also,do you have to be in a band or play out alot to be one?or can you be a soloman?
Becoming a session player takes a huge amount of knowledge of music, theory and technique and a whole lot of the right connections. It would help if you could sight-read sheet music as well.

Like almost everything in the music business, doing it successfully takes a whole heap of luck.
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“A man who mistakes secrets for knowledge is like a man who, seeking light, hugs a candle so closely that he smothers it and burns his hand.”

What does it take to be a session guitarist?

The ability to play the guitar to a professional level.

If you need to ask, you probably can't do it.
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You have to be pretty damned good. Look at some of the famous session guitarists like Larry Carlton and Brent Mason. They have chops.
To be a session guitarist, you need to be able to sightread music (no, not tabs, sheet music), play pretty much every genre, and play it all damn well.
1. Keep time. Nothing is worse than being out of time.

2. Have a good ear. After being out of time, this is the worst thing that can happen; A session musician asked to come up with something, who can't come up with something on the spot. This means you need to be able to improvise, not just a quick scale run, but be able to have someone say "I want a peppy, upbeat reggae riff to this time signature" and you can do it within five minutes.

3. Be a chameleon. A session man has to cover more than one genre. Take Steve Lukather for example. From Jazz to pop to rock to metal to funk and everything in-between, the man's done it. Phil X is another one; He's done pop work, and then he's done Rob Zombie. You have to be able to do everything and do it well. Sure, you can be kind of okay in genres you're not uncomfortable with if they have a better guy for, if they have Danny Gatton reincarnated, you're not getting the call for a country spot unless asked for specifically unless he's sick, but in the event he comes down with the flu on the day Brad Paisley walks in and wants someone to have some head cutting with someone on a song, you still need to be able to hold your own.

4. Going with #3, have a rig that can do everything. If you have a single humbucker superstrat into a modded marshall with a boost pedal and nothing else, sure, that's great for rock. Hey, this guy who's a high-profile pop artist with a lot of reggae influence just walked in. You're the only guitarist here, and his band's guitarist broke his hand on their last tour, so he needs you. Everyone else brought their rig home for the day, so you're pretty screwed. You can have some one-ended gear, yes, but you need something to cover the iconic bases, you need your strat sounds, your tele sounds, your Woman Tone, your Brown Sound, your cliche AC/DC rock tone, your wah, your fuzz, your overdrive, your delay, etc.

5. Chops. You can't go into the session business without being able to back up your talk. I'm not talking play Yngwie or Jason Becker to make a point. I'm talking if the artist of the day asks for something like that, you can make it up on the spot and it doesn't invoke copyright infringement.

6. Conversely, humility and simplicity. Nine out of ten sessions aren't going to have you trying to shred your ass off. Usually you'll be playing a nice comfy chord progression, and if you're playing a solo, it's usually not going to be a super technical one, it's going to be one that compliments the song. If you're just wanking away, yeah, you'll be on the record, your track is just going to be mixed at -80 dB.

7. Timing. I just say this again because I can't stress this enough; If you can't lock in and make something swing, if you can't keep with the song, if you can't make it groove, you're worthless to the session. As the saying goes, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

Edit: READ MUSIC TOO. It's not a requirement, but I'll tell you now that if the other guy can play good enough, even if you're blazing, if he can read sheet music, and the professional grammy-winning songwriter the artist brought in who writes all their music out in traditional sheet music can hand them something and say "Play this" and they say "Okay", you're out of a gig.

I'm probably missing a lot, but from what I see, read of, and read from a lot of session musicians since I'd love to be one myself, that's the general gist.

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Last edited by necrosis1193 at Aug 31, 2010,
^ lol @ the speaking english

Basically, if you think about it logically you had to be a to learn - meaning you have to read notation, no one's gonna pay you if someone has to teach you the songs, then they would just get that person to do it - as well as play anything they give you. meaning they have to have enough confidence that you're advanced technique wise to do so. Even session members in bands for pop artist who play simple music are some of the most skillful and well known musicians, because the performance has to be at its finest, and they're going to hire the best in the business no matter have difficult the music really is. because of this, your tone, articulation, and playing style are very important. In some cases your expected to add your own input to songs, ie. licks, solos, and in other cases you may even write a song or two.

to be a session man you need to build your reputation. which you'll either have to do by making yourself successful in your own bands, or by earning a major music degree.
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Session guitarists are a dime a dozen, down in Nashville they got guitarists out the ass. You have a much better chance if you can sing well, or are good on keyboard.
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