#1
Hey all, it's been a while since i've been around these parts, and I'm not sure if this is in the right forum, but I have a question for anyone who has professional studio experience
( preferably as a guitarist ):

How did you land your first gig in a studio, and what was expected of you to fulfill the job?

I have complete confidence in my playing abilities, and I've got enough knowledge of theory to play dynamically around key and chord changes, but my sight reading is very choppy.

Currently, I'm planning on working my sight reading skills up to fluency, and then just walking into studios off of the street with my guitar in hand and basically begging for a job.

Any advice?

Thx for any feedback
#3
Quote by theogonia777
I don't think people will just let you walk into their studio though.


Thanks for the link, that is nearly identical to my post, except for the fact that I have no pretense of saying which stop i'm getting off at. Once I start, I'll see how far I can go.

However, to reply to your statement, walking in off the street is exactly what Michael Angelo Batio did.
#4
And then everyone suffered through his tasteless noodling in Nitro and mediocre composition skills and even worse drum programming skills in his solo career. And let's be honest. You know your chops aren't that good.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#5
They may not be that good, but they're pretty damn good.

MAB kind of chops are ridiculously unnecessary to be a studio guitarist... all you need is to be able to play what the studio asks you to play 1st or 2nd try, and most stuff isn't going to be 2 minutes of 16th note arpegios.

I guess I just wanted to ask people what kinds of things they find themselves playing in a studio, and to ask how to get that foot in the door.

From the thread you linked it seems like most people suggest that you have to be in the know with a lot of people, but that doesn't really work out for my current circumstances. Instead, I just have the requisite skills, but I don't know anyone.
#6
the easiest way to get a gig at a studio? make one yourself. nobody pays other people to play guitar for them anymore.
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#7
Okay, valid point, but what's your reason for saying this? Are you involved with studios / the entertainment industry, or are you deducing this based on the current recording culture?
#8
i'm building my own studio because it's more realistic than trying to make money off of my "chops"

i bet there are 20 guys in my suburb alone that play guitar better than you. i guarantee none of them play for a studio because a) there's more money to be made from live performance and b) there's a LOT more money to be made getting a real job

if you want to make money from recording, i'd recommend learning how to engineer or produce and getting your own equipment. if you insist on learning to make money tracking, learn to play every woodwind and brass you can get your hands on with at least university level proficiency.
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#9
Quote by The Flying Whiz
They may not be that good, but they're pretty damn good.


I've heard that claim before.

Quote by The Flying Whiz
Okay, valid point, but what's your reason for saying this? Are you involved with studios / the entertainment industry, or are you deducing this based on the current recording culture?


Anyone with any common sense about the music industry can tell you that. Nobody really needs guitar players because they are a dime a dozen. Probably a ton of guys in your area that are better than you and have a better resume. Like skills really aren't going to get you a guitar gig because everybody and their dog has guitar skills these days.

You also don't seem to have much of an idea about what you would be asked to play in the studio. Do you listen to music? What you hear them playing on the radio is what they are going to ask you to play.

Serious question. Why do you want to be a studio musician?
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#10
It's not like my main goal is to make money, I'm just obligated to do so, societally speaking.

My main goal is just to make great music and share it with the people who are going to really care, and being a studio musician seems like a fun stepping stone in that direction.


For the sake of conversation, let's assume I've got all the skills, like I'm the best guitarist in the world... but I don't know -anyone-.
In that situation, what would you do? Would you try to start a band from scratch, or would you reach out directly to recording studios?
Last edited by The Flying Whiz at Dec 8, 2015,
#11
Quote by The Flying Whiz
My main goal is just to make great music and share it with the people who are going to really care


Being a studio musician is pretty much the opposite of that.

For the sake of conversation, let's assume I've got all the skills, like I'm the best guitarist in the world... but I don't know -anyone-.
In that situation, what would you do? Would you try to start a band from scratch, or would you reach out directly to recording studios?


You go out and meet people that know people, just like it says in the other thread.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#12
once again, you can start recording yourself for a minimal investment. a scarlett interface, ableton live, and a pair of monitors is less than $500. you're going at this the wrong way.
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#13
I already make my own music: ableton, recording interface, check.

Theogonia, are you subtly trolling?

For your consideration: If you never try simply because you think everyone is already better than you, then you're quitting before you even gave it a shot. If, instead, you think positively, like "i have a lot to offer, and I should give this my best effort", then you might find that there's way more opportunity out there than you previously believed possible.

