Hired gun question

BennyK

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For every Keltner , there are hundreds who aren't .

In order to get a clearer picture of parameters , I should try and find out why I've been asked to contribute .

Look before you leap .
 
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DrumWhipper

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Good discussion all. All too often I see guys online saying the artist or the producer doesn’t know drums so they are going to do what they want to do since they are a drummer. Many times those same guys wonder why they struggle to get decent gigs.
 

dcrigger

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Yes & No. It depends on who has the power, who needs who more.
Yes but I think you'd find that 95% of the time, the drummer does NOT have that power.

It is almost a cliche the number of bands that have functioned in an "all for one, one for all" for their whole journey up to the point of working with a producer will find that bond cracking and splintering.

Even more so if they've arrived at the working with a producer after having been signed by a label, procuring management, etc. - it simply becomes a bigger team and the stakes get much higher.

So the drummer is adamant about doing things a certain way - going for a particular sound.... that the producer is convinced will be wrong for the band's record. The likelihood of the band standing by their drummer is spotty at best. They were all involved with selecting this producer (at least sometimes) and are all likely subject to the producers suggestions... so some band members will likely just support differing, while others will probably just look at it musically to decide what they think will work best - but IMO hardly any will go "Hey that's the drummer's call period". Because you simply can't make a record that way - with 4 or 5 guys doing whatever they want with no inter-coordination. All the puzzle pieces affect all of the other puzzle pieces.

Get a label and management involved and the power can really shift further away from the original "band of brothers" model...

For example - The drummer and producer are at loggerheads... and say, the band totally backs the drummer (not necessarily because he's right, but because "Well, he's the drummer, he should be able to do what he wants".

So the producer goes to the label and management and says "You've got a big drummer problem here... this band has some great songs, a kick butt singer and has a real chance at making a huge record.... but not with this drummer playing like this."

And if the label backs the producer (and they will 99% of the time) - they can and will go so far as stopping the production, no more funds, and more importantly no chance of a release until this is resolved.... at which point, the band is dead in the water.... under contract... yet stalled indefinitely.

This is not some outlier fantasy story - it is literally a cliche... the story of how countless drummers were replaced during the recording of "their" first album. It often works out amicable, the drummer stays with the band and they go from there.... but it often doesn't.

And no one at the management or label level really cares one way or another. Because.... the reality is unless a drummer in a band is an essential songwriter or singer (and I mean essential - in other words, one of the main reasons why the record deal exists), he/she is ultimately a sideman. If the drummer has enough written contract protection to legally insist otherwise - he/she could still ultimately be shown the door. But instead of leaving with nothing - there would be some sort of settlement.

But this idea of being aware of "who has the power?" is a hugely important one. I can't tell you how many freelance session players stress the importance of being able to suss out who is the real decider in the room.
 
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bpaluzzi

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Yes but I think you'd find that 95% of the time, the drummer does have that power.

It is almost a cliche the number of bands that have functioned in an "all for one, one for all" for their whole journey up to the point of working with a producer will find that bond cracking and splintering.

Even more so if they've arrived at the working with a producer after having been signed by a label, procuring management, etc. - it simply becomes a bigger team and the stakes get much higher.

So the drummer is adamant about doing things a certain way - going for a particular sound.... that the producer is convinced will be wrong for the band's record. The likelihood of the band standing by their drummer is spotty at best. They were all involved with selecting this producer (at least sometimes) and are all likely subject to the producers suggestions... so some band members will likely just support differing, while others will probably just look at it musically to decide what they think will work best - but IMO hardly any will go "Hey that's the drummer's call period". Because you simply can't make a record that way - with 4 or 5 guys doing whatever they want with no inter-coordination. All the puzzle pieces affect all of the other puzzle pieces.

Get a label and management involved and the power can really shift further away from the original "band of brothers" model...

For example - The drummer and producer are at loggerheads... and say, the band totally backs the drummer (not necessarily because he's right, but because "Well, he's the drummer, he should be able to do what he wants".

