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"57 Secrets of a Hit Record"

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"So You Want To Be A Session Guitar Player?"

session guitar player in work

  Dec, The Expert, reveals all!

An Article that explains the lot - is it easy?

The ESSENTIAL tips for success. So you are good at guitar, you like the feel of guitars?  Want session guitar work?  Free advice on session guitar playing, lots of chat, advice on tablature, what happens if you come up against tab.  Do you need mp3?  Search your mind whether you can hack it as a session guitarist, do you love music enough, do you need guitar tuition? What it's like to play guitar with bands, play guitar with artists? Do you know about Guitar newsgroups, how to deal with software, resources, stores, and how to learn to play serious guitar?

This is not meant to put you down ... it is, in fact meant to seriously encourage you, and show you what is required....you could be a top session player...it's only hard work....and perseverance....plus knowledge....mostly knowledge....and it's not all to do with music!

Let's start with a usual question

Free tips session guitarist, session guitarist in work, music, producing, songwriting  <<<<<<<<How do session musicians usually get the music they are to play? Would they get the guitar notation before hand, or would they get given a rough demo of what they are needed to play, or do they just turn up and have to sight-read the guitar music?>>>>>>

All of these scenarios are valid....depending on the type of guitar session you are booked for. You will rarely get music beforehand as this is considered totally amateur. Rarely do you get to hear the rough demo except in a Production Company set up or home studio.

typical session guitarist at work

 TV backing band:

Free tips session guitarist, music, producing, songwriting  Phenomenal sight reading essential ... With the ability to make the first time through the best it will sound. That may sound impossible ... But that is what the great players do. Including phenomenal solos when required. All current guitar equipment is essential, without exception. Plus selection of guitars [acoustic guitars particularly].

session guitar player make money in music   Vic Flick Guitarman ISBN 1-59393-308-8

Excellent dress sense essential plus mandatory black tie when requested. Stunning personal presentation essential.

Huge earnings available as all sessions are Musicians Union rates plus repeat fees etc. Smallest amp possible, that will give every sound, is essential [Marshall JMP1 rack module plus rack FX is best set up with a tiny monitor speaker or earphones.] Punctuality is of prime importance. Being in place and ready to play 15 minutes beforehand is the norm [with new strings on every guitar, except a classical or Spanish guitar]. It lets you settle down and warm up. Be late once and you never get another gig....FACT! Bring a good book! For those "hurry up and wait" times.

session guitar work is easy></td>
                                      <td width= For dress sense awareness and tips/advice on 'looking good' check out 'How To Make A $Million From Your Music' at www.makehits.co.uk

Test: Look at your self in the mirror......ask the question: "If I were Christina Aquilera, would I go to the Brits or The Grammys with 'me' dressed like I am this minute?" [male or female]

 Film/TV Drama music recording: big session with guitar players at work

Free tips for session guitarists, music, producing, songwriting, guitar playing   All of the above with exceptional reading and playing skills .... The fees are huge. But you can face a situation of opening the music book and finding 23 pages of Segovia type Spanish guitar solo ... Could you do that? There is an etiquette involved of not turning over the page, to see the music, until the clock strikes the session start time .... that is brinkmanship....which they all do. I could tell you stories about this that would make your hair curl. That is why they get paid so much. Film score recording studio time is frighteningly expensive. Can be £650 + per hour. So they need the fastest and best session guys. Again, see the Vic Flick book for the hair raising stories!  He played the famous guitar leads in the James Bond film scores.

session guitarist with orchestra

Typical film session - violinists are called Gypsies ...did you know?

Test: Could you play the top line of 'Fur Elise' without a break or without a mistake from top to bottom?  Well could you?

Major Recording Session

Free tips for session guitarists, music, producing, guitar session playing, songwriting  As above but with the ability to improve on what is written without even being asked. Even foresee copying mistakes [mistakes made when the individual parts are copied from the score] and correct as you play along [see more below].  Also it is essential to be able to play in every style with the same ease, without question. Again all current equipment is essential plus guitars. Dress sense is essential, similarly, although casual is acceptable. Rates are usually pre negotiated, although they can be MU [Musicians Union] rates. PPL [Phonographic Performance Limited] royalties will be received on all plays. Essential to register your involvement in every released record.

session guitar playing at it's best

It is also an acquired skill to 'not see mistakes' in the music....they could be copying mistakes, in the guitar music, where the copyist has simply copied a note wrong from the arranger's original orchestral score. This is a skill which all the top players have...there is not enough time in a session to ask or question the conductor .... Although if there is a major copying problem he will sort it. Generally speaking session guitar players just get on with it and correct mistakes automatically while playing.... Even first time through.

