Session musician

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Session musician Hal Blaine (pictured in 1995) is widely regarded as one of the most prolific drummers in rock and roll history, having "certainly played on more hit records than any drummer in the rock era". Hal Blaine in 2008.jpg
Session musician Hal Blaine (pictured in 1995) is widely regarded as one of the most prolific drummers in rock and roll history, having "certainly played on more hit records than any drummer in the rock era".

Session musicians, studio musicians, or backing musicians are musicians hired to perform in recording sessions or live performances. The term sideman is also used in the case of live performances, such as accompanying a recording artist on a tour. Session musicians are usually not permanent or official members of a musical ensemble or band. They work behind the scenes and rarely achieve individual fame in their own right as soloists or bandleaders. However, top session musicians are well known within the music industry, and some have become publicly recognized, such as the Wrecking Crew, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section [2] and The Funk Brothers who worked with Motown Records.

Contents

Many session musicians specialize in playing common rhythm section instruments such as guitar, piano, bass, or drums. Others are specialists, and play brass, woodwinds, and strings. Many session musicians play multiple instruments, which lets them play in a wider range of musical situations, genres and styles. Examples of "doubling" include double bass and electric bass, acoustic guitar and mandolin, piano and accordion, and saxophone and other woodwind instruments.

Session musicians are used when musical skills are needed on a short-term basis. Typically session musicians are used by recording studios to provide backing tracks for other musicians for recording sessions and live performances; recording music for advertising, film, television, and theatre. In the 2000s, the terms "session musician" and "studio musician" are synonymous, though in past decades, "studio musician" meant a musician associated with a single record company, recording studio or entertainment agency. [3]

Approaches

Session musicians may play in a wide range of genres or specialize in a specific genre (e.g. country music or jazz). Some session musicians with a Classical music background may focus on film score recordings. Even within a specific genre specialization, there may be even more focused sub-specializations. For example, a sub-specialization within trumpet session players is "high note specialist".

The working schedule for session musicians often depends on the terms set out by musicians' unions or associations, as these organizations typically set out rules on performance schedules (e.g. regarding length of session and breaks). The length of employment may be as short as a single say, in the case of a recording a brief demo song, or as long as several weeks, if an album or film score is being recorded.

The remuneration terms are often set out by musicians' associations and unions. Some musicians may get the minimum scale rate set out by the union. Heavily in-demand session musicians may earn much more. The union rates may vary based on whether it is a music recording versus film/television recording. While the film/television rates may be lower, there may also be residual payments to compensate them for reruns, DVD sales, streaming usage, and so on.

Session musicians often have to bring their own instruments, such as in the case of guitar, bass, woodwinds, and brass. It is expected that studio musicians will have professional-tier instruments that are well-maintained. In some cases, larger or heavier instruments may be provided by the recording studio, such as a grand piano or Hammond organ and Leslie speaker. In certain cases, a session musicians may bring some instruments or musical gear and use them with larger instruments that are provided by the studio, such as a synthesizer player, who might bring rack-mounted synth modules and connect them to the studio's MIDI controller stage piano. Similarly, if the studio has a selection of well-known bass amplifiers and speaker cabinets, a bass player may only have to bring her basses and effect units.

The requirement to read different types of music notation, improvise and/or "play by ear" varies according to the type of recording session and the genres of music being performed. Classical musicians and many jazz and popular music musicians are expected to read music notation and do sight-reading. In jazz, rock, and many popular music genres, performers may be expected to read chord charts and improvise accompaniment and solos. In country music, performers may be expected to read Nashville Number System charts and improvise accompaniment and solos. In many traditional and folk music styles, performers are expected to be able to play by ear.

Session musicians need a nuanced sense of the playing styles and idioms used in different genres. For example, a sax player who mainly plays jazz needs to know the R&B style if they are asked to improvise a solo in an R&B song. Similarly, a bass player asked to improvise a walking bassline in a rockabilly song needs to know the stock lines and cliches used in this genre.

