Essential Gear for Session Work

Discussion in 'Ask Justin Meldal-Johnsen' started by bassmaster831, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. Dear Justin,

    I have recently been booked for some pop/rock session work and want to take it to the next level. I know I need more gear but I'm not sure what to buy. I have been using 2 Fender american jazz basses and a TC electronic BH250 combo, but I want to be fully prepared for any work that might come to me. From your experience in the studio, what would you consider to be essential pieces of gear as far as specific types of basses, DI boxes, etc.? Also what would clients expect me to come to the studio with in a professional situation? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks for your time.

  2. Gab124

    Gab124 The path is greater than the destination Supporting Member

    Dec 30, 2006
    Are you REDDI!?
    Seth Miller likes this.
  3. Dan Bozek

    Dan Bozek

    Aug 3, 2011
    Outside Pittsburgh, PA
    Endorsing Artist, D'addario Strings
    My two cents: It really kind of depends on who you’re working for and what they’re going for with the instrument in the song. Different producers and engineers have their own ways of how they like to do things, so it kind of varies from session to session. When I’m going out to do a session, I try to have a conversation to get as much detail as I can ahead of time and then bring a variety of stuff based on that. “Pop/rock” could mean anything from a clean, piano-like tone, to a crunchy amp thing with some pedals with a DI blended in, to a funky old hollow body…

    Essentials in any situation would be properly set up instruments that play in tune, good sounding strings, and an open mind and good attitude. :^)

    Also, I see you’re in Brooklyn. Stay safe tonight!!
  4. Makatak


    Apr 13, 2002
    New Zealand
    A perfectly set up shielded Jazz Bass with new strings is about all I usually use , if your talking a studio situation dont even worry too much about an amp , just go straight into the desk ! Of course tee it up with the engineer/producer first to make sure thats all thats required .
    Plus I think its a whole lot more fun and better communication with the engineer in the control room rather than being isolated in a lonely `ol booth !
  5. Dan Bozek

    Dan Bozek

    Aug 3, 2011
    Outside Pittsburgh, PA
    Endorsing Artist, D'addario Strings
    True dat, unless you’re tracking at the same time as a drummer. If that is the case, I usually prefer to be in with the drummer with iso-phones or something so that we can make eye contact and interact, well, the ways that drummers and bass players normally do.
  6. 2behead


    Mar 8, 2011
    Avalon u5, Reddi, awesome sounding properly set up (not to be confused with expensive) bass. and ether purchases or beg, borrow, steal (not really) and old tube amp. B-15, V-4, Marshall, B-25 ,SVT, or some ghetto as F%^(* looking but sweet sounding amp. I have a old hot rodded film projector that kicks ass. My brother has a late 1950's phonograph as his recording amp for guitar and he makes a decent living doing this. If you, your bass and DI are all pro, don't be afraid to toss in a gross looking amp into the mix if it sounds fantastic. Your di signal will provide the clarity you need, A little dirty goes a long way. Good luck.
  7. Dan Bozek

    Dan Bozek

    Aug 3, 2011
    Outside Pittsburgh, PA
    Endorsing Artist, D'addario Strings
    You know, REDDIs and Avalons are great, but to be honest, at least for me, I don't carry that stuff to a session. I usually trust that choice to the producer/engineer. They typically have a signal path for the bass DI that they like best anyway.

    I guess it would be a different matter if you were planning on recording yourself regularly, but I wouldn't consider an expensive DI as an answer to the original question.
  8. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen

    Mar 25, 2005
    You said it RIGHT.
  9. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I have never been in a studio where I was allowed/asked to bring an amp, or even a DI. It might look cool hanging out of your gear bag and give you some street cred to have a REDDI or a U5. But more than likely you won't ever whip it out. They will tell you where to plug in. Just plug and play. If this studio is at "the next level" then they will have a preference of signal path for bass already in mind. Once you get to be a big shot, you can walk in with whatever you want and tell THEM where to plug your cable. But for now, just be a pro and worry about your bass.
  10. pbass2


    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I used to schlepp my REDDI to sessions too, but eventually I just went back to using the studio's DI and whatever lovely pre they ran me through. I do always keep my JDI in my bag though, and it has saved the day a few times(most notably when my REDDI freaked out once and started sounding like an Octafuzz...;)

    Are your two Jazz basses different in some fairly significant way sonically? For example, if one has rounds and one has flats, that would be a great way to go. Always nice to show up with at least two DIFFERENT sounding basses. See what the studio has too--if they have a "house P" for example, borrow or rent some kind of quirky hollowbody or something, and bring your two Jazzes (with different strings)
  11. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    I just bring my basses and cables for studio work. Usually a J and P. If the studio uses an amp it will most likely already be there, dialed in for their room, and part of their normal set up. Same goes for the DI or whatever preamp they may use. A pre-session phone call to the engineer and/or producer is always a good thing in the event they may need to you to bring some specific effect pedal. But nowadays they can add all that in the mixing process with plug ins. In my case, 100 times out of 100 we just capture a good clean bass track thru a pre amp of some sort so a bass and a good cable is all I need. Your music may vary.
  12. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    A clean, quiet instrument set up with fresh strings that have been seated in and in tune with itself up the neck is the primary requirement. Call ahead to see if they want to DI or mike, and if miked, if they want to use the studio amp or bring-your-own.
  13. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen

    Mar 25, 2005
    Looks like everyone chimed in, but since it's addressed to me, I suppose I'll take a shot at it. ;)

    From my experience, a good P, a hollow body with some thump to it (with flats), then a J or something else (Ripper?) as long as it has some slice. If you want to be flexible, try to span the gamut between vintage and modern, and three instruments like that will do it for you. I usually bring two P's, one with flats one with rounds, a J or similar, and one or two hollows that sound very different. I bring a DI because sometimes the studio's DI's really suck, and if you want an edge in your tone, take responsibility for that possibility that your DI might make a big difference. I'd also suggest that you bring an amp that's more vintag-y or crusty than that TC one. A few useful pedals (a good overdrive, maybe an octave, a chorus, that kind of thing), and a good tuner. Some quiet cables. Done.

  14. thanks for the advice Justin! and thanks to everyone on here!
  15. P, J, clean DI (U5), warm DI (REDDI). after that i would look at flats and rounds for contrast as well as a quirky bass for color. speaker sims are nice too. it depends on your genre(s) and budget. my main approach is to really get the most contrast and range out of what i have while still remaining classic.
  16. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    Hi Justin,

    Since you listed it first, do you prefer to use a Precision for session work? (vs say, a Jazz?)

    Do you find that producers tend to prefer one over the other? I've done some recording and would like to do some more, and I know that Fenders are pretty much the way to go, but don't know if I should get a Precision or a Jazz. I'm definitely more a P-bass guy but don't want to get turned away for not having a Jazz (or the opposite if I got a Jazz), so I thought I'd ask you (being a pro, both producer and bassist).

    Thank you!
  17. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen

    Mar 25, 2005
    Absolutely. 90% of producers I work for will hands-down opt for a P bass.
  18. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    Thanks for the reply. I had no idea Jazz basses weren't more popular.

    Btw I saw you with Beck on The Tonight Show, awesome performance. Especially loved the bass on Waking Light.
  19. 90% of session stuff I do lately has been G&L SB-1 with a fresh set of strings into the B-15. Most engineers smile really big when they see the B15 roll in.

    I do carry a basic DI box just in case, but never use it, as most places have an Avalon or some flavor of LA2A chain gang going on.

    That other 10% ? well those sessions are just, well, different.

    Most places will have whatever pedal or effect you need.
  20. +1