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Murali Coryell's 5 Tips for Great Live Recordings

February 13, 2014
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“If you want a great recording of your live show, you can’t just leave it to luck,” counsels blues guitarist and vocalist Murali Coryell, who is the son of jazz great Larry Coryell. “It’s going to take hard work on the part of yourself and your band, as well as thoughtful and attentive collaboration from the venue, the sound crew, and the audience.”

Practice
“There is no substitute for really good musicians who are well rehearsed and know the songs inside and out. Everyone needs to be on the same page. If someone is not listening, or out for themselves, or just not prepared, the recording will suffer.”

Lead
“There needs to be a leader. Someone has to be steering the ship, and it’s on that person to let the other musicians know what is required. It’s not the time to be vague or timid. You don’t have to be a dictator, but if there’s no game plan, it’s going to be difficult for the musicians to deliver a cohesive performance, and that lack of musical direction also may be confusing to the audience.”

Differentiate
“If there’s another guitarist in the band, I usually tell them, ‘Whatever you do, just don’t play what I’m playing.’ You must divide the guitar parts up so that they are complementary—fills against chords, and harmonies and doubling where appropriate. Look for contrasts and learn to play inbetween the spaces. It’s also about tone. There has to be a good blend. I don’t ask anyone to change his or her sound, but I will say, ‘Let’s be honest about this— is this the best it can sound?’ Maybe we decide that one guitar just needs a bit more treble than the other, or more or less reverb. Simple stuff. Ultimately, it comes down to respect for each other and the music. Everyone has to put their egos aside and concentrate solely on making the music good.”

Collaborate
“I always make sure that we befriend the soundperson and the recording team, and let everyone know that we all want the same thing—a successful night of music. Being a pain in the ass doesn’t usually inspire people to do their jobs well.”

Improvise
“There’s the safe route— playing things exactly as they are on the record— but I think you take the music to a higher place if you take chances. Try to go somewhere you’ve never gone before. Take risks and go for it. You’re not going to get hurt. Open it up, man! Trust that your audience will find entertainment and musical value in your honest attempt to play what you’re feeling at that moment, rather than what you rehearsed. That’s one of the beautiful things about musical expression.”

Murali Coryell’s latest album is Live [Shake-It-Sugar Records]. He was inducted into the New York State Blues Hall of Fame late in 2013.

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