Session Guitar http://www.guitarworld.com/taxonomy/term/511/all en Session Guitar: When to Go Direct and When to Mic in the Studio http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-when-go-direct-and-when-mic-studio/25317 <!--paging_filter--><p>Hello again!</p> <p>Today I'd like to talk about my strategy when choosing to go direct or mic a cabinet.</p> <p>As a producer and arranger, I have to consider the sonic landscape of my tracks before I start. Years of experience give me the ability to hear the whole production before I begin. Of course, I leave myself room to veer off course along the way. But I can usually see a very clear picture of what I want before I start laying down tracks.</p> <p>If the recording is going to be like a puzzle with many parts coming in and out, layers of varying guitars, keys, drums, bass, backing vocals, etc., my thinking goes immediately to modeling and direct recording. Here's why.</p> <p>When laying down many guitar parts, each must have its own identity. Not only with a different guitar, but with a different EQ. I find modeled or direct guitars easier to shape than mic'd guitars. The EQ is especially worth discussing. </p> <p>There's a technique called shelving that is common in musical engineering. Shelving involves cutting out frequencies that get in the way of other instruments. We do this to carve out a sonic space, much in the same way playing in the pocket carves out a rhythmic space. For example, if you have a bottom-heavy guitar and a bass playing, you can run into a serious problem if both instruments live in the same frequency range but are playing opposing notes. The fix for this muddy scenario is to remove (and not in a gentle way) all the guitar frequencies below a certain point, thus creating a shelf. </p> <p>I usually start at about 125 hz but can go as high as 300hz or more. In the digital realm of modeling, dramatic EQ seems to be quite easy, especially if you don't own a NEVE, TRIDENT, SSL, API, etc. high-end expensive board or stand-alone equalizer! But multiple modeled guitars are almost like direct recording synthesizers. They lay just fine in the track when shaped properly.</p> <p>My choices are the HD500 and DT25 head by Line 6 and the Blackstar HT40 Club for direct recording. The HD500 is obvious, but the other two have emulated outputs. I find with modelers that I can really get a focused sound that doesn't take up tons of room. Each of these sounds can add personality and interest to a song, thus adding ear candy to keep interest in a sometimes lackluster tune.</p> <p>I love the punch and effects and in-your-face sound of direct recording and modelers. I also use a Universal Audio 6176 to play seriously funky or ultra-clean and chimey compressed sounds. There's nothing like it.</p> <p>But what about warmth? This is where I choose to add the beauty and gooey goodness of tube amps, mic'd up close and at a distance, to open up chorus sections. I also use this for gloriously soaring lines and leads.</p> <p>When I mic a guitar, I prefer to use a multi-mic setup to not only capture the entire sound of the rig but also to capture the room. I know modelers have come pretty far (and they're almost there), but they still do not reproduce a room faithfully. Certainly not with all the options we have when we consider our own room that gives a personality not found in any other—or the amp and mic placements available. However, modelers seem absolutely perfect for modern, track-heavy productions! So I use them for this.</p> <p>If the production is looking for a very honest sound, like a jazz or traditional rock or country sound, I'm thinking less is definitely more! In those cases, I will isolate a guitar cab in its own room to prevent bleed and mic away. With a multi-mic setup and each mic on its own track, I can bring mics in and out for sonic interest throughout the song. Then, when I need to overdub some ear candy, I go the opposite route and use my direct rigs. This way I get the best of both worlds in any musical scenario I encounter.</p> <p>Of course, there are many other factors to consider, such as panning, compression, volume, FX, etc. But that's a topic for another day.</p> <p>Till next time!</p> <p><em><strong>Ron Zabrocki on Ron Zabrocki</strong>: <a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">I’m a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut.</a> I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just believed everyone started that way! I could pretty much sight read anything within a few years, and that aided me in becoming a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could and was fortunate enough to have some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played many jingle sessions, and even now I not only play them but have written a few. I’ve “ghosted” for a few people that shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I got the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-when-go-direct-and-when-mic-studio/25317#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Wed, 19 Aug 2015 16:16:48 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 25317 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Do You Suffer from Guitar-Tuner Dependency? http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-do-you-suffer-guitar-tuner-dependency <!--paging_filter--><p>It always starts with something small, a seemingly insignificant act that can have a huge effect on the rest of your life.</p> <p>Horror stories usually begin like this.</p> <p>Guitar tuners. We all use them. Clip-on. Stomp box. Software. Part of your modeler. Built in to your guitar. </p> <p>I use them every day in the studio. But have you ever had to get in tune without one? No problem, right? Just do all the little tricks we do to get a guitar in tune and keep it in tune. After all, if you aren't in tune, nothing you play will sound good.</p> <p>I was commenting this morning on a group page on Facebook. We were discussing robotic guitar tuners, tuning machines that tune themselves. I first saw this on a Gibson guitar. Now I saw a new one. Then I did a search. I even saw a robotic tuning tool. </p> <p>It got me thinking: How may young guitarists are taught to tune the guitar by ear these days? I mean really taught, as in making it a requirement?</p> <p>Back in the day, when dinosaurs walked the earth and a Strobo-Tuner cost a small fortune, we had to tune our guitars by ear. We'd tune to a pitchfork, piano or another guitar. This was an acquired and <em>required</em> skill. Imagine not being able to tune your own instrument! How would that affect your intonation? Your ability to bend in pitch to a half-step or whole step or more? Even pressing down too hard can alter the pitch. </p> <p>Now let's take this part of our craft even further. If you don't learn how to hear pitch properly, you also will not be able to sing in tune — or listen deep for better part playing ... or hear intervallic relationships. Depending on an outside source to properly pitch your instrument is not very different than allowing Auto-Tune to pitch your voice! Or instrument! Does anybody but me see a problematic trend here? </p> <p>How many of you are budding producers or engineers? Yesterday I was mixing a track that had bells on it. I felt they needed to be doubled with strings. They just didn't sound right. So I played the part and thought the string sample I was using was slightly out of tune. Then I shut off the bells and the strings sounded in tune. That meant the bells were the culprit. I had to tune the bell samples up by 10 cents. That is not a lot, but it's enough to make them uncomfortable. </p> <p>I don't believe everything must be in perfect pitch. But I do require relative pitch. And being able to accurately tune slightly out of pitch and doubling to a guitar in perfect pitch gives a chorus effect a million times better than any digital emulation. Analog, baby! See? It's not only about being in tune! It is about controlling tuning. And you must be able to do this on the fly. Even locking systems go out.