AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Bob Hempker

This is Bob Hempker. We get some questions over and over again so I thought I’d go over a few of them today.

Q: Where do you look for inspiration?

A: First off, I believe in listening to all different kinds of music and it doesn’t have to have a steel guitar in it for me to pick something up or appreciate how it’s done. We need to listen to various recordings, we need to go listen to players that we admire playing live, and again that’s not just steel guitar players.

If you to think about it spiritually, we can look inside ourselves and connect with the spiritual being that we believe in.

Q: Do you always play it safe onstage or do you push the edge of your comfort zone?

A: There are times when we need to play it safe and there are other times we will need to push the edge of our comfort zone. The key is knowing the difference.

Q: How much do you experiment? Where do you experiment, during practice or onstage?

A: I experiment a lot, both practicing and onstage if the gig allows for it.

Q: Where’s your comfort zone and when do you push it and how much do you push it?

A: It all depends on who I’m playing with.

Q: Should you be lick oriented?

A: Licks are great as long as they fit the situation and if we understand the ins and outs of the lick as far as the scale, the chord we’re playing and how it’s complimenting whatever someone else in the band is playing.

Q: How important is melody to the part the steel guitar plays in the band?

A: In commercial music the melody is one of the crucial aspects of the song. If you’re playing fusion jazz or something like that, it’s probably not important.

Q: Your tone, where does it come from, how do you get it and what effects do you use?

A: I think that your tone comes from your brain, your ears and your hands, then your guitar, amplifier, effects and other stuff. I think we have to start with a good sounding guitar and go from there.

Q: What are your thoughts on the power of music to evoke or even create emotions.

A: Music is emotion.

Q: Current Nashville news.

A: George Jones died.

Q: Do you ever get burned out? If so, how do you counter it?

A: I’m probably burned out right now. I use different ways of countering it. In a situation where I have to play, I try to work on things or listen to things that are totally outside the box. If I’m in a position where I don’t have to play, I just don’t play for awhile.

Q: How do you quiet down your guitar for recording sessions?

A: Turn the volume knob down on your amp.

Q: Do you consider yourself a steel guitarist first, musician second, or the other way around?

A: Good steel guitarists are musicians and a good musician can be a steel guitar player.

Q: What mishaps have you had onstage that taught you lessons?

A: Being chewing out by a singer for over-playing. Being fired from a gig for over-playing. Not trying to work with the band and be a team member.

Q: How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

A: Put it behind you and proceed forward. If you’re in a recording studio, you can go back and punch in and correct it. In live performance, you can’t do that. You just have to go on.

That should cover many of the common questions we get. Have a great steel guitar week.

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