Career as a session musician

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Roy Baker works as a session musician for many pop groups at gigs and in recording studios. His writing and playing skills have taken him around the world.

What instruments do you play?

I play bass guitar, keyboards and drums. It helps to be able to play a variety of instruments. Sometimes in a recording session I could be playing a number of instruments on a track, although not all at the same time.

Where do you play?

I play as a session musician at pop concerts and gigs around the world. I play a lot with bands in Germany.

What type of music do you compose?

Mainly R&B, gospel and soul. Most of my compositions concentrate on a strong beat and rhythm. Also, I write jingles for TV and for various local commercial radio stations.

How do you get your music played?

I work out my music using drums, guitar and keyboard, making notes as I go along. I then record it onto a tape using a multi-track recorder, which enables me to play the different parts on top of each other like layers to build up the final track. The tape is then sent to a variety of publishing and production companies who try to place the music with selected artists or with TV and radio shows.

How did you get into this job?

I grew up in a musical family, singing gospel music in church and trying out various musical instruments. After leaving school, I became involved with a variety of young music groups and bands, eventually deciding to turn professional and earn my living playing and composing music.

Do you work regular hours?

No. I work unusual hours depending upon the people I am working with. On some days, I may have to travel to rehearsals or to late night gigs. On others, I may be at home working on my music. I am usually working when most people are enjoying themselves in the evening.

What are the pros and cons of the job?

I get a lot of pleasure out of making music and even more satisfaction when people get enjoyment from my work. I meet a lot of interesting people and get to play with them as part of their backing group of musicians. The big disadvantage is the amount of time I have to spend away from my family.

What skills and qualities are needed for work as a session musicianmusician?

You must have musical talent – not just ability but something that develops naturally on which you can work. You must be hard working, determined and persistent in the face of disappointments and failure.

Roy's route

  • GCSEs.
  • Various music courses and examinations.
  • Work at dance school.
  • Work with local bands.

Roy's tips

  • Study music theory to supplement your natural ability.
  • Always be passionate about what you are doing.

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Salary of a session musician

  • Session musicians are paid at a variety of rates negotiated by the Musician's Union.
  • Hourly rates can vary enormously up to £500 a session.
  • Minimum gig rates are set at around £60 for a three-hour engagement.
  • Many musicians supplement their earnings from other work.

Getting in

  • Formal study from GCSE/S level is recommended. This will enable you to learn the fundamentals of reading and writing music as well as playing instruments.
  • There are a variety of NVQ/SVQs available at college and music schools and study can lead to the BTEC HND in rock and pop music.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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