So the producer goes to the label and management and says "You've got a big drummer problem here... this band has some great songs, a kick butt singer and has a real chance at making a huge record.... but not with this drummer playing like this."

And if the label backs the producer (and they will 99% of the time) - they can and will go so far as stopping the production, no more funds, and more importantly no chance of a release until this is resolved.... at which point, the band is dead in the water.... under contract... yet stalled indefinitely.

This is not some outlier fantasy story - it is literally a cliche... the story of how countless drummers were replaced during the recording of "their" first album. It often works out amicable, the drummer stays with the band and they go from there.... but it often doesn't.

And no one at the management or label level really cares one way or another. Because.... the reality is unless a drummer in a band is an essential songwriter or singer (and I mean essential - in other words, one of the main reasons why the record deal exists), he/she is ultimately a sideman. If the drummer has enough written contract protection to legally insist otherwise - he/she could still ultimately be shown the door. But instead of leaving with nothing - there would be some sort of settlement.

But this idea of being aware of "who has the power?" is a hugely important one. I can't tell you how many freelance session players stress the importance of being able to suss out who is the real decider in the room.
Agree entirely -- but did you mean for your first sentence to say that the drummer does not have the power?


For producers, I got a hard lesson in my first "real" studio session. The band was under the impression that because we hired the producer, that we should have the final say-so. The producer (very calmly and professionally) told us that it didn't really work like that -- the band had the final say-so in terms of HIRING the producer, but not every decision. In other words: we could choose to fire the producer outright, but if we were going to work with him, the individual decisions were his call. Quite a learning experience, but one that I'm glad I received.
 

John DeChristopher

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Yes but I think you'd find that 95% of the time, the drummer does have that power.

It is almost a cliche the number of bands that have functioned in an "all for one, one for all" for their whole journey up to the point of working with a producer will find that bond cracking and splintering.

Even more so if they've arrived at the working with a producer after having been signed by a label, procuring management, etc. - it simply becomes a bigger team and the stakes get much higher.

So the drummer is adamant about doing things a certain way - going for a particular sound.... that the producer is convinced will be wrong for the band's record. The likelihood of the band standing by their drummer is spotty at best. They were all involved with selecting this producer (at least sometimes) and are all likely subject to the producers suggestions... so some band members will likely just support differing, while others will probably just look at it musically to decide what they think will work best - but IMO hardly any will go "Hey that's the drummer's call period". Because you simply can't make a record that way - with 4 or 5 guys doing whatever they want with no inter-coordination. All the puzzle pieces affect all of the other puzzle pieces.

Get a label and management involved and the power can really shift further away from the original "band of brothers" model...

For example - The drummer and producer are at loggerheads... and say, the band totally backs the drummer (not necessarily because he's right, but because "Well, he's the drummer, he should be able to do what he wants".

So the producer goes to the label and management and says "You've got a big drummer problem here... this band has some great songs, a kick butt singer and has a real chance at making a huge record.... but not with this drummer playing like this."

And if the label backs the producer (and they will 99% of the time) - they can and will go so far as stopping the production, no more funds, and more importantly no chance of a release until this is resolved.... at which point, the band is dead in the water.... under contract... yet stalled indefinitely.

This is not some outlier fantasy story - it is literally a cliche... the story of how countless drummers were replaced during the recording of "their" first album. It often works out amicable, the drummer stays with the band and they go from there.... but it often doesn't.

And no one at the management or label level really cares one way or another. Because.... the reality is unless a drummer in a band is an essential songwriter or singer (and I mean essential - in other words, one of the main reasons why the record deal exists), he/she is ultimately a sideman. If the drummer has enough written contract protection to legally insist otherwise - he/she could still ultimately be shown the door. But instead of leaving with nothing - there would be some sort of settlement.

But this idea of being aware of "who has the power?" is a hugely important one. I can't tell you how many freelance session players stress the importance of being able to suss out who is the real decider in the room.
My understanding is you're being hired to play/record by an artist or producer. Basically what Kenny Aronoff does every day. And many nights! In that situation, you absolutely have no "power" other than the fact that they hired you because they feel you'll do a great job and will get the job done efficiently (i.e. quickly). You might have some say in what you play, but ultimately you're hired to do a job and are expected to do what's asked of you.

