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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Traits Of A Studio Musician

In August, a book that studio bassist Paul ILL and I wrote will be published entitled "The Studio Musician's Handbook." It's an inside look at everything there is to know about being a studio musician, including how much you can make, how you become one, what it takes to become one, and what's expected of you. There's also a DVD included that takes you inside an actual Hollywood session so you can see for yourself what it's like to be a studio musician.

Here's a brief excerpt from chapter 5.


You’ve got your first session, now how do you keep them coming? First of all, here are the traits that you find in all studio musicians.

Traits of a Studio Musician
Great Chops
Great Gear
Easy To Work With
No Ego
Takes Criticism Well
Proper Studio Etiquette

Let’s go over these one by one.

Great Chops
Studio musicians are expected to be creative, extremely versatile, and have a formidable skill set. They are usually the best musicians in town in terms of plain physical dexterity, and are able to play numerous styles convincingly. Your ability to read music will determine the type of sessions you can play on. For record dates, the ability to read and transcribe lead sheets is essential, but many other sessions like jingles and television and movie scores require expert sight reading.

To illustrate the reading abilities of session players, here’s a story about the late Tommy Tedesco, one of the most recorded guitar players ever and charter member of the famed Los Angeles studio band The Wrecking Crew during the 60’s and 70’s. Tommy was playing on a Jan & Dean date when as a joke, singer Jan Berry turned Tommy’s music upside down on the stand. The take started and Tommy proceeded to play the backwards score note for note. A frustrated Berry yanked the page off the stand and said, “You’re just showing off!”
"...the town is full of guys who play great, so that’s not even on the table. You have to find people who are doing what you want to do and connect with them, and when your shot comes, don’t screw up! It’s as simple and as cold as that."
Studio guitar player Gary Solt
"You don’t have to tell them (studio musicians) what you need, they just automatically go there. When you have to explain to someone how to make something feel better, it becomes a hard place to have it come from if you have to wrap your head around it first. As soon as you have to think about it you’re going to miss part of it anyway. But you can get there, you just have to listen and practice and always pay attention to it. For example, if I have Chad Wackerman on drums, I can tell him to lay back one more hair on the beat and he’ll know what I mean, where with younger players there’s only ahead of the beat, behind the beat, and on the beat. For advanced players there’s a hundred variations of all of those places."
Producer Frank Fitzpatrick
You can read more about The Studio Musician's Handbook on the excerpts page of my website. There's also a brief excerpt of the DVD there as well.

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