How should guitarists behave on a studio session?
“Always listen to the producer. Even if they’re telling you something that you think is wrong, they will have a reason. If it still sounds wrong two or three takes in, then say, ‘I’ve got an angle on this. Will you try it?’ Be diplomatic. Don’t embellish – if they want something extra, they’ll ask you. Most producers want a simple, effective thing. And, for God’s sake, don’t tell anybody in the band how they should be playing, because you’ll be removed from the record.”
How important are metronomes?
“Fundamentally. If you cannot play to a click, you will cost me time and money. Producers expect you to be sympathetic to the song. Play along to lots of styles of rhythm track within your genre. These days, great pop music is about being tight and precise. Get used to playing with headphones on or in front of monitors.”
How many takes do you generally have to nail a recording?
“A great producer will know what they want and ask you to do it. You should be able to nail it first take, or at the worst case, third take.”
Can session players get writing credits?
“If you come up with something that changed the nature of the composition materially, you might be entitled to a writing credit and percentage, but unless it’s agreed beforehand, you will not be entitled to anything.”
What paperwork should you complete?
“Fill in your Musicians’ Union session form. On most professional sessions you will be required to sign a clearance form. If it’s a name artist or producer, you need to fill in a PPL form, which entitles you to a royalty. It can be a substantial source of income. If you’ve played on a record, you’re entitled to a certain amount every time it’s played on the radio.”
What’s your top tip for guitarists wanting to break into the session world?
“Live, you want someone who’s versatile. In the studio, you’d get a specialist to do a specific thing. I would encourage everyone to have a specialist talent, whether it’s metal guitar or acoustic picking. Approach producers by email or by phone. Say, ‘I’ve heard you’re making this kind of record. If you need someone to cover the guitars, I specialise in that style’.”