A session musician playing the bass


Definitive Guide: What is A Session Musician And What Do They Do?

When you think of a professional musician, what comes to mind? Maybe someone who has been playing for years and has traveled the world performing in prestigious venues. Or maybe you envision someone who makes a living from teaching music lessons. But what about those musicians who don’t fit into either of those categories? What about session musicians? Session musicians are professionals who play on recordings for other artists or bands. They may also play live gigs, but their primary focus is studio work. So what does a session musician do, and how can you become one? Keep reading to find out!

You would have heard about the Wrecking Crew no matter which side of the music industry you are on. This group of session musicians was considered the best in the world. They proved their worth by playing on more famous albums than you can count.

That is what it is all about. Good musicians will make your album or gig sound a lot better. The more you know about what a session musician is, the better chance you have of creating the best music possible.

What Is A Session Musician?

The best way to answer this question is to call them specialists. These musicians are very talented, may play more than one instrument, and are professional. They know what they are doing and come in on a part-time basis to help your music get better.

Session musicians are not permanent members of your band but are hired for specific periods to assist you and your band members with your music. They can work in the recording studio or on stage with you. How you use them is up to you.

Benefits Of Having Musicians At A Recording Session

Session musicians add value to your recording sessions with in-depth knowledge. For example, many session musicians might read music, play multiple instruments, have a deep understanding of music theory, or possess other musical skills.

  1. They will work with you and your band members to help improve your music.
  2. Session musicians play instruments that you or other band members cannot, such as stringed instruments or percussion types that you do not have in your lineup. These touches give your music’s sound more depth by using different instruments.
  3. You can also get them to play parts or solos about which you do not feel confident.
  4. They will increase the sound of your music and add value to it, making it more exciting and professional sounding. This value is especially true if you use session musicians who have their following and work in the music industry regularly. They will play the best parts and add their feel to your songs.
  5. A session musician will play different instruments, such as a guitar, bass, or drums. This versatility is helpful if you cannot afford to purchase all of these instruments yourself.
  6. They might also perform backing vocals for you.
  7. Session musicians can work behind the scenes.

How To Become A Session Musician

You can become a session musician by enrolling in a prestigious music school and learning your instrument of choice. Then, when you begin working for a recording artist and band, you will build up a strong reputation and get more work. This path is similar to how singers cannot sing by themselves; they need backup band members behind them or sound good.

Another way to become a studio musician is to join online sites such as Craigslist and Fiverr to find work. You should also attend music conventions to meet influential people in the industry and network with them. An alias will help you get more work if your real name isn’t well known yet.

Studio Musicians Vs. Sessions Musician

The difference between studio musicians and session musicians is that a studio musician gets paid to be at the recording studio and record. In contrast, a session musician does not have to be always present.

A session musician typically records instruments for movies and games where they only need to come into the studio for a couple of hours. On the other hand, a studio musician would typically spend more time in the studio.

How Much Does A Session Musician Make

There was a time when most musicians were employees of recording studios and paid a specific wage for their work. Today’s music industry has changed since the Wrecking Crew were kings of the industry.

Today, it will depend on your location, what type of music you are playing, and for how long you will play. In some countries, session musicians are union members, and their unions set the pay rate.

Those rates vary and can go from roughly $850 for basic playing and just over $1300 for premium. Those rates are for non-symphony-style music. Since most session musicians are freelance contractors, the rates are negotiable with the individual musician.

Some bands, on rare occasions, will offer a small percentage of the receipts when the fee may be too high to pay upfront. It just depends on the musician and what they want for their talent. The lower-end session musicians may make just over $21,500 or approximately $10.40 per hour every year. The next level may make up to $58,500 annually or $28.15 per hour, and the top session musicians can pull down over $152,500 every year or about $73.00 per hour.

What Does A Session Musician Do

The central portion is either studio work or a backup musician in live performances. If the musician focuses on the former aspect, they generally stay in one location and play when needed.

When hired to back up the band for concerts, they may also stay in one location or travel with the band to several cities. But, again, it is up to the band to decide what happens with the session musicians.

If lucky, the session musician might find jobs with recording studios, ad agencies, music producers, or other clients to play their instruments for product jingles, television shows, radio shows, and so on. But, of course, it all depends on the people doing the hiring who they want to play their music.

Some Final Words On Session Musicians

Session musicians are professionals who play music for a living. Session musicians are called on to perform with various artists, in different genres of music and at live events. There is no one type of instrument that session musicians can only play because they are versed in many styles from when they were very young. A session musician’s versatility gives them an edge when hiring high-profile clients or being asked back for future performances. If you need a professional player who will work well within your budget, Bay Eight Recording Studios has several talented session musicians that can help elevate your sound. Contact us today.