</p> <p>I'd like you to try something. Buy a tuning fork — or use a keyboard to tune your guitar. Learn to hear and match pitches at least once a day. I agree with using a source to tune if you are onstage or in a noisy environment. And they certainly have their place in the studio or if you are recording alone. But a guitar is not a perfect instrument. String gauge, temperature fluctuations, fret height, tuning pegs, how hard you fret and pick, are the strings properly stretched, how many windings around the pole and actual quality of the construction can all have dramatic or subtle fluctuations that need to be constantly checked. </p> <p>But for your practice time, try tuning by ear. Tune to a track, the radio, television or, if you are lucky enough these days, another instrument/player. This habit and skill can only improve your overall musicianship! Let's be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Be the best you can be. Start with a small, "insignificant" thing like tuning. It might be more important than you think. </p> <p>I'd love to hear your comments and a raise of hands on how many tune by ear regularly or not.</p> <p><em><strong>Ron Zabrocki on Ron Zabrocki</strong>: <a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">I’m a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut.</a> I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just believed everyone started that way! I could pretty much sight read anything within a few years, and that aided me in becoming a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could and was fortunate enough to have some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played many jingle sessions, and even now I not only play them but have written a few. I’ve “ghosted” for a few people that shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I got the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-do-you-suffer-guitar-tuner-dependency#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Thu, 16 Jul 2015 17:11:30 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 20032 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Improve Your Guitar Playing by Giving Your Notes Room to Breathe http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-looking-space/24948 <!--paging_filter--><p>Hi, gang! </p> <p>Let's talk about space. Not studio recording space. Sonic space. Your guitar part. We all want to be heard, to stand out, to express something with a guitar. </p> <p>But instead of defining ourselves clearly and concisely, we muddy up our own message, our own voice. Let's see if you are as guilty of this as I am.</p> <p>Playing sessions means making the other party happy. In most cases, it is a producer. Producers don't necessarily care about your legacy as a guitarist. They care about putting out the finest product they can. And that means satisfying a market. </p> <p>So when they tell me what to do, I do it. If all goes well and I hear something the producer or artist hasn't, I'll suggest it. If it works, better for me. However, a trend started a long time ago...(spinning-hourglass visual...) </p> <p>This trend was to double almost everything. Rhythm guitar on the left and right. Double the electric rhythms with acoustic guitars on the left and right. Double the acoustic guitars with high-strung acoustics on the left and right. Add some really heavy guitars on the chorus on the left and right. Made a big juicy sound. </p> <p>Add some color guitars, tremolo, chicken pickin' tick-tock guitars. Single strums. Then a solo, often harmonized and written out. Often the producer wasn't even a guitarist. Many times the solos I was asked to play were lame. I didn't even want my name on some recordings. That stuff could kill a reputation fast. And it almost did years ago. Anyway, as a budding arranger/producer in my own right, I learned this style and did OK. </p> <p>Move forward to today (hourglass visual spinning in reverse). I started noticing fatigue setting in. Listening to music. I was getting tired of listening to most music. And especially guitarists. And you know guitarists today are the finest there have ever been technically and sonically! At least I think so. I love every one of them. I love the new gear. New styles and techniques. Yet...fatigue. Boredom. No connection to what I was hearing.</p> <p>I realized it wasn't today's music or musicians. It was the production and the "more is better" philosophy.</p> <p>More tracks. I use at least 40 to 60 tracks on a basic production. More mics and more amps and more pedals and more guitars. On every song. Yet where are the guys the guitar world in general consider icons today? Where are the Jimi's, Eddie's and Eric's? Maybe, and I believe this to be true, they are here. In the millions. But they haven't realized how to connect to the listener!</p> <p>I believe most arrangements today lack creativity. And you do not have to be eccentric in your style to be creative. You can choose to play in any style and do some real thought. Do you need more than ONE guitar on any song? Think about how one single guitar, played end to end, solo and all, will focus and direct you into the ears of anyone listening.</p> <p>No clutter. Just you, your guitar and your tone playing your ass off. Heaven. Even if it is simple. Wanna talk soloing? I'm not going to say slow down or speed up. But I am going to tell you to breathe! Give the listener some time to take it in. A half second would be enough here and there. Say something. Then give it a second. Say something else, etc. (Listen to Brian Setzer with Stray Cats).</p> <p>Rhythm can be defined as sound and silence. We've got the sound part down. I think we need to consider how much sound is really the right amount. Then consider the silence. Or at least the space. I believe we can better define ourselves and connect if we use less. And this holds true for everyone involved. </p> <p>Vocalists. Do you need every word tuned and harmonized? See what I mean? No personal connection. It's like a machine is singing to you with many more machines saying the same thing at the same time. </p> <p>Are you getting this?</p> <p>Back to the icons. Maybe the connection could be made because we could actually hear their notes. Emotions. Techniques. Parts. Tone. And maybe we could hear them because their wasn't a wall of guitars sounding like the Tower of Babel confusing and cluttering up their message. They left room around them to be heard. Many also knew how to breathe. </p> <p>Take a moment. Stop playing. Realize you said something. Then breathe before you say something else. It is music. We don't get paid by the note. We should get paid by how well we can place a part of ourselves into the community of players on a song. And what we do to better the song. And sometimes, often times, less is definitely more.</p> <p>So the next time you are doing a recording, try this. Try to start with a tone you love. Complete and whole. Your tone. Your voice. Then figure out a part that is not merely chords and notes, but a part. A real part. Something that comes and goes. Says something. Then leave space for the listener to sink in. </p> <p>Even for a second. Look for that space. Respect it. Your listeners might finally get to hear what you have to say and accept you as someone they want to hang with often. In the buds or on the stage. </p> <p>Till next time!</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">Ron Zabrocki</a> is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-looking-space/24948#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Tue, 14 Jul 2015 17:36:17 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 24948 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: The Top 10 Session Guitarists of All Time http://www.guitarworld.com/photo-gallery-top-10-session-guitarists <!--paging_filter--><p>One of the most important things I can discuss with people who want to become session players is how they need to take a good long look at those who have gone before. </p> <p>In the photo gallery below is a list of some of my faves—and a brief description of each player.</p> <p>Some may be familiar, others may be obscure. Some are still active, some have gone on to that soundstage in the sky. No matter, we are looking at some of the top players of recent recorded history. Listen to them, study them, learn from them.