Regardless of the styles of music session musicians play, some qualities are universal: punctuality in arriving at the session; rhythmic and intonation precision; ability to play with good ensemble and excellent blending with the other performers; willingness to take direction from bandleaders, music directors, and music producers; and having good musical taste in regards to choices with musical ornaments and musical phrasing.

History

1950s–1960s

During the 1950s and 1960s, session players were usually active in local recording scenes concentrated in places such as Los Angeles, New York City, Nashville, Memphis, Detroit, and Muscle Shoals. [4] [5] [6] Each local scene had its circle of "A-list" session musicians, such as The Nashville A-Team that played on numerous country and rock hits of the era, the two groups of musicians in Memphis, both the Memphis Boys and the musicians who backed Stax/Volt recordings, and the Funk Brothers in Detroit, who played on many Motown recordings. [5]

At the time, multi-tracking equipment, though common, was less elaborate, and instrumental backing tracks were often recorded "hot" with an ensemble playing live in the studio. [7] Musicians had to be available "on call" when producers needed a part to fill a last-minute time slot. [8] In the 1960s, Los Angeles was considered the top recording destination in the United States — consequently studios were constantly booked around the clock, and session time was highly sought after and expensive. [9] Songs had to be recorded quickly in the fewest possible takes. [10] In this environment, Los Angeles producers and record executives had little patience for needless expense or wasted time and depended on the service of reliable standby musicians who could be counted on to record in a variety of styles with minimal practice or takes, and deliver hits on short order. [8] [11]

Studio band

A studio band is a musical ensemble that is in the employ of a recording studio for the purpose of accompanying recording artists who are customers of the studio. The use of studio bands was more common during the 1960s with groups such Booker T. & the M.G.'s. The benefit of having a regular group, an approach which typified Southern soul, is that the group has much more experience playing together, which enables them to get a better sense of ensemble.

Notable groups

Studio musicians who recorded during the Nashville sound era. Their contributions began in the 1950s with artists such as Elvis Presley. The original A-Team includes bassist Bob Moore; guitarists Grady Martin, Hank Garland, Ray Edenton, and Harold Bradley; drummer Buddy Harman; pianists Floyd Cramer and Hargus "Pig" Robbins; fiddler Tommy Jackson; steel guitarist Pete Drake; harmonicist Charlie McCoy; saxophonist Boots Randolph; and vocal groups The Jordanaires and The Anita Kerr Singers. Cramer, McCoy and Randolph, along with later A-Teamer and producer Chet Atkins, would later emerge as part of Hee Haw's Million Dollar Band in the 1980s.
The house band at Stax records in Memphis during the 1960s and 1970s, playing behind Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, and others. MGs guitarist Steve Cropper co-wrote many of Redding's hits and the MGs produced albums and hit singles such as "Green Onions" in their own right while being the house band at Stax.
Prolific, established studio musicians based in Los Angeles. They have recorded many songs and albums since the 1960s. The Ron Hicklin Singers (also billed as the Charles Fox Singers) was a vocal session group closely associated with the Wrecking Crew and appeared as backing vocalists on many of the Crew's recordings.
Session musicians who backed many Motown Records recordings from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, as well as a few non-Motown recordings, notably on Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher".
A Los Angeles singer/songwriter scene associated with the Troubadour nightclub and Laurel Canyon in the late 1960s to mid-1970s was supported by musicians Russ Kunkel, Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar and Craig Doerge. This session combo, nicknamed "the Section" or "the Mafia", backed many musicians, among others: Carole King, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Kris Kristofferson and David Crosby.
A group comprising Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Jimmy Johnson, also known as the Swampers, became known for the "Muscle Shoals Sound". Many of the recordings done in the Memphis area, which included Muscle Shoals, Alabama, used The Memphis Horns in their arrangements.
MFSB ("Mother Father Sister Brother") was a group of soul music studio musicians based in Philadelphia at the Sigma Sound Studios; they later went on to become a name-brand instrumental group, and their best known hit was "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)", better known as the theme from Soul Train .
A vocal group commissioned to provide vocals for Mayoham Music, formed by husband and wife Al Ham and Mary Mayo (the latter of whom was also a member of the group). The group is best known for their jingles and television news themes. "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)", originally composed as a jingle for Coca-Cola, became a surprise hit and the source of the group's recording name, as the Coca-Cola commercial featured singers on a hillside. The New Seekers would have an even larger hit with the same song. Their best-known news theme was "Move Closer to Your World", associated with Capital Cities Communications' Action News local news format.
A project group composed of trainees selected by entertainment company SM Entertainment, active from 2013 to 2018. The trainees selected for the group promoted by project activities, recorded and covered songs of the label's artists from 2013 to 2017, and has occasionally performed in SM Town concerts in the period of 2013-2015. Most members of the group eventually debuted and became members of the K-pop groups Red Velvet, NCT and its subunits, and Aespa.

