Good help is hard to find. It’s true whether you’re looking for a good computer programmer or a skilled barista. It’s also true if you’re heading into the recording studio and need someone to help fill out your sound.
Hiring studio musicians isn’t just for solo pop stars and mega-famous musicians anymore. As the music industry has become more and more competitive and income sources less lucrative, many talented players are turning to session work to help pay the bills. That means that, depending on where you live, the talent pool is relatively deep.
There are many different reasons you might want to hire a studio player. Maybe you’re a singer-songwriter trying to make your vision a reality, or maybe you’re a producer and you’re looking for a unique sound to really make a song pop, or you’re in a band and your guitarist is too drunk to pull off the ripping guitar solo you need. Either way, there are plenty of resources for finding a hired gun.
1. Ask the recording studio staff
The first thing you should do is talk to the folks at the studio where you’re recording. The producers and engineers there likely have longstanding relationships with many local session players.
If you’re speaking with an engineer who’s working on your project, he or she will probably have a better idea of which musicians will fit with your style. Engineers will be able to guide you to the right people. The engineers and producers will also have a good working relationship with the players. That means the work probably won’t take very long to record, which will help save money in the long run.
2. Talk to fellow musicians
There will be times, though, when engineers or producers just won’t know anyone appropriate. Or the people they contact will be otherwise engaged. So that's when you need to start making phone calls and sending emails.
Call around to all your musician pals and ask if they know any studio players. Some of their bandmates might do session work, or maybe their band hired someone for their record. Networking is important in the music community, so there’s a good chance someone you know will know someone else.
3. Ask your favorite local players
Sometimes there’s a local musician who just embodies the sound you’re looking for. When you imagine the final record, you just hear that specific drum sound or vocal harmony that you know you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
When it comes down to it, the final product will suffer if you don’t end up with the right players. So just ask the person you have in mind. The worst that can happen is they say no.
4. Make use of online resources
A great way to supplement your real life, in-person methods of tracking down session players is by turning to online resources. Of course, there are drawbacks and benefits to finding someone online. You can shop around for better prices, but the product is unknown. And even if the player doesn’t deliver on what you’re looking for, you still have to pay them – though, that's true whether you find them online or not. As long as you do some research, get references, and chat with them beforehand to make sure it's a good fit, you're bound to find some stellar musicians online.
Here are a few of the best resources for finding a musician online:
Whichever route you choose, just remember to stay true to your vision. If one of your friends can’t cut it behind the kit, don’t be afraid to hire an outsider. Don’t skimp when it comes to making your record a reality.
Ty Trumbull is a Canadian musician and writer living in Mexico City. He's played banjo and guitar with a bunch of bands you've probably never heard of.