Ron Carpenter: The Right Lick At The Right Time

This is Vic Lawson with today’s newsletter. I received this email from Ron Carpenter and it is definitely worthy of passing on to everyone, especially those seeking to improve their steel guitar skills. Here is the email.


When I switched from lead guitar to steel I recorded off the board at live gigs whenever I could. Two things I noticed about my playing were; 1. a lack of discipline and 2. using the same riff in song after song all through the night. Not unusual for a beginning player.

By discipline I mean, we just played a western swing tune and the singer calls a ballad. I’m still getting off on the swing tune in my head and trying to play some of those lines in the ballad. Obviously, these two things are not what the audience, or for that matter, even I want to listen to. Hearing the recordings burned it into my head how out of place and out of touch with the music an instrument can be.

The last group I played with before deciding to retire, the piano man told me the trouble with my playing was I always played the right lick at the right time and then laid out. These were skills learned listening to those tapes. I told him that’s what the song needs, and laying out keeps me from having a train wreck with the other guys. He said, I know, but nobody else plays that way. You don’t even comp rhythm. I said, unless your playing small group jazz, the steel padding chords gets in the way.

We never came to an agreement. As I look at it now I think it was a fine compliment. To play the right line, and not replay a line from a song over & over through the night, and avoid train wrecks with the other players…on a 4-5 hour club gig that’s a good night.

Enjoy what you’re doing now. When your heart gets diseased enough you can’t carry your own gear, or your ears get overused to point where you can’t tune without a tuner, (or in my case both) then you’re just an old dog sitting on the porch watching the pups play.

Ron Carpenter

Thank you Ron for those words of wisdom. I want to thank you for elaborating so eloquently on the idea of recording every gig you can in order to listen back and learn what areas you need to improve in. Nobody can ever critique your playing as well as you can critique it yourself. Being able to hear yourself as the audience hears you can be a real eye opener.

We’ve had a very busy few days with not much time to give to the newsletter, so we’ll try to make it up to you in Thursday’s newsletter.

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