Radio and TV Commercials
I've played on many recording sessions for radio and TV commercials or “jingles”. In a typical session, the rhythm section would play the arrangement together and then record any overdubs and vocals on top of the rhythm tracks. The music is handed out to the players just prior to recording. In most cases, the musicians would play the arrangements just a couple of times before recording. Many times, the rhythm section would help the composer with feel, grooves and styles. It is important to have a wide musical vocabulary in order fulfill any and all requests. You may be asked to play the exact same chart with a rock, latin, country or jazz feel, so you have to adapt quickly changing your fills, bass drum patterns, etc., to fit the correct style of music.
Since I play percussion in addition to drum set, I would first lay down the rhythm track with the other rhythm section players, then go back and overdub the percussion. If I was playing timpani or classical percussion, the parts were generally written exactly as desired and it was just a matter of execution. If I was asked to overdub hand percussion such as tambourine, triangle, shakers, etc., it was common to just create parts on the spot.
Video Game Soundtracks
The video game soundtracks sessions I played on were similar to jingle sessions in that you never knew what you would be playing either stylistically or musically/instrumentally. Most often, the setting was a small project studio where I played electronic drum set, and over dubs were a combination of real and sampled percussion.
I’ve composed music for video game soundtracks and music beds for a variety of uses including a game called Congo. The Congo soundtrack was a mix of live and triggered percussion, along with other instrumentation and effects.
Songs and other recorded work.
In addition to many original projects, I’ve been hired to play on recordings for other people. This may include anything from a single song to a full album. Each session is unique. Sometimes I would get a rough demo in advance, sometimes the sessions were much like a commercial where you wouldn’t know what to expect or what other players (if any) might also being playing. It’s not uncommon to record a drum track to pre-recorded music. If no charts are provided, I always write my own. This could be a shorthand version with just the form of the song, or include more detail (see Magellan chart). A chart provides a roadmap and can be very useful when working with the composer and/or producer in the studio. It saves time and avoids confusion when discussing the arrangement and coming up with parts. Again, versatility is key. One day you might be playing on a contemporary Christian song and the next it might be prog-rock anthem. If you want to make your living playing music, learn it all!