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“How would we do that live?”

June 3, 2013

empty-stageWe’ve all been there. We were writing or recording a song and someone suggested adding an extra part here or there. Let’s say your a three piece rock band and someone suggest a saxophone solo. You reply, “but how would we do that live?” It’s one of the most common questions we ask in the process. We assume that we shouldn’t do in anything on the album that we couldn’t do live. But is that holding us back?

It is a glorious freedom to realize that the live version DOESN’T have to sound 100% exactly like the CD. Some of my favorite live versions of songs we different from the studio version and it was awesome! I’m sure you can think of plenty of songs that have an awesome live version. There is no written rule that says we have to play it just like the album. What’s the point of a concert if you hear the same thing you already heard back home? Embrace the difference between the stage and the studio.

The recorded version is often the version people may hear first, so make it as good as you possibly can. Do whatever you can, regardless of whether or not its doable live. Then when you hit the stage, don’t abandon the song – change it! Just like there are things that can’t do live, there are also things that you can ONLY do live.  Use those to your advantage! Remember that aforementioned saxophone solo? Replace it with audience participation. Have an impossible intro? Replace it with a lead-in story. On the stage, change and rearrange the song any way you want!

There is one alternative to omitting the impossible parts. I suggest you only use it if the part is absolutely necessary to the song. You can play live with tracks. No before you write this off as stuff for the pop artists and backstreet boys, please note that is a perfectly legitimate option used by all kinds of bands. It’s not new either. Bands like The Who have doing it since the 70’s! Sometimes, there is a part that the song just can’t simply live without. There are several ways to do this and you can read more about it in my other post. Please keep in mind that playing to tracks requires playing to a click track, and you read about that here.

Either way, embrace the stage, because the rules of the studio mean nothing when you’re on it!


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