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Let's face it, being a session guitarist is probably the best job in the world. You play guitar for a generous fee in top studios and riff on stage with superstars before a packed stadium crowd. But when the music's over you can walk past the ranks of paparazzi with nary a flashbulb popping. What's not to like?
Well, as we learned from two of the country's top session pros, it's not quite as simple as that. Adam Goldsmith, who plays guitar on the BBC's hit television show The Voice, and Neil Taylor, who has played sessions for artists such as Robbie Williams and Tina Turner, gave Guitarist the inside story of what it's like to work at the sharp end of the session scene.
They reveal how varied the job of a session guitarist can be. Do you want to be a creative collaborator, who crafts global hits alongside the biggest names in music? Or a razor-sharp virtuoso who can nail the perfect solo in minutes flat?
Ideally, you'll be a bit of both. Read on to find out what it takes to be a session pro: from selecting the right amps, effects and guitars to the skills you'll need to pay the bills...
If you think you've got a lot to get through at your band's next practice, spare a thought for Adam Goldsmith, the session guitarist hired to join the elite house band backing contestants on the BBC talent show The Voice.
Fancy learning 50 songs a day? Such is Adam Goldsmith's lot as guitarist for The Voice. "It's a ridiculous schedule!" he admits. "We've done three or four days with just the band, and today's the last day. Then from tomorrow on, all the contestants come in. They get half an hour each with us, and we're working 10am until 10pm, 12-hour days. So there's no sort of rock 'n' roll behaviour – it's just completely down to business."
Despite the frantic pace of work, Adam loves his job and has become adept at going from first rehearsal to live performance in a breathtakingly short interval.
"The tricky thing about my kind of job is that you don't get very much notice about anything you're doing. For example, when I've done Strictly Come Dancing you get to play the songs through once, and then you're on TV."
"When I've done Strictly Come Dancing you get to play the songs through once, and then you're on TV"
"It's going to be the same with these guys," he says of the contestants due to join him and the band the next day. "We get half an hour with each of them, which is quite a lot actually. But within that half an hour they may want to change the whole key of a song for example. Sometimes doing things in different keys just doesn't work on guitar, but that's my problem – no one else cares! So you have to find quick fixes, re-tuning, all sorts of stuff. And you have to do it 'now'. That's the tough thing."
We asked him how he developed his versatility to such an impressive degree. "Getting things wrong! If you get things wrong enough, then eventually you get them right. When I was seven I started classical piano, so I had a background in reading, music theory and that stuff, and I went to the Royal Academy Of Music as well, so that kind of helps. But really how I learned was playing along to records, such as [Metallica's] ...And Justice For All."
Adam was lucky – and talented – enough to get his first break straight after university, dropping in not so much at the deep end as the middle of the Atlantic.
"I did the first Pop Idol tour and that was pretty much straight out of college. I remember turning up and the first gig we did was Wembley, so that was a huge moment. But once you've done one gig, I guess it's like any industry. If you don't f**k it up, somebody will ask you to do another one."