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TheOneTrueMatt 5th August 2005 11:13 PM

Getting into Session Work?
Hey, this is my first post here, and I think this is the appropriate forum (session politics mentioned in the description) also haven't found anything on this doing searches so here goes.

Can anyone give me some general advice on getting into session work? I'm a guitarist, and I'm thinking in the next year or so of moving somewhere like NYC (well, probably NYC, I just love the city and have family out there) and would like to try to get into session playing.

I've heard it's a very word-of-mouth based thing, so it's tough to get in, but once you get in you're in good shape. I've got a good attitude and am easy to work with, and I've got plenty of chops (and lots of general musical knowledge, BA in Performance) but I haven't a clue as to where to start to try to get into it.

- Matt

Bob Olhsson 6th August 2005 12:43 AM

Take lessons from a session player! Book some live gigs and hire session players to play with you. People need to have enough experience playing with you to trust that you won't screw up a session.

It's all about who knows how good you are when a schedule conflict comes up.

Musiclab 6th August 2005 01:20 AM

The NY session thing has dried up. You can make a living if you hustle.

TheOneTrueMatt 6th August 2005 03:00 AM

Bob - that makes a lot of sense. How can I find out who regular session players are?

Musiclab - I'm not sure I know what you mean. Do you mean that there's diminishing demand for players? Or studios have regular session players and don't need many new ones?

scott petito 6th August 2005 12:22 PM

like no session scene in NYC is closer to the truth.....maybe a couple of jingle houses here and there....the real NY scene really stopped in the late 80's with a slow decline thereafter......sorry to sound so bleak but some of my friends were among the top NYC players of all time and they just dont do many sessions fact most have there own studios or enough of a rig to cut parts ( many upstate here) and have what work remains sent to them as files the one spot were session work was still happening was Nashville but in recent years I know a lot of top guys who are doing a lot more fishing.... I don't see that changing anythime soon..

Jules 6th August 2005 01:45 PM

You will probably stand a "snowballs chance in hell"...


Studios dont need session players, it's the producers and artists that HIRE the studios that might... and they arent located AT the studios. hittt

Way Of The Heart 6th August 2005 02:40 PM

Matt...What's up buddy?


Studios dont need session players, it's the producers and artists that HIRE the studios that might... and they arent located AT the studios.
Jules makes THE perfect point....that pretty much sums it up.

I am always looking for contacts / players...please shoot me a PM.

I will touch on another idea that was sort of mentioned... I am using two great musicians (hired) for this current record...Each are on a signed work for hire session contract.
I am in Austin Texas...My Guitar player (session player) is in Auckland, New Zealand and the other is in San Francisco Ca.

Both have PT rigs (I am using Nuendo). They record where they are comfortable without the pressure of a producer there. jkthtyrt

I have an FTP site setup where we load virtual sessions.

I don't pay alot but these cats don't expect alot...and most good musicians I know just appreciate playing on a good record that is fitting for them...besides they don't have to leave home.

Now I realize that isn't the 'traditonal' role of a session cat (soundtracks, TV sitcoms, comercials etc.) but like many have isn't the same business anymore (cept' maybe Nashville and most of those cats are smokin' and locked down tight). I had a great conversation with Ace country player Brent Mason once while at the Nashville NAMM show...He just played clubs 'live' for years till someone 'asked' him to record..and it just slowly went up from there. (But it wasn't overnight)

I suspect you have all of your 'tone' basics covered? Tele, Strat, Les Paul, Hollowbody...Twin, Marshall, boutiqe, effects etc etc? (or some combination to achieve those tones?)(sans a POD) advice. Stay where you are or move to someplace you a small high quality computer rig...and become a virtual studio dude. I honestly think someone is going to be a huge success with that idea...(Maybe someone already is) But don't expect to make a living on it right away. peachh


rolandk 6th August 2005 06:28 PM

Sort of on the same topic: when a professional session musician goes in to track a song, how is the music usually presented? is it written out in old school music notation that the musician has to site read on the spot- if anyone remembers, like in Tommy Tedesco's column from Guitar Player magazine back in the 70's-80's, is there a simpler 'shorthand' method (I believe there is a system of this sort in Nashville), or do they just wing it?

I play in an unsigned semi-pro rock band and we hire a few friends who do session work for $50-$100 per song. We give them a demo if possible but they usually end up winging it and doing a great job.

BevvyB 6th August 2005 09:56 PM

Session guys are hired because you can be guaranteed they'll know exactly what your track/song/session needs as soon as they hear it, and totally 'get' what you're saying, and then be able to go beyond that and throw down some crazy **** too, just in case

Great musicians aren't neccesarily great session guys

Musiclab 7th August 2005 12:43 AM


Originally Posted by BevvyB
Session guys are hired because you can be guaranteed they'll know exactly what your track/song/session needs as soon as they hear it, and totally 'get' what you're saying, and then be able to go beyond that and throw down some crazy **** too, just in case

Great musicians aren't neccesarily great session guys

In theory maybe, in reality if you don't give the session guy a real clear idea of what you want and be sure that want you are looking for is this guys style, you could be dissapointed.

