems and tapered brass pipes.

It was a shame that we were pretty unprepared for the session because I felt like we really didn't utilise him to his full potential. The first of the issues we had was not knowing exactly what instruments he was bringing. We knew for sure we were tracking trumpet, but didn't expect the upright baritone horn, and had to change our microphone setup on the fly. Secondly we had a mid-side room microphone setup (which in hindsight we should have just ditched early on) that became a problem as there were three instruments, so every instrument had four inputs/tracks in Pro Tools (MD421, Royer 121 and mid-side C414s) which quickly became difficult to work with. This became even worse when he wanted to hear back his previous take and play over it so we had to duplicate several of the tracks. It eventuated in a very messy and high track count session that was more complicated that it was worth. We really should have employed Tim's favourite motif "Keep It Simple Stupid" and we would have had a much easier time.

Thirdly, we didnt prepare any specific melodies or material for him to play, so essentially he just came up with whatever he felt on the spot. Which worked in some ways and didn't in others. The takes were all improvised and the different instrument parts felt disjointed and chaotic at times. We ended up just selecting specific short melodies and using them as recurring motifs throughout the song rather than keeping his whole improvisation takes.

This week I learned a lot about session management and that sometimes the best result can come from simplifying things and not going overboard. If we had stuck to one microphone per instrument, and written melodies/harmonies for him to play we could have really developed strong hooks for the song. What we ended up with was good, but I felt we could have done a lot better.

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