Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lessons from the recording studio

Last Sunday I had a "first" in my life. I've always enjoyed playing music and have played in bands throughout my life, but I'd never recorded before. A friend of mine in my graduate classes, Tim Miler, is a songwriter and asked me to play on his new album. I agreed and I can now say that I was a professional recording artist!

The session itself was intense! The pressure in the studio was tremendous.
I was a nervous wreck but excited at the same time. I'd played live on a number of occasions, but this was different. It is permanent and will be what people (hopefully) listen to again and again.

Here are some things that translated into my approach to coaching:

- Chemistry matters. Though the tension was thick, the other guys in the band and I are close enough that we were able to focus on our performance and each other to find a groove. Our teams are no different that way. Cancers on the team, no matter how talented, will more than likely bring the entire team down.

- Rehearse in the same environment you perform. This is difficult because studio time costs money, but can be simulated. We didn't do this and I had no idea what to expect. Needless to say, when I put on the headphones I entered a different world and got nervous. I used to think that with my teams it didn't matter where we practiced because the hoop is still 10 feet, the freethrow line is still 15 feet away, and the ball still bounces. This experience has changed my view. Put me in the environment, or at least simulate it as best as possible.

- Own up to mistakes, correct them, and move on. Because of the time factor, there isn't room to plod through mistakes. If you make a mistake you stop, tell everyone it was your fault, apologize, and take it from the top. This is one area where recording is like your drills in practice. No sense in doing it incorrectly. Admit it and correct it. If the mistakes keep happening, move on, try something else, and come back to it at a later time.

- Playing live, a quick recovery from mistakes is critical. Concerts and games are very similar. If you make a mistake playing in front of an audience, you just keep plugging away like it didn't happen. Often times I will come back with more intensity and focus. Our players need to be taught the same thing. Coach K has the perfect saying for this with "next play". That moment is over and you can't get it back. What are you going to do next?

- When its time to move on, play to strengths and find some success. One of the songs had a drum fill I just couldn't get. After the third take, Tim decided to come back to that song later. My strength as a drummer is funk music. Tim wrote a song in the style of Earth, Wind, and Fire meets George Clinton. He quickly chose that song to record next. It was easy for me to find the groove and we nailed it in one take. It felt really good. I saw success and the chemistry between all of us improved. We went back to the previous song and nailed it in one take. I think we can all see how this translates into our coaching both in practice and games.

- Time is precious. The studio charges by the hour and it is not cheap. Every take, every time the record button is turned on, you have to be right on it. Games are the same way. The clock is working against you and every possession is important.

- If the songwriter is confident, the band members will follow. My nerves were crazy in the studio. My palms were so sweaty that one of my sticks slipped out of my hand and hit the bass player in the head (no joke). I got rattled after that. Tim, who wrote all the songs and this is his album, was great. He called for a break, reassured me that I knew the material and told me I was a very good drummer. He essentially called a timeout, refocused my attention, and encouraged me. Pretty good coaching on his part!

- Properly channeled emotion is a powerful tool. Tim wrote a song in an early 80's punk style. It required me to play like Keith Moon from The Who (younger audience and non-rock lovers, just know he was a beast on the drums) only considerably faster. The first take was horrible! I got angry, threw my sticks down, and about kicked over my kit (would've been VERY "rock-n-roll" in concert, but not in the studio - plus I can't afford to replace my kit). The engineer, a drummer as well, called me into the booth and told me to put it in the drums. He told me, "It is an angry song so take out your frustrations on the drum heads." I did and the second take was right on the money. We can do this with our players too. Flip the script on them when they get a bad call or turn the ball over.

- Have fun! Remember that we do this because we enjoy it. Remind your players of this. Remind yourself. It is a joyous thing to be able to play and to share with others!

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