A Guide to Becoming a Great Studio/Session Musician – Part II

This is the second installment of “A Guide to Becoming a Great Studio/Session Musician.” Please read Part I first before reading this article, which is part two. In a studio environment, it is important to work quickly. This is to save money, but also to deliver the finished product to whomever on time while maintaining a high quality with the work that you have done.

  1. Have all or as much of the material prepared as possible. You want to be ready for everything that might occur in the studio so be ready. Have the music memorized, have all equipment ready to go, and have back up options for everything. This includes the actual music and the instrument parts, but also for all the instruments.
  2. Be fluent in terminology used in a studio. Many times what you will need to do will be spoken to you and not given to you ahead of time. So be able to understand what things mean and be able to do what is explained quickly.
  3. Be a fluent sight reader. This includes all forms of notation and side notes. Be able to read sheet music, tablature, and chord charts and be able to do this for numerous instruments. While you might not need help with your part, you may need to explain it to someone else on another instrument. You may be given a piece of music and be expected to perform it that moment. So be prepared.
  4. Be able to compose and record quickly. Just like everything else, you need to practice songwriting. Be able to compose in numerous styles fluently and be able record those ideas in as few

In order to be a desired studio musician often, you will need to be familiar with working in all styles of music. This will simply ensure more studio work for you as a session player as you will be called in for more projects than someone who can just perform well in one style of music. You must be versatile.

  1. Have a genre of expertise. While you do want to be versatile with nearly all styles of music, it is important to have a genre that you focus on. This will make you THE musician for that particular style at that studio. All the other styles’ projects will simply be additional to your focused music genre.
  2. Be able to perform and compose in all styles. You will want to be able to do so quickly and when you are called in to the studio without having to do research. This will speed up the session and allow you to become a better songwriter and musician as a whole.
  3. Learn other instruments. Some styles of music may not call for you instrument or use your focused instrument as the main aspect to a song. Some songs are written with the purpose of being driven by the guitars, and some are not. Being able to play multiple instruments will allow you to compose accurate music in whatever style is needed. And, you will also write better songs when you consider all the instruments that are going to be involved.

The final aspect that people look for in a great session musician is there technical abilities. While this is not always the most important, it still holds a massive amount of weight behind it.

  1. Learn new techniques. There are many musicians that seem to think that it is okay to not become fluent with numerous techniques. They become really good at one technique, and ignore the others. This is a horrible mistake. Yes, you do not need to be the very best with all the techniques on your instruments, but, some projects will call for a certain technique, and if you don’t know how to do it, or are not good at it, you will not be called back to that project.
  2. Preparation. Having a certain level of mastery for each technique on your instrument will simple make preparation for the studio work much easier. You will be much more prepared both in and out of the studio for anything that might arise.
  3. Be able to associate techniques with a particular style. Knowing what scales, arpeggios, chords, progressions, and techniques are commonly associated with a particular style can really save a session. If you understand that a certain genre used a certain chord progression frequently, it is really easy to get the material written and recorded.

While this list is short, it outlines the basic principles of what people look for in a studio/session musician. Following these guidelines will put you well on your way to becoming a great and reliable session musician.

Feel free to email me if you have any further questions on this topic.

© Zack Uidl. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

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