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  #1  
Old 05-11-2011, 06:44 PM
danarchy11 danarchy11 is offline
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Default Become a Session Drummer

Hey I've been trying to become a session drummer for quite a few years now. I have the talent, motivation and professionalism. All of my gear is new, clean and not broken. Everything is top of the line. However, I'm having a very hard time getting work because I don't have any resume. Is there any way to start a career in session work without having recorded a billboard hit?
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Old 05-11-2011, 07:10 PM
AudioWonderland AudioWonderland is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

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Originally Posted by danarchy11 View Post
Hey I've been trying to become a session drummer for quite a few years now. I have the talent, motivation and professionalism. All of my gear is new, clean and not broken. Everything is top of the line. However, I'm having a very hard time getting work because I don't have any resume. Is there any way to start a career in session work without having recorded a billboard hit?
Play with anyone you can. Play on demos for free. Play on your own recordings. Network like nobody's business. Getting studio work is more about the people paying the bill trusting your ability to get it done than it is about your gear and skill. You need those skills but unless the people know you and trust you it won't get you any gigs

Last edited by AudioWonderland; 05-11-2011 at 10:21 PM.
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Old 05-11-2011, 07:15 PM
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moontheloon moontheloon is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

the only way to do it is to get out there....

put an EPK (electronic press kit) on line of you playing all different styles.....
make business cards with the address of the EPK site...
give them to everyone....and drop a ton off at every recording studio you have ever heard of...

play as many gigs as possible ...no matter how horrible....

it also depends on where you live.....
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Old 05-11-2011, 07:18 PM
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bermuda bermuda is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

There's really no career path to playing music professionally (there are several 'how do I...' topics on this forum.) Being a great player is important, but that qualification only means something if you land in front of someone who is in a position to hire you, and they also agree that you can play. There's just no way to engineer what are typically chance meetings (read: being in the right place at the right time.)

But that's not meant to discourage you, it's meant to point out that there are things you can do to get your name out there.

Networking is crucial. It doesn't have to be some stuffy or jive meeting, it can be as innocuous as sitting-in at a local jam, and handing your card to anyone who says they like the way you play.

And going to local jams is a good idea. You never know who's sitting-in, or who's just sitting quietly in the shadows, and might be looking for a replacement drummer for their project or band. Therefore, don't treat a jam like a place to cut loose or show off your chops. Treat every song you play as if it was an audition, because it essentially is just that for those who hear you and are making mental notes about whether they like your playing.

But with regard specifically to session work, you have to understand that 1) there are fewer sessions because producers are putting together tracks with programmed drums, 2) more bands have drummers who are capable of making master recordings, so they don't need to hire a session drummer, and 3) the remaining live hired guns are a tight-knit group of pros who don't have that much work as it is. You're basically looking at a career aspect that's just a trickle these days, and it's really hard to break into what's left of it.

Again, not to be discouraging, just letting you know how it is in the real world. They say it's 'who you know', but it's really more about who knows you. Get your name out there, the calls are more likely to come, and there's a better chance you'll run into people who can take you to the next level, and the next, and the next.

Bermuda
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Old 05-11-2011, 07:23 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Quote:
Originally Posted by danarchy11 View Post
Is there any way to start a career in session work without having recorded a billboard hit?
BTW, that's hardly a guarantee either.
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  #6  
Old 05-11-2011, 07:49 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Steve Jordan told a great story on YouTube on how he began to rise in the business. He was a struggling artist living in New York City, taking whatever gigs he could get, etc.,...and then some big snow storm hit and literally closed down all traffic coming into the city. Well, all the big session players in town lived outside of the city, and here he was in the city. For several days he picked up all the work that the big names couldn't get to, and he totally maximized his chances of getting more work by being prepared for the opportunity and not blowing it once he got in there.

