Between the proliferation of home studios, digital music technology, the Internet, and the development of music genres that are programmed rather than played, the amount of session work available, as compared to 20 or 30 years ago, has diminished considerably. The days of live players being used on every session are long gone. Still, there are lots of projects going on that use live musicians, and it's great work when you can get it.
Well put, Mike. Sessions generally fall into two categories. One, where I travel to the studio and lay Bass track(s) with the rhythm section playing all at once and two, where producers/performers/song writers send me tracks to add my Bass part in my home studio. In both scenarios, I always ask for an mp3 demo of the tune(s) and/or charts if available. I'll also often ask for style/approach suggestions including reference songs and/or players. I find prep is important and creates more comfort in both studio and home settings. As a general rule, I also find that simplicity (honoring the song) with a couple of "moments" of ear candy if/where appropriate (to add my own playing personality) is usually what satisfies a customer. While some clients are very precise and communicate clearly what they are looking for, others are not quite able to express this as well so you have to kind of "scope" it out. That's why I often ask about reference recordings or player examples.
While the tendency is to spend more time on tracks I do at home, I figure it's okay because that's kind of a trade-off for no travel time, NYC tolls, parking, etc. Plus, I get the luxury of laying tracks at my leisure in a peaceful and comfortable setting. Another perk when laying tracks at home is that I can often give the client two or three different bass tracks that they can choose from or comp as they see fit.
The bottom line is to give the client what he/she wants and always deliver product that tells them they got a fair exchange for their hard-earned dollars. The customer is always right and if you keep them happy, they'll use you again and also spread the word for you to get more work.
Thanks again for your insightful and informative articles.
I might add, if you don't already have a "studio" kit you take with you; including a couple sharpened pencils, spare strings, etc. don't expect the engineer to be impressed. Being prepared for your session as much as possible will go a long way, even if your chart-reading or technical skills are not 100%.
While the tendency is to spend more time on tracks I do at home, I figure it's okay because that's kind of a trade-off for no travel time, NYC tolls, parking, etc. Plus, I get the luxury of laying tracks at my leisure in a peaceful and comfortable setting.
I agree that it's much easier to work from a home studio, and the results are usually better. Being a perfectionist when it comes to recording my parts, I do sometimes find myself spending too much time — time that could be used on other projects. Still, like you, I prefer working this way.
While some clients are very precise and communicate clearly what they are looking for, others are not quite able to express this as well so you have to kind of "scope" it out. That's why I often ask about reference recordings or player examples.
Good point about reference recordings. Thanks for adding that to the discussion.
Hi Mike, thanks for that article. I've always been curious how to get session work, especially given how much music technology has changed the game.
Given that, I have a question for you and vernbass:
How much studio work do you tend to get (per month, lets say)?
(If you don't mind me asking) how much is typically expected, how many hours of work = how much in fees? I know this is a generic question, but I'd be very curious to hear about a couple real-life examples you've both had.