If you are looking to take your recordings or live performances to the next level, you may require the help of other musicians. When it comes to collaborating with session musicians, exercising caution and attention to detail is required during the hiring process.
Remember that not all session musicians are the same
Musicians each have their little quirks and individual skill-sets. This highlights the importance of speaking openly with session musicians to learn more about what they might be able to bring to your performance or recording.
Talk about what you require from them
Do you require a session musician that’s able to add his or her own creative flair to your music? Would you prefer they follow the parts that have already been written for them? In other words, what degree of experimentation and improvisation will you grant them?
It’s vital that both parties are singing off the same hymn sheet (if you’d excuse the pun). You should discuss this with your session musician beforehand to establish a greater understanding of your expectations.
Be clear on timings
Provide your sessions musician with a detailed itinerary outlining the dates they are required and where they need to be. The better informed they are, the better they can prepare.
Similarly, avoid time wasting at all costs. Session musicians should only learn the songs they need to and not spend any more time than required at practice sessions and in the studio.
Make life easier for unpaid session musicians
If your session musician is kind enough to play for you voluntarily, do not take them for granted. Ensure you play your part in making them feel appreciated for their work. Make an effort to work around their schedule to minimise any inconvenience.
If you continue to ask a lot from your session musician, you should consider paying them or offer to make them an official member of your group.
Offer something different if the project is not satisfying your hired musician
Continuity and stability are important. Regularly changing your session musicians can disrupt the progress of your band or group. Valuable time is often lost in the recruitment of new session musicians, owing to the considerable investment of time and resources needed in bringing new musicians up to speed with your songs and making arrangements for when they are needed.
Keep your session musicians satisfied and you will reap the rewards that an established long-term relationship can bring.
Continue to provide your session musicians with the support and respect they deserve, regular and engaging work in an environment that allows them to flourish as a musician and unique opportunities to play to big crowds at reputable venues and events. Set out with the intention of establishing a long and successful partnership.
Aim to build an extensive network of musicians
No matter how hard you try to satisfy your session musicians, musicians often run out of steam and seek pastures new. Aim to build relationships with other musicians that you can grow to depend upon.
An extensive network of musicians mitigates against potentially lengthy recruitment processes should you need a replacement.
Find out what their capabilities are
Do not hire the first session musician that comes along. Determine each musician’s strengths and assess the potential merits of each candidate. Gauge their previous level of experience and look to gain a deeper understanding of relevant past projects they were involved in and what their role entailed.
Talking about payment upfront will ensure that all parties know what to expect in advance. Outline how much the musician can expect to be paid in writing. This will help avoid disputes further down-the-line.
By having this discussion as early as possible, you are able to fully switch your attention on making music.
In short, you should always speak honestly and openly to potential session musicians. Make them aware of your expectations and what you require from them. Like any form of recruitment, you need to gauge whether a musician will be a good fit for your act and has the necessary expertise and experience.
Appreciate that hiring a studio or session musician is not a one-way arrangement. You need to play your part in adequately briefing them and making them feel appreciated and valued.
Have you hired a session musician? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.