Amazing.
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  #7  
Old 05-11-2011, 07:54 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

I agree with what has been said. I do alot of stuff from my home, sometimes get paid and other times I do it just to have my name on the project weather it's an album or just one song... You have to get your name out there and word of mouth works.. I also ask the "client" i'm recording for if I can use them as a refference.. Never had a NO yet..lol Make sure your meter is strong and keep an open mind about what the "client" wants you to play. Remember most of them are non drummers...lol
Good luck!
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Old 05-11-2011, 08:21 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Network, network, network, network.... There isn't much out there, so you can't slack off at all and keep working hard.
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  #9  
Old 05-11-2011, 09:10 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

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Originally Posted by flicky View Post
Make sure your meter is strong and keep an open mind about what the "client" wants you to play.
These are two important points.

Re meter, it's essential that today's drummers be able to work well with a click, and strong meter helps make that work. Simply relying on a click to keep the tempo steady is useless if the drummer doesn't play to it seamlessly.

As for what the client wants, they will often state it up front. In that case, do what they want. Don't try to make the track yours... you're hired to make it theirs. Obviously there are experienced players with specailties, and they're hired for what they bring to the recording without a lot of direction. Some are hired because they take direction well. But until a musician has a track record (so to speak) they should play what they're asked.

That may seem like it's playing it safe, but the fact is, the guys who know when to do that make the most money.

Bermuda

Last edited by bermuda; 05-11-2011 at 09:30 PM.
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  #10  
Old 05-11-2011, 10:34 PM
flicky flicky is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Thanks bermuda...explained much better..lol
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  #11  
Old 05-13-2011, 05:37 PM
08mike11 08mike11 is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Honestly a lot of it is luck. People are saying network and network and network simply because that is increasing the probability of you getting your chance. The more people that know of you, the more chances you have. If you don't have any objections, praying doesn't hurt.

+1 to EVERYTHING bermuda said. The click is absolutely useless to you if your fills in and out of the pocket aren't smooth.

Are you in the right location to get session work? LA, Nashville, NYC? Even Miami i hear has a decent music scene. You can't expect to get session work in some podunk town with 1-2 music studios in a 250 mile radius.
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  #12  
Old 05-15-2011, 04:30 AM
AJNystrom AJNystrom is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Step 1) Take notes on anything and everything Bermuda says (also visit Jon's site at www.bermudaschwartz.com - a wealth of knowledge in the endorsement and NAMM knowledge pages under the "Links" heading!) [PS- Jon, I noticed you updated your endorsements page re: the up and coming drummer endorsements I e-mailed you about. Good head's up!)

Step 2) Re-read the notes often

Step 3) See steps 1 & 2

Bermuda is a wealth of knowledge and we're very lucky to have him around and willing to impart his knowledge and experience on us.

AJ
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  #13  
Old 05-15-2011, 04:59 AM
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Nodiggie Nodiggie is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Quote:
Originally Posted by AudioWonderland View Post
Play with anyone you can. Play on demos for free. Play on your own recordings. Network like nobody's business. Getting studio work is more about the people paying the bill trusting your ability to get it done than it is about your gear and skill. You need those skills but unless the people know you and trust you it won't get you any gigs
Network, network, network.

All the session work I've done has been because of this. AW said it first and I can't agree more.
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  #14  
Old 05-15-2011, 11:23 AM
cp84 cp84 is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

practise really hard and don't expect anything to come from it. but do it anyway. then anything you do get is a bonus. just enjoy the act of doing.
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  #15  
Old 05-18-2011, 05:45 AM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

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Originally Posted by danarchy11 View Post
Hey I've been trying to become a session drummer for quite a few years now. I have the talent, motivation and professionalism. All of my gear is new, clean and not broken. Everything is top of the line. However, I'm having a very hard time getting work because I don't have any resume. Is there any way to start a career in session work without having recorded a billboard hit?
First off, I question that there has ever been such a thing as having a "career in session work". Even the most successful studio drummers have/had careers as players - just like all the rest of the players. And became "session players" by simply being the player that folks wanted to record with, based on the rest of their playing career.

