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Thread: Session drumming

  1. #1

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    Default Session drumming

    Is there anyone here into Session drumming? I'd love to leave the day job some day (soon) and do drumming full-time. So basically I'm asking advice on where to begin.
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  2. #2

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    I'm not a session drummer per se, but have some experience in something a bit different but with a little similarity. I used to be a fill in for a few local bands as well as a roadie, so I can't just play the way I wanted or was strong at- it's a compromise and a test of your versatility. You must be open minded, bottom line and can't limit yourself to any single music style(I don't even remember what my favorite music genre is anymore). All I can say is rudiments and practice books save lives! The little time you spend on different exercises and genres will in the long run arm you with the right stuff you need, and the band requests. Again though, i'm not a session drummer, just did some filling in when a spot was available(even made some money). I wish you well in your endeavor and good luck!
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  3. #3

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    To be a session drummer it takes excellent timeing, taste. knowing what not to play. You have to be able to play with click tracks sometimes. You have to be quick and creative on the spot. This is not something just anyone can decide they want to do and just jump into it. Unless your just born a exceptional musical drummer, it takes years of experience and talent to be a session drummer and then breaking into it is a whole other story. It is a completely different animal from performing live. I am not trying to dissuade you. I am just saying it's a long hard row to hoe, but nothing is impossible. Being a good reader is helpful but not always necessary.
    Play with drum machines and your favorite records. You also need to be able to play any style of music. Record yourself playing a simple groove and listen back to it. Get to know studio owners and audio engineers. See if you can watch and listen to some sessions. If someone lets you, soak it in and listen.
    People are paying a lot of money for studio time and they won't stand for a musician who can't get a song down in 2 or 3 takes. This is sometimes a high pressure situation with time and budget deadlines.

  4. #4

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    I bumped into a guy one time at a wedding gig my band was playing named Tanner Jacobsen - he was a guest at the wedding and sat in for a couple of tunes behind the kit. If there is anyone on the forum who knows him, you know what kind of drummer he is - awesome. I've always considered our guy to be top notch, but Tanner had a level of musicality and finesse that was just crazy to hear and it imparted such an energy to the songs he played. (Green River, and Play that Funky Music) At the time he was living in the Nashville area and was trying to break into the session scene, and he was telling me just how difficult it was - there were a bunch of first call guys who got all of the good work, and everyone else was fighting for the scraps. The gist was that in order to break in, not only did you have to be flat out awesome with the ability to play almost anything on the spot and make it sound right the first time, but you also had to know someone who could get you a shot. Now that's Nashville's scene - I don't know what it's like elsewhere and all I know is what I've been told.

    I'd love to bump into Tanner again - he's the real deal as a drummer!

  5. #5

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    Thanks for the advice, guys. I have much grounding on rudiments, timing and such as I had lessons for over two and a half years. Been listening to metal and all sorts of music really since I was 15 (started off with Maiden). Of late I have been listening to music on my iPod and playing with and found that I'm getting it right - was playing to some My Dying Bride, Dio and Rainbow yesterday. I feel I was born for this, and want to do it full-time.
    I can just listen to a song once, sometimes twice if it's hard, and figure out the beat. Drumming for me is water - I can't do without it.

    I realise I must put a lot of elbow grease into the session drumming thing but it's all a labour of love, really. Been trying to get hold of my ex-drum teacher but he's really busy. Will email him and tell him of my situation, chances are he'll help me.

    My only problem is I don't have a crash! I'm buying a complete kit next year January, hoping it can be a Mapex meridian birch
    Soul Wanderer
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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs_Smith View Post
    Drumming for me is water - I can't do without it.
    At one time I was like that with trumpet playing. It's all I wanted to do. What I didn't know at the time was just where I stood in the whole grand scheme of things as a player - I was good, but didn't really understand the limitations I had.

    In any case, I wound up playing trumpet for the US Army Band program - not one of the premier bands, mind you, but just one of the working bands, albeit one of the better ones. I absolutely loved that job....for a little over a year. Maybe it was the Army aspect of it, (doubtful - during that time about the only thing "Army" about how we conducted business is that we all wore uniforms and had regular morning formations for accountability) but there came a point when a job would come up, and I would have rather not gotten my trumpet out that day. Part of it too might have been that as a working musician, I got paid to play what I was told to play and not necessarily what I wanted to play.

