What are Session Musicians?Session Musicians are instrumental and vocal performers whoare available to work with others at live performances orrecording sessions.Session Musicians are not permanent members of a musicalensemble.
What skills do they require?• Versatility is one of the most important skills of session musicians.• Session Musicians may have to perform in a range of different settings.• Session musicians are expected to learn parts rapidly.• Session Musicians should be skilled in both sight reading and ear training.
Does the term apply to ALL music genres?The term is applied not only to those working in contemporarymusical styles such as rock, jazz, country, R&B and pop but alsoclassical music.
What TYPE of work do they do?• Session musicians are used in any situation where musical skills are needed on a short-term basis.• In recording studios to provide backing tracks for other musicians in recording studios.• For Live Performances.• Recording for Advertising (Jingles)• Recording for Film and Television.• Performing for Theatrical Productions (PIT work)
Session Musician History• In the 1920s and 1930s record companies had their own "studio bands"• They turned out records of the latest pop hits.• They were made up of jazz and dance band musicians.• They were members of regular working bands and divided their time between studio work.• They worked on recordings as well as broadcasting.• They worked in studios during the day.• They worked on live performances in the evenings.
Session Musicians “Notoriety”• They rarely achieve popular celebrity.• In some cases they have to negotiate a “name check” on an album.• Notable exceptions John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page, who were session musicians before Led Zeppelin.
Notable Session BandsBooker T & The MGs were the house band at Stax records in Memphisduring the 1960s an 1970s playing behind Otis Redding, Sam and Dave,Isaac Hayes and The Staple Singers.The Wrecking Crew based in Los Angeles, recorded hundreds of hitsongs and albums since the 1960s.The Funk Brothers were session musicians who performed MotownRecords recordings from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section is a group of Alabama-based musicianswho have backed up some of the most storied acts of the 60s and 70s.
Session Musicians In The UK• LCGC (London Community Gospel Choir) have provided singers for sessions consistently for the last 30 years.• Monopolized by a very small group of players who perform on most of the “serious” work (Film, Theatre & Television)
Session Musicians on Session Musicians UKBeverley Skeete Vocals Sung on ... Walk on By (Gabrielle), Its Raining Men (GeriHalliwell), Return of the Mack (Mark Morrison), Millennium, Let Me Entertain You(Robbie Williams) "You have to do what the song requires. Even if youre not a hugefan of the music”Pino Palladino Bass Played on ... Wherever I Lay My Hat (Paul Young), Get Here(Oleta Adams), Alone with Everybody (Richard Ashcroft), Surprise (Paul Simon),Endless Wire (the Who) "Its important to be able to reinvent what you do. When thecall came to play with the Who I was working with Erykah Badu and DAngelo, and Ihad to change my whole style”Karl Brazil Drums Played on ... All the Lost Souls (James Blunt), We Sing, We Dance,We Steal Things (Jason Mraz), Songs for You, Truths for Me (James Morrison)“It doesnt matter how good you are, youre only on stage for two hours max; the restof the time youre at airports or on buses together, so you have to get on."
Session Musicians on Session MusiciansSimon Clarke Instrument: Saxophone Played on ... (as a member of the Kick Horns)Parklife (Blur), Screamadelica (Primal Scream), Connected (Stereo MCs), Want One(Rufus Wainwright), Firin in Fouta (Baaba Maal) “That made all the difference. Thereslots of passionate people in music and they all work differently”Milton McDonald Instrument: Guitar Played on ... Spiceworld (Spice Girls), Light MyFire (Will Young). Tours: Ray Davies and Take That. "Doing this work is 50% ability, andthen all the other stuff: social skills, the ability to listen with an open mind” “Thenwhen Im busy Im busy all the time: my children dont see me, and its hard to haveany kind of home life."
How to become a Session Musician1. Get really good on at least one instrument.2. Learn to read Music! (you will often get called in at short notice and asked to quickly provide whatever music the producer requires. You may have little or no time to practice)3. Record a Demo (you have to promote yourself)4. Create a Resume.• To promote yourself to potential clients.• Any musical education you have received.• Any work you have done as a session musician.• Be sure to constantly update this section as you complete more gigs.• A picture of yourself: For television work, you may be hired as much for your "look" as your playing ability.
How to become a Session Musician cont.5. Hire a Session Fixer - you may want to introduce yourself andtry to get on the books with a session fixer.• Session Fixers are like agents, they are hired by people who arelooking for session musicians.•If a session fixer helps you find a gig they will take a percentageof your earnings as commission.
The effects of digital recording technologyon session musicians It has ended the session industry as it used to be.•Previously you had to go to a a recording studio with veryexpensive equipment which would cost you £100 per hour.•If you wanted a instruments you needed to hire someone whocould play it first or second time.•These people were also expensive, but cheaper than spending awhole day with someone who was less expensive but not asgood a musician, trying to get a useable take.
The effects of digital recording technologyon session musicians cont.• With tape you had to arrange the music carefully and record each sound in exactly the right place in the arrangement or composition.• It was possible to edit multi-track tape and “fly” material in from other sources, but it was easier and quicker to correct from the start.• Digital recording systems mean you can sit at home with a laptop and spend as much time as you like.• it’s now not costing you £100 per hour!
The effects of digital recording technologyon session musicians cont.• You can also cut-and-paste, edit, tweak and move stuff around to you heart’s content.• You can also record first and arrange afterwards: a revolution in procedure that liberates the composer from the constraints of linear tape-based recording. For further information I recommend www.jaystapley.co.uk
Response to the effects of digital recordingtechnology• Many upper & middle price studios have closed.• There is a increase in home based Pro-tools studios.• Several musicians offer “remote” sessions from their own home studios.• Musicians work by exchanging files of their performance via the internet, offering the ability to work quickly, cheaply & Internationally.
Has digital technology made being aSession Musician easier? Pro’s• Session Musicians can collaborate online.• SM’s can make professional-standard recordings at home.• SM’s can record first and compose afterwards.• SM’s can repair faults in performances that were otherwise good.• All these things were difficult/impossible with tape systems.
Has digital technology made being aSession Musician easier? Con’s• Record executives believe that “you can do it all on a computer?”• Budgets have fallen dramatically.• Producers have the ability to change what the musician played but also the basic sound used.• In turn, SM’s have less control over what is released in their name.• An incompetent producer can make SM’s sound like the worst musician in the world.• It is rare for musicians record together in a large live room.