As a producer, I work with some of the most talented musicians in the world, but every now then I will encounter a musician who is subpar, can’t play to a metronome, or is just having a right day. The way I handle them can influence the performance I get from them, therefore skewing the final product, so it is pertinent that I make the right decision on how to deal with a less-than-great musician.
The first thing I do is determine how thick their skin is. Are they going to cry when I ask them to redo a take? Or will they buck up and nail it? I’m a pretty good judge of character most of the time, but sometimes I miss the mark. Keep in mind that the best performances will usually be in the first few times they play a part (assuming they aren’t just learning it), and then they will progressively get worse. After an hour of playing they same line, they will play one take slightly better than the previous and it’s important not to think that one is “the take” just because it’s good by comparison. Review the first few takes and compare those to the last one.
Sometimes all they need is a break. Go to dinner, take a breather, do pushups, whatever.
Sometimes I need to break them down for them to snap out of it and give me what I want. They cry. Sometimes they quit. Most of the time they respect me for it and I end up with the perfect performance.
Musicians can be cocky or pushy, forceful with their words. That doesn’t bother me, I can be just as pushy. And sometimes that’s what it takes. Sometimes with these types of people, I let them do what they think is right, then ask them to come in and listen back to what they did. Then, I say try it my way… Now hear the difference? That’s why I am the producer.
Be gentle when you need to be. Be their friend. Boost their ego… lie through your teeth if you need to, but let them know you respect them.