    I did eventually wind up in a premier group, The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, but that job was a totally different animal that consisted of ceremonies and shows where I wore a colonial uniform and played a one-valve bugle, and it was more about the visual presentation than the musical one.

    I know - not exactly session work, but it was working as a musician, even if it was for the US Army, and it wasn't always the dream job I thought it would be when I first entertained the idea in HS, and when I first started doing it upon graduation from the Armed Forces School of Music.

    Couple of pics with me in the FDC - one as a drum major, and one with us and Harrison Ford.

    Last edited by trickg; 05-17-2011 at 09:50 PM.

  7. #7

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    Default Re: Session drumming

    1: learn to read at least charts
    2: have great gear in great shape
    3: either have no, or be in control of your personal issues (drugs ect)
    4: be reliable, and flexable schedual wise
    5: be easy to work with
    6: BE ABLE TO PLAY WITH A CLICK
    7: BE ABLE TO DO IT IN ONE TAKE
    8: BE ABLE TO SET YOUR KIT UP IN MINUTES
    9: BE A CONSISTANT PLAYER
    10: GET OVER THE IDEA OF YOUR SOUND AND YOUR STYLE, youre their to play what the paying customer wants and for the sound they want.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Northern Redneck View Post
    1: learn to read at least charts
    2: have great gear in great shape
    3: either have no, or be in control of your personal issues (drugs ect)
    4: be reliable, and flexable schedual wise
    5: be easy to work with
    6: BE ABLE TO PLAY WITH A CLICK
    7: BE ABLE TO DO IT IN ONE TAKE
    8: BE ABLE TO SET YOUR KIT UP IN MINUTES
    9: BE A CONSISTANT PLAYER
    10: GET OVER THE IDEA OF YOUR SOUND AND YOUR STYLE, youre their to play what the paying customer wants and for the sound they want.
    1: I should definitely practice more from sheet music.
    2: Working on that
    3: Have no issues.
    4: Very reliable
    5: Very easy to work with
    6: Must definitely do more of this. Used to do that with my teacher.
    7: Lol haven't tried yet but I can practice more just to make sure that I can do it but I'm not doubting myself.
    8: Yes I can do that
    9: I am consistent
    10: I've got no issues playing different music for other people. That's why I want to go into session drumming. Basically I want to broaden my knowledge - get into all types of music.
    Soul Wanderer
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Northern Redneck View Post
    1: learn to read at least charts
    2: have great gear in great shape
    3: either have no, or be in control of your personal issues (drugs ect)
    4: be reliable, and flexable schedual wise
    5: be easy to work with
    6: BE ABLE TO PLAY WITH A CLICK
    7: BE ABLE TO DO IT IN ONE TAKE
    8: BE ABLE TO SET YOUR KIT UP IN MINUTES
    9: BE A CONSISTANT PLAYER
    10: GET OVER THE IDEA OF YOUR SOUND AND YOUR STYLE, youre their to play what the paying customer wants and for the sound they want.
    all that and you better be real good at lots of types of music , the competition is real tough , and it really takes years to get your name around enough for people to start calling you , pretty much everybody wants to quit the job and play drums full time , only a very,very few get to do that , with lots of practice,lots of luck, and lots of networking , you might be able to do it ... good luck
    Tamaholic

  10. #10

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    Just a thought, but is it easier or more difficult to break into the session scene in Cape Town/SA than it is here in the USA?

  11. #11

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    i think that no matter where it is , you are competing against drummers that have been doing that for years and are well known in the circles. its a long process to make a living doing sessions . and also , studio time is very expensive , if the rest of the musicians are sitting around waiting for you to get your part right , ya wont be there the next session . so ya gotta have your chops down before ya get there , for sure.
    Tamaholic

  12. #12

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    Hiya all, thanks for responding. Trickg, Atomcorr is right - the area doesn't matter, I will have to compete with other experienced drummers. This is a no-brainer, I know. What I'm afraid of is that I'll be given more exposure in the drumming scene just because I'm a woman. Over here, female drummers are few and when the music scene does pick up on one they tend to go over the top with the whole gender thing. So you see I don't want to be noticed as a woman but as a drummer.

