Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rehearsal of Fortune

Well, I've been in Boston the past several days, at rehearsal for the Aerosmith South/Central American tour that gets things started for this year, with a longer European Tour in the Summer. The gear has been checked over, fixed, cleaned, tweaked or replaced and the band began running through songs as a whole today.

I have seen a lot of rehearsals as a tech in my day, and participated as a musician in many more. They can be tiresome, monotonous affairs where details get picked through and scrutinized until it stops being fun long before it's time to go. Not so with this rehearsal. I noticed an interesting phenomenon that was new to me.

Instead of rehearsing a tune from top to bottom, over and over, until it is ready, Aerosmith concentrate on the feel or groove of the song. The rhythm section of Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton will find a four bar phrase to play - maybe a fragment of a verse or a chorus - and work on it until it feels right. Then guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford chime in with complimentary parts and the whole sequence repeats until all of the parts are flowing in a tight groove. Then, Steven Tyler will count it off and start the actual arrangement.

This is a great way to make sure that the essence of the song - the groove, the part that makes you feel good and gets the listener involved in a physical level - gets sorted out right away, so that the lyrics, melody and arrangement have a strong foundation to sit upon. I have never seen this done in this manner before. I have heard of bands (Aerosmith included) who sometimes write their songs this way. Someone will get a catchy riff going and they groove on it until a song structure is agreed upon. But I never thought of using that trick to make an old standard feel young again, or make you remember what it is about a tune that makes your body move.

It's a little odd that the very band that inspired me to play guitar, and therefore eventually become a tech is now the band I work for. It's very cool that they continue to inspire me 30+ years later.


Blogger JBlog said...

Lucky! Like you, these guys -- particularly Tom Hamilton -- inspired me to pick up the bass.

How's Tom doing -- has he fully recovered from his cancer treatments?

9/4/07 14:46  
Blogger Tom Spaulding said...

He seems fine, he's playing great. This should be fun!

9/4/07 14:47  
Blogger JBlog said...

Looks like first stop on the tour is Sao Paulo.

Well, if you're a meat-eater at all, make sure you get to one of Sao Paulo's churrascarias -- fantastico!

9/4/07 15:12  
Blogger Hucbald said...

I had a similar experience many years ago. I roadied a Johnny Thunders European Tour after being a fan of his in high school when he was with the New York Dolls.

Ain't it cool?

9/4/07 15:47  
Anonymous Wikkid said...

Tom, sorry if I am out of touch with Aerosmith's latest developments but I heard a while back that the group was re-recording all of their older hits. As their musical skills have improved greatly over the years they wanted to see how much better they could play those songs. Are they doing this?

9/4/07 17:39  
Blogger Tom Spaulding said...

I have no idea, sorry.

9/4/07 17:48  
Blogger Edmund said...

I have heard of bands (Aerosmith included) who sometimes write their songs this way.

One of my favorite singer/songwriters, Al Stewart, writes many of his songs this way. He'll sit at the piano or with his guitar and work on a riff, building a song. He released some of his demos to his fans that include him singing nonsense lyrics as he worked on the music.

His biggest hit, Year of the Cat, started out with the hook, then he wrote lyrics to it, threw them away, and wrote new lyrics to the melody.

9/4/07 18:02  
Blogger Billy Beck said...

Is Jim Chapman still doing lights on that project?

9/4/07 23:25  
Blogger Tom Spaulding said...

Not on this tour...

10/4/07 20:25  
Blogger Billy Beck said...

Thanx, Tom. I hadn't been in touch with him in a while and didn't know.

Y'all have a good time out there.

10/4/07 21:05  

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