And Great Gear Tips For The Aspiring Session Player
Hey musicians, you'll want to read this artist profile of Tim Rockmore, a New York City based session player who works hard and has played with some of rock's best bands,and it has paid off in him doing what he loves in life. That of being a hard working and dedicated musician.
I've been looking for a session player to interview for a while,and I was on Craigslist and came across Tim. Sometimes all it takes is putting up an offer,whether it's online or offline for a musician.
And yes,session players still exist. Playing live or studio gigs as a hired gun can be a tough road to hoe. But learning all you can about what bands or studios want in a session cat is vital. It can be anything from the type of amp to the type of guitar used,and how they want you to play.
Usually you'll play a backing role,but it can mean money in your pocket when most players don't make much if anything when it comes to session playing. Live or studio based.
Tim Rockmore has been an on the road musician like I said,for some of rock's top bands;from SevenDust to Kings Of Leon GWAR and Nationals.
I was thrown by Tim taking a grass roots type of way to promote himself. By using what people say about his playing and attitude. Or "word of mouth." Rockmore also teaches guitar in the New York area.
Tim's session playing experience studio wise has him using many bags of tricks gear wise. Tim said that he's used a studio's guitar at times because he didn't have an axe with the exact tone and feel they were looking for;and he usually brings effects pedals,especially two wah pedals.(One is a Signature Slash Dunlop Wah--and the good old staple, a black Dunlop wah.
Here's a tip for you musicians when doing session work with a wah from Tim. This has to do with using the wah to help build a great tone for playing cleaner rhythm type material,and not having to constantly move the wah back and forth.
By moving it back and forth you're either searching too much for the right tone,or think that by jigging the wah pedal back and forth,you're creating a wild tone that will blow away your audience away,which may be a band,engineer or even a club booker.
Doesn't always work,especially with experienced players and recording engineers.
This is why Tim keeps his wah pedals in the half cocked position and is able to focus on that specific wah tone with the guitar part he's working with,to come up with the right riff and part for the session he's doing. It may work playing dirtier material,but not necessarily cleaner rhythm based material. That's why when working doing sessions in a studio you won't always have a say in how you get to play a certain part.
One thing Tim does like in his playing though,is using heavier,or thicker Fender guitar picks specifically. That's because Tim uses a tight and pronounced attack on the strings.
Tim's Gear and His Session Playing History:
I think of players,especially like Jimmy Page who started out literally doing studio session work,and inadvertently got some studio work with the major bands of the day in the mid 60's,like The Beatles believe it or not.
He's a player who enjoyed session playing,and learned all he could,but learned how to combine both live and studio work like Tim Rockmore.
The majority of Tim's session work has been with rock acts,and acting as a singer and songwriter.
There's a tip right there guys,to be more than just a one trick pony session playing wise,but focus on a few types of work,and don't go in too many directions. Tim has even done work on players home demo work and CD releases as well.
"Most of the non-jingle recording stuff I have done has been in singer songwriter situations,or rock bands. I have been hired to play on home demos and on some CD releases.
Tim's Gear and Accessories For being An Adaptable Player:
Strings: Ernie ball strings using 09's and some 10's.
For live gigs Tim uses a Friedman Runt 50 all tube head ,and for club type gigs and more intimate settings,one of the better and more versatile amp heads Tim uses is a Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier Tube Head. Rockmore sets it to the 25 watt position,classic gain mode,and using a clean tone channel.
Tim's Favorite Amps For Both Studio And Band Work:
I like using Marshall JCM 800 heads and Friedman Dirty Shirley amps,and a Bogner Shiva. I have a Bogner Shiva 1x12 in my studio storage space.I use it for gigs mostly;not recording. I record mostly on amps provided by studios.
Usually I ask for a Fender twin or Blues Deluxe type of amp. Or a Hot Rod Deluxe and a Marshall JCM 800. At times I use modern amps like an EVH 5150,Bogner Shiva or Orange. For home recording projects or home demos (at local song writers homes) I bring a Hughes and Kettner Mini head Tubmeister 40. It has a cab simulator channel, and it can plug direct into the board. Sounds awesome!
I love Hughes and Kettner amps and cabs for their clean tone.
