A Few Things an Aspiring Studio Musician Must Know

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If you are thinking about becoming a studio musician (a session player), there are several factors that come into play that you must be prepared for. The following are few basic tips for you that might help.

1) Session players generally sight read the material. They usually have never seen the music until the session. And, there is minimal time to practice it at the session because the recording goes along rather rapidly. So, you must be very, very good at sight reading. To do that, you need to do two things: first, practice lots of intervals such as 3rds, 4ths etc. Do some personal technical research by training all intervals to find your awkward hand movement. Train it: fix it. Next, acquire lots and lots of new music. If you’re a clarinetist for example, acquire all of the clarinet music you can find and begin the journey of sight reading. Pick up some flute music; and trumpet, violin music and so forth. Keep reading new music that you’ve never seen. Try to play it properly the first time through. No mistakes!

2) Session musicians most often have to play to a click track. This is sort of like playing to a metronome but the click track actually comes through your earphones. Once that click track starts and the conductor gives the down beat, you’re off and running. You cannot miss a single beat. If so, you might not be able to get back on track, plus, your part has already been played improperly. They will catch it, and rewind to record again, so to speak. Get a lot of practice with a click track. Become very accustomed to it.

3) Often, you cannot hear all sections of musicians through your headphones. It’s possible that there are violins, for example, playing the same section you are but you can’t hear them. You might just be hearing the wind instruments.As a result, you won’t know if you’re in tune with them or others in the session. It’s an established protocol to have a small digital tuner with you. Before the recording begins, check your pitch with it to be sure you’re on to “A 440”.

4) Another thing that musicians forget about is their foot. Yes, I mean the tapping foot. At home, it’s one thing to tap out the beat with your foot but at a recording session that tap might be picked up by the microphones. They’ll catch that at some point and they won’t be happy about it. So, be real careful not to maintain that habit.

5) Be sure you record enough at home so you can keep track of your tone. A recorded tone sounds much different than a live tone. Evaluate your recorded tone as follows: does it have too much breath noise?; does it have to much fuzz and it isn’t clear enough?; are the notes clear on attack?; and, so forth. Be serious about this – sound is your product. If it isn’t good, the studios won’t “buy” you again.

6) Always bring a back-up instrument. You never know when your primary instrument could break down. With only one instrument at the session, this could cause a huge problem. And, they won’t hire you again. Everything that goes wrong costs them money. Not having an instrument to play is probably the worst of all possibilities regarding things that could go wrong for you.

7) If there is a contractor there that has brought you in, be sure to thank that person greatly. It is very important to do your PR work and remain in good grace with the contractors. In a way, they hold your career in their hands.

Of course, there are many more additional aspects to a recording session but I have given you a few basic crucial points to think about. Work on these – perfect your skills. Record yourself at home a lot in the beginning. Listen to your recordings and critique your playing. Be hard on yourself. Be ready for them.

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