See also

Related Research Articles

Soul music is a popular music genre that originated in the African American community throughout the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues and jazz. Soul music became popular for dancing and listening in the United States, where record labels such as Motown, Atlantic and Stax were influential during the Civil Rights Movement. Soul also became popular around the world, directly influencing rock music and the music of Africa.

Booker T. & the M.G.s R&B/funk band

Booker T. & the M.G.'s were an American instrumental R&B/funk band that was influential in shaping the sound of Southern soul and Memphis soul. The original members of the group were Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper (guitar), Lewie Steinberg (bass), and Al Jackson Jr. (drums). In the 1960s, as members of the house band of Stax Records, they played on hundreds of recordings by artists including Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor and Albert King. They also released instrumental records under their own name, including the 1962 hit single "Green Onions". As originators of the unique Stax sound, the group was one of the most prolific, respected, and imitated of its era. By the mid-1960s, bands on both sides of the Atlantic were trying to sound like Booker T. & the M.G.'s.

The Funk Brothers were a group of Detroit-based session musicians who performed the backing to most Motown recordings from 1959 until the company moved to Los Angeles in 1972.

The Wrecking Crew (music) Loose collective of session musicians based in Los Angeles

The Wrecking Crew was a loose collective of session musicians based in Los Angeles whose services were employed for thousands of studio recordings in the 1960s and 1970s, including several hundred Top 40 hits. The musicians were not publicly recognized in their era, but were viewed with reverence by industry insiders. They are now considered one of the most successful and prolific session recording units in music history.

Carol Kaye is an American musician. She is one of the most prolific recorded bass guitarists in rock and pop music, playing on an estimated 10,000 recordings in a career spanning over 50 years.

Hi Records is an American soul music and rockabilly label started in Memphis, Tennessee in 1957 by singer Ray Harris, record store owner Joe Cuoghi, Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch, and three silent partners, including Cuoghi's lawyer, Nick Pesce.

Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman was an American record producer, guitarist, and Grammy Award-winning songwriter.

Joe Osborn American bassist and session musician

Joseph "Joe" Osborn was an American bass guitar player known for his work as a session musician in Los Angeles with the Wrecking Crew and in Nashville with the A-Team of studio musicians during the 1960s through the 1980s.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section is a group of American session musicians based in the northern Alabama town of Muscle Shoals. One of the most prominent American studio house bands from the 1960s to the 1980s, these musicians, individually or as a group, have been associated with more than 500 recordings, including 75 gold and platinum hits. They were masters at creating a southern combination of R&B, soul and country music known as the "Muscle Shoals sound" to back up black artists, who were often in disbelief to learn that the studio musicians were white. Over the years from 1962 to 1969, there have been two successive groups under the name "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section" and the common factor in the two was an association with Rick Hall at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio United States historic place

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is a recording studio in Sheffield, Alabama formed in 1969 by four session musicians called The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section who had left Rick Hall's nearby FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals to create their own recording facility. The group closed the Jackson Highway studio in 1979, moving the operation to 1000 Alabama Avenue. The old studio has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since June 2006. The studio, which is at 3614 Jackson Highway, was partly restored in the early 2000s and sold to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation in 2013. This group completed a major restoration and the location reopened on January 9, 2017. The Alabama Avenue location ceased operations in 2005 when it was sold to a record label.

Norbert Putnam American record producer and musician (born 1942)

Norbert Auvin Putnam is an American record producer and musician.

