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Rehearsing for recording

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Rehearsal can take place in any or all of three locations: at the producer's
or artist's home, at a rehearsal studio, at the recording studio. These are
listed, obviously, in order of rising cost.

For some styles of recording, particularly using experienced session musicians
(who may charge rates well in excess of the Musicians' Union minimum) it may
be cost-effective to rehearse during the session, just prior to the recording.

But for a band, the members all have a financial interest in the success of
their recording so their rehearsal time comes free and doesn't impose any additional
loading on the budget. Early rehearsals are conveniently done at home. Song
structure is easily plotted with just voice and guitar or keyboard. This would
be a good time to alter lyrics or to tinker with the melody line of the song.

Most singers have a fairly narrow range of notes over which their voice is
at its best, so the key of the song can be changed either upwards so the vocalist
can project more effectively, or downwards so that the highest notes can be
reached comfortably.

There is always the option at this point to choose a key that is slightly uncomfortably
high, because the singer doesn't have to do the song all in one go and can do
as many takes and punch ins as necessary. This does of course store up a problem
for later live performances, but the producer will be off working on another
project by this time!

A rehearsal studio is good place to work on arrangements, and to allow the
members of the band to settle into their performances. Once upon a time it was
normal for a band to write some songs, go off on tour with them, and then record
the album.

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Now of course, a band goes on tour to promote their new CD. There is a balance
to be struck between the amount of rehearsal necessary for the band to perform
to the best of their ability and the risk of over-rehearsing, which is not to
be underestimated.

Sometimes the right amount of rehearsal will be practically none at all and
the first time that the band plays the song all the way through without making
a mistake will be their best performance ever. That obviously should be the
one that is recorded. Although excessive rehearsing can detract from spontaneity,
it gives the opportunity to try out different arrangements.

Perhaps the first rhythm that the drummer and bass player settle into isn't
the best one for the song. Perhaps experimenting with another way of playing
the song will give a fresh insight on the original and make the performance
better.

Although the rehearsal studio is obviously a good place to rehearse, an even
better place may be a budget recording studio, depending on the band and on
how the producer wants to work. Now there is the risk that something may be
recorded, just as a tryout, but the recording isn't technically up to full professional
standard and the same 'vibe' proves impossible to recapture.

Everyone who is involved in recording will experience this sooner or later.
Just to finish off this section on rehearsal, I should also say that there is
occasionally one final – very final – stage of rehearsal. This is where the
band goes into the studio with the producer and records a couple of songs. The
A&R manager listens to the recordings, decides they are no good and fires
the producer!

David Mellor

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David Mellor

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