An Earth Shattering Bit Of Info

This is Vic Lawson with today’s newsletter. Here are a couple of emails we received after the last newsletter and I thought we’d share them.

HI, Vic, I’ve also greatly enjoyed your emails. A couple of things I’d like to see you cover, I think would help my students out quite a bit…

Exactly how do you go about learning a new tune, say from a recording- playing through the changes first, charting it out, signature licks first? Etc. And in regard to both that and live playing, do you THINK in the number system as I do and try to encourage my students to learn- ie: listening to a recording or in a live situation as the changes go by and mentally filing (1,6m, 4, 2m, 5 etc.) and learning the fretboard, levers, pedals as number system functions as well?

Thanks, best wishes, and love to Bobbe.
Mark van Allen

There are a couple of ways I learn a song. I find that charting it out first makes me learn the song quicker and also commits a lot of it to memory. Also, I’ll live with the song for two or three days in the car and then I will learn the signature licks if any.

As far as the signature licks go, if I have trouble with them, then I use my Tascam GB-10 which allows me to slow the song down to half speed without changing the key and also allows me to loop the lick over and over endlessly. Both these features are very helpful.


Many, many, many years ago when I was learning to play I had two Curly Chalker C 6th albums and tried to copy them note per note. Later when I started to play with bands I played Chalker’s C 6th album style. I worked very hard to impress the band members and was really doing quite well too. After working my first paying club gig for a whopping ten days, the club manager came to the band leader and told him my playing stunk and patron’s had complained I was taking away from band’s the sound. If he wanted to keep playing there I had to go. After our last set, let go with no explanation and I took it that the club had to cut what they were paying and I was last hired. After this it had happened twice more, I was gaining a reputation for knowing music theory (which I didn’t), but the jobs stopped coming and still I had no idea why.

While band jobs had stopped, I was going to every jam session possible to improve my playing and get my foot back in the door. At one of these jams, a great lead guitarist named Dick Thompson came up to me on a break and told me “he had heard Buddy Charlton and Buddy Emmons play like that after hours at Hunter’s Lodge, but never on a recording backing a singer”. He told me to follow him home and gave me one Tammy Wynette and one Charlie Pride album and said to follow their steel example to enhance the singer and the audience’s listening pleasure and if I could, he would Hire me. He also delivered an earth shattering bit of info, I wasn’t the star, the singer was!!!! I listened to him and that day became a steel player and was with this band for about ten years. The BEST advice I ever received.

Take care and GOD bless you all,
Bruce, in Port Charlotte FL

I think that’s a great lesson learned. I was fortunate to have a mentor that actually told me that in my first band. It sure wasn’t about the steel guitar, it was about the vocalist. I think that’s a great lesson for beginning players to learn what filling means, because if you really listen to a recording you’ll find that the steel guitar or other lead instruments typically aren’t playing constantly. They try to find little melodies that will fit in between vocal phrases.

I thank both of these readers for sharing their thoughts with us and also thank them for making it easy to write this newsletter. I’d like to encourage the rest of you to also make it easy for me to write future newsletters.

We’ve been getting some input on other subjects that we’ll be addressing. Keep those questions coming folks. That’s how I know what you want to hear about.

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