If the producer says "I want cross stick throughout the entire song and don't play the bass drum at all" then that's what you do.

If you show up to the session with only your trustee Supraphonic and favorite cymbals, but the producer isn't digging your sound and wants something else, you're going to have a problem. Ask Stan Lynch, who as a member of the Heartbreakers, had to deal with it when they made "Damn The Torpedoes."

Here's the original question:
If you’re a hired gun do you allow an artist to have a say in your sound? Say for instance you own multiple types of cymbals. You have a type you like more than others, but the guy who has hired you likes one of the others better because he feels it fits his music better. What would you say in a situation like this?
So the simple answer is, if the producer or artist feels that another cymbal fits the music better, then you use that cymbal. Really simple. And I'll take it a step further. Ask the producer why he liked that cymbal better and ask if you can stick around to hear the final mix, or at least the playback. You might learn that he chose another cymbal other than the one you wanted to use because it records better. Use it as a teaching moment.

If you go in with the attitude that you're there to do what's needed to support the music you're more likely to get more work. Ask @Trey Gray if Brooks & Dunn asked him to use a different cymbal(s) on a session what he'd do. I'm betting his answer would be, "Sure, which ones do you want?"
 
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Ray Dee Oh King

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My guess is you were hired because he heard "your sound", no? IMO if they want something different "soundwise" i'd say sure, bring it on in, I'd be glad to play whatever you want to provide. If its one particular cymbal you own and played at one time, and the artist likes one over the other, bring it, play it. We dont spend thousands of dollars on stuff to get "our" sound for someone to tell us they want Zildjians over Sabian, etc....Supply it, ill play it. Ha, you could always ask for a raise from them to purchase whatever they like :)
 

dcrigger

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Agree entirely -- but did you mean for your first sentence to say that the drummer does not have the power?


For producers, I got a hard lesson in my first "real" studio session. The band was under the impression that because we hired the producer, that we should have the final say-so. The producer (very calmly and professionally) told us that it didn't really work like that -- the band had the final say-so in terms of HIRING the producer, but not every decision. In other words: we could choose to fire the producer outright, but if we were going to work with him, the individual decisions were his call. Quite a learning experience, but one that I'm glad I received.
OMG thanks for pointing that out - I keep falling into the bad habit of not proof-reading - thanks.

And your story there is such a great way of explaining it.
 

dcrigger

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My guess is you were hired because he heard "your sound", no? IMO if they want something different "soundwise" i'd say sure, bring it on in, I'd be glad to play whatever you want to provide. If its one particular cymbal you own and played at one time, and the artist likes one over the other, bring it, play it. We dont spend thousands of dollars on stuff to get "our" sound for someone to tell us they want Zildjians over Sabian, etc....Supply it, ill play it. Ha, you could always ask for a raise from them to purchase whatever they like :)
I think the OP's scenario was with alternative cymbals sitting right there. And you seem in agreement - that if it's right there, and that's what they want, you'd just play it regardless of whether you thought it was the best choice or not.

As for "We dont spend thousands of dollars on stuff to get "our" sound" - I can't say I really invest in gear in the pursuit f "my" sound - but rather to obtain the box of tools that I believe will let me please all of the people that might ask me to play for them.... to be able to best cover all of the bases I'm otherwise able to cover.

I know that may seem like mere semantics - but I think many drummers have a tendency to wave the "my sound" flag way too often. Of course, every player has "a sound" - but fact is, few have one so defined as to be a marketing point. As in - "you hired me for my sound". Because 90% of the time the answer to that is "No, I hired you because I couldn't afford to hire the guy whose sound I really want. I hired you in hopes that you could provide me with a halfway decent approximation of what I'm really wanting" :)

I'm in no means trying to diss the guys in the trenches - heck - guy in the trenches describes my entire career. But my sound??? When most of the time I'm just trying to do my best Hal Blaine or Keltner or Porcaro or Gadd or Cobham or Tony imitation (depending on the style of music)???
 