Your pragmatism curdled into cynicism, dude.
#14
We're not saying that we think everyone is better than you. We're saying that we know they are. You have to look at this from the perspective of the producer that is in charge of hiring musicians (aka spending money). Who are you going to hire? The correct answer is the guy that is going to do exactly what you want in the optimal combination of low cost and low time, based on which is a bigger priority.

I mean, you're basically asking for a magic potion here when you're trying to get into serious stuff. It would be wrong for us to not let you know realistically what you are in for.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#15
What have you to lose? Walk into studios and try your plan. You may get lucky and find someone to hire you.

Remember. Studio musicians are highly capable and have the ability to play anything needed on the first try or two. Are your chops that good?
#16
Well, I appreciate the reality check, but I still have complete confidence in my abilities.
Regardless of how improbable it may seem, it's important to believe in yourself even though you're asking for a miracle.

Basically, I've already accepted that this is what I'm going to try and do, come sleet or snow. Thank you for your feedback though, it's been helpful to think about all of this.

Do you know of Takayoshi Ohmura's work? He's a great example of someone who has the skills to pay the bills. Instead of waiting to be as perfect as he is on guitar, I'm just going to go out there and see what I could do. A road sign sure would be nice, though.

KG6 Steven,

thanks for the reply. My chops are great, but it's a constant progression. If they gave me a Shawn Lane solo that i've never seen before and said "play this 1st try" well, i'd be screwed.. but if it was something with more classic rock roots, i'd be fine, or if i had a few days to practice, i'd be fine. I'm unclear on things like rehearsal time, when and how the music is provided, etc. Do you show up, the producer hands you some sheet music and says "play this"? Or would you have time to rehearse?
Last edited by The Flying Whiz at Dec 8, 2015,
#17
People are crapping on the idea because it's not something anyone can do as their only source of income. Even people like Brent Mason still perform, teach, and market themselves constantly.

The thing is... who needs to hire a guitarist? Most of the guitar you hear in commercials is so simple that any self-sufficient producer can strum the chords. If you want to get into studios to really use your chops, you need personal connections and a solid portfolio. People don't get hired on the basis of just being good in their recordings, because who knows how many takes you went through to get the good one.

You remember that Avicii/Aloe Blacc song "Wake Me Up" from a couple years ago, with the acoustic guitar and then the drop into a dance beat? You know who played the guitar on that track? The guy from Incubus. Why him? I have no idea, but I'd wager he just happened to be around that day. That's not the kind of break you're going to get just by being good or having some good recordings. You gotta work the scene, stay active, market yourself...
#18
Everything you need to know was in the earlier thread. Give it a look.

I did session work for about a year in LA and some of my stuff ended up in Home Savings jingles and network TV for a while. A bunch of my friends are still active and did stints on Comedy Central and other shows along with a bunch of recordings you probably never heard.

It's not really about chops, it's about relationships. There are 5000 guitarists in greater LA with pretty awesome chops. Somebody with decision making power has to WANT you in the room. Start making friends with drummers, bass players, sound guys, and get out of the bedroom and play live where somebody might hear you and say "I WANT that guy!" Figure out why someone would want you instead or Luke or Robben Ford. Those guys are a sure thing.

Good luck
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#19
the thing is, you're coming for advice on a forum. if you believe your ideas beat common sense or you might get lucky and land some gigs that aren't over your head - go do it. we can't confirm or deny what will or will not happen. all we can say is, realistically, it's a pipe dream

if you make your own music already, what exactly are you trying to gain from this? why don't you spend this effort on perfecting your own recordings, networking and promoting it instead of wanting a job that (quite frankly) sucks if you're trying to maintain artistic merit

have you ever played with a cover band? i played repetitive, mindless latin top 40 hits all through high school and learned my lesson about where i stand on how far i want to whore myself out to make music a justifiable hobby/side job.
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#20
Once more, thanks all for the responses. It's very helpful!

It's probably true that no one is making a living off of being a session guitarist. I certainly don't expect to: however, I think it would be an ultimately valuable experience as a musician.

Just as a challenge, not necessarily anything artistic.