</p> <p>And now, in the photo gallery below, I offer up my top 10 session guitarists. </p> <p>Let me know if you think I've missed anyone! Let’s hear some of your favorites.</p> <p><strong>Ron Zabrocki on Ron Zabrocki:</strong> <em>I’m a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just believed everyone started that way! I could pretty much sight read anything within a few years, and that aided me in becoming a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could and was fortunate enough to have some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played many jingle sessions, and even now I not only play them but have written a few. I’ve “ghosted” for a few people that shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I got the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-additional-content"><legend>Additional Content</legend><div class="field field-type-nodereference field-field-related-artist"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Related Artist:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jimmy-page">Jimmy Page</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.guitarworld.com/photo-gallery-top-10-session-guitarists#comments Brent Mason Jimmy Page Led Zeppelin Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs News Features Tue, 02 Jun 2015 17:27:33 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 11951 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: How to Set Yourself Up for Creativity http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-how-set-yourself-creativity <!--paging_filter--><p>Hi, kids! I'm gonna get right down to it.</p> <p>This time around, I'm going to ask you to try something. Put the guitar down before your next session—before you start laying down guitar tracks. </p> <p>Put it down and listen. Listen to the song. Then listen to yourself. Your mind. Heart. Soul. What do you hear? Do you hear something different than you originally expected? Ask yourself what the song is about. What are the lyrics saying? Can you compliment this? What do the other instruments sound like? How can you find your pocket and fit in instead of fight for space. </p> <p>I like to call these spotting sessions. Almost as if you were doing music for a movie. You'd sit with the director and talk about where you would add music. What it would sound like. Feel like. What instruments would be used. Would there be a main instrument used for a particular character? (In our case, maybe we can imitate the sound of a jackass whenever the singer starts to sing! KIDDING!)</p> <p>You see, there isn't one piece of brain in your fingers. Your fingers get told what to do from the brain. </p> <p>Many of us simply play from muscle memory, and that just cripples growth and creativity. Sure, old reliable licks are great and necessary to establish a style, but stretching out and challenging yourself enables growth and breathes new life into your playing. </p> <p>Let's move on. Get technical. How about guitar choice or sound? Maybe by thinking first, you'll consider a totally different sound/guitar! Maybe a 12-string. A clean Strat. A really low-fi blown-out amp or a heavily processed, almost unnatural, guitar sound. Maybe even the choice of guitar will make you play differently. </p> <p>This is why I love the Line 6 JTV guitar. It gives me 29 models with unlimited tuning possibilities.</p> <p>This also could be the time to consider going direct or micing an amp. And which mic? Ribbon, Dynamic? Condenser? A combination, perhaps? Where on the speaker? At what distance?</p> <p>Ever track a lead part or extra guitar part with the mic across the room? You really don't know what you're sonically missing! </p> <p>Do you always automatically double everything? The RIGHT guitar part played with the right sound usually is fine left alone. Doubles are for production. And production is only that...production. But the performance part? Way more important! (And let's not forget that the composition is the most important part of making music.)</p> <p>You see, if you don't stop to think, you could be missing opportunities to really give the music a special part of yourself, some real effort and consideration. The possibilities are endless from fingerstyle to pick. From dirty to clean. From slide to staccato. From tuned down to capo. From natural to processed.</p> <p>Finally, let's chat a bit about the all-important solo. Should it even exist? If so, should it be melodic? Or maybe angular and dissonant? Should it be over the top or down low and sparse? Or maybe a combination? Or maybe it needs a whole new direction, a key change or groove change. An entirely new mini-composition right in the middle of the song. (My secret weapon lately.) That really makes the solo stand out instead of the big yawn I like to call soloing over a verse!</p> <p>Creativity must come from your mind and not your hands! Please try having a spotting session for yourself. Or, if you are brave, ask other band members or other musicians you respect for their opinion too. It might take a bit longer, but I promise you the finished product will be well worth it and way better than your original idea.</p> <p>Till next time!</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">Ron Zabrocki</a> is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-how-set-yourself-creativity#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Wed, 27 May 2015 21:19:40 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 24562 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Top 10 Guitarists to Emulate for a Successful Studio Career http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-top-10-guitarists-emulate-successful-studio-career <!--paging_filter--><p>I'd like to address a very meat-and-potatoes bit of info that very rarely gets mentioned. </p> <p>Who should you emulate in order to be a session guitarist? </p> <p>The answers and the reasons for each might very well surprise you. Also, you might assume you know how to play like these guys, but, until you really try it, you do <em>not</em> know how! </p> <p>I'm not kidding here; I guarantee you don't know how. And not a week goes by when I'm not asked to imitate at least one of these guys.</p> <p>So now, in the photo gallery below (in no particular order), I give you a list of players you'd better become intimately aware of and learn at least a few of their licks! It will start, save and prolong your "studio guitarist" career.</p> <p>One more thing before I start: These names are used in the way "Kleenex" means "tissue." If someone asks you for a Kleenex and you give them an off-brand tissue, it's the really same thing. So if someone asks for EVH, you know they want some tapping, whammy bar, bluesy, fast playing. Get it?</p> <p>One final note! Learn the history of popular music as seen through the eyes of a guitarist. Play in a wedding band. Play in a show band. Play in a cover band. You will thank me.</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">Ron Zabrocki</a> is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-additional-content"><legend>Additional Content</legend><div class="field field-type-nodereference field-field-related-artist"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Related Artist:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/slash">Slash</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/eric-clapton">Eric Clapton</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/chuck-berry">Chuck Berry</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/eddie-van-halen">Eddie Van Halen</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-top-10-guitarists-emulate-successful-studio-career#comments Eddie Van Halen Eric Clapton Ron Zabrocki Roy Clark Session Guitar Slash Blogs Galleries News Wed, 27 May 2015 11:14:09 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 23171 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Do You Have the Guts to Keep It Real? http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-do-you-have-guts-keep-it-real <!