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Author Topic:  What are the required skills of a session Steel Player?
Benjamin Davidson


From:
Connecticut, USA
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 9:08 am     Reply with quote

I had an interesting idea of trying my hand at session work when my first career comes to a close here shortly and I find myself in college.

What are the required skills of a session Steel Player?

Where would you invest your hours of practice and study to pursue this segment of steel playing?
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Greg Lambert


From:
Illinois, USA
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 12:06 pm     Reply with quote

1. the number system
2. extended chord structures
3. Proficient at Lots of genre and styles
4. Good communications skills
5. good understanding of what musicians want
6. Ability to adapt to different recording environments
7. Proficient on Both necks.

Just to name a few. Also unless your a tiered player with the musicians union , dont expect super high pay for your talents.
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mtulbert


From:
Plano, Texas 75023
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 1:06 pm     Reply with quote

I can tell you that is a slippery slope similar to the NFL. Hundreds of kids playing football but only a few get to the league.

When I was in Nashville in the early 70's I engineered and mixed approximately 3000 recording sessions. During that 3 year period we used 4 steel players, 4 keyboard player, 5 rhythm guitar players. 5 different bass players. I think you see where this is going.

Most of these pro's spent years on the road before moving into the recording end of the business.
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Skip Edwards


From:
LA,CA
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 1:18 pm     Reply with quote

Know when to not play...wait for your spot.
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john buffington


From:
Owasso OK - USA
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 1:30 pm     Reply with quote

Good attitude, no ego, easy to get along with also helps.
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Michael Maddex


From:
Northern New Mexico, USA
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 1:46 pm     Reply with quote

¨Don´t forget your pencil.¨
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 2:47 pm     Reply with quote

john buffington wrote:
Good attitude, no ego, easy to get along with also helps.


I'd say that's the big essentials right there (besides being able to play in perfect tune). Also, be on time (that means early), and set up quickly. It's probably also good to swallow your pride, play simple, and just give them what they're asking for. Save the hot licks for the bandstand, and keep your opinions to yourself.

Been there, done that. Oh Well
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Dale Foreman


From:
Crowley Louisiana, USA
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 3:05 pm     Session player Reply with quote

Lots of patience and get ready for the session I.e. chart your parts out and fresh strings.
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Tyler Hall


From:
Nashville, TN
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 3:19 pm     Reply with quote

Charting parts out is great in advance if you have the material. 99% of the time when I walk into the studio I have no idea what the songs are or how they go so there's really no way to prepare. String your guitar, have your chops up and be able to come up with parts on the fly. It's much easier said than done some days.
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Tommy White


From:
Nashville
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 8:16 pm     Reply with quote

Again, Donnie Hinson nails it down. 😊

Last edited by Tommy White on 19 Sep 2018 7:46 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post Posted 13 Sep 2018 9:43 pm     Re: What are the required skills of a session Steel Player? Reply with quote

Benjamin Davidson wrote:
I had an interesting idea of trying my hand at session work when my first career comes to a close here shortly and I find myself in college.

What are the required skills of a session Steel Player?

Where would you invest your hours of practice and study to pursue this segment of steel playing?


It depends on what music you want to pursue. I decided against moving to Nashville when I was first getting steady session work in nyc. There where a 1000 players already way better than I will ever be there with the exact skills needed for that work. I found that my ability to read a little and find ways to bring the steel into different musical forms had me being pretty busy in NYC studios when producers where looking for something new.

. Listen to string quartets and make sure you understand what the viola is doing. You will always have a gig if you can do that. Might not help much with honky tonk gigs though.




Besides what Donnie said Some basic skills every steel player needs are:

Have control of your sound and tone.
Play in tune.
Have complete control of your phrasing and dynamics.
Be able to find your place in the arrangement.
Make sure you love it and are having fun.
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Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 5:41 am     Reply with quote

Another vote for Hinson's advice,,,or to abbreviate it,,,"keep your mouth shut",,,I can think of a least a couple of GREAT musicians that were not successful in NV,,,,an abundance of talent,,,(to many opinions!)

FWIW,,,I think one of the most perennial, long lasting careers in NV is guitarist Jimmy Capps,,,been around forever, seen on everything, welcome everywhere,,,just sits back and plays,,,no comments,,,nothing to say,,,just plays.
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Benjamin Davidson


From:
Connecticut, USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 6:01 am     Reply with quote

I appreciate the replies so far, that's why I asked the question here.

Keep them coming.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 6:14 am     Reply with quote

Donny Hinson wrote:
john buffington wrote:
Good attitude, no ego, easy to get along with also helps.


I'd say that's the big essentials right there (besides being able to play in perfect tune). Also, be on time (that means early), and set up quickly. It's probably also good to swallow your pride, play simple, and just give them what they're asking for. Save the hot licks for the bandstand, and keep your opinions to yourself.

