A career as a session musician has its pros and cons. Sometimes, a few days in a session musician’s life gets you extremely busy; you don’t even have the time to do anything else. Other days, you are relaxing at home, with nothing else at hand but time.
So what does the job description of a session musician entail? What qualities and skills does he/she require? Most significantly, what does the work-life of a session musician seem like? Read on to know more!
Who exactly is a session musician?
In simple words, a session musician is a singer or an instrumentalist who is hired by the music producer, music contractor, artist, record, band, video or film production company for playing during a session, either in the studio or on stage.
The session musician generally is self-employed and does not serve as a permanent musician of an ensemble or band but often goes on tour for months in a stretch.
Every session musician has a specialized skill set that makes him/her uniquely employable. Imagine you are an artist who intends to record a music album that will be played in an array of shows in the U.S. You require guitar on the soundtrack, but sadly… you do not play the guitar…
Well, that is precisely where a session musician comes to your rescue!
Skills required for being a session musician:
When it comes to interpersonal skills, a session musician who is organized, punctual, prepared, flexible and professional is better equipped for a glorious career in this competitive field. Versatility is an important personality trait for a session player. They need to ensure that they remain in the good books of individuals they work with and are the first to come in mind when the need arises. Besides, people and humility skills are also essential- a skilled session musician who develops a good reputation as easy-to-work-with and reliable has higher chances of getting work than the one who is inconsistent, egotistical or unpleasant.
Furthermore, they are required to learn their work quickly and be highly skilled in sight-reading, improvisation, deep instrumental proficiency, and ear training in the professional front.
The work-life of a session musician:
Most of the studio work is acquired in urban cities. The session musicians may pick gigs at the studios all across the city, paying for their transportation themselves. Only the most successful and renowned session player is likely to travel all around the city or also internationally for playing during a session. The studio gigs may last somewhere from one day for recording an instrumental soundtrack to many weeks of recording the album for an artist- wherein the session player may temporarily live with the artist at the music studio. The chances are that the session musician may also be chosen to join the artist’s live ensembles or backing bands and go on a tour as a touring musician.
Finding work as a session musician:
Though in-house backing bands once were common, for instance, Funk Brothers at Motown or the Booker T. & the M.G.’s at Stax Records, many session players now have freelance careers an independent contractor. Until they create a strong reputation in the industry for premium work or turn into a favourite backing musician for a renowned recording artist or producer, a part of each session musician’s professional life is devoted towards searching gigs. Majority jobs are discovered through reference or recommendation, so it’s significant to network with recording engineers, producers, recording artists and even the other session players who might pass on some gigs if they are unavailable.
Being a full-time session musician is not easy. It takes patience and time. People from the industry need to know that you exist, so it’s vital to build a strong relationship with relevant individuals and have lots to offer, musically and otherwise. Therefore, make sure that you are up for the challenges before you think of embarking on the journey of being a session musician.