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Calling all session players


davio

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I'm home for the Summer and I've got no job leads so far. I was thinking the other day (and it hurt)...I was wondering how I might get into the business of studio session playing.

 

I know there are people here that either are currently studio musicians or have done this kind of stuff in the past. Any advice for a newcomer?

 

How does one get "on the list" of bass players for a studio to call in?

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I became good friends with a couple local song writers. When they go into the studio, they have me go in and lay down the low end. The engineer in one of the studios liked my playing enough that he took my contact number and has called me a couple times now for paying studio gigs.

 

I just kind of lucked out this way. I Never intentionally sought out paying gigs, live or studio, and I don't consider myself any kind of pro or even semi-pro. Just been in the right place at the right time with a solid groove.

 

Perhaps you can seek out some local musicians and start building a reputation as a solid reliable bass player. Sooner or later someone you know is going to do some studio work and will need a bass player.

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It's all about recommendations and contacts. I just kept playing with people and eventually I started getting calls.

 

I do a lot of session work in project studios...it's usually someone with a computer running ProTools and some outboard gear. The projects are almost always "self-funded," and they're paying me out of their own pocket.

 

You won't make any real livable money at it until you're doing record dates almost every day for union wages. But project studios will give you a ton of experience.

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Thanks guys.

 

I figured it wouldn't give me any real money to live off of but it's something to do on occational evenings for good experience.

 

I have a friend who used to have a studio where they produced R&B tracks and he had me come in a few times to lay down some lines...friendly cash in the neighborhood of @20/sitting. I would have done it for free but he didn't feel right getting my services for free.

 

I've some small rep amongst some circles of local musicians as a great last-minute stand-in but my studio experience hasn't gone much past a handful of band recordings and those R&B sessions. It would help if the music scene was a little better here but I do what I can.

 

Any locals (or anybody that's ever been here) know any studios in the area? I only know of maybe 2 or 3.

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Recording promotes self-discipline. Teaches you to do your homework, prep and practice your parts, pack your tools and spare parts in advance, show up on time, listen to what the songwriter wants instead of what you want... all this is the 95% that has nothing to do with the actual session but has EVERYTHING to do with being a professional. You can tell a pro because everything he does, playing or not, is well thought out and appropriate for the work being done. You can't fake that.

 

Take all the session work available, because even the non-paying projects will make you a better player. And when the real opportunities arrive, you'll be ready to give them your best.

:thu:

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All good advice, Fred. But my problem right now is FINDING the session work. I'd jump at any opportunity I could find but there's nothing around that I can find.

 

My friend (with the studio) was always amazed that I was the only one in the band that was always prepared nomatter what and that as soon as we knew what we wanted in the bassline, it would only take me two or three takes at the most.

 

I can't wait for my drummer/room mate to get back in the country (he's currently on tour through Europe with the Salvation Army's New York staff band as a "hired gun") so that our band can finish making preperations and plans for hitting the studio.

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From David Hungate, in an old issue of BP:

 

Every week or so I get a call from a bassist looking for work and asking how to "break into the studios." Aside from telling these players to acquire burglar tools, I seldom have any useful advice. I have occasionally recommended new players for gigs I couldn't make, but I don't know that it did any good. Most producers have a few players they feel comfortable using; if they can't get any of them they'll reschedule a date rather than take a chance on an unknown. They are also far more likely to ask drummers to recommend bass players they feel comfortable with than to ask other bassists. So the unfortunate answer is, there is no formula. You do not "break into" most professions and certainly not into session work. You are asked in, based ultimately not on how you look or who you schmooze, but on how you play.

 

In spite of suggestions to the contrary, there are probably very few great undiscovered musicians out there. The musical world is fairly small and the grapevine extremely effective. If you play well and other good players hear you, you'll move up. Chances are, if you've been playing at the top of your form for a few years and you're still at the same Holiday Inn gig, that's where you'll stay. The way to ensure that you don't progress is to become embittered and devote your energy to putting down those who have made it (an unfortunate tendency of some players), rather than taking a critical look in the mirror. You break into session work the same way you get to Carnegie Hallpractice. But if you're blind to your own musical shortcomings (and we all have them), all the practice in the world won't help.