Bob Olhsson 7th August 2005 05:50 AM


Originally Posted by TheOneTrueMatt
Bob - that makes a lot of sense. How can I find out who regular session players are?...

You always need to do your homework. There are usually a couple "first call" musicians in every town. Someone at the union can probably tell you who they are.

Unfortunately the demand for session players, or more like the willingness to pay them has declined a great deal and this in turn has caused a pretty significant decline in the studio industry.

audioez 7th August 2005 05:50 AM

become best friends with a producer who cannot play guitar stike
As a fellow musician, who resides in the area you speak of:

from my own experience, I found the most sucess when I concentrated on one skill, engineering. This put me in the right environment to be around "the peeps" on the other side of the wall per say. Meaning people who I perceived as being sucessful in the music business.

At the same time while acting as the engineer while flying under the radar as a musician. Their comes a moment where your talents are called upon, and then you shine. freshflowe

My path into the music business was through recording studios, what's yours?

TheOneTrueMatt 7th August 2005 06:56 AM

Wow, thanks for all the great info. Really sounds like the climate has changed in the recording business. I thought about trying to get into engineering, but as much as I love recording at home (Sonar, MOTU) and definitely want to learn a lot more, I really do love recording, it's still a far second to my writing/playing. A big part of my interest in session work was as another possible way to make a living (a better one than teaching guitar, which I do now) if my own writing/performing never brings in much money. Also, if there had still been a decent session scene in NY, well it'd be a great excuse to live there, which I'd just like to do at some point in my life anyway. I'd probably enjoy working in recording (though the "stupidest things heard in a session" thread makes me question that) but I don't know if it'd be hard for me to get an internship or anything since it sounds like most interns I've heard mentioned here went to school for engineering.

I don't really have my bases covered that much as far as the gear goes right now. I have a pretty versatile rig (Mesa Triaxis, probably getting a Vai Legacy soon), but my guitars are less versatile (ESPs, more just geared towards my original material right now), and obviously still missing lots of the true classic sounds.

I will keep building my home recording rig, mostly because I can't stop heh
But I guess I'll have to rethink the whole move-to-nyc-and-break-into-session-work-on-pure-skill-alone thing.

Hmm, or maybe just go back to my ridiculously ambitious plan to become the world's next great guitar icon cooge

preben 7th August 2005 01:47 PM

The way Rodney Gene describes ftp-session work is pretty much the way I do most of my session work these days. It's really efficient as soon as you get a bit of a thing going with a producer and you know what they mean when they say 'jangly' or 'twangy' or 'rocky' whatever. It's ALL about knowing eachothers points of reference.

The way I normally work with producers is that they ftp me a stereomix of the track without guitar, another stereo track with whatever guitar ideas they may have come up with themselves (this is not always the case but some non guitar playing producers still like to noodle). Then a couple of points of reference - maybe an mp3 snippet here and there and off we go.

I am reasonably fast at recording these things so usually within a couple hours (depending on schedule) the guitar tracks start pouring in onto the producers harddrive and pretty soon he or she has a complete library of guitar tracks that (hopefully) fits his song and his ideas. And while all this is going on he can be at the Diner, he can be comping vocals or whatever - so in that respect it is very efficient. Obviously different to being there working in person with the producer - some times it works some times it doesn't... (so in that respect it IS a bit like being there working in person with the producer).

The only downside is that apart from having all the great guitars, amps and effects that you need for this you ALSO have to have a selection of microphones (a 57 goes a long way but still), a good preamp and a good converter - and preferably a nice pair of monitors and obviously some sort of DAW. This means that the cost is a lot higher than it would be when you 'only' have to worry about the guitar gear. On the plus side: it's cheap in petrol jummpp

On my website there's a list of my gear which I believe kinda sortof on an entry level reasonably covers most things in terms of guitars and amps (there are a few notable exceptions such as a Rectumfryer and a Rickenbacker 6/12 string but I'm working on that... hey, I'm left handed o.k.? These things don't come cheap! heh )

Personally, I think it's a great way to work and with the limitations that are inherent in the system I highly recommend it - from a producer point of view as well as a guitar player point of view.

Rodney, I've left you a PM.

TheOneTrueMatt 7th August 2005 04:18 PM

preben - does sound like a great way to work, and I'll keep that gear list in mind, and in a few years if I can get my "studio" up to snuff, I'd be all for trying out the remote-session method. And I'd love having the necessary quality of pres/converters/mics for my own stuff anyway, so I really consider it an inevitability. Unfortunately it's definitely a level of gear that I still need to find a better means of regular income before I can afford everything (pres, ADCs) costing > $1k. Maybe I just need to join a band that pays me after gigs. heh

Again, thanks so much for all the helpful replies guys. This forum is great.

