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studio musicians without education?


sonofabill

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And, Jamerson didn't do as well in the LA studios after Motown moved out there. The producers there wouldn't let him take the liberties with the scores he was expected to take in Detroit, and he resented it, or so I've read.

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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Unfortunately, James Jamerson had some problems with drugs and alcohol, and these diminished his talents to where he could no longer be relied upon to show up able to play. A sad and all too familiar story.

 

As for "bass player with a great feel", how will he be able to play as a studio musician if the only thing he's given is a chart, or sheet music? What if during the session the producer says, "The singer would rather the key was changed to Bb"?

If, like Jamerson, you have an innate ability to fall in on the chords and lay down a groove, you might do well. Otherwise, I'd say learn some sight-reading and theory, what else do you have to do while waiting for your big break?

 

"Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.'-Hamlet

 

Guitar solos last 30 seconds, the bass line lasts for the whole song.

 

 

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Could a bass player with a great feel be successful as a studio player without advanced musical education? Discuss.

 

It depends on what you mean by advanced musical education. You do not need a diploma to go work in studios, but you do need to be able to read all kinds of charts, plus be familiar with different styles of music. Depending on the city where you live, it would then depend on who you know and who you work with a lot in live situations. Players who work in studios tend to recommend their friends.

 

If you have a great feel, that is like gold, whether playing live or in the studio. However, in the studio, you do have to be able to deliver what the producer or person who is hiring you wants to hear. A lot of studio work just consists of playing through a chart or laying down a specific line that is given to you. Sometimes they want you to play exactly what they give you, taking absolutely no creative liberties (you have to read exactly what is on the written bass part, correctly, the first time, with a good groove). Other times, they might only want a 'little bit' of creative input from you, and sometimes they give you free reign to go all out and make your creative mark on their project.

 

The first task is to be able play what the producer or other musicians want you to play -- either what's on the page or what they describe to you. Then your second task is to give the part a tiny bit of your personal sound, your mojo, your groove.

 

Certain schools do provide you with this kind of practical experience in advance, but a college degree is not necessarily a guarantee that you will get studio work.

 

If your term 'advanced musical education' means that you practice, play, live and breathe bass, hours and hours every day for several years, then you probably have a great chance of getting some studio work.

www.goldsby.de
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I have an addition to the original question. Is the modern recording process changing the need to be able to sight read really well, more so than, let's say 30 - 40 years ago.

Rocky

 

I think there are many different scenes out there with different styles of "working" in the studio. There are a few places where there is still studio work for film or jingles, but not anything like it was 30 - 40 years ago.

 

I moved to New York in 1980, just at the tail end of the studio boom. The studio scene was still happening there and I saw some of the typical studio work. But what I heard from the players who were around in the '50s, '60s and '70s is that they could work constantly back then, 3 or 4 sessions a day. There was no midi and no home studios. If a producer wanted a big band with strings, then the record date was in a huge studio with 40 musicians (or more) playing live.

 

I think some of the music back then was deep, heavy jazz-related or classical-related music, and most of the studio players were fantastic sight readers. More often than not though, the music was easy, pop jingle-type stuff.

 

Most of the electric studio bass players in the '60s were players who were already doing work on upright who saw the writing on the wall early enough and bought electric basses.

 

The development of jazz and fusion music has made some of the modern studio work more complicated, but I think in a way there is less pressure because of all of the options to fix tracks, repair things, move rhythms and tempos, process sound. In the old days, the bass player (and the whole band or orchestra) got one or two chances to get a track right. That's pressure if the music is tricky. I think psychologically if a musician knows that they can fix something later, there is less pressure to nail it the first time.

 

My steady gig now is with a radio & TV big band (WDR Big Band), which is something that used to exist in the U.S., but is now long gone.

www.goldsby.de
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Very interesting John. I wish I could have enjoyed the studio atmosphere back then but I was too tied up in my business, you know, the one that bought my home and fed my family. Now at the age of 73, I would really like to do studio work but I don't read well enough. I am a good bassist "by ear", I can create very good bass lines in a matter of minutes to songs I have never heard before. But, my major stumbling block is, I only like to play music I like, so that slams most doors in my face.

Oh well, maybe next time. There will be a next time , won't there? :confused:

Rocky

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

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Hey Rocky -- It sounds like you are in a great situation, being able to pick and choose what you want to play. The doors that slam in your face nowadays are probably not with players playing the music you want to play anyway -- all the better.

