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Hey, Pro Session players! some Questions

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by mambo4, Aug 24, 2007.


  1. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    Apologies if this is the wrong forum for this

    We have all heard stories of the pro session player who shows up unprepared and sight reads the music perfectly on the first take, but I wonder what the REAL experience for a pro session player is like. so some questions:

    How often are you asked to:
    -sight read specific bass lines
    -comp through a chord chart, a few specific passages
    -here's a chart, just do your thing
    -we'll play the track, you figure it out

    How much preparation is typical? do you usually show up:
    - knowing nothing
    - having heard nothing, but knowing genre/artist/expectations
    - having listened to a scratch track once or twice
    - having prepared your own charts ahead of time


    How many takes does it typically take?

    How much perfection is typically expected?
    Are there some imperfections that often go unnoticed?

    Do you get paid on the spot or in the mail?
    Are you union, and if so is it helpful?
     
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'm not a session maven, but I do get asked to play some sessions. Here are my answers:

    How often are you asked to:
    -sight read specific bass lines
    -comp through a chord chart, a few specific passages
    -here's a chart, just do your thing
    -we'll play the track, you figure it out

    I've done all 4 about equally.

    How much preparation is typical? do you usually show up:
    - knowing nothing
    - having heard nothing, but knowing genre/artist/expectations
    - having listened to a scratch track once or twice
    - having prepared your own charts ahead of time

    Again, about equally, but mostly knowing nothing but knowing expectations.

    How many takes does it typically take?

    Sometimes one, sometimes 5 or 6. Generally not past 5 or 6, and that's because nobody in the band knows the song yet.

    How much perfection is typically expected?

    Perfection is always expected.

    Are there some imperfections that often go unnoticed?

    Sure.

    Do you get paid on the spot or in the mail?

    Both.

    Are you union, and if so is it helpful?

    I'm not union.
     
  3. I've been asked to do all 4 of your approaches, but mostly there are chord charts (well, number charts). First or second takes are the rule rather than the exception, and if there are minor issues, we'll fix those and then move on. If it helps, yesterday on my 10:00 session, we recorded rhythm tracks on 5 songs in less than two hours (including overdubs). On Monday, I've got a session booked here at my place - we'll record rhythm tracks on 12 songs - all the keys, drums, percussion and bass (the producer is a guitarist, and he'll take the session files home to finish his parts). It goes fast.

    Typically, the musicians have not heard the songs until we're about to record them - except for whoever wrote the charts. Perfection is expected, though admittedly, things may slip by...

    I typically pay musicians at the end of the session, even when they're union sessions. And yeah, the union as definitely helped to set up a minimum payment for sessions here.
     
  4. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    Jimmy and Dave, thanks for your responses.

    I don't consider myself near the pro league (mainly because my notation reading is too slow) but recent experiences have me surprised at what I was capable of.

    I guess I'm curious about what the realistic expectations for session players are.
     
  5. In my world, at least, they're quite high.
     
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    From my standpoint, the session musician industry is pretty well dead. Even the guys who made their fortune as session musicians have a difficult time finding new sessions because there are way more musicians than paid sessions. To be fair, there are pockets of musicians who do a lot of sessions, but it's usually a very tightly-knit group of musicians who get called for just about everything, and they're not looking for anyone new. And it's pretty much contained to Nashville. There are so many self-contained musicians and performers with their own home studios who would rather sit at home and play the instruments themselves and take all day rather than pay someone to do it for them. Plus machines have put a fairly big dent in the business as well.
     
  7. Ah, the sound of boundless optimism...
    I sure don't think that session musicians are dead here in Nashville, and my best arguent against a 'tightly-knit group of musicians who get called for just about everything' is that I had a couple of projects in my room this week where I knew none of the guys in the rhythm sections for either project, and on one of the projects, there was a new guy... And I've been in Nashville (and playing on sessions) for more than 20 years. There are still guys that I don't know (or know of), and there are still new guys coming in.
     
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Yes, but can any of the guys you've got coming in for studio work make a serious living at it? There's a difference between a one-shot and making a living at it.
     
  9. Yep. The guys I work with make house payments, tuition payments for their children, can pay for their health insurance, vacations with their families and their hobbies - all the things that serious living requires. And at Wednesdays's session, at least, none of the cars out front were more than 3 years old. And this is in addition to some quite lovely instruments... So yeah, this is what we do, and this makes our livings...
     
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well that's good. Seems like the only place in the world that's still happening, though.
     

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