--paging_filter--><p>Allow me to apologize for my absence. "Busy" doesn't even come close to explaining how I tracked more than 70 songs in the past two months ... and kept my sanity.</p> <p>Let's talk.</p> <p>"Keeping it real." It's a dated phrase, for sure. However, it's a fitting topic to discuss today.</p> <p>With all the reality going on these days, with every aspect of everyone's life being documented, the last thing I hear in the music world is reality!</p> <p>I'll start with "copy and paste." </p> <p>May I ask whatever happened to playing a song from the beginning to the end? If not with a full band, then at least when you're tracking your own part. The benefits outweigh the hassles. The feel that differentiates slightly from one part of one verse to the second verse is worth the effort to practice the freaking part and nail it!</p> <p>In my honest opinion, perfection sucks. And I think you know it too! Just because perfection sucks, it doesn't mean mistakes are great or that inadequate playing is better. But it does mean these imperfections and little abnormalities add a feel and humanistic behavior that is necessary and lacking in today's guitar parts and music.</p> <p>Do you want to think of yourself as having become so lazy or untalented that you can't play the basic rhythm part two times or more? To double or quadruple on different instruments to thicken a part? Are you so lazy that you have to play it once and copy and paste it for perfection's sake? Most people are tracking in the comfort of their own home! It's not studio cost at stake. It's the very essence of your musicianship at stake! This is often why I have a job, kids. Because you can't cut it in the studio and guys and girls like me get called to save your ass. Real enough for ya?</p> <p>And now my second rant <em>du jour</em>: the lazy habit of only using amp models to track your guitars.</p> <p>The benefits of micing up an amp and shifting the mic and listening for the sweet spot have been well documented. There is no reverb, model or algorithm that can recreate the very personal sound of the booth I use, or the hallway, or the bathroom in my house! And these are the very traits that add originality and a personal sound print of the guitar tracks I record. I am a proud Line 6 artist! I believe their products are a huge part of why today's guitars sound so huge and in your face. But I don't only go direct all the time with my HD500. I use it as an invaluable production tool. It is found on every track. I love the combination of direct models and mic'd cabs. But just like percussion, I don't believe a track is sonically complete until I hear the environment in which it was recorded.</p> <p>There are classic recordings that hold up to this very day. I love today's work. The tools. The seemingly limitless amount of creative gear used to create the same damn song. But let me tell you what I really love. I love finding the sound of a soda machine on an Elvis track or all the lip smacking found on a Beach Boys track. And I especially love hearing the hallway or back of the amp mic'd on a Led Zeppelin track.</p> <p>What I miss is the good stuff. The sound of a guitarist struggling with a difficult part, but hanging in there and getting it. Pulling it off. And the guts it takes to leave it as it is. Change can happen. When you show people what real playing and real emotional content sounds like again, they'll get it.</p> <p>Do you have the guts to show yourself? Your real limit? Well do ya, punk?</p> <p><em><strong>Ron Zabrocki on Ron Zabrocki</strong>: <a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">I’m a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut.</a> I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just believed everyone started that way! I could pretty much sight read anything within a few years, and that aided me in becoming a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could and was fortunate enough to have some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played many jingle sessions, and even now I not only play them but have written a few. I’ve “ghosted” for a few people that shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I got the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-do-you-have-guts-keep-it-real#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Sun, 12 Apr 2015 21:52:34 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 24269 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Why We Need So Many Guitars! http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-why-we-need-so-many-guitars <!--paging_filter--><p>Why do session guitarists need a variety of guitars? </p> <p><strong>Reason 1:</strong> Be prepared. Just like a plumber or carpenter, the right tool for the right job goes a long way to making the music we are playing sound more appropriate for the situation. </p> <p>When you walk into a session, you never know, or most of the time, are unaware of the style you will be asked to play that day. A jingle can span the realms of classical to country to metal to jazz. And sometimes all in the same cue if you are playing a soundtrack! </p> <p>Budgets are usually tight and you may be required to do an instrumental choreography to switch in the middle of a cue from acoustic, to classical, to electric and back again...all in one take...while sight reading. THANK GOD I do not get called for those! Well, never say never...but you never know, and it is important to be prepared. By the way, often enough, a certain guitar is often requested by a client! If it worked for them before, they know it will work for them again. I rarely sell guitars. You never know.</p> <p><strong>Reason 2</strong>: Attitude. I find that I play completely different on each of my instruments. They tend to sway my attack, attitude, feel. When I pick up a Strat, I tend to do more chimey chordal things. My playing is bluesier. My feel is looser. I play fewer notes, but find I play with more emotion. </p> <p>A polar opposite is a Les Paul. On a Paul I tend to play with a harder edge, more attitude. I dig in deeper and play heavier, more in your face. On an Ibanez RG I play faster, want to shred more. I use a more modern approach, dial in more distortion ... actually as much as I can get! And those are only three. I have some specialty instruments that may not get used often, but when they do, I know exactly what's going to happen. I pick up my 1949 L7 and it's nothing but jazz. Old school bop. I pickup my custom made Ted Crocker Hot Rod (Thanks again, Robbie Sambat!) and I am down south in Mississippi and playing the dirtiest deepest low-down blues and wishing I were a better slide player!</p> <p>Maybe it's the history, or maybe my own influences, that cause me to play differently. I see a Strat and I think Rory Gallagher, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Johnson. I see a Paul and I think Joe Perry, Jimmy Page and Paul Kossoff. I see and Ibanez and I think Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert. These players are burned into my guitar mind and they aren't going away. Maybe you see things differently. It's all good. </p> <p>But the way I play is seriously influenced by the guitar. Or maybe it's the wood, the neck, or the sound of the pickups. I am certain they all contribute greatly. So when I am playing on a session, I want to give it the best I've got. Not only the right notes, but the feel and appropriate sound.</p> <p><strong>Reason 3:</strong> There is one final reason we carry, own and cherish so many guitars. BECAUSE I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING BETTER THAN BEING SURROUNDED BY A BUNCH OF BAD-ASS GUITARS AND GETTING TO PLAY THE HELL OUT OF THEM EVERY DAY!</p> <p>Till next time …</p> <p><em><strong>Ron Zabrocki on Ron Zabrocki</strong>: <a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">I’m a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut.</a> I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just believed everyone started that way! I could pretty much sight read anything within a few years, and that aided me in becoming a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could and was fortunate enough to have some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played many jingle sessions, and even now I not only play them but have written a few. I’ve “ghosted” for a few people that shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I got the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-why-we-need-so-many-guitars#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Fri, 13 Mar 2015 12:15:56 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 12922 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Song Production Breakdown http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-song-production-breakdown <!--paging_filter--><p>Hello, gang!</p> <p>Today I have a video blog for you. </p> <p>Since this is the "Session Guitar" column, I thought you might be interested in seeing and hearing some of the thought process involved in a song production breakdown!</p> <p>What you will be watching is a screen shot of the session files for a song called "Getting Out of My Own Way." You'll see each individual track played or programmed in creating a successful production. The song was recorded in 2012. The singer/songwriter is Jennifer Vazquez, a very talented vocalist and writer from Da Bronx, NY. </p> <p>The song ultimately found its way into the movie <em>Sleeping with the Fishes</em> on HBO and won several awards along the way. The movie was written and directed by Nicole Gomez Fisher and stars Gina Rodriguez from <em>Jane the Virgin.</em></p> <p>Lesson here: You never know where your work will be heard, so always do the best you can!</p> <p>I played, recorded, arranged and mixed the song entirely "in the box" using Nuendo and several choice plugins, especially the Universal Audio Powered Plugs. </p> <p><strong>Here's the production video:</strong></p> <p><iframe width="620" height="365" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Q0MRaeZ7-9I" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>There's also a second video of the actual song and video. This is where you want to go to hear the actual final mix. Check it out below:</strong></p> <p><iframe width="620" height="365" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5TKvwXQS8IU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>Thanks again and enjoy the vids!</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">Ron Zabrocki</a> is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-song-production-breakdown#comments Jennifer Vazquez Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Thu, 29 Jan 2015 21:41:12 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 23392 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Arranging and Production Tips to Really Make Your Guitar Stand Out http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-arranging-and-production-tips-really-make-your-guitar-stand-out <!--paging_filter--><p>This week, I'd like to discuss some tricks I've learned to make a guitar really stand out in a track. </p> <p>As a producer, I have to make many decisions. One of the main decisions concerns the dominant feature of the song. </p> <p>Since we are all guitarists here, let's just assume the guitar is going to be the main focus (as opposed to a more "vocal" song). Next, we see what kind of song is it. For this blog post, let's use a rock track. By that I mean we want the guitar sound to be distorted, creamy, fat, juicy with some delay. That's the sound that feels right. That is this track's guitar voice. We want to hear it sing. In order to do that, we step into the worlds of production and arranging.</p> <p>To discuss the arrangement of the song can be difficult without having a song to use. However, we can use general guidelines. If the groove of the song is chosen to be a busy one, the sound of the groove must be produced differently than a slow, more open groove. Remember we are using a BIG guitar tone. That means the rhythm section should use tones and be equalized to not interfere with our fatty guitar sound.</p> <p>Let's start from the bottom up. A kick drum really doesn't have to always be super-deep and bottomy. If we were using a busy groove, that would just muddy up the bottom and detract attention from the guitar. Same with the bass. But the bass can be mixed in several ways. I like the kick to have bottom on accents, say every 4 to 16 beats. The rest of the time, the kick is a mid-toned kick that isn't overly bottomy, but defined and loud enough to make itself known. </p> <p>For the bass, I prefer it to be very deep without accentuating the highest frequencies a bass can conjure. This will interfere with my guitar sound. And that is the main focal point. </p> <p>Try to decide which should be deeper: the kick or the bass. The snare can also interfere with my guitar. So I would choose a thinner snare for a busy groove. For a slower groove, I might allow it to be fatter. But it all depends on the song. This technique is called shelving. Shelving is when we cut certain frequencies to carve out an EQ landscape where the focal point AND each instrument can exist together happily. </p> <p>Most newbies usually grab the EQ and start boosting without even thinking! Consider what you want to hear first, think about the dominant instrument, then try carving out frequencies that will interfere with that instrument and each other. Next use panning and finally, effects. </p> <p>To give a different view: Take a white piece of paper and put a black dot in the middle. The black dot looks really black. Now take that same black dot and put it on a dark grey piece of paper. Not so black anymore, is it? The colors in the art world affect each other greatly, and the same is true for the world of music production and arranging. If you decide to use a nice fat synth pad behind the fat guitar, the guitar is not as prominent. I would choose a glassy, airy synth pad. </p> <p>A great example of what happens when similar sounds are used is Deep Purple. The organ was played through a Marshall amp and was distorted, and the guitar was the same. There are many times on <em>Machine Head</em> that you CANNOT tell the guitar from the organ or who is doing what! And that was a good thing. They were going for that! But what if you are going for that same thing but still want the guitar to stand out? </p> <p>Welcome to arranging and production. Mixing one to the left and one to the right might be an answer. Better still, use your arranging skills to make the guitar stand out by simply having the organ/synth/fatty keys stop playing when the all-important guitar is singing. Allow it to ride over the drums and bass only, then bring in the fatness when you want the part, say the chorus, to get bigger!</p> <p>I could go on and on, but let me offer one more arranging trick: This is a pet peeve of mine. When the guitar solo comes in, most usually play over the verse again. Try this instead. Please -- for me. Instead of doing that, WRITE A NEW PART THAT MODULATES TO A NEW KEY! I guarantee that the guitar solo will jump out if the composition and arrangement allow the guitar to do so! </p> <p>Modulate by a whole step or minor 3rd and write a part for the guitar to solo on. This trick really makes the part jump out of the speakers because your ears are treated to a new, fresh audio environment. If it's a fast song, try cutting the groove in half. That really gets attention. In a new key. </p> <p>As a final note, if the guitar chosen were acoustic, then the drums, bass and keys can easily be fatter in sound and arrangement because the guitar is naturally thin. Get it?</p> <p>Try some of these ideas and let me know how they workout for you!</p> <p><img src="/files/imce-images/RON%20STUDIO%20MIX.jpg" width="620" height="520" alt="RON STUDIO MIX.jpg" /></p> <p><em><strong>Ron Zabrocki on Ron Zabrocki</strong>: <a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">I’m a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut.</a> I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just believed everyone started that way! I could pretty much sight read anything within a few years, and that aided me in becoming a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could and was fortunate enough to have some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played many jingle sessions, and even now I not only play them but have written a few. I’ve “ghosted” for a few people that shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I got the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-arranging-and-production-tips-really-make-your-guitar-stand-out#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:58:10 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 16517 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Improve Your Mixes with These 15 Simple Steps http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-improve-your-mixes-these-simple-steps <!--paging_filter--><p>Hello!</p> <p>Since this is a "session" blog, I thought we'd better review a few mixing basics. We all do a certain amount of home recording, and this crucial step might just save your sound! </p> <p>By following some basic steps used by most professional mixdown engineers, your mixes will be improved exponentially. I guarantee it!</p> <p>Here we go!</p> <p>01. <strong>Use References.</strong> Listen to tried-and true-mixes, possibly similar to what you are mixing. It will get your ears used to the monitors and your head in the right place. Without references, you might be lost before you begin. Unless you do tons of mixing in your own professional studio.</p> <p>02. <strong>Volume</strong>. Obvious, right? But use volume changes to enhance dynamics. A de-esser is a frequency-based volume control. Use one to tame sibilance. And remember, silence is also part of volume. Use it. Mutes. Automation. Try some old-school tricks like matching bass volume to the vocals. And begin watching the output level! It needs to be constantly watched.</p> <p>03. <strong>Panning</strong>. Be realistic first, abstract later. Use panning to increase definition, width and depth. Ask yourself if the drums really need to be in stereo. Or is mono a better choice for verses and stereo for choruses? Should guitars be hard right and left? Maybe 3/4 of the way is right and wider on choruses. </p> <p>04. <strong>Midrange</strong>. It's all about the midrange. This is where most music lives. Learn it. Embrace it. Learn to control it with volume and panning. Do not let it clutter up the middle. But do not be afraid of it. </p> <p>05. <strong>Lower midrange</strong>. This is the biggest area where we find muddiness and cluttered, ill-defined mixes. Learn to cut it, not boost it.</p> <p>06. <strong>EQ:</strong> As far as EQ, cut before you boost. Listen before you do anything. Once understood, be fearless when need be. But mostly be cautious. Use EQ also to carve out frequencies to make room for vocals and such. Learn about shelving and bell curves. Learn what we mean by "Q."</p> <p>07. <strong>Build a mix in a way you are comfortable.</strong> Some start with drums. Others, vocals. All ways are valid.</p> <p>08. <strong>Set up a dry mix first before adding effects</strong>. You'll be surprised how much better your mixes will be when concentrating on the steak instead of the sizzle. If you can make a mix sound great dry, enhancing with small amounts of special effects will only help.</p> <p>09. <strong>Learn to setup a mix fast using instincts and save it</strong>. Over-thinking a mix will often result in a lifeless mix. I have often toiled for hours on a mix only to realize it is crap. Started over and worked fast. Way better. Not always, but this can be a great starting point. Trust yourself.</p> <p>10. <strong>Dynamics. Compression. Limiting</strong>. They can and should be used to correct problems, shape the overall sound, tame a less-than-controlled drummer and bassist. Keep the rhythm section solid. It can also be used to keep a vocal present. (Not to mention pump up a less-than-powerful sound.)</p> <p>11. <strong>Spatial Effects. Delays. Reverbs.</strong> Use only as much as is needed. Use only where needed. Use delay before the reverb to separate the reverb from the source. Less mud. More clarity/definition. </p> <p>12. <strong>Modulation effects</strong>. Flange, phase, etc. Use as ear candy. Enhance sections. Can be used on entire mixes for wild sounds. Most often used on individual instruments in small doses to add interest.</p> <p>13. <strong>Output level</strong>. The 2 bus. Left and Right Overall Levels. Be careful here. Too loud and you will add distortion. Too low and noise might become present. I am safe at this point and I check my output level often. I do use a limiter to grab peaks only, just to be safe. I also use an EQ here and Compressor. Both of these are not always used. However, i find a bit of each used gently seem to coagulate a mix. Glue the mix together a bit. But, I always mix without EQ and compression too. Mastering will more than likely add these anyway. (And watch the volume. Mixing too loud will only hurt your ears, fatigue you and create mixes that only sound good loud. Low to moderate listening volumes go a long way to revealing a true mix.)</p> <p>14. <strong>Mixes</strong>. I always do alternate mixes. Especially if I am fatigued and questions arise. I always listen back the next day with a fresh perspective. Mixes with vox up or down, bass up or down, drums up or down etc. Having these done already helps me immediately compare them and usually aids in my remixing again using these changes. And how about Mono? I RARELY use this once common practice. I still use it to check for phasing problems.</p> <p>15. <strong>Break the rules</strong>. You have to know the rules in order to truly break them! Start with the previously mentioned mixing considerations, then do what you feel sounds correct! Exploration and experimentation have no pathway nor any real expected payoff. You have to get through it to realize the fruits of your labor! That new sound could be sitting in the area between your mind and your laptop. Find YOUR sound. </p> <p>Till next time ...</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">Ron Zabrocki</a> is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-improve-your-mixes-these-simple-steps#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:13:51 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 22906 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Why You Should Always Be Ready, Willing and Able http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-why-you-should-always-be-ready-willing-and-able <!--paging_filter--><p>(Old-guy impersonation) Back in the day, when I'd walk 20 miles in 5 feet of snow to a session ...</p> <p>Things have changed a bit. Not much. But that little bit can really get to you. </p> <p>In the Seventies and Eighties, sessions were booked using a service. The service had access to musicians. The service called/beeped the musicians, who'd call back the service to find out when and where the session was to see if they were available. If not, it didn't always mean you couldn't do the session and would be replaced, but many times it did. That's how we were booked for sessions.</p> <p>Move up 30 years. Here's how you get a call for a session: You check your email, phone and texts. Facebook Messenger. Even Twitter. And my website. Recordings come in most often from clients you've previously worked with. But new ones are always being referred.</p> <p>How accessible are you? I check all the above-mentioned contact areas frequently throughout the day. Why? Why not limit your availability and check them all once in the morning and once at night? Competition, that's why! Allow me to explain.</p> <p>I recently did a session for a Canadian client in India. He used musicians from many parts of the world. I somehow got called to play guitar. I know there were at least two other guitarists used on the project. He was just looking for something else for a few songs. I was contacted through my website; he sent a track and a chart, and off I went. He liked it enough to send another. And another. I ended up playing on six songs. </p> <p>Then he asked about vocalists I might know who could add backing vocals to a song or two. I am called "the Ronettes" in a few circles. I'm not sure about my lead-vocal tone, but I'm a killer backing vocalist! I learned by listening to Todd Rundgren and knowing theory. Anyway, I sang on a few and even added keyboards to two songs. All done. Project and artist fly to Canada to mix with a Juno-winning mixer. (By the way, the Junos are pretty much the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys.)