What skills do you need in the studio?
“In the studio, you’re expected to come up with guitar parts quickly, and record them as you come up with them. What’s more important than keeping your reading up is improving your ear. I try not to listen to anything more than twice to have it down. When I left college I’d worked on my reading and I did a few theatre shows. As I got into pop sessions there was very little music in front of me. I’d be played a song without guitars, or the artist would sing the parts to me. If you get into doing film sessions and soundtracks, there would be more music reading.”
What should guitarists practise?
“Always play with other musicians when you practise. If you can’t have that, stick on a record and play along. It doesn’t matter how good you are at technique, if you can’t hold down a four chord groove and make it feel great, you’re not going to get hired.”
What gear should an aspiring session ace take to the studio?
“I use small amps; no-one wants big amps in the studio any more. I’ve got weird amps and I think that’s part of the reason people hire me, because they know I’m going to bring interesting sounds. If you want to play sessions, I’d say you need a Strat, a Les Paul, something like a Fender Deluxe Reverb and a Martin-style dreadnought acoustic.”
What’s your top tip for breaking into the session world?
“When I follow a track I’m listening to the bass and recognising intervals. Using songs to recognise intervals is handy. It’s great if you can hear a melody and instantly play it. If you play by ear rather than patterns you’ll be a lot more melodic and original.
"All I’d say is keep listening to loads of great records. Don’t learn them note-for-note, but try to understand what they’re doing, and play along and get a feel for it. Even if I’m not reading, I understand theory, so if someone says, ‘I want a dotted rhythm’, I know what they mean.”