Been there, done that. Oh Well


+1 Stay positive, play simple, be flexible, be a team player. Besides the obvious (good tone, good intonation and being prepared) getting along well with others is the most important thing IMO.
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David Graves


From:
Indiana, USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 7:29 am     Reply with quote

In relation to what Donny said, one thing I’ve learned is your there to play what “they” want to hear. Yes, they want your talent and instrument but remember it’s not your song, it’s someone else’s. Play clean and within your means. Going back over and over to try to hit that hot lick can be very annoying to an engineer. Most of all be nice... always...everywhere.
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Pete Burak


From:
Portland, OR USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 7:31 am     Reply with quote

I think the industry is moving more to videos of live performances, and the product is a Concert DVD instead of a Studio CD.
I would look for a job in that field if I were just starting out.
Questions I would ask as a Studio Steel Player?...
Who is my employer?
What are the hours, pay, benefits, etc.
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Damir Besic


From:
Nashville,TN.
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 8:31 am     Reply with quote

I’d get me a good day job first...
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Dale Foreman


From:
Crowley Louisiana, USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 8:37 am     Session playier Reply with quote

I've been fortunate as I have been working with the same engineer and producer since 1999. He always sends me the rough tracks so that I can work out the parts. He's also sprung surprises on me as well. When it comes down to getting it perfect, he is relentless on me which has actually helped me along my career. Some of you may know him, his name is Rick Lagneaux and he has penned many songs for artists such as Sammy Kershaw , Wayne Toups and jumped started artists like Hunter Hayes and many other artists.. We have a great relationship which goes a long ways. I know someone said it before but leave the fancy stuff at home!😁
Dale
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Dale Foreman


From:
Crowley Louisiana, USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 8:41 am     Session playier Reply with quote

I've been fortunate as I have been working with the same engineer and producer since 1999. He always sends me the rough tracks so that I can work out the parts. He's also sprung surprises on me as well. When it comes down to getting it perfect, he is relentless on me which has actually helped me along my career. Some of you may know him, his name is Rick Lagneaux and he has penned many songs for artists such as Sammy Kershaw , Wayne Toups and jumped started artists like Hunter Hayes and many other artists.. We have a great relationship which goes a long ways.
Dale
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Rittenberry Prestige(2) Nashville 400,Session 400, 2 Nashville 112's, Session 2000 with PX 300 Ext cab, Hilton Delay, Peavey Vegas 400 , 75'Fender Twin in Rick Johnson custom cabinet,
69 Tele Original, 52 Tele Reissue, 98 American Strat and Martin 000 Acoustic.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 9:22 am     Reply with quote

Greg Lambert nails it.

A steel playing friend of mine had one golden rule when he was in pursuit of his now very successful recording and touring career - do something every day toward the goal. Practice, establish contacts, record yourself and find out what you can play in one or two takes, upgrade equipment, get specific advice from other pros, “intern” at a local studio, work with a songwriter if you know one, etc.

Oh, and uh... get lucky Cool
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Earnest Bovine


From:
Los Angeles CA USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 11:00 am     Reply with quote

Skip Edwards wrote:
Know when to not play...wait for your spot.


Less true in the Pro Tools era. "Give me 2 or 3 passes and play everywhere; I'll straighten it out later." (this way the producer is the genius).
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 1:46 pm     Reply with quote

hopefully someone above said knowing how to listen to instructions and not argue. I don't do many sessions, maybe 5 or 6 a year. No prep. I think it's better, unless you are part of a band, to not have any preconceived notions. If the producer knows what he or she wants, it's not difficult. They are the ones with the blank palette, not us.

Obviously knowing how to play to a reasonable degree is a non discussed requirement.

never assume they want country licks , assume nothing.

Oh yeah, bring a 2nd volume pedal, (powered beam preferred) . Last session the POT went bad in my 120, I didn't bring a spare, we got thru it and I offered to come back and re-track. The minimal noise fortunately did not appear on he track, I had to concentrate on minimal usage.

Regarding when to play when not to play, thats never been a factor. Sometimes we started the song at the end and worked backwards ! Sometimes the producer had me playing many parts, all thru the song, sometimes with a different phrase or feel. They picked the ones they wanted to use well after I left. Generally I set up in the control room and we talk about the phrasing ahead of time. The producer/arranger teaches me the chart at that time. It's fun .

This isn't a band setting or a stage setting, it's entirely possible that the producer / engineer won't even play other lead tracks during the session. The last few sessions I was invited to play on, they didn't even add any other lead parts until after I was finished. They wanted the Steel phrases to influence the guitar parts.

In each case I never heard the finished track for a month or two later !
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Last edited by Tony Prior on 15 Sep 2018 12:12 am; edited 4 times in total
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John Macy


From:
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Post Posted 14 Sep 2018 7:43 pm     Reply with quote

Earnest—you can have your take and edit, too!
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Steven Pearce


From:
Port Orchard Washington, USA
Post Posted 15 Sep 2018 8:03 am     Happy happy happy! Reply with quote

Rule number one~Expect Everything which translates into ‘Be Prepared’
And like Earnest said...in the Pro-Tools age, it’s usually 2 or 3 passes, and we’ll put it all together. That works for me, by the 3rd pass we have it. And give em choices, I’ve never been given a steel part they want ahead of time. It’s way more fun when an artist and engineer trust your creativity.
“Hit it & Get it! Show up, set up, tune up, and make ‘em smile” Attitude is EVERYTHING!
Thanks for listening, Steve.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 15 Sep 2018 10:23 am     Reply with quote

One of the problems with an engineer patching together your solo from 3 or 4 of your takes... the solo can come out choppy or unnatural sounding. One time this happened to me. When I listened to final mix, my solo jumped from fret 3 to fret 15 in a nano second! The engineer had managed to patch together a phrase that no steel guitarist in the real world could play. It sounded pretty cool though, and I guess that's the most important thing.
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