The hardest lesson I had to learn…

I was 16 years old, still at school, and I had a phone call from a producer (friend of a friend) whose regular drummer had broken his wrist with a recording booked up for the following week. I was asked if I could do it, I gladly, and enthusiastically accepted!

In my head, that was it! I’d made it! I was going to go and record the 6 songs he’d sent me, he’d realise how amazing I was, along with the rest of the world, and I’d be called forever, for everything!

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This is what actually happened:

I practised these 6 songs to a standard I thought was acceptable up until the recording day.

Turned up at the studio, set up, and waited whilst they mic’d up the kit. The producer asked if I was ready to do a take of the first song, to which I proudly said ‘yes’ and a series of events unfolded.

I sat down at the kit, and as soon as record was hit, it all fell apart!… I wasn’t playing to the click, or locking in with the track, it felt lumpy, all my hits were inconsistent and I felt like my whole body was being controlled by a very amateur puppet master (nope the amateur was just me!), but in my arrogant/inexperienced head I thought ‘I’m sure it sounds better out there in the control room’.

At the end of the first take, there was a brief silence followed by the producer – ‘Is everything ok in there Em, do you need some more click or something? Shall we do another take?’ So we did. It was even WORSE!

The poor producer tried a final 3rd time at which point he came into the live room and said, ‘I’m really sorry Emily, but I’m just going to have to ask you to leave because this isn’t going to work.’ He was so sweet about it, but it was the biggest heartbreak I have ever experienced, probably still have ever experienced to this present day!

I spent 2 days locked up in my bedroom, crying, refusing to eat, or speak to anyone. Then I got bored of feeling heartbroken and realised I needed to make a decision… either:

1.I hang up my sticks, say well that was a good run, I had fun, but it’s not for me.

OR

2. I learn from it, and face everything that went wrong in that session head on, put myself under the microscope, work my butt off and never ever let anything like that happen to me again.

Luckily I did the latter 🙂

Fast forward 13 years, and not only have I recorded on some pretty amazing albums that I’m so proud to be a involved with, but part of my living is made out of recording from my own studio!

I was so affected by this episode, I decided to run workshops where drummers come to my studio and practise how to record as a session drummer. I create the exact situation you’re bound to find yourself in, but with low stakes and a supportive environment (get in touch to find out more).

I never want anyone to feel the way I did that day, but I’m grateful I went through it, because it’s brought me to this point now.

Whats the hardest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as a musician?

4 thoughts on “The hardest lesson I had to learn…

  • I cant consider myself a musician, mostly Im a “bedroom barely guitar player who play along actual recordings just for fun” but once I played bass at a band competition at a job I had and it went well, we played some surf tracks and got an ovation and an encore. Then at a party a friend and myself sang a song with the band and it went well – next year same party same band and we did it again, but that second time i had my guitar with me to play rhythm – it went well until I realized I cannot sing and play at the same time, and I forgot to either sing or play, so I better put aside my guitar.

    Antonio España
    México City.

  • I think my most cringeworthy experience is when I made every excuse under the sun for not needing to use metronome in a session where I believed that prog music had to be played without click. Then when I got back the very poor results then I blamed the engineer, and the rest of the band for being out of time. It was actually all me along.

    Really annoyed because it meant I looked like a fool to everyone. I now can play to a click very well, and retain an ability to push and pull where it’s required. I don’t let the metronome make me completely robotic.

    Never done a really good session like you’ve been able to do but I know if I am asked now I would be able to keep time. I think the pressure of one take or that’s it is something that might unsettle me though…

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