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Questions for the Studio Bassists

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jadenjazz, Mar 25, 2013.

  1. jadenjazz

    jadenjazz Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2010
    Indianapolis, IN
    For one who aspires to be a studio bassist, I was hoping someone in this field could give me some advice. First of all, when I stay "studio bassist", I'm referring to someone who is hired to play someone else's music, and not have much time to prepare before the record button is pushed! (versus a player that goes into the studio to record his/her or his band's own music).

    My questions are:

    1. Which skills are the most vital for this profession?
    a. Being able to sight read music on the fly.
    b. Being able to quickly find a nice groove or bass lick.
    c. Being rock solid tight with the rest of the rhythm players.
    d. Being fluent with many different styles of music (Latin, slap, jazz, rock etc.)

    2. How vital is it to have multiple basses and effects at the ready, or is one "good" bass sufficient to cover any sound or tone that the client may want?

    3. What keeps them calling YOU back for the next session?

    I know a lot of this depends on the music that is being recorded and different types of clients etc. And please don't say "all of the above" :D But, I guess what I am looking to know is a percentage break down of what you do in the studio on a daily basis. (ie 20% playing from a chord chart and just doing my thing / 60% palm sweaty sight reading bass lines / 20% playing exactly what the client is describing for you to play. That sort of stuff...) Thanks!:)
  2. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    Almost no one makes their whole living off studio sessions. You may want to adjust your expectations downward. Significantly.

    B, C, and D are just part of being a good musician. So uh . . . 100% on all of those. They're pretty much prerequisites if someone is looking for a player in the studio. Sight reading is dependent on the scene. If you're scoring films in LA, you're going to be reading almost 100% of the time. Demos in Nashville? Number charts. Originals in NYC? LOL. Studio time is expensive. Your ear, time, and confidence need to be way up. The faster you can nail takes, the more valuable you are, because you're saving the producer money.

    As far as instrument choice . . . Fender.
  3. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Every session is different.

    Some requires heavily sight-reading ,
    Some requires to be creative from a simple chord sheet,
    Some requires to lift the chords and structure of the song in the studio.
    Make sure you keep an open-mind to change your part on the fly and try to decode what the producer or artist is asking from his/her own words LOL

    As for basses, you need a really good one that you make sounds great and even. I always bring my best 5 strings, a PJ-Bass and a fretless. My own tube DI and my best set of recording cables, no cheap cables on a session. Make sure you have a tuner and your basses are in top shape, bring your tools to set-up and change strings in case. It happened to me to change my strings during the same session to keep the bright sound from the bass ( in the 90's) LOL

    Hope this helps and good luck
  4. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    As said most of the things you list are "expected" so it's par for the course. Attitude is what gets you work as a pro....at anything.
    Your attitude is the one thing that separates you from the others and makes them call you.

    Skills sets are pretty standard, as you will find out if you decide to go down this road, because that is what the job involves.
    But having the right attitude to not only what you do, but what others what you to do is the key.
    Think.......why you use the shops, tradesmen, companies etc that you use?

    Remember as session players you all have the same skill sets, so all offering the same service, so the main hire reason is is two fold in this order, availability and attitude.

    You want to be in the top 5 "first call" list if not on a top 10.
    What happens is they go for their first choice if available, if not they go through the list in a set order of preference.
    If you are in a top 5 list, you should always be working, so you may not always be available when needed.
    These lists get shared between studios, producers, MDs etc, and players get recommended to others looking for trust worthy players to use by the people that use them.
    If you cannot get on a call list then you will not really work much, session is about quantity, so being on call lists is a pretty much it.

    But remember its a two way street, if you get a rep for having the wrong attitude and let people down, you can pretty much gaurantee you will be removed and then the phone does not ring at all.
  5. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    +1 for the attitude statement above.
    It is what I meant when I was referring to the open-mind state and decoding the vocabulary of non-musician also ;-)
  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Absolute humility and absence of ego.
  7. jadenjazz

    jadenjazz Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2010
    Indianapolis, IN
    Thanks for the replies and good advice!

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