This was great fun. The web series “Greetings! from Prison” is a series of sketches set in the visiting room of a prison. It’s a very dark comedy. For the music, we wanted a raucous feel that would be in direct contrast to the dour environment of the prison.
Here’s the introduction that sets up the scene.
And here’s the closing over the end credits.
We went back and forth on the sound and style of the big band. Eventually, we decided that the feel we wanted was “It’s 1968 Las Vegas, around midnight, the band’s been drinking and is about to go on on front of a restless crowd that’s been drinking even more – and there’s no sign of the singer” Once we decided that, I knew that we’d need REAL horns on this track, but we didn’t have budget for a full horn section. The horn parts were written for 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 Alto saxes, 2 tenor saxes and a baritone sax, so I reached out to two session musicians: one who plays trumpet and trombone and the other to play Alto and Tenor sax.
I had worked with sampled horns before and had learned a lot about how to get them sounding pretty good. But of all the instruments that can be sampled, horns seem to be the trickiest to make sound authentic. As I worked on mock-ups, I went back and forth with the director, assuring him that the real horns would make the track ‘pop’. Once we had agreement on the timing, energy and feel of the opening and closing music, I prepared the charts for the session musicians.
I couldn’t get the two musicians in together, so we recorded them separately. Sessions went very well with the director and editor in attendance for the trombone/trumpet date.
The closing cue in particular presented some technical challenges for the musicians. It’s very uptempo and a fast complex melody. In the interests of efficiency, for one take we slowed the temp track down by about 20% to allow the musician to get the take and then we brought it up to tempo in the computer afterwards. For another take, we and great energy, but ONE wrong note. Again, in the interest of efficiency, we kept the taker and I used pitch correction on the single note.
Once the real horns were mixed in with the sampled instruments, we had the feel we wanted.
I think this was a great example of getting a terrific big sound with limited budget and time. By getting the mock-up of the track with virtual instruments as close as possible, we were able to add a couple of musicians rather than a whole section and get an excellent convincing sound. By having the flexibility to slow down the backing track and fix noters as needed, we were able to make the best use of everyone’s time and stay on schedule.
Overall, a great looking and sounding project!