Directions: recording studio vs. concert stage

Hi guys and gals,

I’d like to thank everyone for the tremendous response that I’ve received the world over concerning my last tips newsletter on how to work with a band. Actually, much of this tip was learned by me in the studio as a producer trying to create perfect records, rather than as a steel guitarist trying to produce perfect steel guitar licks. Looking at the big picture and how everything works as a unit is much more important than how one person sounds in the band as an individual. Again, thank you for all of the response that I’ve received on that newsletter.

There are several different directions a steel player can go in his learning to attain his final goal as a player. Most players are at the stage of not knowing what direction they’re going to go yet. Do you realize that there are many steel guitarists in studios making incredible money that would be totally lost on the stage in St Louis at the International Steel Guitar Show? There are many great players that will knock you out on that stage Labor Day weekend, that would do very poorly in the studio under the pressures created therein.

During my heyday in the recording studios of Nashville, I started playing the steel guitar shows around the U.S. and found that I was very inadequate at playing live where I was the star. As a road musician, I did fine. After 3 or 4 years in the studio, I did fine but when I was on the hotseat at the big steel shows, this was the most nerve-wracking situation I had ever gotten in to. The moral of this post is going to be … focus on the kind of player you want to be. Learning to be a great studio musician is a total different art in itself, as is learning to be a great show, hotdog, show-off musician.

The things I will be sharing with you in my videos will be primarily focused on teaching you the skills you’ll need to know to make money with your steel guitar in a band situation. This band experience and playing well as a band member will the foundation you will need to be a hotdog, show-off in the future or an incredible studio musician. Very few people are really both … like Buddy Emmons and nobody else I can think of. For instance, Curly Chalker was the most gargantuous demonstration steel guitarist I’ve ever known, however, his Nashville recording career never blossomed, even though all the producers knew of him and would go to the clubs where he worked just to watch him play. These same producers would go back and book Pete Drake on the session for the next day and as we all know, Pete Drake even had trouble playing the melody. However, Pete had the uncanny ability to make a song sound, act and feel the way the producer and writer wanted it to be. It may be said that Pete Drake gave the song a chance to breathe and a song gave Curly Chalker a chance to breathe. To sit down and listen to a steel guitarist, Chalker was always at the top of everybody’s list. Pete Drake was at the top of every producer’s list.

Again, the moral of this tip … pick a direction to go with your playing. Aim at it and prepare yourself to hit the mark. That’s what I and my videos are here for … to help you to learn what you need to learn to help you accomplish what you want to do.

Your buddy,



P.S. Email me back and tell me what kind of steel guitarist you wish to be … an instrumentalist who will be like what Chet Atkins, Les Paul and Larry Carlton are to lead guitar or like Floyd Cramer and Liberace were to piano … or would you rather be a money making steel guitarist who will be like what Grady Martin, Billy Sanford, Don Rich or Brent Mason are to guitar or what Pig Robbins and David Briggs are to piano. All these guys make very good money but our personalities and internal make-up determine what we want or can be.

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