</p> <p>Here's where things get interesting; it's the part about being ready for anything. </p> <p>They start working, and the mix engineer isn't happy with some guitar tracks. They weren't laying in the pocket the way he would've liked, and the artist didn't hear it while he was tracking. The tracks belong to a different guitarist. He liked my tracks on other songs, so they called me to fix and replay the parts. But I'm in the middle of other recordings, totally swamped, with a vacation looming. But they have the big-money mixer and studio booked and working. What do you do when the text comes in and you can't even see straight? Say no to a four-time Juno-winning producer who never heard of you but likes your playing? He wants you to save the day, and the only answer is "sure"! </p> <p>I ended up playing on an additional few songs and adding backing vocals to a few more. I also was asked my opinion on the mixes. Of course, by day three of sneaking in all this work (approximately 17 hours), I was pretty spent ... but happy. Saying no in this situation wasn't going to happen. I knew there were other guitarists available. Competition. </p> <p>Here was someone new and established, and I was able to prove myself. I also had some technical problems half way through, but I had backups. You need your backups: amps, guitars, mics, entire recording setups. I have a laptop and a small converter all ready to go in case my studio goes down. </p> <p>You need to be ready for anything and willing to put your life on hold ... and able to deliver the goods well played, well recorded and fast.</p> <p>Got it?</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">Ron Zabrocki</a> is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-why-you-should-always-be-ready-willing-and-able#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Sat, 08 Nov 2014 14:13:34 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 22815 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Evolve or Die — Some Thoughts on Minimalism http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-evolve-or-die-some-thoughts-minimalism <!--paging_filter--><p>Hi, kids.</p> <p>"You know that guy who was in that movie? You know him! He was in that other movie too with that other guy. He played a cop, I think. With the long hair. Or was it short and blonde? Anyway, you know him."</p> <p>These days, more than ever, this is what it feels like to be a session player. The big, creative, soaring, melodic solos of yesteryear are not happening anymore. Why? Trends. Fashion. Hipsters. I can not say I am feeling artistically fulfilled in this musical climate.</p> <p>We adapt. Today is a world of minimalism. Sure, three notes can be just as musical and creative as 100. But that is not where I come from. "It Ain't Me, Babe" should be my theme song. </p> <p>Sure, the essentials will always be necessary. Rhythm, tone, etc. But the music business being overrun with indie everything has caused the actual music we hear to evolve. Or devolve, if I may. MP3's are the norm. Who cares about a digital promise of us hearing music at 24bit/192 Hz? We got us some cheap-ass (free) MP3's, and that's good enough! </p> <p>"Good enough." The death knell. Good enough. Two words I hate. "Just cut and paste the few chords and I'll sing over it and you can tune it for me. Or I'll take it home and do the vocals myself on my laptop. I got this USB mic that sounds awesome!" What kind of pre and compressor do you use at home? "What are those?" I deal with this daily. All the beat stealing instead of creating has caused a mentality of depreciation. Music of no value. Not all of it, mind you. But A LOT of it.</p> <p>Another observation: I get more calls these days from indie artists than labels. No surprises there. But get ready for this one. When I tell them my rates, and believe me I do not charge a high rate, they usually never call back or have actually expected me to do it for free because they have 50,000 views on YouTube. Yeah. I used to laugh. They can get their friend to play it. And they can! Luckily I still have a ton of clients. And apparently attracting new ones. But it is an interesting world.</p> <p>What does this have to do with minimalism? Everything. After the typical song is played on an acoustic guitar or two and a few electrics today, the "real" creative part begins. We used to call it the ear candy. Time to get creative, right? Well, it used to be. But what people call creative today is akin to "noodling." Searching around till you hear a "phrase" you can loop. Add some effects. Done. Then the original chords and stuff are often discarded. </p> <p>It is the process today. I've witnessed this very process done by a day one future guitarist (or even a 3-year-old in front of a keyboard) searching for something that resembles music. They fall on a phrase that resembles a glimmer of what can only "minimillistically" be called music, and they feel joy! Look what I've created. And that is great! But it isn't a song. Or music. It is musical. </p> <p>What is so important about this? It is what I am asked to do most of the time today. Find a few cool notes. Create a phrase. Effect it. And loop it. Now that effect part and tone part is not always necessary anyway because I can just send a direct guitar sound and have them add the tone they choose and the effects. And cut it up and edit it the way they want. Rewarding? Not for me. "It Ain't Me, Babe." </p> <p>Am I busy? Busier than ever, amazingly. But I'm not happy. I'm smart. I evolve. But I don't have to like it. But this a job. And a competitive one. Evolve or get left behind.</p> <p>Some quick advice to end this "observation."</p> <p>The Line 6 JTV-89 Variax is the reason I am busy. I hate capos. Everyone who knows me knows why. I always felt they were a crutch. However, the Virtual Capo feature in this instrument is by far the most-used tool in my arsenal today. I can add odd drones to any song in Ab with a 12-string guitar sound in seconds. Or a Tele, Strat, banjo, sitar, 335 or an acoustic. And then add a one-note Les Paul feedback note in another second. </p> <p>So I get creative with my sounds and few choice notes. Yup. Minimalist — but fast and creative, thanks to this fine instrument. If you hope to be a session player today and make money, buy one of these. The creative options for new sounds are infinite and life saving. Next, get a great compressor. I used to use the UA 1176 ($2,400). Then I bought a Wampler Ego Compressor ($200). Both sound equally good. I never thought any pedal would be as useful to me as the UA, or sound as good on guitar. The Wampler Ego is killer. Just get one.</p> <p>This column was about my observing the session guitar scene from the inside. You'll notice I haven't been writing many columns lately. I am being a minimalist. Not much interesting to write about. </p> <p>Till next time …</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">Ron Zabrocki</a> is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-evolve-or-die-some-thoughts-minimalism#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:10:52 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 22465 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: What You Can Offer Clients to Increase Your Value As a Session Player http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-what-you-can-offer-clients-increase-your-value-session-player <!--paging_filter--><p>Hi, gang!</p> <p>I've been busy, busy, busy in the studio! </p> <p>Today I'd like to talk about how you can increase your value as a studio player. </p> <p>You might consider yourself a guitarist. I know I do. But because I've studied music, as I am certain many of you have, I have certain other assets to offer clients. </p> <p>I'm a decent keyboard player in the studio. I stress that because I couldn't do a live gig if you paid me. However, because of midi, combined with my knowledge of theory and studying the styles and sounds of great players, I can fool people into thinking I'm a keyboard player. I also can sing, play drums and program incredibly realistic-sounding drums that fool many drummers. Bass? No problem!