Although String section really are a group of string players (the clue is in the title I suppose!), occasionally we are asked by clients to source or recommend session musicians who play other instruments. In the past, we’ve been asked to find a cor anglais player, a flautist, oboist, harpist, French horn player and pianist to work on the same recordings that we were booked for.
On the surface, this should seem easy because as musicians we have lots of colleagues and contacts through orchestras and ensembles who play virtually any instrument, or it’s simply a case of ‘phone a friend’ to get a good recommendation. What takes a little thought is finding players who are 100% ‘rock-solid reliable’ and temperamentally suited to studio work as well as orchestral playing. As woodwind and brass players are often required to perform quite exposed solos in symphonic pieces, they will usually have no trouble sight reading and playing difficult stuff really well. Because tuning issues on wind instruments can be even more affected by humidity than with strings, studio conditions can have quite an effect, particularly in smaller booths. Also in smaller rooms, it may take a little longer for the engineer to set up the microphones and levels for e.g a French Horn as the volume of sound is potentially larger than a violin and the direction of sound needs to be carefully catered for – in this case, patience among the session musicians is a virtue!
Essentially when we are asked to fix another player, they would not only need to be a very capable musician with excellent tuning, but a patient and punctual person who can pay a great deal of attention to detail, be pleasant to work with and not develop an attack of nerves when the red light goes on! In the same way that not every musician is temperamentally suited to studio work, there are also those who absolutely thrive in a recording situation with some of their best work done in the studio.
So far, the only request for another instrumentalist that has completely stumped us was someone looking for a bluegrass style banjo player but happily the client found someone very good via the internet.