Test: Could you play the lead guitar part for Greenday's 'Boulevarde of Dreams' knowing the effect used on the guitar and having that effect available now this second? [talk to me and I'll tell you how]

Mach 1 Guitar

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Production Company session: 

free tips for guitar players about work, music, producing, songwriting  All the above: also much more innovative flare expected. Possibly playing guitar on your own. They only deal in Potential Top three Hit records. They don't take chances.  So, if you don't absolutely LOVE the chart .... forget it!

session guitarist and session work All the info you need re. hit records is in "57 Secrets of a Hit Record" now available. Call +44 1323 728005 [UK 01323.728005]

Test: Could you do this?  "Okay, give me a Hip Hop repetitive acoustic guitar lick....one bar D major, one bar D minor repeated for 16 bars."

Smart answer?  "I'll play the D major lick for 16 bars...play it into Pro Tools ... pick the best bar....edit it until it is perfect and bouncing...then repeat it using cut and paste .... I'll do the same with the D minor lick ... and that way you get a happening, kick ass guitar track."  [That is precisely what I did last week....but then I knew how to do it....do you?  That will be the lead track on a soon to be released major Hip Hop album.]

Of course, the smarter option is to play it on keyboard using a great guitar sample ... but Hey, they wouldn't listen!

Biggest Warning?  Would you have the bottle to play a two bar phrase over and over 19, 20 takes with six guys in the control room still requiring the one more take that has a certain 'magic'? Or fluffing a phrase over and over up to 32 takes?
That takes nerves of steel.

Don't ever suggest: "I've got a better guitar line"... before you hear out and test the suggestions from the producer.  That seriously p*sses off even the nicest, most professional of producers.

Indie Record Company session: 

Session guitarist Free tips, music, guitar session playing, producing, songwriting  Can be as above but usually with a lesser grade of musicians [still stunning - but not top flight]. Possibly playing on your own or overdubbing [playing over the track or replacing one of the guitar tracks] They usually take time to get the feel and sound they want and the guitar parts provided may not be properly written...sometimes no guitar parts .... Essential to bring your own manuscript paper, pencils and rubber. The use of unusual effects/equipment can be a bonus. Marshall equipment essential [always have a Marshall stack you can bring along if required....could be borrowed] . Gibson Les Paul is the essential standard 'heavy' guitar that gives the required results. PPL [Phonographic Performance Limited] royalties will be received on all plays.

Test: Can you sit quietly, look 'the business', do as you are told, not boast about your equipment, or the session you did last week.... suggest to the engineer how he should be doing his job?  Well can you?

the essential heavy guitar for guitarists - Gibson Les Paul  Gibson Les Paul...essential!

guiitarists - there is only one guitar amp to use - Marshall

The only guitar amp to use...Marshall

Home recording set up: 

Free tips for guitar players seeking session work, music, producing, songwriting Where you would start and would get a reputation, hopefully, by being on some quirky Hit records. Almost definitely recording on your own ... just you and the recording/producing guys involved. Much more time spent, in a leisurely working environment. Much more facility for correcting and improving the guitar track/tracks. Ability to accurately multi track essential [playing the part twice, three times or as many times as required on top of what you have recorded].

Much more inventive playing required... As well as being an amiable, easy to work with guy with no time limits [live or die by this]....plus a willingness to do the work for a realistic price. Sometimes, in fact mostly, for a small fee or no fee plus a tiny percentage [make sure it is negotiated with contract written and signed before you switch the studio lights on - too late afterwards]. PPL [Phonographic Performance Limited] royalties will be received on all plays - but you must have your involvement in the recording on PPL files.

Warning: the last thing they want to hear in this situation is: "how long is this going to take?"

It is essential to have a knowledge of the way home studios work as it is totally different to mainstream Recording Company/TV/Film work.

Test: Can you quietly help when the home studio guy runs into problems with the gear, a dodgy lead [how are your soldering iron skills?] ..... the midi circuitry problems [do you understand Midi completely?].  Do you seriously know how to mike up a Marshall Stack? 

session guitarists and session work 'So you're thinking of Recording Guitar'
The most important manual on the latest and best techniques for recording guitar.


session work for guitarists 'How to Make a $Million from Your Music'  Do you know the skills of multi tracking guitars?  Reverse guitar playing using Protools? [check out Rachel Stevens 'My L.A. Ex']


work for guitar players in sessions

Indie session can be anywhere

Mate's home recording set up: 

Free tips getting work for guitarists, music, guitar session playing, producing, songwriting All the home recording knowledge required plus enormous patience and the ability to accept that he will get you a cr*p guitar sound [using your own Marshall JMP1 rack module and FX is essential to avoid this]. A good knowledge of all the guitar recording techniques in 'So You're Thinking of Recording Guitar' is essential. And don't even begin to argue that point.