    Apart from session drumming, I could also join a band. I can sing as well as drum so maybe I stand a chance there. I could go the Christian route but I don't want to be paid for it, it's not about money when religion is concerned, I believe. I would only do that in my spare time. But the ultimate for me would be to have my own band (my hubby and I already have a name for it hehehe!). I know this might take a long time but I'm patient.
    Soul Wanderer
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  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by VIbes View Post
    To be a session drummer it takes excellent timeing, taste. knowing what not to play. You have to be able to play with click tracks sometimes. You have to be quick and creative on the spot. This is not something just anyone can decide they want to do and just jump into it. Unless your just born a exceptional musical drummer, it takes years of experience and talent to be a session drummer and then breaking into it is a whole other story. It is a completely different animal from performing live. I am not trying to dissuade you. I am just saying it's a long hard row to hoe, but nothing is impossible. Being a good reader is helpful but not always necessary.
    Play with drum machines and your favorite records. You also need to be able to play any style of music. Record yourself playing a simple groove and listen back to it. Get to know studio owners and audio engineers. See if you can watch and listen to some sessions. If someone lets you, soak it in and listen.
    People are paying a lot of money for studio time and they won't stand for a musician who can't get a song down in 2 or 3 takes. This is sometimes a high pressure situation with time and budget deadlines.
    Yep, that's pretty good advice Vibes, couldn't have put it better myself. Networking, having a lot of musician friends who can recommend you for work definitely helps. I think part of the reason why I get a few calls is the fact that I also do percussion, especially much less common stuff. For example, yesterday I got a call from a guitarist I know who wants me to play at a Latin gig this Saturday - we're playing it sorta acoustically with guitar, bass and me doing percussion - congas, timbales, all that sort of stuff. Plus a week or so later will be sitting in doing percussion for the same guys, but a bigger band set-up, and they'd like me to put in some mallet stuff here and there, as they know I can get my head around that stuff. Sometimes I get to do overdubs using Middle Eastern sounds, or electronic percussion, it depends.Sometimes bits of work pop up because of bands that students know of might need me to help out with laying down drumtracks. Still, like anywhere on the planet, competition here is pretty hard, you have to use every trick up your sleeve to keep that phone ringing. The reality is that there is going to be quite a bit of "down-time" in between recordings, and there are quite a number of great players that have to do the "gig, teaching, session" routine in order to keep the ball rolling.
    Last edited by Drumbledore; 05-18-2011 at 07:33 AM.
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  14. #14