9321 9th August 2005 08:45 AM


Do you have a reel? I think you should put something (CD) together with you playing different styles of music or whatever your specialty is. I've found that being able to cop different styles as well as/or having a sound/specialty that I bring has been beneficial for me and I've been living off of session work with minimal gigging (maybe 3 or 4 times a year) The first time I went on the road in 8 years was last year for 3 weeks. Couldn't resist the money and I was getting married.
The Ftp thing is popular as well. But mostly for cats who know what they'll be receiving back.
I'm not sure about buying a 1000 guitars and pedals until you've established yourself, sound, playing, etc. Of course you need something or a couple of things to get the job done initially. But I've seen some top session guys here show up with 1-3 guitars and a Roland effects pedal board (sorry can't remember the name.. is it GTR-1?)
Anyway, I would love to hear what you do as well... Ever think about sunny Ca.? I lived in NY and Tenn. Came to Ca. and never looked back as far as work is concerned.

TheOneTrueMatt 9th August 2005 06:13 PM

Hey, Time - I'm planning on recording a reel very soon. It's sort of my next big home recording project. I'm moving in about a week and then I'm going to be updating some of my recording stuff and then I'll be recording an instrumental guitar CD with a bunch of tracks of different styles and basically exactly what you described.

As for CA, I dunno. I've never really been there so I guess I shouldn't write it off before visiting, especially if there's work there. Overall if I leave Wisconsin (which I'd really like to do in the next couple years) I'd like to move somewhere with more going on and hopefully some greater opportunities as far as work in music if I can't become a successful original recording artist. Meaning if I can't live off my original work (which I plan to keep doing anyway, 'cause, well, it's what I do).

9321 10th August 2005 03:51 AM


Yea give CA some thought. It didn't work for me in the other places. Seemed like a small pond with too many fish. At least here it's more like a big pond with a lot of fish and you may have a better chance (provided you are good and kool to work with) to get caught.
Good luck to ya and hurry up and get that CD done so we can check you out..

Musiclab 10th August 2005 03:46 PM


Originally Posted by TheOneTrueMatt
Musiclab - I'm not sure I know what you mean. Do you mean that there's diminishing demand for players? Or studios have regular session players and don't need many new ones?

Sorry for missing your question, years ago there was a fairly big session scene i n NY. It was mainly based around playing on jingles. The record work was primarily on r&b , disco, with jazz and rock work not being as a plentiful. The session scene in NY is more rap and hip hop now, not much need for players. The jingle scene which was where the work was has gone away. Most is being done in small facilities with the writer producer doing everything.
Musicians in NY, earn a living by being flexible, doing a club gig, a club date, a session, a rehearsal , a show either on or off broadway, whatever they can.
Hanging out around town and getting known is important. For the rock thing
LA is a better town. And thats where most tours start from

fross 10th August 2005 05:38 PM

Not to highjack this thread, but I'm very interested in setting up to file share with other platforms. I use Nuendo/PC, but need to work with MAC based platforms aswell. Could you Slutz in the know recommend any good articles, references etc. Or perhaps I could call you and pick your brains?
You can PM me.

cajonezzz 10th August 2005 06:46 PM

Things have changed MASSIVELY in the last few years....the first wave for me was when the Linndrum came around in the early 80's.... BAM! there goes the demo work. I took the advice of a teacher at school ( session player in LA) and bought and learned the Linn... I worked while plenty of SMOKIN guys starved. you HAVE to adapt to make a living playing your axe.... even the hot**** guys are scrapping for gigs ( with a few notable exceptions of course )

session work is DEAD. All the jingle stuff that I used to do ( a couple/4 a week in the 80's 90's) dried up with the advent of the home midi studio. I did the same, that's what got me into the AE seat- necessity.

It's about connections and working fast- for the jingle stuff. I've done maybe 3 in the last year. Lot's of two man "production teams" doing the whole thing from demo ( which btw USED to pay, but now the demo is often an "audition" ) to completed product. Money on regional stuff has gone DOWN, and nationals are VERY hard to crack ( not imposssible) and competitive as well. these guys: are one of the big dogs in the area doing nationals. they have a big stable of guys writing and do some cool stuff (that's the Pinback headquarters btw ) they hoe out for big bucks and all play in bands on the side... a very cool operation!

that being said, if your a kik ass player, versatile and/or bring something to the table on your axe that others don't - and are good at networking ( very important ) you can make a living for sure.

The FTP / doing tracks for people remote is VERY doable and very common in my world.... not so much for band/artist things but for the corporate/ film/ stuff.
I use guitar players primarily that way as the guys in my area are a little safe for my tastes... ( I'm a drummer )

bottom line : the whole biz is guerrilla warfare at this point, but if you network and bring something to the table, and work in a professional manner- there is a way to make a living.
EVERYONE I know that is worth their salt as a session player, guys in my "vintage" ( llate 30's early 40's ) that had made a substantial living as a session player ( mixed with live touring gigs ) that are still in the biz.... own and operate AT LEAST a home o dub place to do exactly what we're talking about.
I can count the guys on two hands that make a living only on sessions ( without teaching / gigging ) that's in So. Cal btw. I'm more in the N. san diego/ orange cnty loop , although I do work in LA/ and studio city 3-4 times a month.

If your a good player, get a decent home rig , say an 002 and decent pair of convertors , couple of pre's, and a place to work.... get server FTP savy - then push your sh**t out there. Find and Play with as talented folks as you can- for free if you have to... get a rep and a reel... and it will happen for you!

good luck man... love to hear your work.