Many of us are already familiar with the recording processes that take place in the studio; Cutting rhythm tracks first, overdubbing both instruments as well as vocals, mixing etc., but I’m sure many of you have never had the true experience of “cutting” live!
In some of the earliest days of my studio experiences, I would often walk into a session I was booked on to see that some 15 to 20 musicians were all there, ready to go, and ready to record all at the same time! This is, of course, how the majority of music had always been recorded, before Les Paul had invented multi-track recording, and in fact in the earliest days, only one or two mikes were used for the whole session! But it was not unusual for many of these sessions I did to have a whole group of “live” musicians all playing at once! And quite frankly, at that time, I was so “raw” as a player, I actually responded more favorably to that environment, as opposed to the more “artificial” act of layering parts, and recording the instruments separately.
In those kinds of sessions, there would actually be an eight-bar area on the sheet music saying simply “Guitar Solo” where I would have a chance to really show off my “live” chops, and blow everyone away with my instant creativity! Remember, a lot of these musicians were the traditional kind who would only play what was on the music stand in front of them, and who could never improvise! To them, a true improviser like me was somewhat of an anomaly and a rare treat for them, indeed! This also went for the “Producers” of these sessions, who were loving the fact that I could “make them look so good” with my sheer ability to “create” right on the spot!
This was a great time to be first getting into recording, since I was coming at it from such a live viewpoint, but once I had to do the “other” kind of recording, it became a much harder thing to adjust to, for sure! The last 4 albums or so that I have recorded, particularly the one with Levon Helm, “Toolin’ Around Woodstock” and my latest upcoming one, were done with a very specific “live” approach in mind. This all also includes getting the right kind or real “room” sound, which was particularly great in Levon’s barn, and even though we were trying separate the instruments, a certain blend that occurred from the “leakage” between them. It takes away from how you can later manipulate and isolate the instruments, but it adds a kind of dimension that is kind of hard to describe! In the end, I was glad I really “went for it” with these live recordings, because the “vibe” was unmistakable, but I also wished I had a little more flexibility when it came to the overdubbing and mixing process. Here’s to “live” recording! I hope you get to do some soon!