First, I need to make a correction to the last newsletter and I want to thank everybody who helped me with the correct information.
On the song Don’t Worry About Me by Marty Robbins, it was actually the guitar player Grady Martin who played the turnaround. The sound was caused by a bad tube in the console, not by a rip in the speaker. Everybody thought the sound was so unique and cool, someone started making the Fuzz Tone to make that sound.
I also had Eddie Lange confused with Eddie Long. It was actually Eddie Long who worked for Hank Jr. I apologize for the confusion.
Now for today’s newsletter. How many beginners have I met who think they can sit down, memorize 25 licks and go onstage with a band as the steel guitarist? I’d run out of fingers and toes trying to count them. So let’s talk about developing your own style versus learning licks.
Don’t get me wrong, licks are wonderful when they fit the song and the best licks of all are the ones you create for the song you’re playing. That’s the key. Throwing in a lick you’ve memorized just because you can’t think of anything else to do is not the best idea.
Try this to see how creative and imaginative you can be. The basic parts of a song are lyrics, melody and rhythm. The rhythm is like the chassis of a car. You won’t have much of a song without it. There needs to be rhythm going on in the song at all times regardless of who is playing it, guitar or steelguitar. The rhythm needs to be much quieter than the fill instrument is.
Steel guitar will seldom be hired to play the rhythm. An example of a steel player being in the rhythm section is Tom Brumley playing rhythm on steel on some of Buck Owens’ faster tunes. I cannot recall anyone other than Ralph Mooney being hired for such a job, however it is possible at times for the steel player to add to the rhythm section if there is no piano on a 4/4 shuffle tune or actually about any tune.
If a steel guitar starts at the beginning of a tune playing rhythm, he should go all the way through the tune and not come in and out. The way steel players are used to thinking, this may be a very hard thing for them to do at first. Letting your imagination be your guide and not playing your rhythms very loud ever, you may inventively come up with something you can add to any song.
Learning to play tasteful licks is not an easy thing to do, however listen to players like Weldon Myrick, Tommy White, Paul Franklin, Mike Johnson and Travis Toy and you’ll hear what tasteful is. Of course, there are many more players that are very astute at backing singers and playing music overall.
If you have a good imagination, pretend you’ve been called to record an album with a brand new singer named Patsy Cline. You’re given the number charts. She starts singing and you have to create something the public will remember and love for decades to come. Are you up to it?
If you’re only armed with a pocket full of licks you’ve copied and memorized from songs you’ve heard on the radio, how do you think you’re going to be perceived by the producer, the other musicians and the public that listens to your playing?
Here in Nashville there are plenty of clubs where singers can get onstage and showcase their talents. Spend an evening in these clubs and see if you don’t get tired of listening to one more Patsy Cline or Martina McBride wannabe.
Then visit the clubs where musicians can showcase their talents and see if you don’t get tired of listening to one more steel player play the same lick in every song. See if you go back the next night wanting more. See if you don’t feel embarrassed listening to those too clueless to be embarrassed for themselves.
Do you want to be labeled a hack and a copycat or do you want to be respected as a player? Wouldn’t it be better to hear and feel and play your instrument with inspiration and passion? The choice is yours.
Of course, if any of you are inspired to become better players, you all know you can find my teaching videos at www.steelguitar.net/videos.
Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Second and Third Saturday each Month Open 9AM – 2PM