I would love to do work on soundtracks and for anime / television shows. That would be session work which seems appealing, artistically.
Last edited by The Flying Whiz at Dec 9, 2015,
#21
Quote by theogonia777
And then everyone suffered through his tasteless noodling in Nitro and mediocre composition skills and even worse drum programming skills in his solo career.
Yes, but did he care? Maybe the OP doesn't either.
He only wants a job, not widespread critical approval.
(Although I'm all in favour of throwing cold water on ambition. True ambition will survive...)
#22
I'll preface this with the fact that I'm not a studio player, but as a guitarist there are a few things that will set you apart on any gig:

Doubling/Having a Bag of Tricks (playing mandolin and classical--even if you have to use a pick-- proficiently and some level of banjo, uke and electric bass are essential and no one ever died from learning keys. You don't need to have an impeccable repertoire but you do need to be able to play in any key comfortably, get a full sound, know basic stylistic techniques and be able to read. Know the difference between being able to fake a style and really knowing it eg. If you have one country tune in your set, I can make it sound great, if your whole set is country chances are you'll get tired of hearing my same 8ish tele licks. That being said be able to fake a lot of styles with a high degree of musicianship--great time, the correct sound/articulations and note choices.)

Sight Reading (not a ton of guitarists are great at it. most of the ones who are either A never leave there basement or B play serious film sessions/have a broadway or off broadway show, if your an early/mid career guitarist who does not have great connections yet, chances are few people working at your level--the people who are competing for the 100 dollar one of gig--can tear up a chart with written out voicings, effects changes etc. Theres a difference between "getting through" a situation where you have to read--not getting fired or making any horrible mistakes and nailing it.)

Knowledge of Effects (Have the gear to get a few core--great sounds--and a usable version of almost any electric sound you'd need. A line6 m9/m13 is probably the best investment for this. Know how to program your gear quickly and be comfortable changing settings on the fly--as in with minimal waste of rehearsal time).

Good Time and Ears (More and more gigs outside of bar bands/jazz playing involve playing with tracks. The aforementioned gigs often involve picking up a lot of material on not a ton of notice by ear, possibly on the fly. If your working with a singer you need to be able to be a supportive accompanist--meaning sense their pulse even if they give you a questionable count in--which eventually one will, and then keep a strong and clear beat for them. If your playing with a larger or conducted ensemble you need to watch your conductor for time changes and listen to your fellow instrumentalists negotiated pulse while still grooving and not sounding tentative or lost).

Consistency (Rarely/never making obvious mistakes. Show up on time, have reliable gear, know how to handle yourself if you find yourself in a situation where you are out of your depth musically--which are the gigs you learn the most from-- without making that fact obvious. Know the neck inside and out, don't struggle in the key of Gb, constantly play with a full sound, be able to comp and voice lead through 'tricky' progressions etc). Most working guys aren't the most brilliant players, but are great musicians with outstanding technique, who can give highly consistent performances with minimal rehearsal time (get used to 1 or 2, almost alway less then 4...unless your on a seriously high budget gig).

Anecdotally, I went to workshops with a few serious studio players/pop guys when I was in college (guys who worked with Jill Scott, Christina Aguilera, on the Despicable Me soundtrack and other stuff like that), and the biggest thing they stressed were being reliable and personable, knowing the right people and having impeccable chops, tone, ears and time, and having great communication skills (when a bandleader says 'I need more this and less that' doing your best to understand and provide that, even when they are incredibly unclear/it seems like they are just saying something to say something). Basically be a good player and a cool guy, X out of this forum and go meet some people.
all the best.
(insert self-aggrandizing quote here)
Last edited by tehREALcaptain at Dec 9, 2015,
#23
one thing I forgot to add that I think is important enough to get its own post:
A great way to figure out where you stand and build some relationships is to make a list like this:
If I could have 10 gigs what would they be.
Then figure out who the guitarists are on those gigs, and check out their websites that almost certainly exist. If they teach take a lesson or two with them, and if they'll take you on study with them regularly (/rinse and repeat until you find someone who will). If you don't yet have the chops/or know what you need to know for the gig you want you will learn those things from the person who certainly knows best...and eventually they will get called for something they can't take, or need a sub and all their usual guys will be busy, and if you've demonstrated the required musicianship and professionalism you might get a shot.
all the best.
(insert self-aggrandizing quote here)
Last edited by tehREALcaptain at Dec 9, 2015,
#24
^^ real said it best..."studio" work is like seeing how sausage is made.."ohhh..that's how they do it.." when I was doing it in LA .. it was all word of mouth getting jobs..if you were near the top line players, producers called you first..looking back on some of the top guys in the late 50s .. they set the mold .. howard Roberts tommy Tedesco joe diorio and later larry carlton lee ritenour..and the quality of players that steely dan used...but today its all computer gen sound tracks and modified solos..your image of "walking in" for a job..ahhh..you will be walking many miles..yeah you may be a very good player..who cares..in LA there are thousands who can play note for note every tune on the top 40 list and then some..and no one knows them either..you have to develop a network of musicians who can get you in a studio..the cliché--time is money is what that is about...as mentioned today major work for studio players is in the entertainment field..sound tracks etc..commercials, jingles and of course country .. but those guys are not really human..they can play ANY county tune with all the twang and down home you-alls and in the next breath play fusion or straight ahead jazz..

