What Does it Take be a Session Bassist? – Part 1

This particular question does not cross every bassist’s mind, but it’s one that could possibly lead to a career doing what you love right on your own home turf. You might be someone who has heard the call to travel all over the country/world supporting artists and meeting many people; or maybe not. It’s totally up to you.

Just in case you think that being a studio player is something you might like to do, there are some serious requirements.

First, the most obvious requirement is large amount of natural, God given talent! Along with that, there are other very serious “sub” requirements; all of these that I am going to discuss are very important personality traits. To be very frank, you have to really, really want to “do this” because it requires an enormous, unlimited supply of patience, long suffering, very thick skin, a servant’s “humble” heart, and a tireless, POSITIVE attitude. If this isn’t close to describing you, then you might want to consider pursuing other options with your abilities.

There are a myriad of creative personalities you could potentially work for – song writers, producers, arrangers, or independent artists willing to pay handsomely just to pursue their dream. Depending on which one of these types you are working for, you may be working at a one-song-per-day pace of playing that song over and over in several different styles. Or you might have to play the same song fifty times (makes for a very long day) in the same style, all while having your bass lines heavily scrutinized under the most intense microscope between every take. You can easily understand how the aforementioned emotional requirements alone are needed to take on this particular kind of situation.

On another day, you might record ten songs over a nine-hour period, have a great time, and have the uncanny ability to do NO wrong whatsoever (the “humble” part most definitely applies). There are so many possible “in-between” scenarios that you just plain never know what the emotional requirements of the day might be. Even with a producer that you know well, they may be bringing in an artist who could be any number of personality types (nice, courteous, appreciative, demanding, insecure, arrogant, controlling, etc.). Whichever type they are, it can and WILL affect your day and how well or poorly you will play.

You have to be able to read minds, figuratively. Every producer requires a particular kind of performance that you should be capable of. It may be one who typically likes you to be overly generous with your spontaneous bass line ideas. The other extreme may be a producer that you are working for who wants you to play as basic and “no-frills” as possible. Sometimes that can be WAY harder to endure than the “over-play” scenario. Both are very challenging.

I am just scratching the surface as far as the personality/emotional concerns for being a session bassist. The next article I will discuss more musical requirements. May God’s blessings be on the work of your hands!

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