 

It's frustrating and ironic that the subtle differences between musical mediocrity and excellence are often indistinguishable, not only to laymen but to some musicians. A few years ago Ray Parker said, "You don't have to be good to be a studio musician." I think he meant you don't have to be what the general public perceives as "good." You don't have to be Roy Clark or Kenny G (if you did I would have jumped off a bridge long ago). You don't have to be a showman or a virtuosomost of those guys make lousy studio musicians. You do have to have taste, time, versatility, and good sound, and it helps to be able to read, to be reasonably creative, and to not be an asshole.

 

To progress you have to constantly strive to play with the best musicians you can. This can involve difficult choices, since the best musicians are often not the best paid. And you can't limit yourself stylistically. Jazz is my first love, but given the choice of playing with a lame jazz group or a great country band I'd choose the latter without hesitation.

 

To close, here are some steaming nuggets of advice about country bass playing:

 

Remember, it's an artlike bowling.

Don't hinder the musicians.

Find a health plan that covers lobotomies.

Study the Zen of the redneck. Example: "If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, does anybody give a shit?"

It's "sycophant," not "syncopate."

Take a Republican to lunch.

Don't play anything that hasn't been played several hundred times before by Bob Moore or Joe Osborn.

Try to take Garth seriously.

Chase that Prozac with a cold Miller longneck.

Think about baseball.

Recognize that without country bass players, civilization as we know it would not come to an end. Actually, their recent proliferation may be a sign that the end is near.

Remember, everybody plays drums and has a brother who plays bass.

Don't take yourself too seriouslyno one else is.

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Originally posted by dcr:

From David Hungate, in an old issue of BP:

To close, here are some steaming nuggets of advice about country bass playing:

 

Remember, it's an artlike bowling.

Don't hinder the musicians.

Find a health plan that covers lobotomies.

Study the Zen of the redneck. Example: "If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, does anybody give a shit?"

It's "sycophant," not "syncopate."

Take a Republican to lunch.

Don't play anything that hasn't been played several hundred times before by Bob Moore or Joe Osborn.

Try to take Garth seriously.

Chase that Prozac with a cold Miller longneck.

Think about baseball.

Recognize that without country bass players, civilization as we know it would not come to an end. Actually, their recent proliferation may be a sign that the end is near.

Remember, everybody plays drums and has a brother who plays bass.

Don't take yourself too seriouslyno one else is.

ROTFLMAO

:D

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David Hungate, University of North Texas grad (meaning he was really schooled in jazz) made his name really big in the rock band Toto.

 

But he was an enormous session player on the West Coast first. He played with (among many others) Boz Skaggs (the "Dirty Lowdown") and claimed at on time to be the first to finger pop on a pop record.

 

After leaving Toto, he became an even more significant studio player, eventually becoming really big in the Nashville studios as well.

 

 

Here\'s a link to the AllMusic page, to learn more.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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Thanks for posting that article Dave, it literally changed my life for the better. Here are the 3 statements that did it for me.

 

1. If you play well and other good players hear you, you'll move up.

 

2. They are also far more likely to ask drummers to recommend bass players they feel comfortable with than to ask other bassists.

 

3. If you're blind to your own musical shortcomings (and we all have them), all the practice in the world won't help.

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Get to know the guys who are doing the sessions in your area, including bass players. That might mean sitting in with them, inviting them to sit in with you, or whatever - most of the session leaders and producers in Nashville use their regular group of guys, but when one of them isn't available, they'll often ask the other musicians (or the guy who won't be available) who they can call. I've gotten a surprising number of sessions over the years from other bass players.

Dave Martin

Java Jive Studio

Nashville, TN

www.javajivestudio.com

 

Cuppa Joe Records

www.cuppajoerecords.com

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