Getting in the Scene

Q: I have some questions regarding studio bass work and other bass-related job possibilities. Since you are a man of many groups and projects, I was hoping you could share some of your valuable insight and experience about diversifying one’s opportunities as a bass player. What is the first step, besides practice of course, to becoming a studio bassist? Are there resources available that you use to find gigs, studio or live, besides just playing with friends or people you know? I would love to introduce myself to some different opportunities and play in situations that I’m not necessarily used to or familiar with, (hopefully making a bit of money on the side!) but I don’t really know where to begin. I hope you can help!

A: Hmmm… that’s a bit of a tough one, but I can tell you what I have tried and what my experiences have been.

The key is really word of mouth. When other musicians they respect recommend you, you have an in. Because of this I would recommend a few things:

1. Get together a good demo of your playing style. Mix it up with things that are unique to you (your voice) and examples of you covering different styles on the bass. Don’t try and be too flashy!! This isn’t for bass players, this is for other musicians, engineers and producers who are looking for a bass player. Make sure that you’re doing your job on these recordings!

2. Look up every studio online in your area and make a master list of their email addresses, engineers, producers, etc.

3. Email (or contact in some way) every one of them and explain that you’d like to expand your circle of musicians and offer to get a demo into their hands. Be professional, but relaxed and cool. They also tend to hire people that are easy to work with (that often comes first in the mind of an engineer) and can play some bass.

In addition:

1. Go to jam sessions!

2. Go to other people’s gigs that you aspire to play with and introduce yourself!! If you are seen in the scene, people will just naturally start to associate you with it.

3. Keep your CD or demo on you or in your car at all times. You never know who you’ll meet and you want to be prepared to leave them with something.

4. Make sure that everyone has your number and email and begins to know who you are.

One additional thing that I’ve always done when moving to a new city is to take some lessons from the best players in town.

This is cool in two ways…
a) You get a lesson from a bass player you admire and…
b) They hear you play!!

Teachers love nothing more than seeing a student develop and start to really cut it in the real world. If a teacher can recommend a student who will nail the gig, it reflects well on the both of you.

Plus, as I said, taking lessons from someone you admire is never a bad thing. Your life should be full of study and inquiry.

Beyond that, it really all comes down to the cream rising to the top (usually at a painfully slow pace). If you really can cut the gig and are professional, prepared, and have the gear you need, you will work. It just takes time for you to get in people’s minds so that they remember that you are a viable option for the bass chair.

Good luck! Persistence and hard work will get you wherever you want to go. Usually… ;)

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. Ask Damian Erskine: Getting in the Scene: Q: I have some questions regarding studio bass work and other bass-relat…
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. this is some great advice. also, bear this in mind; most towns are very clicky. you will need to be persistent in a nice way. be pleasant and stay in their faces. i once heard it stated this way, “it’s all about bein’ a dude.” pepl like to hang and work with pepl whom they like to hang and work.