Don't expect to be ever paid ... but use the experience well to learn everything and hone your studio playing....which is totally different to live playing. You will be plied with alcohol and maybe some strange substances....never indulge in either... in any studio, home or mainstream.

It is impossible to play guitar well [even to keep in time!] whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The first time you do it will be the last time... in your short career !!!!! You have been warned.

Also remember that the best professional work
is done before 10pm.....Fact!

guitar playing in home circumstance

Typical home set up

Test: Could you quietly suggest that you would be best doing the guitar track at 10am?  Would you be fresh, wildly excited and enthused at that time?  After all, you would have been out jogging, done a weights work out, been to the tan shop and done your office work by that time?  Plus, read a chapter of an inspiring book?

If you don't understand, or even laugh at, these logics then you seriously need 'How to Make A $Million From your Music' at www.makehits.co.uk

Where does the success come from?

Free tips writing acting, session guitar playing, music, producing, songwriting  All the successful session guys drink herbal tea, jog and work out daily. They also have facials, manicures and get top advice on costumes ... whether studio or stage. They also use the best available hairdressers of today and have a unique, identifiable look or persona. The session business is still 80% visual and 20% musical ability. The top guys always look and act the d*g's b*ll*cks

The top guys not only play great ... but they look stunning! This is a hard pill to swallow .. as all your fellow musos look like sh*t [sorry!]  But ask them how many Number One records they have played on?  The top guys will be called on for the next Robbie, Beyonce or Kanye West tour... and they only book the great looking, great performing guys on the tours..... or to be in view on the TV shows. Would you be ready to play at one of the Beckhams' parties in Madrid tomorrow? Or at The White House for a Presidential bash?

guitar session at the biggest gig ever, Travolta and Lady Di

The greatest Gig of all?  Diana and Travolta?


Free tips writing, session guitar playing, acting, music, producing, songwriting  It is an often overlooked fact that the best session guitar players are the best, most accurate, miming players.....ESSENTIAL!!!!!!!! You can never know when the gig will be live sound or mimed. The best guys, who are booked all the time, are the ones who don't even blink when requested to mime...they just do it and perform to give a stunning overall result. That is why they get the gig!

Test: Could you grab the CD from the top of the chart this week, listen to it and learn it and be ready, by 3 pm tomorrow to appear on Jonathan Ross programme miming it PERFECTLY...and I do mean PERFECTLY, with the camera three inches from your fingers.

I have a pal who has a bunch of like minded muso pals - they make a $fortune from offering this service....for Emminem, Beyonce etc.  By the way, he has also charted twice recently, Top Ten in the UK....so he is a cool musician.  You would want him in your band!  His wild hair gets him noticed, no matter where he goes.

If you are appalled with that requirement then the session world is definitely not for you.

If the notation is in TAB as well?

Free tips session guitar playing, music, work, songwriting  You will never be offered music in guitar tab form.

I hope this answers all your questions. Always remember that all the top players, without exception, are extremely nice, sober, punctual, beautifully presented, amiable people.


Free tips on session guitar playing, writing acting, music, producing, songwriting  You have to be knowledgeable about MP3, WAV and all the other kinds of attachments as your employers may send you music demos etc. by attachment.


Free tips on playing guitar, writing acting, music, producing, songwriting  It is advisable to be aware of all the current software programmes and how to use them.  ProTools is the Industry Standard world-wide.  do not beleive what amateurs say [they probably use Cubase, Reason, Sonar etc.]  You may be asked to play guitar on a keyboard with great guitar samples, sometimes better than live guitar...you should be prepared to use the gear and in fact be stunning at using it.....to get the gig!

Test: Could you do this?  Could you play the solo from Bryan Adams "Everything I do, I do it for You" for the Robin Hood film....could you play that perfectly on a keyboard with a guitar sample? With all the bends and inflections?  Would you know how?  You better!


Being a top session guitar player is actually easy ....it is simply knowing the rules, what is expecting and then working your socks of to get to that standard....but you have to know what is expected first ["Knowledge is King"]... and I hope this has set it all out for you....ask me any other questions you like.

Remember it is all about YOU



This Article was written by Dec Cluskey

Email a question? dec@makehits.com

session work for guitarists The best reference book for all contacts is 'Uncle Dec's Lil' Instruction Book - Vol II' CLICK HERE


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