Session Guitar: Do You Have the Guts to Keep It Real?

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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.

Let's talk.

"Keeping it real." It's a dated phrase, for sure. However, it's a fitting topic to discuss today.

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!

I'll start with "copy and paste."

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!

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.

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?

And now my second rant du jour: the lazy habit of only using amp models to track your guitars.

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.

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.

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.

Do you have the guts to show yourself? Your real limit? Well do ya, punk?

Ron Zabrocki on Ron Zabrocki: 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.