Little Walter Amp Videos; Developing Your Own Style

We’ll be talking more about Little Walter amps in future newsletters. As for now, here are the promised videos. Enjoy.

Little Walter Workshop Videos on YouTube.
Little Walter Workshop 1
Little Walter Workshop 2
Little Walter Workshop 3
Little Walter Workshop 4
Little Walter Workshop 5
Little Walter Workshop 6
Little Walter Workshop 7

This is Bob Hempker. One thing we haven’t addressed so far that I can recall is developing a style of your own. We want to create music as we’re playing it, call it improvising or whatever. After a period of years of doing this, people will hear us without evening knowing who it is and be able to tell by our particular “style”.

That can have several contributing factors such as tone, phrasing, intonation, aggression, passiveness. Our emotions and personality come through in our playing whether we like it or not. We should try and use this to our advantage.

When I think of steel guitar players with extremely prominent styles, people like Jerry Byrd, Don Helms, Ralph Mooney, Jimmy Day, Curly Chalker, John Hughey, Buddy Emmons and of course, YOUR own personal favorite, whoever that may be.

These are people who have left their mark on steel guitar history. This did earn each of these people a plaque in St. Louis.

Developing your own signature style should be something that’s always in the back of your mind. One particular exercise you can try is taking a solo that someone played then trying to play it like some other player would. For instance, take a Tom Brumley solo and imagine how Lloyd Green would play it or vice-versa.

You will find more often than not, you’ll end up sounding like neither of them but instead sounding like yourself. The more you do this, the more your own style will develop.

Another thing to try is taking an intro to a certain song as long as the chord changes are the same and melodies are similar and using it for an intro for an entirely different song. You’ll end up with something different from either.

You don’t have to use a steel guitar solo. You can take a horn, guitar, fiddle or bagpipe solo. It doesn’t have to come from a steel player for you to be able to incorporate it into your playing.

For example, twenty plus years ago when the song Achy Breaky Heart was a big hit recording, I was playing a club six nights a week and we had to play the song three to four times a night. The song is a hated song by most musicians anyway and having to play it that much was like rubbing salt into a wound.

I used just play as far out as I could as long as I didn’t screw up the rest of the band when they’d throw me a solo on that song. One funny thing that we laughed about was when I would solo over the changes of that song, I would play the old piano tune Alley Cat.

It was so stupid sounding it was funny. The audience paid no attention, they were busy dancing. But the band would crack up. It took some of the agony and boredom out of playing that song so often.

That’s probably not a good example of developing style, but it’s a good example of amusing yourself.

Another thing you can do is take licks that you’ve learned and see what songs that they’ll fit in. You may end up playing the licks a little bit differently than you originally learned them in order to fit the particular song you’re playing.

Another thing you can do is take a song or a lick that you normally play and start it out in a different position. In other words, if you’re playing in the key of A for instance and the particular lick starts out on the fifth fret, try playing it with your pedals down starting on the eighth fret with your “A” pedal and your knee lever raising your fourth and eighth strings.

This helps us to learn our instrument but it also furthers us towards developing our own style. I have seen other steel players play a lick that I would play in a totally different way than I would play it, then think to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

We all seem to learn from each other and I have never ever met a player that if I didn’t sit and listen to long enough, I wouldn’t learn something from. We need to keep our minds completely open towards new ideas and new ways of playing things. One day years down the road, somebody will walk up to you and say, “Man you really got a unique style.”

This is what we are all trying to achieve. This will also get us more attention and more work than playing the most notes in a measure or being the fastest player. Anything you do to take you out of your normal rut will help you develop your style.

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