Session Guitar: The Pitfalls of Session Guitar and How to Avoid Them
This is a blog post from the heart, a reflection on what I'm feeling and have (once again) fallen into.
This happens every six months or so. Usually it's because I accept too much work and get too exhausted to remember my own rules.
Hopefully, this blog post will help you one day when you're a session player — and are wondering why the hell you became one!
Below is a list of some common pitfalls and how to avoid them.
1. Lack of Creativity
Do believe you have a soul? A spirit? Musical integrity? Kiss them goodbye! You will mainly play the easiest most uncreative music in the world. And this will happen weeks at a time! Solution: Have a musical outlet that appeals to you. Treat your job as a job when need be. Get in and get out. Mentally prepare yourself for each session.
2. Lack of Personal Life/Deadlines
Everybody needs their music done yesterday because (insert musical asshole guru of the month here) is "waiting" to hear it. Burnout, anyone? Solution: Don't allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Be nice, be professional to clients, but be excellent to yourself. Eat right. Exercise. Rest. Physically and mentally!
3. Desk Job
Do you like computers? Backing up? Loading? Transferring files? Most of your time will be spent doing just that because most of the time the guitar parts take no skill and no time to play! Solution: There may not be one! Backing up and loading and mailing is part of the job. Just make sure you have top-of-the-line computers. The faster the computer, the less time spent on tedium!
4. Your Life is in Isolation
These days, it's a lonely world. Studio players like me often work alone with zero immediate feedback. And I am talking most days for months! Solution: Do not live in a rural area with no "scene." Have relationships and make time for them. Get out and force yourself to hear some live music played by great musician's playing off each other!
5. You May Wind Up Hating the Guitar
It happens. Plumbers often have the worst pipes. Play too much unfulfilling music and you won't want to even look at a guitar eventually! Solution: Keep it a job. Get in and out. Always give it all you've got, but if you are doing a session you love, then cherish that session and client. Make sure you listen to music you love that inspires you before and after mindless sessions. Make time to record your songs, your music! Hard to do. I usually need weeks off to work on something for myself.
It is not a job. It is a calling. You have to accept the good with the bad in any job. Treat it as such. Set limits. Be professional. Accept only projects that appeal to you as much as you can. Take vacations from your job! Make sure you stay creative! Get plenty of exercise and rest. Eat healthy. Have relationships. And every few months reevaluate your musical goals and act on them.
Gotta go work on MY NEXT CD now. (And it WILL involve other players ... and maybe some jugglers and strippers! Or juggling strippers!)
Till next time ...
Ron Zabrocki on Ron Zabrocki: I’m a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just believed everyone started that way! I could pretty much sight read anything within a few years, and that aided me in becoming a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could and was fortunate enough to have some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played many jingle sessions, and even now I not only play them but have written a few. I’ve “ghosted” for a few people that shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I got the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.