How to Support Your Team as a Session Musician

Article by: Alessandro Lani & Philip Garcia
VQS Advice Blog | Cover Image by fauxels


Learn how to thrive as a session musician today!

Many music creators are now focusing on recording sessions: recording music at home, or in a studio for other artists. This article is dedicated to all the musicians that weathered the storm of the recent quarantine. Session players are a crucial part of any music project’s success by bringing the team up and supporting them. Here are our top 5 tips on how to shine and thrive as a session musician today.

1. How versatile are you?

photo by Music HQ

One of the best advantages a musician can have when playing with others is versatility.

I remember when my teacher told me: “we’ve studied too much hard rock and heavy metal… let’s focus on something else.” That was a turning point in learning my instrument. Being able to navigate different styles of music and not just the ones that are most familiar to you, will make you a greater asset to your project and team.

The more we learn and grow, the more opportunities for you to collaborate with others and make amazing art.

Let’s say an artist you really like is looking for someone to play the trombone on their next song and you would LOVE to, but are unsure how to play the trombone! You never know what your next session is going to be like, and by being prepared for anything the group will throw at you, the more rounded you will become. Challenge yourself to try something new the next time you want to pick up your favorite instrument, it might just be what your next team will need!


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2. What Skills Do You Need?

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You need to be more than just good at playing your instrument if you want to have a successful recording session.

Consider improving the following:

  • Good reading skills
  • Strong knowledge of harmony
  • Strong knowledge of theory
  • Ability to recognize harmonies, melodies, and chords!

You want to have as many skills as possible in order to boost your team to where they need to be. If all the time is being spent teaching someone something, that valuable energy is not spent collaborating to make something shine!

Make sure you bring up what skills you do have that could contribute to enhancing the song. After all, the bottom line is the success of everyone.


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3. How Can You Empower Your Team?

photo by Levi Guzman

Remember that music making is a team effort!

The artist or the producer who gives you the gig is usually the one who will direct the project. Be open to fulfilling their requests, no matter how crazy you think they are. Your role is to help elevate the song for the team, so do all you can to be helpful.

If you think you can’t do exactly what’s being asked, make sure that you communicate this clearly and find new ideas to serve the project. Lean into your team for help. They will appreciate your initiative and honesty.

4. How to Serve the Song What it Needs to Succeed

photo by Kelly Sikkema

What does this song need to reach it’s full potential?

Does it need a drumbeat here? Does it need a flute there? This is where knowing how to play different genres of music is a phenomenal skill.

It is your job to take the song off the page and create musical emotion that fits the style of the song.

If you know how the style works and you spend time learning the different kinds of phrasing, sounds, and tones, you will be comfortable going through the process of recording. Doing what’s best for the song and your team will win you more callbacks!

5. How to Build Confidence as a Musician

In the middle of a recording session, you might have trouble recording a part or developing an idea for a section of the song. But make sure you aren’t pressuring yourself to know everything.

When you find yourself nervous about your abilities, close your eyes, laugh it out, take a breath, and restart. Your team will be right behind you.

Every member of your team has a role that they must play, and while it is great for session musicians to know a lot, it is up to every member of the team to help lift each other to their full potential.

Summary:

Congrats on getting this far! Now is the time to add as many skills to your arsenal! What steps will you take to expand your knowledge and help out your team? We’d love to hear from you!

Article by: Alessandro Lani & Philip Garcia
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