By Max DeVincenzo, CEO & Founder
Ah yes, the Pro Studio Musicians - The Super-Athletes of the recording studio. The One-Take Wonders, the Wrecking Crews, the Session Players, the Jazz Cats, and the Nashville Number-Readers. These are the highly trained professional musicians with the perfect arsenal of talent and skill to lay down some sweet tracks on your song. When we audition Fox Tracks studio musicians, we always check for the following musical traits. So if you want to become a studio musician yourself, or want to learn more about how we vet our players, read on!
If you’re a pro studio musician, you probably get hired because you have great taste. It takes years of practice to understand why a certain guitar lick will work with a certain song, why you shouldn’t play the kick drum on the down-beat in a reggae song, and why less is more. The ability to play the exact right part at the exact right time is something that only massive amounts of research, recording, and performance can teach you. Eventually you begin to develop a 6th sense for what ‘feels right’ in a piece of music. Ultimately, it’s the musicians who can ‘serve the song’ who we hire. They’re the musicians who make the artist say: “Wow I didn’t even know it needed that until I heard it!”
Playing your instrument is one thing, performing at shows is another, and recording is another game altogether. We’ve auditioned musicians who were fantastic players, but when it came to recording they just didn’t have the necessary experience. The studio musicians we hire are just that- studio musicians. Of course they perform and have other projects, but when it comes to recording they’ve done it many, many times. When you record for a very long time you learn certain things that just wouldn’t be obvious in other situations: how to play to a click track, how to maximize your sound for recording, how to learn and chart a song with cues, how and where to punch in for takes, how to back away from the mic for those louder notes and so on.
As a studio musician, don’t walk into the session 10 minutes late and realize you left your amp in the car. This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many musicians are disorganized, unprepared, and just sloppy. You can also dress accordingly if you want to get a great take. Bruno Mars is rumored to make all the musicians in the studio arrive in full suits to help them deliver the cleanest, most ‘posh’ recordings. If you’re a remote studio musician like the kind we work with at Fox Tracks Music make sure to have your files organized and your systems tight and fail-safe. The last thing we want to receive is an audio file that has a click track exported with it, or a take with a huge editing mistake in the middle of it. That’s something we all learned in high school: Check your work
A true studio pro is not there for themselves, they’re there for the music. If you can reach a point where nothing matters besides making the song the absolute best it can be, you’ve reached a state of musical enlightenment that will emanate from your strings, body, voice, mind and social media platforms (just kidding). Don’t be itching to get to the next song. Don’t book a studio session if you have to rush to a gig right after. Give yourself time to breathe, relax and soak in the music. Your day is temporary but that recording is permanent, whether you like it or not. Not only that, but the last thing we want to hear recorded into the track is nervousness.
Obviously a great tone is essential to a pro studio musician’s arsenal. Any microphone will capture the sound of your instrument, and the best microphones will capture it accurately and compliment the best parts of your sound. As a studio musician it’s your job to make sure your instrument sounds good enough to listen to in the room, and sounds even better when you listen back to the recorded takes. Another big part of this comes with the knowledge of different genres. A true pro studio musician will know what amp to use for a jazz tune, which snare to use for a reggae track, when to use their 12 string and when to use one pedal or 14.
Music is about story, about voice. What do you have to say? What experiences have you been through that I haven’t? What can you tell me about your life through notes on your instrument? Some musicians can play parts that seem to speak to you as a human being. The most important thing for us when we hire a new studio musician is - who are they? What kind of person are they? We always get to know our musicians and where they came from. Besides their story, a good personality, good manners, and a positive attitude are all so essential to working with someone. So even if someone checks all the boxes but misses this last one, we have to turn them down.
Cover Photo by Gabriel Yuji
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Fox Tracks Music is inclusive and accepting of all races, places, gender identities, abilities, and religions. We never tolerate any kind of hate or mistreatment on our platform or within earshot.