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June 2014

June 2014
Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

I knew a singer once who couldn't read a note of music. But when she got lost she'd go over to the pianist and start pointing at his music as if he was lost and she was helping him. She even did it on TV once so everyone watching thought it was his fault. My question is for him, I'm wondering what he was supposed to do.

—Singer's Tyranny Oppresses Pianist

Dear STOP:

Simple: He should have grabbed a pencil, circled the notes she was pointing to, and handed the music to the bassist. This visibly deflects the blame to a more dispensable band member, while still bowing to the will of the singer—a spirited woman fighting the jazz world's clubby chauvinism.

A smart singer—and this one sounds like no dummy—will take the cue and direct all future finger-pointing at the bassist, bypassing the middleman. Partnering with the pianist isn't just a matter of convenience—in the long run, it could transform her shaky dictatorship into a durable coalition government.

Of course, like every enduring government, its stability will come at the expense of an oppressed lower class. Who better to fill out the bottom than the poor, hapless bassist?

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Is it okay to hate other people's playing as long as you hate your own playing too?

—Equal Opportunity Hater

Dear EOH:

Is it okay to hate pesticides as long as you hate chemical fertilizers? Is it okay to hate farmed fish as long as you hate foia gras? These questions really answer themselves, don't they?

But when the day comes that you stop fully hating your own playing, you'll have to stop hating other people's playing as well, by the exact same proportion. Unfortunately, all you'll really be doing is lowering your standards.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

What are the ethics of doing multiple takes of solos in the studio? What if it means breaking solos down to one line at a time, practicing a lick, playing it, maybe even having the engineer auto-tune some notes or paste notes from one take to another, then moving on to the next phrase and doing the same thing? I've seen guys build entire solos that way, and it sure doesn't have much to do with how they play live, does it? I want my CDs to sound like my gigs!

—Retakes Are Mistakes

Dear RAM:

I'm sure you mean well, but your "live in the studio" approach not only shortchanges the music, it totally disrespects the engineer. Think about it: What is he supposed to do while you and your one-take brethren play your too-good-to-edit lines? Stream video of the big game? Play Solitaire on his computer? Post inside jokes on Pro Tools forums?

I've seen plenty of engineers forced to resort to trivial distractions like these in the middle of "authentic" jazz sessions like yours. Does their self-respect mean nothing to you?
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