That said - Bermuda is right, there just isn't as much work as there was when many of our current "session masters" were first coming up. There was a time, when if somebody wanted to hear drumset recorded as part of their music - the ONLY way to accomplish that was to call a drummer to shlep in a kit, mic it up and press record. Even making the lowliest demo was a job opportunity for some drummer.

Then came drum machines, then midi programming, and loop, etc. - all viable alternatives to use instead of a live drummer even on top end master recordings (dramatically cutting into that work). But the low end? The demos, local jingles, little films, the low budget young artist without major label backing? For drummers that work pretty much no longer exists... at all.

And that's a real problem - because just as most of us start out playing high school dances, before graduating to local clubs, and then onto regional and national stages. For me recording-wise, I was able to start out doing little demo sessions in folk's garage studios $25 here, $50 there - gaining both experience and yes, reputation. But now with so little "starter" gigs, I see guys trying to land some national or major label thing as their first paid session. Which IMO is the equivalent of trying land a spot in the minor leagues without having ever played college or high school ball. Sure it's possible - but it's certainly not likely.

So is there no answer? Does it suck that bad? Well, it does suck pretty bad, but the answer I think comes with two viable paths - 1) don't segregate session work from other work - just keep slamming, playing out as much as possible and with the best people you can get to play with you. And that means lots of people - you can be in a band, but only if you can be in three other bands at the same time, plus sub on other pick-up work... again playing with anyone and everyone you can. In other words, just grow a drumming career - and if it includes some recording, great. If not, whatever.

And 2) become someone that can provide recorded drums to people on the low end - which on the surface sounds like a great idea, just keep in mind it is a very crowded market (with folks like myself directly competing with you online), which of course keeps driving rates down and down - AND it's an expensive service to provide (gear, space, etc)

So honestly, I would only call that one and 1/4 paths, because the first one is really what it is about - unless you just have a love of recording way beyond the drumming part. Because folks wiser than I always say you should never chase after the money, the job - you should pursue your passion, and if that's the playing - then get out and pursue, share and expose that to the world. Do that outstandingly well, and the job opportunities should follow.

Though I cringe reading that - as it is very easy to romanticize the possibilities of the drumming profession without seriously pondering the realities. So do your research and keep your expectations reasonable.

David
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Old 05-18-2011, 01:28 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Not much to add really, other than echoing, it really is who you know, and being lucky enough to be playing just what the producers is looking for at the off chance he sees you play. I have quite a few friends at the top of their game in the Canadian country music scene. They travel in a very small circle, where a handful of guys seem to be on every project.
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  #17  
Old 05-18-2011, 01:37 PM
AJNystrom AJNystrom is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

To echoe DCRigger, online session work is the coming wave- and (here's the kicker) it's already here.

People like TimLovesDrum.com (he's on this forum somewhere), GoranGrooves.com, and a handful of others are already offering to do online drum sessions from their home studio (or their own stand-alone studio) for a cheaper rate than it would cost to rent time AND be present to record the track. You can look into online session drumming if you wish but I suspect that the market will quickly be cornered if you don't act quickly.

AJ
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Old 05-19-2011, 04:59 AM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

These threads are always interesting to me. Great thoughts from everybody.

As a student, I must say that all of my teachers - even the professionals - have given up a lot to be playing drums as well as they do, and with as many people.

-sheldon
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Old 05-19-2011, 05:48 AM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

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Originally Posted by AJNystrom View Post
To echoe DCRigger, online session work is the coming wave- and (here's the kicker) it's already here.

People like TimLovesDrum.com (he's on this forum somewhere), GoranGrooves.com, and a handful of others are already offering to do online drum sessions from their home studio (or their own stand-alone studio) for a cheaper rate than it would cost to rent time AND be present to record the track. You can look into online session drumming if you wish but I suspect that the market will quickly be cornered if you don't act quickly.