</p> <p>Allow me to offer a perfect example using a session I'm working on now. </p> <p>I received an email through <a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/">my website</a>. The client was looking for a guitarist to play on his tracks. (You DO have website, don't you? I use Bandzoogle.) My rates are clearly posted. He sent a track consisting of stems, submixes of drums, percussion, bass, guitars, keys and vocals. This way, I can mix to taste. A chart and BPM are always requested and supplied. I check the files' bit and hertz to make sure I will be supplying compatible files the client doesn't have to change. Be thorough. Be professional.</p> <p>I added what I thought to be appropriate parts consisting of many different sounds. Heavy to shimmering, direct clean sounds. I gave several options and sent it off. He was quite pleased and used only the tracks he liked, which is fine. Now I know what he likes to hear! He asked me to play on a few more songs, and each time I was able to have him use more and more tracks. I know what he liked now. And even better, I gained his trust.</p> <p>I noticed some weakness in the keyboard parts consistently. The keys sounded like head arrangements as opposed to well-thought-out parts. I politely offered to try something on keys for him. If he didn't like it, there'd be no charge. It was a gamble, but I didn't want my guitar parts to be heard next to someone playing bad notes! Always show yourself in a good light! Anyway, Hhe agreed and was happy. So happy, that I played keys on five more songs. You can see where this is leading, right? </p> <p>On another song, I replaced all the instruments, and he used 12 out of 15 tracks. I'm adding backing vocals to some of the songs. I suspect I might end up mixing the project. I'm "inside" now and part of the production team. Why? Because I cared. I became part of the project. I showed that I cared. I went the extra mile. This is what it takes these days. It is an incredibly hard, competitive business. But you can't be in it just for the money. That will come if you deserve it. </p> <p>So, what are your assets? What else can you offer a client? If the door is there to be opened, will you have the guts to lay yourself out there and take the chance? </p> <p><em><a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">Ron Zabrocki</a> is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-what-you-can-offer-clients-increase-your-value-session-player#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:39:00 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 22173 at http://www.guitarworld.com Session Guitar: Musicians Are in the Service Industry http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-musicians-are-service-industry <!--paging_filter--><p>Hello again!</p> <p>Thank you for your patience and continued interest in my columns. My schedule has been busier than ever, and it's been hard to find time for this. So thanks for sticking with me.</p> <p>I was asked a very important question by my friend Joe Hand. Joe happens to be an incredible songwriter, vocalist, engineer, producer and multi-instrumentalist. </p> <p>The question was: How do we find our place in the sound, in the fabric of the musical/gig/studio/creative world? Playing an instrument is tough, and once you've learned something musically and muster enough nerve to share it with others, where do you go? To whom to you turn? </p> <p>Great question! It has everything to do with the world of session guitar playing! We all must first truly know where our passion lies in the world of our own music. What got you started? Why guitar? What vision did you have of yourself as a musician? If you can answer these questions, and answer them honestly, you will have the answers to Joe's question. As for whom we turn can to for help, if you know who you are musically, you will know where to turn and whom to turn to! </p> <p>We, as musicians, are in the service industry. When most people think of the service industry, they think of waiters, housekeepers, etc. But we are all in the service industry! First and foremost, we must be of service to ourselves! You cannot give your best to others till you have given your best to yourself. Have you truly been honest with yourself? Have you really done the work, practiced and paid your dues? Tried out various musical jobs, worn many hats, talked to people doing exactly what you want to do? </p> <p>And why do you want to do this, anyway? Why do you want to be a musician or a session musician? To make money? To be famous? To play on hit records? If those are your reasons, money and fame, you will fail. Guaranteed. Even if you make a ton of money, I promise you won't be happy. Money has never been able to buy happiness. As a musician, the only way to personal happiness is to understand how your talent, your expertise, your years of practice, your songs, can be of service to others. Get it? Because now it is you. You are offering what is only yours to give: yourself. There is more behind music than notes. It is the person playing those notes. I believe we ask too many questions out of the frustration of not knowing our true path. </p> <p>So what is the right question? </p> <p>The right question is: To whom can I be of service? How can I best offer all I have to give, and who can really benefit from my unique musical view?</p> <p>Put your passion where it belongs! Service is our true career. What is your passion? I see so many people trying to put their music and words and lives and souls into the wrong situations! They walk into a studio and decide they like the vibe and want to be part of it. Well, what can you offer? It's just a place that records things. It's the people themselves who make each moment unique! </p> <p>If you want to find your place in the musical fiber, decide where your musical heart belongs. If you want to help others selflessly realize their dream, the studio is for you. Don't bring your dream anywhere near theirs unless it is to put yourself fully into fulfilling someone else's song. Their happiness is your happiness. If you can do that, you will be a successful studio musician. </p> <p>If you like to show off, and insist that technique and speed are what the world needs, the studio is not for you! However, we need you too! If that is your passion, then you can be an inspiration! Show what we are capable of utilizing technique! And if you can be musical and have incredible technique, for God's sake, start a band! The guitar world needs more of this. </p> <p>If you get easily frustrated and do not work well with other people, the studio world is not for you. Even if you work alone, it will be wrong. I've done sessions where the solo was just killing, only to have me asked to play something better, ya know, more Keith Richardsy! And I love Keith, but I also love Petrucci! But they wanted Keith, and that's what I had to give. Their dream, not mine, and that was fine.</p> <p>So to sum up, be sure you know who you are musically and personally. The direction to go, and the people you seek will be right before your eyes. If you really want to entertain, write songs, be the boss, teach, win the record for most notes played, etc. Don't be a session player. You will only find frustration. Be something else. You will only be wasting your talent in a place it doesn't belong. And wasting time. The most valuable commodity we have.</p> <p>Till next time…</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.ronzabrocki.com/fr_home.cfm">Ron Zabrocki</a> is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.</em></p> http://www.guitarworld.com/session-guitar-musicians-are-service-industry#comments Ron Zabrocki Session Guitar Blogs Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:08:56 +0000 Ron Zabrocki 21880 at http://www.guitarworld.com