I keep open to work if some friends need a demo made..but today there are 15 yr olds doing steve vai in there sleep..If as you say your just looking to see what its like, for the experience, good luck to you..my take..join a top 40 band and network with all the musicians you can..do small demos for singers, know all the jingles of current commercials..try the guitar part on the show Jeopardy..know you lick library in all 12 keys..sight reading..take a lead sheet written in the key of G and transpose it in your head to several other keys..and should you ever get a call for a job...not only be ON time..that means be early to set up so note one is played on time-not the set up..

good luck to you
play well

wolf
#25
Remember you don't usually get hired by the studio itself, you get hired by producers who are doing a project or overseeing another musicians sessions. If the studio has a large clientele they may be able to recommend you for projects to the producers who do business with them but ultimately the studio will not be making that decision, the person paying to use the studio will.

Be prepared to accept any work you are offered as long as you are sure you can do it. You'll most likely start playing on jingles, video backgrounds, instrumental background music for advertising projects etc. I suggest you put together a basic demo of your playing ability in a variety of styles (something more than rock) and on different guitars (acoustic, electric, classical). Keep your clips short and focus on your playing and avoid drenching the sound in effects. Get professional business cards made and always have some with you.

One last tip. Producers, agencies or anyone that might hire you will most likely be working on a schedule with a deadline. Make sure you are available if called. It's a very competitive business and if you can't be reached easily or are not available, the people making decisions will have to move on and you won't get a second call until you have a track record and have already proven yourself . Good luck.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Dec 9, 2015,
#26
Thanks for the responses, I've gotten way more than I had hoped for by making this thread.
I'm currently in the transition stage of just being a "good guitarist" to knowing the ins and outs of music. I.e., I'm learning how to sight read and teaching myself all of the subtleties of chords and voicings that I can. Spending a few hours a day doing that, on top of making personal music.

If I make some progress towards landing a gig, particularly based on the advice that I've gotten here, I'll be sure to give some updates.

Yet again, thanks all!
#27
Being a session musician doesn't really require great technical skills. If anything the most work I get out of being paid to record is just rhythm work. Can you read music to a decent standard? Do you have a decent chord vocabulary at best? It's all rhythm work trust me. Then again it depends on the area you're working in, but I do know for a fact that the majority of session work from my experience is just strumming, and arpegiating.


I rarely get asked to do leads. And if I do get asked to do leads it's nothing technical just something that will propell the song forward. I wouldn't even recommend getting into the session musician life.


It's very bland, and there's no creativity involved in it. You just record what people want you to record. That's why the majority of musicians don't even stick to session gigs for an extensive period of time. Join a band it's better you get to do what you want, to do.
#28
This was my experience. Pretty uninteresting work most of the time and not why I learned to play music.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#29
Quote by Black_devils
It's very bland, and there's no creativity involved in it. You just record what people want you to record.


That's why session work as a guitarist is the worst. When people I know ask me to play steel or banjo or whatever for them, it's usually "I want the sound of that instrument. You know how it works and I don't, so just make it sound good," or something of that nature. As such, there is actually a good amount of creative freedom as long as you don't overdo it.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#30
Quote by theogonia777
That's why session work as a guitarist is the worst. When people I know ask me to play steel or banjo or whatever for them, it's usually "I want the sound of that instrument. You know how it works and I don't, so just make it sound good," or something of that nature. As such, there is actually a good amount of creative freedom as long as you don't overdo it.



reminds me of the miles davis approach .. supposedly he told McLaughlin...play like you don't know how to play...good god..there are so many guitarists that would qualify
play well

wolf
#31
Just wanted to point out, as a musician, you are not hired by a producer. You are hired by a contractor who usually deals only with musicians. If you are on a hollywood set, for instance, odds are that you will not even meet the producers, composers, etc.