AJ
Even on the higher end, this is happening A lot of top studio guys are getting less work going to a studio, and more jobs recording themselves at home studios.
Simon Phillips, Gregg Bissonette, Russ Miller, Mark Zonder, etc.
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Old 05-19-2011, 01:34 PM
AJNystrom AJNystrom is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

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Originally Posted by DrumEatDrum View Post
Even on the higher end, this is happening A lot of top studio guys are getting less work going to a studio, and more jobs recording themselves at home studios.
Simon Phillips, Gregg Bissonette, Russ Miller, Mark Zonder, etc.
And you forgot the one that got me interested in this whole mess-- DW's own Gavin Harrison!
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Old 05-20-2011, 09:30 PM
Phil Kelly Phil Kelly is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

First, a little background on my career ( this being one of my first posts )

I started my career as a "session drummer" back in the mid 60s ( after about tive years on road bands and working with pop singers of the day ) The requirements back then required you to be an EXCELLENT reader and capable of playing all of the pop styles of the day, but basically being a capable big band drummer first off. All dates were simul with a band spread all over a large room separated by baffles and goboes. There was no cue system.
All the players had to learn to deal with the the "delay " factor and be very sure of their own interior time and not "bend" to anything they might be hearing delayed. The only time a headset was used was when a click track was employed ( and then usually only the drummer, lead trumpet player and conductor if present got them ) The standard recording medioum was 3 track tape. ( From '65 to '70 , the number of tracks rapidly increased from three to 16 and rudimentary cue systems were put into use. )

By 1975, I had pretty much left the playing chores to younger more current rock based players who had the ever enlarging catalog of rock styles down and concentrated on writing, arranging and prodcicing which I still do to this day ( at the age of 73 ). By this point, the process of "building" the tracks had become the rule, and much of the recording was accomplished by overdubbing on a basic skeleton rhythm track ,and the use of electronics began to be felt. As the 80s wore on, the process of electronic tracking became even more and more prevalent ( and the consequent loss of work by seasoned session guys had begun to be noticeable. )

From the 90s onward, more and more work was done by solo musicians using DAWs ,samples and loops. This process really changed the basic way music began to sound
and continued to remove valuable jobs from the session scene. The introduction of tapeless recording, Pro Tools and like systems mad it vastly easier to produce tracks from people all over the world through a cyber connection.

Today ,( being a certified old timer with a specialty in writing for and working with "live " players when required ) most of my work consists of assembling these sub groups where ever they may be and assembling the final product over the internet. A recent project involved remote recording of a basic rhythm section in a small studio in Nashville,
( which I "produced in real time over the phone from my home in the Pacific NW ), sending simultaneous multi track mixes over the internet to a bassist in Dallas and a Guitarist in LA to add thir parts ( again, producing them over the phone ). Eventually, all these tracks were returned to my engineer in Seattle who assembled all these tracks on a Pro Tools "master" which was then finished off with horn Overdubs in Seattle and Tacoma ( which I actually attended )..and then mixed.

All of this just goes to show Bermudas basic point of what the "session players" of the current century will look like : individual players ( many with home studios ) who , via the internet, will either hook up and /or add their individual parts to a project. The only need for actual large recording rooms will be when a large group of acoustic players need to be tracked ( i.e. a full string or horn section that for musical reasons can't be best assembled by "layering" by fewer players ) Regarding the use of drum boxes or loops, I have recorded actual "live "sections usuing a loop or drum track as a basis for recording live remote players, and then having a live drummer replace the reference loop.

so : after this long winded explanation -I think tomorrows "session players " in addition to being monster players in all styles that can read fly droppings, will:

* be familiar with internet file sharing and remote collaboration.

* have the equipment and the facility to their own instrument(s) in their own space.

