Maybe you are a solo artist or singer-songwriter getting ready to head into the recording studio. You might even be a band or a producer who is guiding the project and keeping things on track. Whatever the case, you are part of a music project that is preparing to enter the studio to record a demo, EP, or full-length album. You have the composition and arrangement of your songs that you spent countless hours working on with your personal recording setup 90% completed. You have rehearsed all your parts repeatedly to minimize re-takes and overdubs. However, there is one key piece missing. You need a human drummer to play that drum part that you hear in your head. Or you might need that awesome guitarist to shred away on a solo for one of your songs, or you just might need a solid and reliable session bassist to hold things down in the rhythm section. Sounds like you are in need of a session musician.
As a musician, you may even know a handful of people that can play guitar, drums, or even bass. But are they the right people to perform on your album? Your friend who plays guitar might know how to play his instrument pretty well and can shred some great John Petrucci-like solos on his YouTube channel, but how experienced is he with recording to a metronome? Does he have suitable gear that is studio-ready with good intonation on his guitar, fresh strings, or new drumheads if he is a drummer? Can he show up on time? Music studio costs can add up quickly, and you are going to want someone to perform on your album who will produce results and not argue with you while you are on the clock. Solo artists, musicians, or producers should focus on hiring a session musician that understands the vision of the project and brings a positive attitude to the musical endeavor. Hiring an amateur will only result in… you guessed it, an amateur result.
As a musician, I have been on both sides of the session business. I have hired session drummers, pianists, and guitarists for previous projects, and I have been hired as a session bassist to support various projects. Having been on both sides has enabled me to provide some advice to musicians who may require a session musician.
First, consider hiring a professional session musician. A professional session musician will take the job seriously, be efficient with their time (and yours), and have a good understanding of music theory. They should also have quality gear that will sound great on any recording. A professional will be practiced at quickly learning the songs with a chord chart or by ear. He or she will be able adapt to changes in the song structure or arrangement quickly while an amateur may need extra time to learn songs and lack flexibility when time and budget are critical.
Second, hire someone who has a great attitude and is a good person to be around. Studio sessions can be very long and stressful. You want someone who is polite, ethical, and positive to help make the sessions go smoothly. There are enough personality dynamics within bands, and bringing in someone who will get along with everyone from the producer to the artist will only make the recording studio environment a better place to get work done.
Last, but certainly not least, hire someone that has a clear understanding of the artist’s vision for the project. It’s about the artist and the song, not what the session musician wants to play; if your session player is insisting on playing slap bass-lines to your Top 40 ballad or doing unnecessary blast beats on the kick drum, you may have chosen the wrong session player.
Rather than showcasing all of his or her talents, a good session musician is there to support the artist. Hiring a professional session musician varies in price range but is worth the investment if you are serious about your project. Satisfying the client’s requirements is a key part of this process. So if you are in need of a session artist, just keep this in mind… hire a professional with a good attitude that understands the artist’s vision, and you will be on your way to achieving your goals for your musical project.
Jay Glaspy, the owner of Xeones Bass in Washington D.C., is a focused, passionate, and driven session bassist with his own unique style. He has over 12 years of experience in session work, live performance, songwriting, and music production in numerous projects. With influences ranging from Tool to Prince, he is versatile in multiple styles from Rock, Metal, Alternative, Jazz, Blues, country, and R&B. Jay approaches each project as unique and strives to give every project 100% commitment to support clients’ musical endeavors.