^Todesco also said something similar about pretending he had never played every time he saw new music. But at the same time, the dude had wicked chops. You need to know what puts you in the right head space to do your thing, but you also need chops at the end of the day.

OP, lots of session musicians will take short cruise ship contracts if the group is interesting and they want to get out of the studio badly enough (these are known acts who sign contracts with ships, not just hired guns who play in the musicals, the swing bands, etc). Cruise ship playing is a great way to get some experience in the more grueling aspects of being a musician, but you can also connect with these people there
Last edited by bassalloverthe at Dec 13, 2015,
#32
I did a lot of session work back in the 70's. I was a touring musician at the time, but during those periods we weren't touring I'd fill in the gaps doing session work. Of course the music business has changed pretty dramatically but I can share my experiences as I think some of it would likely still be relevant.

As a lot of folks have stated, relationships are KEY in getting this kind of work. Your musical resume is important, but being in a situation where you can be heard is also important. When I wasn't touring I'd often fill in with various bands or go to jam nights. The point was to be out there and be heard. More often than not it was contacts from these situations that opened doors for session work. Mostly I worked with studios developing demos and some soundtrack and radio work.

The two things producers commented most often about my playing that made them call me up was 1) I had my own sound. Not just a copy of someone elses, but my sound was distinctive and something they thought would add to their effort, and 2) I had the versatility to play a variety of styles whether it was rock, funk, R&B, or country. This was probably my biggest advantage because they saw me as a way to save money. Instead of hiring two guys to do dramatically different things, they could hire me to do both. I could do a rock session in the morning and a finger-picked acoustic song in the afternoon.

Generally speaking they weren't looking for someone who was going to steal the limelight, but rather someone who was going to blend in and add to the feel of the work. In other words, a good ear for composition and arrangement. Most of the charts we worked from were fairly rudimentary. Different producers had different ideas about how much control they wanted to have over the session musicians. In some cases they wanted expressly and ONLY what they were hearing in their heads so you played exactly what they wanted. Other producers were more open to ideas and would allow some creativity as long as it fit the feel and themes of what they were trying to achieve.

As far as advice, I'd go along with what others have said. Get out there and make contacts. If you're playing with your own band make it known you're willing to fill in with other bands if they need someone. Frequent open mic nights. Once people see you can easily adapt and fit in to different styles of music word tends to get around.

Along with that, develop your versatility and your own distinctive style. The world doesn't need another Steve Vai. But there's a lot of call for someone that can play a range of different styles efficiently.

Be disciplined and available. Listen closely to what people want out of you. Leave your ego at the door and comply with what they want. Add to the song, but don't steal someone's thunder. People like working with folks they can get along with. No matter how boring the work seems to be to you personally, if you're working hard to give them what they want they'll call you back.
#33
Quote by dunedindragon
The world doesn't need another Steve Vai. But there's a lot of call for someone that can play a range of different styles efficiently.


as much as i hate his music, i gotta give steve some props on his early session days. he really was prodigious, or he wouldn't have been playing lead for zappa.
Quote by Kevätuhri
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You win. I'm done here.
#34
Dunedindragon nails it pretty well. His situation in the 70's was similar to mine during that period. I too traveled on road gigs with two different bands and picked up some studio work when I was off the road (though not as much as I really needed to support all the down time.)

You can't overemphasize the importance of being out there playing and interacting with other musicians. They are your lifeline and connection to producers and projects. Just dropping off a demo at a studio and waiting for a call is not going to get you a gig. You need to be seen and you need to interact with other musicians who may recommend you to producers if they get wind of a gig. If you are not out playing in public you limit your chances immensely. Producers like to work with musicians who have worked with each other so they will often hire someone on the recommendation of another player already involved in the session. Does he have your business card and know how to get in touch with you immediately? Often these are last minute calls.

Remember also that the more styles you can play well, the more chances are you will get calls. Personally most of my work was doing radio and TV jingles for advertising agencies. In all the work I did I never was hired to play a lead solo. Expect that most of your work will be playing rhythm so make sure you practice various types of rhythm styles and chord inversions and use a metronome.

One other though, depending on where you live there may be musicians unions or other unions to deal with? I live near New York City and there were times I couldn't do a gig in New York because it was last minute and I needed to be cleared by the local musicians union. I don't know if any of those restrictions still apply or apply where you live but you may want to look into it.

Decent article:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/career-advice/i-want-to-be-a-session-musician-what-will-my-salary-be/article23730865/
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Dec 14, 2015,