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  • Writer's pictureSteve Bryant

About Bass Playing on Sessions in Nashville...

Living the Dream!

Well, That's what I told myself as a young bassist making my first foray into getting paid for playing bass on a recording that would be released commercially and available to the public, heard on radio, t.v. etc..

However, there was much I did not know, and much I learned on the job.... sometimes in very hectic circumstances that pointed out to me very rapidly what I was doing wrong.

In my private teaching, I mention to my students who wish to become session musicians that great maxim of business philosophy.. '' If you can't demonstrate either with ability or reputation, you are dead in the water'' .. That may be jarring to hear , but the fact stands regardless!

As a session player, being musically prepared is vital .. but also true is the ability to produce your own part as well as listen to directions and comments by the producer, session leader, writer, or the other sidemen..

1) To a degree, it is less important as to what gear you have than it is to make sure everything works well and produces no buzz, noise or distractions.. deal with that before the downbeat ( start time) ... Your gear should be an extension of you and the music..anything less takes focus off of the music ..

2) Be open for anything.. sometimes, great music happens without overthinking..

Notice that this happens when you are prepared musically.. it is important to have a lifetime actionable goal to improve as a musician .. daily practice on music content does this.. also, a steady diet of listening to music as the emotional language that it is. I've pulled out some great playable ideas on a session from disparate sources and many genres of music .. and that means not listening to just other bass players.. My own goal is to always be a musician that happens to play bass.. be prepared and when you do, you will find your personality that is unique to you will come out in context of serving the song. Sometimes, one note can say what a hundred can't ..there are times when a whisper can do what shouting cannot.. At times, finding that one '' right'' note can build a mountain..

3.) How well you play determines how well you listen! Nuff said about that..

4) Be gracious and friendly.. and a bit of gratitude as well. Realize the guys around you in the studio made incredible sacrifices and faced difficulties to get where they are.. Talk about Blessed! I play with some of the best musicians in the world.. Nashville has an unbelievable talent pool and more coming everyday, it seems:-)

A particular skill that one develops as your tracking '' chops'' develop is the instinct for the song and what's it's trying to convey lyrically and emotionally.. that '' second sense'' is what really makes a great session musician.. chops at the service of the song... it makes it musical, appropriate, and makes the rest of the band sound great! In my private teaching, I always point this out to my students.

Tracking with Jonathan Cain of Journey at his Addiction Studio in Nashville.. Listening to a playback: Johnathan on the Left .... vocalist Perry Coleman on the right.. and behind them publisher Dan Hodges...

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