Traditional session work will still continue in some cases and places ,but It's my opinion more and more recording will be done in the manner I've described.
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  #22  
Old 05-23-2011, 04:28 PM
danarchy11 danarchy11 is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Just to clear everything up, I live in Bronx, NY (moved up here from PA to pursue work as a drummer) and I've been playing over 10 years with and without a metronome behind me, studied music in college and recorded over 10 cds and played well over 1000 shows. The networking aspect is what I'm having most trouble with. I've been networking for years (even a few years before I actually moved to NY) Just wondering if there are any "tricks" to getting noticed but by the looks of it, I'm going about it the right way lol
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Old 05-23-2011, 11:17 PM
AJNystrom AJNystrom is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

If you want to get in touch with producers, sound engineers, etc. around the globe (including NYC, obviously) you can check out 1212.com

Also, you can put yourself out there on MusoList and other musician connection sites. If you're willing to do relatively any work you can check out Craigslist.

Basically, networking is putting your info out there in an educated way (If you're fishing for bass, fish where the bass go-- sorry, saw Bermuda's avatar) and putting yourself in a position where the right people will see your stuff.
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Old 05-23-2011, 11:46 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

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Originally Posted by AJNystrom View Post
Basically, networking is putting your info out there in an educated way (If you're fishing for bass, fish where the bass go-- sorry, saw Bermuda's avatar) and putting yourself in a position where the right people will see your stuff.
Speaking of my avatar, you also have to be careful which fish you kiss!
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Old 05-24-2011, 12:31 AM
AJNystrom AJNystrom is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Jon,

SOOO right... so so right! I always make sure to do my homework as best as I can before I take a job. If I don't know them I'll check with other people in my network. If they don't know them and the client seems to be very under the radar you've got to protect yourself
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  #26  
Old 05-24-2011, 08:44 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

As usual lots of great stuff has been brought up which is great to read.
One thing which all the successful players (on any instrument) I have met have in common, is a good, positive attitude. I think when someone calls a drummer for a session, that drummer is a solution to a problem. The ones who get called back are those who provide the solution without any drama, and certainly without causing a problem.

Good luck with it!
:-)
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  #27  
Old 06-01-2011, 06:08 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

In the June 2011 issues of Drum! magazine (with Derrek Roddy on the cover), on page 54, Kenny Arnoff discusses the changing music scene when it comes to session work.

He mentions how it used to be all through the union, and he used to get double, even triple scale, but now if it is a union gig, he only gets scale, and many times, he negotiates lower non-union rates just to be able to keep working.

He also mentions that he and "most drummers in LA" have drum rooms now (i.e. home studios) and having his own studio brings in the work.
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Old 06-01-2011, 06:33 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

i don't see how anyone makes much money doing this. i was visiting the web site of a nashville pro drummer (i can't remember his name!) he's really good and has played with all kinds of famous people. he has a home studio and offers drum tracking services at only $75 per song. that's an amazing deal if you ask me! he's probably so good he can listen to a song a couple times and knock out a perfect drum track in one take. i was thinking that if i set up a home studio i could never compete with that.
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  #29  
Old 06-03-2011, 10:50 PM
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i don't see how anyone makes much money doing this. i was visiting the web site of a nashville pro drummer (i can't remember his name!) he's really good and has played with all kinds of famous people. he has a home studio and offers drum tracking services at only $75 per song. that's an amazing deal if you ask me! he's probably so good he can listen to a song a couple times and knock out a perfect drum track in one take. i was thinking that if i set up a home studio i could never compete with that.
Where I'm a bit lost on is the ROI (Return on investment).

I know how many thousands I have into my home studio, and how much more I would need to get it to be on par with what's expected at that level of a studio. And then extra cymbals, sticks, heads, replacing cables when they go bad, etc. Not to mention rent if it's not in a house you already own,

At $75 a song, even if you average a song a day with no days off, it would take a good year or two just to break even.
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Old 06-03-2011, 11:18 PM
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

I think there's a paradigm shift in how music is made now compared to in the 60's-80's. The biggest factor is drummers can get a good sounding kit relatively cheaply and for the music that's popular and sells the band's drummer's take is usually good enough. Fixing up a bad drum take these days is dirt cheap compared to when it cost studios money for TAPE!