 

Regarding your question about how things have changed in the last years (decades): I think you are in a great position to do your own music with a home studio. Then you really pick and choose who comes through the front door with which music.

 

I think reading is a secondary skill for someone with a project studio. You can re-do tracks, try different lines, give creative input. It depends who you are working with/for if they want to write everything out, or just let you use your ears.

www.goldsby.de
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If you want to be hired as a studio musician, here are a few questions.

 

Are you getting calls for gigs regularly (and preferably in more than one style)?

Do you already have a reputation as a good, dependable player?

Are you sociable? Do you make friends easily? Do people look forward to having you on gigs for reasons other than just your ability?

Can you follow directions which are sometimes vague or misleading?

Can you come up with a variety of parts for the same song and then after you play it four different ways remember the first one when they decide they liked that one the best?

Can you instantly "turn it on" after sitting around for two hours while they get a drum sound?

Is all your gear in perfect working condition?

Does your idea of being on time mean showing up early?

 

Yes to all the questions would really help.

 

Meanwhile, I still do a little studio work but it isn't a lot of fun anymore. Usually it is just me and the producer/engineer and I don't get to interact in person with other musicians any more.

 

A lot of the time my part goes down first so I don't even get to hear what the whole song sounds like until a month later (if I get a copy).

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When I was in NYC, I could have answered "yes" to about 90-95% of Jeremy's list above.

 

I did get recording time on several artist's CDs, only a couple of times credited.

I once got paid $35 and a sandwich. It was, to be fair, a good sandwich.

 

Every opportunity that came my way was due to the people involved, and "who knew whom."

 

Just sayin'...

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Could a bass player with a great feel be successful as a studio player without advanced musical education? Discuss.

 

I would think it was possible but it probably depends on what kind of music you are playing.

Sit ins with song writers they usually just have chord charts and a vague idea of what they want. The rare times I've ever recorded apart from the band that's the kind of work I've done, and I don't know squat! In country music they use that Nashville notation. That was a way of getting musicians with no formal traing to follow along back in the day according to friends who have done some of that. I have no idea if they still use it to any big amount anymore. Other forms of studio work like movie scores and commercials you probably should know how to read very well. Not sure about pop music. :idk

 

All in all I would say Jeremy's list seems to sum it up. Although with my crummy memory these days, I don't think I'd remember all the versions of bass lines I came up with.

Lydian mode? The only mode I know has the words "pie ala" in front of it.

http://www.myspace.com/theeldoradosband

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It shows in a lot of modern music, Rocky.

 

As I get older, I have more and more appreciation for the music from years ago- not only in musical artistic quality but lyrical depth. Musicians were better- songwriters were deeper. So much now is 'lowest common denominator' stuff.

 

To the original topic, Jeremy's list pretty well sums up any job/ career. I work in a place where you just about need a 4 year degree to be a janitor. But, when the crunch is on, it's the people who step up and adapt, think on their feet, solve problems and have a good attitude about it are the 'go to' people- degree or not. I have an associates in a sea of Bachelor's and Masters but I have been a key player on enough high profile programs that just about all of the key leadership people in the building know me by name.

 

 

"Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind"- George Orwell
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I wish I could have enjoyed the studio atmosphere back then [...] Now at the age of 73, I would really like to do studio work [...] But, my major stumbling block is, I only like to play music I like
I'm not sure what your goal here is, Rocky.

 

You have two goals that seem at odds here: (a) to do studio work and (b) only play music you like.

 

It comes down to this for most people: you either get money or control. If you want steady paid studio work you need to play whatever other people want. If you want to only play music you like then you need to be the one footing the bill.

 

The middle ground is the indie band with their own home studio. You can "do studio work" without any money changing hands and with a voice concerning musical direction.

