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I totally blew a session!!!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by EricWatkins, Jan 17, 2011.

  1. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member


    I'm posting this so someone else can perhaps learn from my mistakes and also just to vent. I will tell you one thing up front. I blame myself for 95% of the situation I am in now.

    So, I was hired to write and produce/record (everything) a song for a municipal group. Basically a promotion for a large festival this summer. It's supposed to be a pop song in the style of the Black Eyed Peas. I was really stoked when I got the job. So, I call a buddy of mine who had co-written with me before. I can provide all of the music through VSTs (I have a rediculous collection) and he can provide the words and vocal melody. Keep in mind that we knew that he wasn't going to be the singer in the end but he was totally able to give us a temp track to get approval of the song by the powers that be.

    After a couple of weeks of work, we got the song done to the point where they liked what we had. It was now time to hire some singing talent, male and primarily female, to lay down the final tracks at my studio. After some searching, I found just the two I wanted. THey sounded great on the material I was listening to of theirs and they were already a team with management.

    I contact their manager and schedule a session. I send their manger a copy of the song with the vocals and without so they can hear the vocal melody and practice it. I also write in the email that if the key is a problem, let me know.

    The two singers arrive yesterday on time but don't know the material very well. Oh well, the clock is ticking. Let's go. Immediately the main singer, the girl, says that she is going to have to lower the key to be able to sing it. I'm like, "Ok, a half step"? It ends up being THREE half steps. It's all midi and virtual instruments so far so I figure, no biggie (big mistake). So I lower it and cringe, thinking to myself, "Well, I'm just used to hearing it differently".

    I soon adapt and am to busy feeding notes, lines, melody, rhythms, cadence, etc to the singers for the next 8 hours to notice much else. At the end of the day, I am exhausted but we got all the takes I needed........I think.

    This morning I go downstairs to start putting together the best of the tracks. Ugh, I hate it now. I can't stand the key change. It has muddied everything up. It just sounds like crap. Then, I start realizing that I never got the EXACT takes I wanted. This ones too loose, this note's too long, this melody is "adjusted", this one is full of vibrato. F#*k!!!

    I blew it. I spent several hundred bucks yesterday on a session and it resulted in me realizing that it was ALL a waste. Now I am looking for a new female singer. I feel like a total idiot and worst yet, it's really all my fault. They weren't prepared but I should have stopped the session before it got started. She couldn't handle the key but I should have stopped it instead of trying to change the whole song. And the list goes on. Hope someone saves themselves some time, money and trouble by reading this.

  2. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Hey, Eric:
    How can you EVER be a successful producer when you keep blaming yourself for this kind of problem? Blame the TALENT, blame their management, blame the COMPUTER (my fave!) but NEVER take the blame yourself!
    OK, apologize to them by saying, " Geez, sorry about that, I thought that I'd hired professionals for this gig"...

    Admitting to mistakes like this will only make you a better talent. Now you know what to ask when you're picking talent, so a lesson learned..right?
  3. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Lol, correct. Just so disappointed and currently hung up about what to do next. One step at a time I suppose. I'll figure my way through it.
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Well you just blew some time and money (maybe), so that adds to your producer cred. Your choices are:
    1) Hire new singers and just eat the expense of the session.
    2) Build a song around the vocal takes.

    Choice 1) would require (a) that you really like the song as it was (b) that the vocal lines that you had written are realistic (c) that you can hire vocal talent that can hit the notes as written.

    Choice 2) would require (a) that the existing tracks can be fixed by editing, Melodyne, etc. (b) that you can rethink the song in the lower key and have the time to do the revision.

    I should have offered my sympathies first. I definitely feel for you. I think the takeaway on this is that the key signature should have been agreed to in advance.
  5. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Yeah, I definitely blew some money and time. I am definitely leaning towards just reworking the parts that were too high in order to keep the song in the original key. It just really darkened things beyond where it should be to drop it a minor third. I'm just not sure if I want to try to work with this same girl again or not. The guy I'm definitely not but that's just based on the fact that even at his best, he didn't lay down tracks nearly as good as my song partner so, I'll just keep my song partner's tracks for the male part. Besides the key change, I realize upon listening to the tracks today, that I just wasn't shrewd enough as a producer. I should have listened a LOT more closely and demanded a better performance or one that completely satisfied what MY vision of the song was. Ugh! I WILL get better at this. Thanks guys!

  6. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    I know that situation well from my "early years".
    Now, I am boss and can blame anybody I bleed'n want... feels much better, but still cost (my) money, though..

    Get yourself a real good friend: Melodyne...
    I used it today to make a great composer, but bad singer, real happy with his demo for a major.
  7. natural

    natural Active Member

    Wow, you call that blowing it?
    Wait until you loose the client's 'best take' files.
    Wait until you make the wrong comment about the artist, thinking that no one could hear you.
    Wait until you promise all the editing will be done on time for the big show, then edit the wrong material.

    As long as you're not up on the deadline, you got nothing to worry about.
    But you now have a song in 2 different keys if you need it.
    (and yeah, anytime you have to transpose, you usually have to redo bass lines and revoice some chords)
    It's just another day at the big school eh?
  8. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Been to ALL of those places... you know the feeling when it happens.

    I read something recently on a poster for restaurant employees, and I like it:
    "The customer will understand if you make a mistake, but they expect you to fix it."

    It's the un-fixables that really sting....
  9. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Well, I've been brainstorming and I think that the best thing I can do is to just rework the vocal melody into something do-able for the singer I want but still keep the song in the same key. Man am I learning a LOT on this project.
  10. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Education is expensive. I know.
  11. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    Well, I've been brainstorming and I think that the best thing I can do is to just rework the vocal melody into something do-able for the singer I want but still keep the song in the same key.


    As I said, get melodyne demo and experiment.
    Change the melody, timing, pitch, key, second, third...voices for playback and vocal lines.
    Btw, other then living in the same town and owning some of their products I am not affiliated to Celemony.
    It is just the best tool out there for the job. Maybe Vielklang is as good in producing intelligent multiple voices and solos.
  12. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I'd stress to the vocalists, (and their management) that if they show up unprepared again - the session will last 15 unpaid minutes, and you'll not be calling again. Professionals are prepared.

    If they don't work out this time, I'd rather change vocalists than the key of the song.
  13. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member


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