FAME Studios

FAME Studios is a recording studio located at 603 East Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, an area of northern Alabama known as the Shoals. Though small and distant from the main recording locations of the American music industry, FAME has produced many hit records and was instrumental in what came to be known as the Muscle Shoals sound. It was started in the 1950s by Rick Hall, known as the Founder of Muscle Shoals Music. The studio, owned by Hall until his death in 2018, is still actively operating. It was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on December 15, 1997, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. The 2013 award-winning documentary Muscle Shoals features Rick Hall, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and the Muscle Shoals sound originally popularized by FAME.

<i>The Wrecking Crew</i> (2008 film) 2008 film

The Wrecking Crew is a 2008 American documentary film directed by Denny Tedesco, son of guitarist Tommy Tedesco. It covers the story of the Los Angeles–based group of session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, famed for having played on numerous hit recordings throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. The film premiered at the 2008 South by Southwest Film Festival.

Thomas Clark Cogbill was an American bassist, guitarist and record producer working in the R&B, soul music, and country music genres.

Jerry Kirby Carrigan was an American drummer and record producer. Early in his career he was a member of the original Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and later worked as a session musician in Nashville for over three decades. His style of drumming with a loose, deep-sounding snare drum melded country music with an R&B feel and helped develop a Nashville sound known as "Countrypolitan". His drumming is heard on many recordings which have become classics, some listed below. He recorded with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Stevens, Kenny Rogers, George Jones and many others. He recorded with non-country artists as well, including Henry Mancini, Al Hirt, Johnny Mathis, and the Boston Pops Orchestra. In 2009 he was inducted into the "Nashville Cats", a cadre of top recording musicians chosen by the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2010 he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Carrigan was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2019.

American Sound Studio

American Sound Studio were recording studios located in Memphis, Tennessee which operated from 1964 to 1972. Founded by Chips Moman, the studio at 827 Thomas Street came to be known as American North, and the studio at 2272 Deadrick Street came to be known as American East or the Annex.

Rick Hall

Roe Erister "Rick" Hall was an American record producer, songwriter, and musician who became known as the owner of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. As the "Father of Muscle Shoals Music", he was influential in recording and promoting both country and soul music, and in helping develop the careers of such musicians as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Duane Allman and Etta James.

Pete Carr American guitarist and record producer

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Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum Hall of Fame and Museum in Tennessee , United States

The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum (MHOF) in Nashville honors all musicians regardless of genre or instrument. The MHOF timeline starts with the beginning of recorded music and inductees are nominated by current members of the American Federation of Musicians and by other music industry professionals.

References

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  2. Westergaard, Sean. "The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section: Artist Biography". AllMusic . Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  3. McDonald, H. (2019). What is a session musician? The balance careers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-a-session-musician-2460709
  4. Savona, Anthony (2005). Console Confessions: The Great Music Producers in Their Own Words (First ed.). San Francisico, CA: Backbeat Books. pp. 36–38. ISBN   978-0-87930-860-5.
  5. 1 2 Source A: "The Nashville "A" Team". Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. Archived from the original on January 26, 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2016.Source B: "Motown Sound: Funk Brothers". Motown Museum . Retrieved January 20, 2016.Source C:Brown, Mick (October 25, 2013). "Deep Soul: How Muscle Shoals Became Music's Most Unlikely Hit Factory". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  6. Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret (1st ed.). Thomas Dunne Books. pp.  2–5, 110, 175–176. ISBN   978-0-312-61974-9.
  7. "Recording studios – Why Can Recordings Made in the e.g. 1960s Sound Good in 2011?". NAIM. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  8. 1 2 Andrews, Evan (July 1, 2011). "Top 10 Session Musicians and Studio Bands". Toptenz.net. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  9. "The Byrds: Who Played What?". JazzWax. September 4, 2012. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  10. Farber, Jim (March 9, 2015). "The Wrecking Crew Documentary Profiles the Secret Players Behind Many 1960s and '70s Rock Hits". Daily News. New York. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  11. Laurier, Joanne (November 14, 2015). "The Wrecking Crew: The "Secret Star-Making Machine" of 1960s Pop Music". World Socialist Website. Retrieved January 21, 2016.