Tim's Favorite Speakers To Work With:
I favor Celestion Vintage 30 speakers and 25 watt Green Backs over 75 watt speakers. But I love the Jensens in old Fenders!
Tim includes various guitars for a number of session gigs. Rockmore uses Fender Strats mainly,with a custom Suhr Hum Bucker in the Bridge position for a more over driven natural tone. Also uses a Suhr Classic Strat with Landau pickups for recording dates. Tim says he gets a very balanced tone that sounds great!
" John Suhr from Suhr wires these pickups to the back plate so that the single coils are quiet."
Tim's Recording Studio Session Gear:
When doing sessions in a studio Tim usually uses the house amps which are mainly the old staples like a Marshall,and the old guitar standby;Fender. TR says he favors Marshall JCM 100 Watt heads--and loves em!!
But he also says he plays direct to the board using modeling amps. As well, Tim says he uses some amp modeling at home, and has tracked television dates using a Pandora Box which is a direct practice amp with vintage modeling tone controls- but likes some settings specifically for doing studio session work.
TIm: " A lot of engineers prefer going direct, so I'm cool with it."
Tim says he like to use real tube amps when doing important artist demos and recordings,and that he pulls out his Les Paul for heavier rock and beefier chords and parts. But says that most tones he creates he feels he can get from a Strat and his Suhr.
Effects: Tim says that for any gain tones he uses a Suhr Riot Reloaded gain pedal,and a Suhr Shiba Drive for both gain and boost. For some recording situations he likes using a Fulltone OCD as a boost when using single coils,to put gain on a dirty amp signal tone. Using a Robin Trower like tone to get the right sound.
Tim uses his fingers a lot when playing to get the right attack,and uses tone and volume controls on a guitar a lot to get the right sound--and so he doesn't have to fool with the axe and amp when actually doing a session.
Important Effects In Tim's Session Arsenal:
Tim uses a pedal board with a number of effects. Firstly, he uses a Strymon Mobius for a Leslie,Rotary and Tremelo type effect in his playing.
His delay unit ranges from a TC Electronic Flashback,to a Boss Delay. Tim's says he likes to use the Spring Reverb from amps as well for a delay effect technique. But that usually they track dry and get reverb post from from the board.
"I use a Suhr pedal to boost the amp signal,but specifically go for a straight to the amp sound! Then isolate the speaker, and mic it. Then adjust the volume to find the sweet spot."
Good studio guys don't mind putting a mic on the cab,But I've been in situations where we go direct into the board with amp modeling.Learning how to set up a solid sounding tone from the volume and tone knobs om my amp and different guitars,has always been important to me,depending on the situation--whether its live,a recording, or doing a session for someone else.
Also,it shows I care what the studio engineer wants,and I'm willing to learn what they want exactly. Creating value for them and not thinking I can always play a session my way.
Mr. Rockmore says he's tracking mainly music libraries for TV at the moment,and recording guitar for local songwriters and artists in the New York City area. Tim is also using his home studio as a base for recording parts for local musicians, including a recent opportunity where he recorded for a singer sonwriter who needed a different feel to a written song she was going to scrap.
She had a rough demo of the drum track,vocals and bass;along with an organ key track on it. Tim helped greatly with the arrangement, and totally changed the feel. This track has both a Tremelo and Arpeggio type lines in that song that work together even better as a result.
As well,Tim helped with a cello line that had a regular guitar track,and two lead guitar tracks, that helped harmonize the song as a whole.
How Tim Relates To Artists So He Sees Their Vision And Is Able To Compose And Create What They Need:
"I like to talk to the artist and learn what they are thinking,and then try a bunch of things to give them options. Sometimes if there is a budget, I'll offer multiple versions and style takes of the songs."
Tim's Session Playing Genre's:
As far as my style goes I gravitate toward blues and hard rock with a pop feel. As well I have some flavors of country and bluegrass in my playing for studios or bands that require that. I am learning Jazz from some of the top players to include more of a jazz rock fusion feel to my work,,and inject that in my playing,future sessions and solo work.
Tim is not just a hard working session player,but a dedicated musician who will study what other musicians won't to learn what a studio or band want from a part,and over deliver, even if its just a simple part.
For more information on Tim Rockmore--and to acquire his services as a session player,or being a consultant or music director for your project,email Tim below.