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Eric, Around here we have studios that just do certain genres. Some are Te-Mex, some Country Western, some all Rock. I could be happy in a CW studio, I think. Well, only if they let me do my own thing. Now you see my problem. :crazy:

Rocky

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

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Back in 70's and early 80's in New York I did very well as a studio musician/electric bass player. This was partly due to my ability to interrupt what the Artist, Producer, or Writer, wanted to hear from a bass perspective. Many times charts where given to me only as a guideline. Most of my instructions where to either play it like some bass celebrity would play (exp. Larry Graham, Louis Johnson, Stanley Clarke, James Jamerson, Duck Dunn), or theyd tell me to give it that uptown feel, or follow the chord chart and add your own feel. I had very little formal training, and my reading was weak at best, but I had a firm grasp on different musical genres. I knew how the bass fit in most orchestrations, and how the bass sat in the pocket on tight arrangements. As a matter of fact 99.9% of the drummers I met in most of those sessions could not read a lick of music. In those days only Harvey Mason or Steve Gadd where the only two drummers I met who could actually read music. I played on dozens of jiggles, movie scores, and the like, and I would say only about 30% or less demanded that I read what was notated on paper, and about 1/3 of those times the producer or writer preferred my interpretation of the music.

 

I'm saying all this to say, that each of us in the bass community should have at least an understanding of basic music notation in order to get booked for studio gigs. Cruse Ship, Vegas, and other formal gigs of that nature require a firm grasp on reading music. If you have an open mind to different styles of music and bass playing you can get a lot further than those who do not.

"We were so deep in the pocket, we were spitting up lint"
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nycfunk is right about the fact that if something feels great, then a producer or client will accept what the bass player is doing (regardless of any written music). That said, you still have to know how to read music pretty well if you are going to be working a lot in that scene. For the 30% of the time when they want you to just read something down exactly like the arranger or composer wrote it, you have to be able to do that. It's usually not "hard music," but you do have to actually read what they wrote.

 

Often in those jingle situations, the arranger/composer gives horn players a specific written part (which would often be done after the rhythm section). The piano and/or guitar player gets a lead sheet (with any important melody cues), the bass player gets the same lead sheet or only a chord sheet, and then they just tell the drummer what kind of groove it is and if there are any special hits. There are often not separate bass and drum parts, because they know they can just describe a feel and the bass player/drummer should be able to come up with something spontaneously that is better than what they could have written.

www.goldsby.de
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Hey all, been a long time. This thread ended up throwing me into nostalgia mode so please excuse the long-winded reply:

 

In my late 20's I became good friends with a talented guitarist and engineer who lived in a house out in Long Island that had a project studio in the basement (a control room and a couple tracking rooms).

 

He got a lot of work recording singer-songwriter demos and he and I had both gone to NYU together and had kept in touch after graduation...so eventually myself and all the musicians we both knew ended up getting involved in a "mini-scene" of sorts where we'd get hired to come in and record some tunes for whatever unsigned/unknown artist he was working with that day.

 

I couldn't say that all of the songs and artists were great and/or memorable, but it was great fun and decent money at a time when I didn't have much and was still trying to figure out what I was going to do for a living after graduating from college having studied nothing but film/TV production and music.

 

At the time, this studio equipped with just a couple ADATs and a stand-alone hard disk recorder, so we didn't have the luxury of recording a sloppy take and then chopping it up endlessly in ProTools to get it right. As a result, I managed to get some reasonably respectable chops at the following skills which I think are essential in the studio:

 

1) Hearing, learning and memorizing song forms quickly (and being able to quickly scribble a chart down if needed--or reading one provided--on the spot).

2) Coming up with a part that works for the tune quickly

3) Getting the tune down in the first or second take

4) Being fast and efficient and punch-ins if you need to fix one or two mistakes on a take that's got 99% of what is needed for the tune.

 

I fortunately had a lot of training previously from my private studies at NYU and doing a lot of live gigs in different styles. I never was a great jazz player and certainly never did any big band or orchestra sessions or gigs, but if I hadn't had any training I imagine the above would have been very difficult to pull off or learn on the spot. Reading notation isn't always applicable, but knowing such things as harmony, rhythm, and having respectably professional chops on your instrument are prerequisites.

 

My friend eventually became heavily involved in music publishing as a day job and decided to focus on his guitar playing for his alter-ego life and as a result, the late nights and weekends in the studios eventually fell by the wayside.

 

We both still play together a lot and I still do the occasional session for friends or unsigned artists that my friends have recommended me to--and I like to think that the time I spent doing all those sessions in that "mini scene" was invaluable experience that I constantly draw upon in my current musical endeavors.

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Great story, it illustrates that "feel" is great, but having some training really helps in putting that "feel" to work in any situation.

 

Those 5 points are great ones.

 

 

"Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.'-Hamlet

 

Guitar solos last 30 seconds, the bass line lasts for the whole song.

 

 

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