In last month’s Total Guitar (issue 214, with Zakk Wylde on the cover), I wrote a feature on how to become a session guitarist, called “Gun For Hire.”
I interviewed 5 guys: Luke Potashnick – an in-demand session guitarist, Mike Stevens – probably Britain’s top MD, Sue Carling – a top agent booking session musicians for TV, Cliff Jones – a producer for Polydor and other major labels, and Chris Difford, the legendary Squeeze frontman.
I asked all of them what they look for in a guitarist, and they all had different and insightful answers. Some great tips got left out of the article because of space, so I might try to find time to post them here. Two in particular spring to mind. Mike Stevens mentioned that the Bedford and the Cobden Club are two great places in London to meet touring musicians and MDs (and that you do really have to move to London if you’re serious about this). Cliff Jones suggested that studio producers are looking for guitarists who specialise in a given style, and you should have a dedicated myspace or website for promoting your session skills in that particular style.
Whenever I interview students applying to BIMM, they all say they want to become session musicians. Most people think of a session guitarist as a guy who gets up in the morning, drives to a studio, plays on a Madonna record before lunch, a Michael Jackson record after lunch, and goes home again. Sadly, the days of studio players like that are mostly over. The majority of modern professionals make their money from various income streams: functions gigs, live sessions, studio sessions, theatre shows, teaching, magazine writing, library music, product demonstrations, and whatever other work comes up. That’s why I teach my students (the ones who are aspiring session players, at least) a load of different skills.