by Jeff Scheetz, TrueFire’s Director of Education

<< Read Part 1

When we last left Zeke he had a studio date booked, a title for his course and was ready to dig in. Unfortunately he got called to go on tour for a month with Glenn Rivers, a soul singer who had the band booked on Letterman so our Zeke couldn’t pass it up.

The good thing is at this stage of development there is a lot of work an artist can do on the road so he was able to keep the studio date and work away. His job is to put together the 50 licks that he will be performing. I talk to him and send him an Excel file that we will fill out together. This is an important step as it lists the names of the licks, the jam tracks that go with each lick, and the text descriptions. This file takes all of this info and feeds it into an .xml file that will help build the course. If this is done ahead of time it makes the studio session go much smoother and helps to keep Tommy our producer in a good mood. One thing you learn in the music business is you don’t want the producer to be in a bad mood! He has the power to make you sound and look bad with the flick of a couple of switches so it is best to keep him happy and even bring him a coffee every once in awhile.

Besides writing the licks there is the matter of jam tracks. We are pretty adamant about artists having good sounding jam tracks. TrueFire students are audio savvy players who do not appreciate playing over midi tracks from the 80s, so quality jam tracks are important. Some artists will use a different jam track for each lick, and some group their licks in sections, say 5 licks per jam track, which means they need to have 10 killer sounding tracks to play over. Zeke has chosen the latter and is planning on using a couple of the guys from Glen’s band to record bass and key parts for him over some awesome sounding drum loops he is putting together, so the tracks will be great. Often times we will offer to send the artist to a studio to put great tracks together if they don’t have the tools to do it themselves.

One other consideration is the tab and notation for this course. Zeke is great at playing and demonstrating the licks, but is not real keen on writing them out. Some artists do all of their own tab in some form, and some simply have us use our professional transcriptionists to do it. If we have our guys do it that can slow production of the course a bit as we have to wait until the course is shot and a rough video is put together before the guys can get it and transcribe.

From this point much of the work is in Zeke’s hands. The artist’s real responsibility is to do the work preparing the course. If an artist is not prepared it wastes time and money and will compromise the quality of the course, and we won’t do that. And yes, there have been a few artists who have been sent back home after they showed up for a shoot and were not prepared, but fortunately most of the people we work with take their course very seriously and work hard to over prepare for it.

Zeke is now done with his tour, and has worked out his 50 licks. He sent me some rough videos he shot just to make sure the length of the lick was right and delivery was on the mark. Many artists do this just to get some feedback for their on camera vibe and to make sure they are dialed in for the actual shoot.

I get a late night call from Zeke who is a little worried about his wardrobe. I assure him he will look great, but advise against the chartreuse paisley shirt with the purple guitar. We may save that look for his next “50 Freedom Rock Dude licks you MUST know” course. Since many of our artists are also professional musicians, their appearance and “brand” is important to them. We help them feel as comfortable as we can with a little advance planning and discussions of things like what to wear and what instrument they want to play (no fun shooting a course with the guitar that you are NOT endorsed by)!

About a month before the shoot Nancy calls Zeke to make travel and hotel arrangements. Nancy takes care of the artists and makes sure there is a car to pick them up at the airport, goes over their itinerary with them, checks to see if they have any special dietary needs while shooting and is the “go to” person for helping direct any other questions they might have.

The final element to put together before the shoot is for Zeke to send me all the jam tracks, and the Excel file. I will go over the file and make sure it is formatted correctly and then upload it all into Zeke’s folder online so Tommy can transfer all the tracks in the right order to the studio computer. This way when the day of the shoot arrives, setup in the studio can focus all on the artist and having a great performance instead of worrying about organizing.

As we will see in the next section, the TrueFire studio session is a well oiled machine thanks to this organization ahead of time and the masters that run the shoot in the studio….

Tune in next time as Zeke steps off the plane and into the world of TrueFire!

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