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    When I was in my teens I was always in to tape recorders etc. I still have a tape of our band in the 9th grade I recorded on my Father's old Woolensack mono reel to reel. I got a nice RCA Reel to Reel at 16 that you could do one overdub on and I recorded my albums on there and live bands etc. Endlessly recorded my drummimg and listened back. This was also along with being a drummer in the high school band and jazz band.
    So I was already building my chops as a engineer and Drummer /Musician.
    When I went to Auburn I was there Jazz band drummer then joined a popular soul group that had hits and toured all over the US and Germany on Vibes and drums. This was all before I was 20 years old. At 20 I was playing in a really good rock band and then a jazz quartet. This was in Huntsville Alabama. I then fell in with some singer songwriters from Muscle Shoals who used a studio in Huntsville to record there demo's to pitch to major artist. I have demoed more than a few songs that ended up placed with major artist re-recorded and became top 40 hits. usually with the session drummer playing exactly what I played.
    I spent literally thousands of hours with headphones on in the studio working with these guys and that was my basic training ground not only in studio drumming but also assistant engineering. I eventually was called on to record sessions in Muscle Shoals doing some drumming but mostly percussion and some background vocals. This still was not a living. I had to play 5 nights a week in house bands to pay the bills. So you have to look at the experience I had before I even played demo sessions. I eventually went on to do a lot of things and have performed on and produced hundreds of Cd's , so I know of what I speak.
    Things are so different today. Most groups are self contained. I don't think metal session drumming is what you will be called on to do in this day and time. A lot of radio studios are useing drum loops for comercials and advertisements. Listen to the comercials on television, theme songs for shows. Music during shows. This is the studio drummers bread and butter.
    I own a studio in south Florida and play on a lot of the stuff we do but even I as a drummer use loops, beats, program my own tracks. There is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by VIbes View Post
    When I was in my teens I was always in to tape recorders etc. I still have a tape of our band in the 9th grade I recorded on my Father's old Woolensack mono reel to reel. I got a nice RCA Reel to Reel at 16 that you could do one overdub on and I recorded my albums on there and live bands etc. Endlessly recorded my drummimg and listened back. This was also along with being a drummer in the high school band and jazz band.
    So I was already building my chops as a engineer and Drummer /Musician.
    When I went to Auburn I was there Jazz band drummer then joined a popular soul group that had hits and toured all over the US and Germany on Vibes and drums. This was all before I was 20 years old. At 20 I was playing in a really good rock band and then a jazz quartet. This was in Huntsville Alabama. I then fell in with some singer songwriters from Muscle Shoals who used a studio in Huntsville to record there demo's to pitch to major artist. I have demoed more than a few songs that ended up placed with major artist re-recorded and became top 40 hits. usually with the session drummer playing exactly what I played.
    I spent literally thousands of hours with headphones on in the studio working with these guys and that was my basic training ground not only in studio drumming but also assistant engineering. I eventually was called on to record sessions in Muscle Shoals doing some drumming but mostly percussion and some background vocals. This still was not a living. I had to play 5 nights a week in house bands to pay the bills. So you have to look at the experience I had before I even played demo sessions. I eventually went on to do a lot of things and have performed on and produced hundreds of Cd's , so I know of what I speak.
    Things are so different today. Most groups are self contained. I don't think metal session drumming is what you will be called on to do in this day and time. A lot of radio studios are useing drum loops for comercials and advertisements. Listen to the comercials on television, theme songs for shows. Music during shows. This is the studio drummers bread and butter.
    I own a studio in south Florida and play on a lot of the stuff we do but even I as a drummer use loops, beats, program my own tracks. There is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
    Woo, Muscle Shoals, I've heard how legendary that scene and studio is. Did you ever have the chance to meet or work with the drummer, Roger Hawkins? Talk about a great feel that guy has.
    "...it's the Paradigm Of The Cosmos!" Stewart Copeland on Youtube

    668: The Number Of The Guy Next Door To The Beast.

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  16. #16

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    I'm not a "Session Drummer". Over the years I've been hired to do recordings and one-time live gigs for a special event for an artist. I've done recordings for people that do corporate work, recorded many radio/tv jingles, and even recorded band demos (even though I was not in the band).

    Of course I'm a capable drummer - versatile, adaptable, with no crazy personal issues, but I would credit my networking of other musicians for the opportunities I have had. (who I know)

    I've played thousands of live gigs locally and in other parts of the country, have always been reliable, and was always an agreeable nice guy too - it's at these venues where I meet players - and the fact that I do one or two "sub" gigs a month (on average)....I'm frequently meet new people and am adding to my network of players.

    Some people pay by the hour....some for the session....one guy I work with pays by the finished minute. So.....the faster you can get your takes done....the quicker you can get paid and go home.

    As far as making a living by it....(session stuff)...there's simply not enough work for it for me - it seems much of the corporate stuff is programmed now, and it also seems that because of todays technology -there are a heck of a lot more "little home" studios where people do the stuff themselves where they can use basic drumming and edit it.

    Even though I remain busy across the board.....the music biz is really hurting right now because of the economy. Opportunities are limited...and money sure aint what it used to be.

    I wonder of it will ever comeback.......but I'm afraid......it might not.
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  17. #17

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    You talk about a real session drummer. I've known Roger Hawkins for over 25 years. We were not close but would see him around a lot. He was always a very nice and gracious guy. He was one of the original Swampers. He has tinnitus now and doesn't play much anymore. He was one of the owners of Muscle Shoals Sound and when they sold out to Malaco several years ago he did ok. There were some good drummers around back in the day. Roger Clark, Owen Hale, Milton Sledge. lot's of good guys. I have perfomed with or ben on the same recordings with all those guys.
    Last edited by VIbes; 05-18-2011 at 10:40 AM.

  18. #18

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    Hubby and I had a chat, and we agreed that my life would not be well-suited to session drumming. To be in a band would be less stressful, he reckoned. I'm thinking now that the day job is not so bad after all, at least it's regular income that I can not afford to lose. There's nothing wrong with continuing drumming but it would have to be a spare time thing. I would really love to be in a band again, there's nothing quite like it.
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