Session Work

October 16, 2010 at 02:03 PM ·

 How do you break into session work as a violinist? and where is the best place to be for this? Is there a certain music school that is geared more towards this career goal? I have hunch that LA and Nashville are the 2 meccas for this sort of work. (I'm also a country fiddler; which is why Nashville sounds nice) But, do you NEED a Master's degree for this type of career? Isn't it all who you know, and your chops? Instead of pieces of paper?

Replies (8)

October 16, 2010 at 04:24 PM ·

I'm guessing Nashville is the prime place fro this, but competition is pretty stiff from what I've heard. I can really only speak for the UK. I have been offered and taken session work, and it has always been recommendation through word of mouth. I've done OK in most of them, and the pay is pretty good. If you have the chops, versatility (and just as important, the attitude) I think you'd do fine. Being a reader will help a lot too (some will give you a score, others will expect you to learn the part from audio). Depends of the project.

The downside is that some of the track work can be pretty tedious, with multiple repetitions, sudden changes of request (like you've played it 5 times to perfection, they like it, then they decide they want it a bit different!) Flexibility is the key, and fully expect to have your track recorded last at a minute's notice (after everyone has done their bit to perfection). Sometimes the boss will suddenly decide it best to record your take when there's more backing to listen to. It happens!

As for promotion, I'm guessing just go the same route as would go if you were a teacher or part of a band - press adverts, recommendations, your best audio / video demos up on the web in all the popular places, etc. Good luck :)

October 16, 2010 at 07:59 PM ·

1) Play everything.  It doesn't matter if it's not your favorite kind of music.  Play it as if it were.

2) Take the job.  Always take the job.  Every job you say no to, there will be someone right on your heels who is DYING to play EXACTLY that kind of music.  Always say yes, and always take the job.  Obviously, I'm not saying take it if the job involves you being forced to sleep with someone to get it :-), but seriously.  Take the job.

3) Don't work for nothing.  You won't be doing yourself any favors by getting your name out there.  You will only get your name out there as someone who is willing to do it for nothing.

October 16, 2010 at 08:09 PM ·

Good points, Janis. I agree totally.

October 17, 2010 at 03:04 AM ·

Also, check your ego at the door.  All that matters in session work is getting it RIGHT as quickly and reliably as possible.  If that means dots of painter's tape on the fingerboard to mark the tough parts, the dudes at the soundboard don't care.  If you have to use whiteout dots to get a tricky part right, but can do it on the first take compared to someone who refuses to use cheats and takes five tries, YOU get the gold star.  Nothing matters but getting it right as soon and as often as possible.

October 17, 2010 at 02:47 PM · I don't think you need a degree per se, but you do need an education. There are schools and camps where you can take courses or workshops w/renowned players of various kinds of music. You should listen like crazy- all day, every day- to acquaint yourself with as many styles & artists as possible. Also listen closely to what the violinist does in those styles, how effective you think it is. Start a notebook/excel file so you can quickly look up bluegrass-excellent filler, chop sound, "improv" lead, etc. I'd work on a back-up plan, and I wouldn't quit my day job ;) Sue

October 20, 2010 at 01:21 AM ·

 I have to agree with Sue.  You always need a back-up plan.

October 20, 2010 at 02:24 AM · Play with as many people as often as you can for fun and work, get very quick at picking things up, always play in tune and in proper time, learn how to play anything in any key and transpose on the fly, read charts, don't waste any time (studios are expensive), and be very businesslike, always on time and ready to go.

October 20, 2010 at 01:23 PM ·

 If you can, take a second fiddle with you, tuned up, so if a technical fiddle problem occurs,  probably a string breakage, your down-time should be less than a minute.

Something very much like that happened once in a concert with my chamber orchestra. One of the soloists had a string break a couple of bars into the Bach double concerto.  He left the platform and returned 30 seconds later, grinning all over his face, with his spare fiddle already tuned and ready to play.

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