What do you do as an arranger?
For string or horn overdubs, I generally work from a rough mix of the track and write out the lines, harmonies and rhythms as needed. I either come up with them totally on my own or by collaborating with the artist or producer.
What kind of input do you normally get from clients?
It varies. Many people want me to come up with my own approach, and don’t want to influence the process. Some have very specific requests or melodic lines they want included. The more input the better. I also like to know what arranging references an artist likes from existing albums.
Do you demo your arrangements to allow feedback from a client?
While producers don’t always ask for this, I’m very happy to do it and prefer to get as much feedback as I can so that the recording session can focus mainly on performance rather than rewrites.
Are you open to using specific ideas from the artist or producer?
I welcome this, since they have usually spent more time working on the song than I have. I sometimes advise whether or not a certain idea will work well on the specific instruments being arranged.
Do you charge a fixed fee per song?
I don’t have a set fee. It depends on the style of song, how complex the arrangement is, and how much original input is needed from me, as opposed to simply highlighting riffs and melodies already included in the song. Multiple uses of the song, for instance, for use on both a sound track album and a film, can affect the fee amount.
Do you mind if the artist or producer wants to change the arrangement?
I’m completely open to whatever comments they have and welcome the input.
What cities do you work in?
Most frequently in LA and, every month or so, in Nashville and NYC, as well as a few times a year in London. I also have recorded in Miami, Boston, Seattle, Sydney and Melbourne. I also do numerous sessions via EdNet or ISDN lines between these various cities, so that the artist and/or producer doesn’t have to travel just to attend a 3 hour session.
Do you have favorite studios?
In LA, I mostly use Cello, Oceanway, Capitol, NRG and Record One. Nashville favorites are Oceanway and Sound Kitchen. New York sessions are usually at Clinton. London favorites are Abbey Road and Air Lyndhurst.
Are you always at the sessions for songs you arrange?
While this is most often the case, on occasion I have sent arrangements to sessions for someone else to conduct, if the session is in another city and I’m not able to travel. However, I much prefer to be there to help get the performance that’s intended. Usually the logistics of this type of situation work out well by using EdNet or ISDN to have the session occur in two cities.
Do you arrange for other instruments besides strings?
I’ve done lots of horn arrangements, choral and backing vocal arrangements, arrangements for full orchestra either for songs or film scores and also have done ethnic styles like Mariachi, etc.
Do you do rhythm arrangements?
Yes, I do, but I often turn down offers to do them because I have my hands full with orchestrations.
Are you a conductor?
I’ve conducted my sessions for most of my recording career and I’ve noticed that it helps to make the performance more dynamic.
Is it hugely expensive to do a string session?
While a 30 player session can get pricey, I have done a lot of sessions over the years with 3 to 10 players, and I find that with a certain way of voicing the parts and with strong players and good engineering, a full sound can be achieved. Many rock sessions are better with smaller groups anyway, to avoid sounding overly symphonic.
Since you play violin and viola, do you play on your own sessions?
I play on a lot of sessions with a trio (violin, viola & cello) and this is a very strong sound, as well as being efficient money wise. On all the bigger sessions I conduct so that I can more easily hear the total picture and can help pull the session together faster.