JazzDrumGuy

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I did a studio gig years ago. 5 songs, 2 days, and I played whatever they wanted. Some things were weird and I didn't like, but played them with a smile. On some parts, they wanted it played exactly like this or that. It was all good.
 

dcrigger

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Pay me and I’ll play trash can lids if that’s what you want.
And you know, IMO this approach of striving to meet the needs of those you are playing for or with, needs to start way before there's ever much money - or any money involved.

Basically it would be a real rarity for anyone to play someone to find out they have the makings of a hired gun - that reputation as "a player that delivers the goods" has to be a known thing before much in the way of money calls will ever come. Mainly it has to be known in your community of players - the players we've played with in the past - because those are the folks that "put in the good word" when the question "Do you think I should hire this guy?" gets floated around.

A very few of the folks we've played with in the past will answer that question in the affirmative unless they really believe it to be true. Because being wrong with this kind of endorsement reflects poorly on the player's that make them. I can't afford to recommend a player to one of my clients unless I'm sure they will work out - because if it doesn't, then I'm the idiot that led the boss astray (if I'm not sure, better to just say nothing).

So obviously - the opinion of people we've played with can mean everything - and starts with freebies, kicks bands, rehearsals, subbing, anytime and every time we play with anyone. From there, it's just build on it - play with more people, build a bigger musical network.... do it long enough, a player could end up with a reputation like Keltner - hired specifically to do his "Jim Keltner" thing.... or it could just build to having a enough contacts and relationships to maintain a spot in the trenches, pay the mortgage and keep some food on the table... (and typically, not much more than that). :)
 

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My professional career started with a Latin Jazz and Dance orchestra. Everything was scripted. You played it that way, not your way. Cloud Nine put out eleven albums during my time there. One take, maybe two, that's it. They were that good. There was always somebody waiting to take your place. Those ten years taught what no school could ever teach. The Cloud Nine Orchestra supplied many a musician to Sound Session Studios and A&M in California for up and coming bands. There was the mighty Wrecking Crew and then there were the musicians from Cloud Nine. Some made their bones with the likes of Glen Miller, Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, Merv Griffin, Gary Moore, Don Ho, Woody Herman, the Dorseys, and the great Agustin Lara. Most were masters from Mexico. We were all an hour's flight from Los Angeles. Made mighty good money playing the way you were hired to do so. All the drums were set-up and pre-tuned long before you got there. It was the whole band in the same room so you'd better have your dynamic control down. No such animal as riding the gain or compressor like today. You'd play it twice, the best of the two recordings was chosen. None of that hogging of the recording studio for months. You walked in the door, sat and played those drums their way and then left. Your sight-reading had better be perfect. 90% of the time I was in agreement to what the producers wanted. The real money was made in regional recording studios in Mexico. They were way ahead of American studios in terms of technique and technology. Tanberg, Nagra, Ampex and Studer gear ruled there. They paid the best. Session musicians were royalty then. Cloud Nine musicians were the Wrecking Crew in Mexico. Got the best accommodations too. Cloud Nine musicians were always allowed to have some input. That was priceless. I ended my career recording and touring with acoustic bands for about 20 years. It's great when you get hired for the recording. It's even better when you're asked to do the tour. I'll be honest up-front. My dynamic control is what got me hired. When you're drumming along with an acoustic harp (acts as the guitar and bass too) , cello, a sopranino sax, violin and viola, piano and a soprano vocalist, you had better have your crap together! The UK, France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Belarus, Spain and Germany were my favorite tours. Northern Ireland was the top. Played there a dozen times. The "Maple Leaves" all decided to retire there with their families. My sister among them.
 

supershifter2

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Bob Ezrin told Gene,Paul and Peter they were gonna record Beth and Peter was gonna sing it live with backing tracks. Gene and Paul said hell no ! Bob told G & P to go away for a while. Beth is one of Kisses big hits.
 

