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Old 04-07-2008, 11:31 PM   #1
Scott Jones
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becoming a skilled SESSION player

First things first...

LEARN your instrument...inside and out...

Not merely how to play it, but about different tones, different textures, unique layers...

Listen to every kind of player...so when a producer, client or engineer asks for a certain sound, you know exactly what they mean...

Learn to read music...

And not merely read, but interpret...so when you see the style marked at the top of the chart as "Bruce Hornsby Feel", or "Rock Shuffle", or "Modern Acoustic Rock"...you'll know how to pull those styles out of your instrument while reading the notes, chord symbols and rhythms...

Learn about and be aware of every other instrument, every kind of player...you may be the one calling the shots on a session...asking the drummer to play a Bernard Perdie shuffle...or a violinist to play more Celtic...

When you feel ready...just go around to various studios with a diverse demo of yourself, and pass it along...play with players who do session work, and if you've cut their gigs, they'll put the word out....

Leave your ego at home...and while suggestions aren't taboo, be very careful not to step on the producer's toes...just do what they ask...give them what they've paid you for, and if you can slip in an idea of your own, make sure it's for the betterment of the projcect, not just an excuse to rip your own thing...

Listen as well as read...did the drummer and bass player decide to change a rhythm or accent? ...then follow them...

Always be ready to totally re-do what YOU thought was a perfect take...it may NOT be what THEY wanted...

Really, it's about relationships, and building trust over time...establish with the right people, that YOU are the go-to guy, and you WILL get work...

DO NOT over book yourself...make sure you set aside the time to do the session and stay til the end...it's great to be busy, but if you send in a sub to your next session, he may wind up with the gig more than you...

Don't steal gigs from other players...if the client likes you more than the guy he's been using, GREAT...but don't go around stabbing people in the back to get work...those people might be hiring YOU someday...

Own, or have immediate access to, many different types of guitars...

Be able to bring:

a strat or strat-like electric...

an acoustic 6-string...

some kind of mandolin or miniature guitar...

know how to use a capo and alternate tunings...

have one guitar available for low tunings, with heavier guage strings...

Also:

Own many different amps or, own one excellent modelling amp...

And think outside the box...

A friend of mine in Nashville told me a story of a session he was on, where the drummer Steve Brewster, made a hi-hat out of two giant crash cymbals...and also in the same session, placed towels on all of his drums for one tune, then manipulated the tracks in a sampler to create some wicked drum loops...

So think like that as a guitarist...how can you use your instrument in a way that's different from the norm?

Also...

Do not be afraid to utilize the recording technology...

In other words, if you've been playing the tune up to a point in an open string, guitaristic key, like G major...and after the bridge, the tune goes up a half-step to Ab major...don't hesitate to stop the recording, put on a capo, roll back and nail the rest of the tune with the more open sound allowed with the capo...it will sound much brighter and clearer than close fretting everything in bar chords, with no open strings...

If you have a difficult fingering that repeats itself, memorize the fingering you will use...it will help you in not getting lost in it...

Whenever you have grace notes, be sure to have the primary notes learned first, then add grace notes...it make it easier to hear the composer's intention...

There may be some charts where you will have many bars of rest before you part...listen for cues, and make them "checkpoints"...for instance, if you have 44 bars of rest until you play, note that the brass comes in at bar 24, (checkpoint 1)...the woodwinds in at 37 (checkpoint 2)...now you only have 8 bars to count after the woodwinds enter...

Be on time...if you are late, even a couple of times, it's over...

Don't be rude or childish to the leader...it only shows off your insecurities...

Don't be rude or childish to the other musicians...the drummer might be the next Mike Portnoy...you never know where your next big break will come from...

Don't let yourself get all wrapped up emotionally if the music you are playing isn't your favorite...it is a part of the business...do your own thing on your own time...

Learn how to follow a conductor...

If there are 2 guitar players on the job, and a part comes up that the other guy is better suited for, let him play it...and listen to each other...compliment each other...don't try to outdo each other...make your blend work to the benefit of the music...don't be a showoff...and don't play in between takes...if you need to "work out a part", turn down and do it quietly, only if it is not a distraction...

If you get into the scene pretty thick, and you are going from date to date...have a cartage company get your gear from place to place...it is often part of the contractor's budget...if not they'll tell you, and you'll bring it yourself...

Thank the leader and the contractor at the end of the date...

Do NOT undercut a fellow player, taking dates from him because you are cheaper...he will not forget it, and you may need him...

