I received an email recently asking: "how do you get started in session drumming and how do you make a career out of it?" As I was responding to the email, I thought that maybe my answer and thoughts might make for a good blog post. So here goes! My response:
You can look at the careers of Kenny Aronoff, Hal Blaine, Jim Keltner, Matt Chamberlain, Jeff Porcaro, Greg Bissonette, Harvey Mason, Steve Jordan, Eddie Bayers, Larrie London and others to get a sense of what their lives look like and the paths they followed to get where they are (or were - unfortunately some of these guys are no longer with us).
I started getting interested in studio drumming right after I attained my Bachelor of Music Degree (University of North Texas) and interned at a recording studio in Dallas, TX to try and learn more about recording. I later joined Sixpence None the Richer and began recording with them, in addition to playing live with them. As the career of Sixpence began to take off, there were subsequent recording sessions and opportunities to record with other artists as well. Also, Sixpence moved from Texas to Nashville and that opened up other recording opportunities as well.
Making a living in the music business is truly an art and I recommend that you research all the ways that one can make money doing music for a living. I believe the more skills you have to offer someone, the more likely you will be able to get work. Thus, I recommend getting a thorough education as a musician and finding as many opportunities you can to work with others. Your ability to network with others and create your own work will help as well.
I've been fortunate to work as a musician for many years now, and sometimes that work includes session work. However my session work has always been supplemented with live drumming gigs, web design work, songwriting, teaching, and temporary work through "temp agencies" (such as Ranstaad and Kelly).
I would look for studios and producers in your area to meet and ask them for opportunities to get involved with the projects they are doing. I would look for bands and individuals needing drummers and begin playing with them. I would look for a local professional drummer who also teaches and begin taking lessons with them. Also, I would encourage you to sign up for music theory, music history percussion classes available through your local college. Learning other instruments would be helpful as well. Learning about songwriting is another avenue to explore too.
This is what I can think of for now...let me know if any of what I've said is helpful and if you have any other questions please send them along...I'll do my best to help you out however I can.
So that was my answer...what do you think? Was I helpful? Do you have anything to add to what I wrote? If so, leave a comment below and hopefully this post can will continue to be helpful long after my email has been sent and this has been posted.