Tips for Virtual Collabs – The Order of Recording

Paint It Black collage

Having collaborated in over 400 online recording projects, there are a few lessons that I’ve learned for achieving the best results. I thought I’d pass on some of these on an ad-hoc basis. In this post, I’m sharing a few simple thoughts about how to play “tightly” together when you and your collaborators are not in the same room (or even in the same hemisphere).

When we play live, we know that a rock-solid connection is needed between the drummer and the bass player in order to sound tight and set a strong foundation for the other musicians. Without that, the band will sound loose and sloppy. These guys must work to lock things together and set the groove for everyone else to play in. We need to work hard when recording virtually, to ensure that we achieve the same standards of musicianship and performance discipline.

The order in which the tracks are recorded is key to achieving this.

  1. Drums should always be recorded first. Assuming we’re recording a cover, the drummer plays along to either the original recording or to a metronome click track. The completed drum track is then shared with everyone in a shared drive.
  2. Bass should always record next, playing along closely with the drum track. If an original recording has been used as a backing track, this should be low in volume; just enough to hear the melody as a guide. Unless there are parts of the song with no drums, the click track (or backing track) can be discarded. Or, otherwise, it can be edited to only keep time during those periods of silence. It’s the bassist’s role to lock-in to the drum track to ensure a strong foundation. The bassist shares the completed track with everyone in a shared drive.
  3. The remaining rhythm section members (keys, guitars, percussion) all record next, in any order, playing tightly with both the drums and bass track. The click track (or backing track) is optional by this stage. If a backing track is still being used, it should be set low in the mix to only act as a musical roadmap. All tracks that have been recorded are shared so that successive musicians can play along with them, which they most certainly should do.
  4. Finally: vocals, horns, and strings, all of which tune by ear, can record now. They should play along to shared tracks only. By now, the original backing track should be a distant memory and no longer used for recording. Share all tracks as completed, so that subsequently recorded tracks may benefit from them.

Recording this way, from the ground up, we’re able to form and then build upon a strong, solid rhythmic and chordal foundation. And since backing tracks can often be tuned to something other than the A440 that our rhythm section will tune to, we avoid potential catastrophes by removing the backing track before vocals, horns, and strings can be deceived by it.

When I’m asked to collaborate on trumpet, I almost always wait until the rhythm section has completed its tracks before recording my own. This allows me to better play “in the pocket” rhythmically, while also avoiding the risk of accidentally tuning my ear and horn to a backing track that is not quite on A440.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Or better practices that you follow? If so, please share by adding a comment!

David Bowie – Young Americans

I was asked to play David Sanborn’s iconic alto sax parts for a recording of this David Bowie masterpiece. It’s a complex beast, but fortunately, I found the fine work of Scott Dart @SDartSax who had already transcribed it for alto sax. From there I transposed and played it.

Even for trumpet, I needed to belt out a High-E, which is a testament to Sanborn’s remarkable work to play a strong Double-B on alto. Bowie was very fortunate to have him in the studio!

The likelihood of anyone ever wanting to play this again on trumpet is probably zero. But maybe someone might want the transposition for soprano sax or clarinet one day, so here it is.

Thanks again to Scott Dart for his original transcription for alto sax. Be sure to check out his site!

Resources:

David Bowie - Young Americans - Soprano Sax chart. Transcribed by Gary Badger - www.GaryBadger.com

Transcribed by me and free for you to use.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Midnight Oil – One Country

In memory of Bones Hillman.

Midnight Oil and its fans recently lost bass player and vocalist Bones Hillman. Bones sings the most beautiful backing vocals in this song and many others of the band’s. His passing is a terribly sad loss.

The “Powderworkers”, Midnight Oil’s global fan base, recorded a version of this song in tribute to Bones. I transcribed parts for flugelhorn, tenor sax, and trombone for our impromptu Powderworkers horn section. I based the parts on what I could hear from the DVD of the band’s 2009 Sound Relief performance and incorporated the French horn part as (faintly) heard on the original 1990 album recording. The horns play after the final chorus starts, after the 3:50 mark on this video.

As a long time fan of Midnight Oil, and having been to many, many live performances, it was an honor to transcribe and perform one of my favorite songs.

Rest In Peace, Bones.

Resources:

Midnight Oil - One Country - Horns. Transcribed by Gary Badger - www.GaryBadger.com

Transcribed by me and free for you to use.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Robyn Adele Anderson – Paint It Black

Sometimes it can be difficult to make sure I acknowledge and credit the people whose creativity made art possible. In this case, I was taken by Robyn Adele Anderson’s cover of Paint It Black, by The Rolling Stones, which she performed in the style of Back To Back, by Amy Winehouse. So I transcribed the horn parts, tweaked it a tiny beat, and covered it with an amazing vocalist and some great musicians.

Thank you to everybody!

Resources:

Robyn Adele Anderson - Paint It Black - Trumpet Trombone Tenor Sax charts. Transcribed by Gary Badger - www.GaryBadger.com

Transcribed by me and free for you to use.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Waldeck – Make My Day

A new song and artist for me, as well as a new genre “trip-hop” that I was not previously aware of. From the Waldeck album Ballroom Stories, composed by Joy Malcolm and Klaus Waldeck. The original recording features Thomas Berghammer on trumpet.

Simple, fresh, and enjoyable to play.

To quote the AllMusic Review by Mark Deming:

Producer and songwriter Waldeck takes his listeners on a musical journey through the past and present on his 2007 album Ballroom Stories. Dominated by jazzy instrumental structures and the vocal stylings of Joy Malcolm, Ballroom Stories is electronic dance music designed to evoke the sounds and moods of the 1920s, when glamour and intrigue walked hand in hand at dance halls and speakeasies.

My transcription is true and accurate to the original recording, and “Take 1” of my own recording reflected that. Although, after much encouragement from our producer, my revised recording includes significant embellishment to emphasize the “jazzy instrumental structures” of the song. I hope you like it.

Resources:

Waldeck - Make My Day - Trumpet. Transcribed by Gary Badger - www.GaryBadger.com

Transcribed by me and free for you to use.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Dawn – Knock Three Times

I was asked to record this fun little song a few months back, which I did on trumpet and bass trumpet (covering the trombone parts).

While transcribing lines and playing them in isolation, I couldn’t help but hear some familiar phrases…

Dawn - Knock Three Times - Familiar

The completed recording hasn’t surfaced yet, but here are my transcribed charts before I forget about them again…

Resources:

Dawn - Knock Three Times - Trumpets Trombones. Transcribed by Gary Badger - www.GaryBadger.com

Transcribed by me and free for you to use.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and let me know.

LaGaylia Frazier – A Night in Tunisia (updated)

Back in 2018, I published my trumpet transcription of LaGaylia Frazier’s funky vocal arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop pièce de résistance. In the process of recording this song for a 2020 collaboration, I found the opportunity to tweak and build on my earlier work.

Here is my revised trumpet chart with a brand new video to accompany it.

Resources:

LaGaylia Frazier - A Night in Tunisia - Trumpets (Revised). Transcribed by Gary Badger - www.GaryBadger.com

Transcribed by me and free for you to use.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and let me know.