How important is being a multi-instrumentalist to your process?
“Let me start by saying that there is NOTHING like being in a room full of the right people who excel at what they do and who bounce ideas off each other. This is how I learned my trade, by playing in studios and on stages with the world’s best and it’s still my ideal method of working. Unfortunately, recording budgets don’t always allow for such a luxury these days, which is why more and more people are coming to me!”
“I find that having a few instruments available is indispensable for the variety of work I’m asked to do. Being able to come from many different perspectives gives me a HUGE advantage in terms of putting arrangements together. For instance, sitting in the middle of a string section for years gives you a totally different view on how an arrangement is going to sound, than you get from playing around with VSL on a keyboard, even if you ARE classically trained. For orchestral writing in the project studio, when programmed parts are unavoidable, I find that playing in some live violin and viola gives a certain authenticity to the overall sound. But in truth ONLY a live string section can give the performances I’m hearing. However good a sample library sounds, the nuances just aren’t there a lot of the time. On top of that, it’s one of life’s greatest thrills to hear your music played by a real live orchestra!”
“Creatively having all these instruments is great fun, because different personalities come out depending on what instrument I’m playing (quick, call the ambulance lol)! Recently I put together a retro soundtrack album including some surf, French 60’s garage and spaghetti western type styles, so it was really helpful that I’d spent part of my life as a lead guitarist, studying the repertoire for that instrument. Having different instruments gives me a vast palette of styles to draw from, which is being explored more deeply the further I get into music for TV and films.”
“And there’s a more practical side. There comes a stage in most sessions where brain-drain can set in and even the best instrumentalists can get physical or mental fatigue (or both) on any one instrument. When this happens, the ideas can become weak, which can mean death to a writing or recording session where maximum creativity and peak performance are needed. Switching instruments at times like these can be a life-saver and keep me excited about the music, as well as help to get the performances I need. Of course it’s also essential to know when to take a break!”