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How to be a session guy?


NickT

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I would be interested to hear any comments, thoughts etc. that anyone has about what makes a good session player/pro-musician.

 

Stuff like turning up on time (as well as playing in time) is obviously important, but does anyone have anymore in depth comments/experiences they want to share.

 

What do you practice? HOW do you practice?

Free your mind and your ass will follow.
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Practice READING. As much & as often as you can. Diverse stuff - jazz, classical, anything really.

 

Practice TIME. A session bassist has to be sooo deep in the pocket that the lint comes out before his groove does!

 

Practice ALL the current playing styles - slap, pop, finger, pick - and do them all incredibly well. Find an upright, and practice bowed playing.

 

Originally posted by NickT:

I would be interested to hear any comments, thoughts etc. that anyone has about what makes a good session player/pro-musician.

 

Stuff like turning up on time (as well as playing in time) is obviously important, but does anyone have anymore in depth comments/experiences they want to share.

 

What do you practice? HOW do you practice?

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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There's been a lot of discussion about professionalism here. I thought I'd bump up a 2 year old thread called "Please List Your "try to avoid" for gigging."

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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I think in the majority of cases, you get introduced into your local area of session players by getting heard thru your musical work or someone hearing you out playing. When I lived in Jacksonville, Florida, a local steel guitar player, who did alot of session work, heard me playing somewhere and asked me to do some basswork for him. The engineer called me back later for some other performer, etc, and that's how I got into it. From there, I ended up being 'on call' with 3 studios, which was a hoot.

 

I'm sure there are other ways, but my impression is most studio guys are 'brought into the fold' by other session players.

 

Anyway, just wanted to share.

Bassplayers aren't paid to play fast, they're paid to listen fast.
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It is a tricky deal, for sure. More often than not you are recommended by some one, either another player or engineer who not only liked your playing, but your professionalism.

 

I got into it by a recommendation of someone who was visiting a studio where I was recoding with a band. I was there early, polite and professional and all my gear was in top order. It took no time at all to get my tone, and since I had done my homework, it took only one or two takes for each tune.

Next thing I knew, I got a call to sub for this player on a jingle session. Again I showed up early,(if a call is for 6pm be there by 5:30 at the latest!) with minimal gear (all adjusted and working fine), introduced myself and delegated all "authority" to those in charge. My reading skills were good, thankfully as I was given a chart and five mins. to get it together.

In the session biz, time is money. They do not want to waste time waiting for the bassist to get his tone and mic up his amp,find all his fx patches.... then practice his part fifteen times. You should have a good usable tone available in a split second (a high quality DI is a must). Have your bass(es), (and BTW, don't take too many, that may be fine for Michael Rhodes or Dave Pommeroy, but in most cases is just a sure sign of ego) intonated, adjusted etc. All of your gear should be in top notch shape (no scratchy pots, bad cables, dead batteries...)be positive and willing to take directions...and don't offer suggestions unless asked (in most sessions they don't really care how brilliant your ideas might be. They have their own vision and agenda for which they have hired you and your skills to help bring to fruition). Leave your ego at home.

Usually you get two or three takes, if you cannot get it with that, they are on the cell for someone who can. It can be quite intense, and very competitive.

 

Good sight is reading is recommended, but more and more I am finding sessions with only lead sheets, in which case you must find the line they want...and for this they usually do not give you any extra time! Your creativity, feel, and knowledge of your instrument and of different musical styles is a priority. There is a maxim which comes to mind:

"find the line which fits with as few notes as neccessary, then play half of them".

 

If you do need to read a part don't be afraid to mark up that chart with notes to yourself. I usually look right off to notes outside the key or above or below the staff,or tricky phrases (or "signature phrases" and unisons) and make notes to myself. I notice most other players do this too. Anything you can do to nail the part in the first take is good.

 

You might want to look around to different "project" studios in your area and introduce yourself to the owner and engineers there. Have a resume, possibly a demo of your playing in a number of divergent styles. Perhaps, even volunteer your services for a demo session. If you do well you will be remembered.

 

Most studio work has gone to independent project studios now, at least here in LA where there are millions of 'em.

I did several sessions for a project studio here, replacing synth bass parts from a demo, which led to master sessions for Tommy Boy and Interscope.

 

As far as what to practice: Everything. Develop your ear. One thing I do is play while watching TV. If I hear something on TV, a commercial jingle, part of a soundtrack, even a theme song, I try to learn it immediately...even if only in part. I sing it, hum it as it is on, then mute the tv and try to play it.

Learn more than bass parts. Learn melodies, learn to recognize chord progressions (there are only 21 differenmt chord progressons used in popular music, if you know these can even "predict" a chord change...I do this quite a bit as a sideman playing material I am unfamilair with).

 

Learn music you are unfamilair with, or styles you may not even like. If you don't like country, listen and learn some. Listen to some country, even tho it might not suit your taste, and find five positive things about it; five things that are really cool (like how the pedal steel fades away into a modulation, the half-time pull of the kick drum etc.). Then learn some of those bass parts. Same with hip hop, jazz, classical....

...develop some BIG ears.

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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my email address is bassforhire@hotmail.com and my business cards have Nick Townsend, Bass Player splattered on them. :D

 

I got the cards from vistaprint.com, where you get a template that includes sections for "Company" and "Motto", but I chickened out of

"Bass For Hire", "We got the funk in the trunk" and left them blank.

Free your mind and your ass will follow.
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Originally posted by Max Valentino:

....and......

while not be a "neccessity", and I am sure Wally M. will appreciate this, try joining your local chapter of the Musician's Union (AFM).

A lot of studio/session referal s come thru there....eh, Wally?

 

Max

We get occasional calls for sessions. Locals such as LA, NY, Nashville and Toronto get a lot more.

 

Wally

I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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All this seems like great advice (I guess that's why I like to hang out here).

 

Max, is there any chance of you posting those 21 chord progressions (or letting me know where i might find them written down somewhere)?? :)

 

Now all I need to do is go practise everything, get everyone to know me, arrive the day before and blow everyone away with my perfect playing ;)

 

Cheers

 

Ben

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BenHack...go to the Bass Player archive site, go to the "In The Trenches" section and find an article called "Fakin' It" by Ed Friedland. In there he lists 21 common "pop" chord progressions.

 

Ask and ye shall recieve, here is the link to the article.

 

http://archive.bassplayer.com/trenches/fakinit.shtml

Free your mind and your ass will follow.
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Thanks for posting that Nick...Ed's BP article echoes what I learned sometime ago as a compositon major at NYU (dealing with structure of popular music compostions)...and I was searching thru my files tryin' to find a copy of it. Completely forgot about that fine, instructional article Ed wrote sometime ago!

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Originally posted by Max Valentino:

learn to recognize chord progressions (there are only 21 differenmt chord progressons used in popular music...

Hey Max,

 

I've been studying music / learning to play the bass for about 6-7 months now, and right now I'm trying to understand/learn chord progressions. I have the blues I-IV-V (|: I I I I IV IV I I V IV I V :|) progression down solid, and some of the knowledgeable folks here have mentioned a few other common progressions.

 

Would it be possible for you to list these 21 progressions - including actual progression patterns - here?

 

Thanks!

C.V.: Snowboarder (1983-), Bass Owner (1996-), Chemistry Teacher (1997-) & Serious Bass Student (2003-)
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