Hope this helps,

Scott
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Old 04-07-2008, 11:59 PM   #2
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Nice thread. My hat is tipped to you good sir.
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Old 04-08-2008, 03:30 AM   #3
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Another thing to point out is that should you find yourself composing anything for the session, make sure that you get an appropriate royalty cut for the song, or you could find yourself like Claire Torry, who came up with the vocal melody to the great gig in the sky and only got paid 15.
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Old 04-08-2008, 03:50 AM   #4
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I checked out your videos on YouTube, and seriously, you're up there with Satriani - amazing.

Great guide too, thanks!
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Old 04-08-2008, 04:02 AM   #5
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Good stuff, it's worth pointing out that session work is the most likely source of income for somebody who wants to make money from their instrument. Even if you dream of being in a metal band having a good, all-round knowledge of the instrument and broad musical tastes can be the difference between making a living from your playing.
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Old 04-08-2008, 04:50 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Jones

Learn about and be aware of every other instrument, every kind of player...you may be the one calling the shots on a session...asking the drummer to play a Bernard Perdie shuffle...or a violinist to play more Celtic...


While a agree with the rest of the post, and I agree with this insofar as you should learn about other instruments, there is nothing more annoying than someone who keeps on giving you "advice" on how to play something.
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Old 04-08-2008, 08:12 AM   #7
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Quote:
some kind of mandolin or miniature guitar...

Eep, so it would be best to look into these instruments (I HAVE been thinking of buying a mandolin...)

Anyways, really nice article. A few questions;

The way you say just to pass around a demo at studios; does this mean you wouldn't need any formal qualifications?

And what's the guitar that you play on most of your Youtube videos?
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Old 04-08-2008, 11:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by National_Anthem
While a agree with the rest of the post, and I agree with this insofar as you should learn about other instruments, there is nothing more annoying than someone who keeps on giving you "advice" on how to play something.


It all depends on the situation.

I've been the leading, directing member of a group of world-class musicians for years and they LOOK to me for direction.

However, if I'm just "on the gig" I never give unsolicited advice.
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Old 04-08-2008, 11:57 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.A.M
Eep, so it would be best to look into these instruments (I HAVE been thinking of buying a mandolin...)

Anyways, really nice article. A few questions;

The way you say just to pass around a demo at studios; does this mean you wouldn't need any formal qualifications?

And what's the guitar that you play on most of your Youtube videos?


I believe in passing around demos.

If you have a talent, it will speak for itself.

The guitar on the videos is my FGM Ibanez. Which I rarely play anymore. I now play my Fender HM-Strat. I modified my Ibanez into a hybrid fretless/fretted guitar a couple of years ago. It's fretted to the 5th fret and fretless past that. that way, I can play 99% of any gig on the lower 1/2 of the fretted side, and solo past that on the fretless side.

In the videos, it was still fully fretted.
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Old 04-08-2008, 02:46 PM   #10
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why just bring a strat, maybe they are looking for a different sound like les paul for example.
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Old 04-08-2008, 03:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by radiantmoon
why just bring a strat, maybe they are looking for a different sound like les paul for example.


Absolutely. If you can bring a few guitars of varying tones and pickup configurations, all the better.
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Old 04-08-2008, 04:51 PM   #12
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Wow, this stuff looks pretty helpful. This is pretty much the career I'm aiming for. I'll keep all this in consideration.

I've got my mini-guitar thing down too. Yay ukulele...

A while back my school was doing a production of Fiddler on the Roof and my band director asked me to play bass. He hired a guitarist who told me a couple of the same things you did, and played guitar, uke, mandolin, and to some extent bass himself. Aside from recommending that I record an album of solo jazz uke(lulz), he did mention to try to get out there as much as possible. Jam with as many people as I could and make as many friends in high places as I could. I must say, I thoroughly the insight your threads give me.
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Old 04-08-2008, 04:53 PM   #13
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Scott, thanks for these articles - they're excellent and I've found them very helpful. Keep them coming if you can!
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Old 01-06-2013, 04:15 AM   #14
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This post seemed helpful when I first posted it. Since there are many new members here, I wanted to make it available to them as well.
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Old 01-07-2013, 01:25 AM   #15
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What kinds of stylistic or technical "must do's" should be represented in a solid demo for session work?

Any particular advice for commercial music/composition?
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Old 01-07-2013, 12:19 PM   #16
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Be on time...if you are late, even a couple of times, it's over...


good points scott...

I always arrived 20mins or so early and was set up by clock in time..if there was a chance to see the charts ahead of time I would look for difficult passages and work them out ..

my "session guy" gods...howard roberts , jim hall, joe dioreo, ted greene..all stressed confidence...many players could fall on a chart well within their reach because of lack of confidence..
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