All-in-all, it's just a lot cheaper to make music. My advice? Join a band. Do music if you love it, not for money. Thinking you are going to get called in to record sessions on a regular basis is almost a twilight dream these days. Very few do it, and there's less and less reason to continue to do it. And when I say very few, I literally mean maybe 5-10 drummers in l.a., 5-10 drummers in nyc, and 5-10 in nashville. There's just less and less reason for a band to hire a studio drummer and pay them a lot of money when their buddy who's played for 2 years can get a decent sound with some fixing in Pro Tools.
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Old 06-04-2011, 12:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan01 View Post
I think there's a paradigm shift in how music is made now compared to in the 60's-80's. The biggest factor is drummers can get a good sounding kit relatively cheaply and for the music that's popular and sells the band's drummer's take is usually good enough. Fixing up a bad drum take these days is dirt cheap compared to when it cost studios money for TAPE!

All-in-all, it's just a lot cheaper to make music. My advice? Join a band. Do music if you love it, not for money. Thinking you are going to get called in to record sessions on a regular basis is almost a twilight dream these days. Very few do it, and there's less and less reason to continue to do it. And when I say very few, I literally mean maybe 5-10 drummers in l.a., 5-10 drummers in nyc, and 5-10 in nashville. There's just less and less reason for a band to hire a studio drummer and pay them a lot of money when their buddy who's played for 2 years can get a decent sound with some fixing in Pro Tools.
While theres some truth to what you are saying, there are definitely more than 5 to 10 session drummers in LA.... I personally know 3 and they are quite busy.
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  #32  
Old 06-04-2011, 02:35 AM
DeanOdgers DeanOdgers is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

$75 a song is not standard at least not in Australia.
Most guys here do minimum $300 for a 3 hour call, even if its only one song.
I think the guys doing it cheaper are the ones recording the tracks at there home studios and emailing the tracks back across.
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  #33  
Old 06-04-2011, 02:42 AM
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gusty gusty is offline
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Default Re: Become a Session Drummer

Quote:
Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
There's really no career path to playing music professionally (there are several 'how do I...' topics on this forum.) Being a great player is important, but that qualification only means something if you land in front of someone who is in a position to hire you, and they also agree that you can play. There's just no way to engineer what are typically chance meetings (read: being in the right place at the right time.)

But that's not meant to discourage you, it's meant to point out that there are things you can do to get your name out there.

Networking is crucial. It doesn't have to be some stuffy or jive meeting, it can be as innocuous as sitting-in at a local jam, and handing your card to anyone who says they like the way you play.

And going to local jams is a good idea. You never know who's sitting-in, or who's just sitting quietly in the shadows, and might be looking for a replacement drummer for their project or band. Therefore, don't treat a jam like a place to cut loose or show off your chops. Treat every song you play as if it was an audition, because it essentially is just that for those who hear you and are making mental notes about whether they like your playing.

But with regard specifically to session work, you have to understand that 1) there are fewer sessions because producers are putting together tracks with programmed drums, 2) more bands have drummers who are capable of making master recordings, so they don't need to hire a session drummer, and 3) the remaining live hired guns are a tight-knit group of pros who don't have that much work as it is. You're basically looking at a career aspect that's just a trickle these days, and it's really hard to break into what's left of it.

Again, not to be discouraging, just letting you know how it is in the real world. They say it's 'who you know', but it's really more about who knows you. Get your name out there, the calls are more likely to come, and there's a better chance you'll run into people who can take you to the next level, and the next, and the next.

Bermuda
Bermuda, so awesome to have pros like you on DW.
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