Carlos McSnurf

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If you show up to the session with only your trustee Supraphonic and favorite cymbals, but the producer isn't digging your sound and wants something else, you're going to have a problem. Ask Stan Lynch, who as a member of the Heartbreakers, had to deal with it when they made "Damn The Torpedoes."
Thank You John for your observations. About the quote above I would like to add that I thought drummer or band should meet with producer /engineer to discuss the expectations and sounds of their tools well before day of the session. This is what I do. To cut disappointments and differences, when all focus should be on the music.
 

Buffalo_drummer

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You're a hired gun: you aim at what your employer asks you to. You put your expertise and equipment at his/her disposal. The reason you have those cymbals that you like less than the ones you usually use is this occasion.
This. Exactly.
 

Trey Gray

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Good morning,

Here's my experience...with Reba McEntire, when I joined in 2015, I knew that I wasn't the type of drummer she had been having for the better part of her career. She's always had "chops" types of players. I immediately called the MD, who was a friend of mine, and asked what she would expect, and want, to be hearing, sound wise and part wise.

Deeper, fatter snares, and very quiet cymbals...so I adapted to that. And I stayed with a more minimal groove with less "flash".....

It was a total 180 in what the other guys had but she loves it. I think it even makes her more comfortable on stage. I'm totally NOT saying I'm better than the other guys she's had because they could all play me under the table, she really likes my energy and the sound that we came up with and the more minimal approach.

With Brooks and Dunn, I play whatever I want gear and part wise. I obviously just play for the song again but I can do my best Kenny/Liberty in that gig. Brighter snares and a bit louder cymbals.

If I'm a hired gun in the studio, it's all about the producer more than the artist generally. For me anyway.

If I'm producing a band I'll spend a month or 2 in pre-production getting arrangements and sounds down. Gear choices etc...I don't want the guys, especially the drummers, to feel overwhelmed by making them change every piece of gear and sound that they're used to...so we compromise.

If it's an artist and I'm picking the players, and playing as well, I generally have spent time enough with the artist to know the direction of the sound we want and what drums, amps, keys etc. we need to achieve what's in out heads.

This was a fun post!

Cheers and blessings, Trey
 

TommyTaylor

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No, you don't. I mean cymbals are a reflection of who you are. If they don't like your cymbals they probably don't like you and would be better off with someone else and you'd be happier. What next? They're going to choose your brand of drums and heads too? Great...nothing like a guitar player or singer who thinks they know what the drums are supposed to be like. :-/

I mean if they want a smaller one or something sure...but brand and style...I wouldn't.

Your entire dynamic personality is based on what you hear in your cymbal compliment..how much space and time they take up with each stroke. I mean that contributes a lot to how well I'm going to keep time.
I can tell a LOT about a person's personality by their cymbal sounds. I don't hear a lot of cymbals these days that I like. I read some of the posts...I'm baffled. You know Steve Gadd replaced me on MY band's record...and I thought his cymbals were AWFUL sounding...and we were paying him BIG money to play...he even played MY kit...because we didn't like the way his drums sounded either. That was requested by the bandleader not me...I would NEVER have asked him to play my drums. I only did it because they were going to pay me to rent them, and I had just lost 2 weeks worth of session pay......but he wasn't about to play my cymbals nor was I going to suggest it...no matter how bad I thought his sounded. No offense to Steve...I just think old broken K's sound like rusty old car bumpers. Nobody I ever listened to used them. If the drummers you gravitate toward do...well....then you probably like those. I like cymbals that have zing and harmony...not dead dry pie pans. People write me letters asking about my cymbals.....I think I'll stick with them. I'm always thrilled when someone does because it means they actually heard ME...it MADE an impression above and beyond the particular tracks. Do what you like...at some point you own your artistry...and stop being a drum juke box. I co-create I don't mop floors so to speak...never have. I never wanted to be someone's whipping boy....My art is as valid as the art of the bandleader. If they want what I do they'll hire me. If they don't...I'd probably rather not play with them. It's like dating someone and getting engaged to them and then asking them to change everything about the way they look to make them look more like your ideal mate...why not just find what you're looking for and let the other person be who they are? 2 cents.
 
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