Tech Talk by James
Pizza by the Slice and When to Roll the Dice
“You can get it if you really want it. But if you don’t really want it you’ll never get it”…Tony Brock, Music Producer , Silver Dreams Studios.
You have paid your way and paid your dues for years now. You’ve done everything they ever told you to do but you still feel you can’t really make your guitar sing like you dreamed of when you first picked it up? You’re tired of playing Top 40 in bar bands and never making any real money and are thinking of quitting to attend law school or med school. Take Heart. There are times when you will hate the instrument and times when you’ll love it. But stick with it because eventually you will see results and achieve a level of success you never thought possible. Someone once said to me “When are you going to quit?” and I said “Oh I quit every day, but I’m back the next day. They naturally wished “ To know why?” My reply: “ Oh, well that’s just my training at Berkeley, I vent and get feedback , then I feel better, and then I’m back at it like nothing ever happened.” If venting doesn’t work on stress I simply get a slice of pizza, say a prayer, and go for the Guitar again knowing I have changed the energy and made things better. Usually I see results within 5 minutes that make me think “What else can I play that’s new or what can I learn today?”
Sometimes I am given two diff exciting opportunities: One is to play a dream gig and or work with someone I admire, and the other is to make a pile of cash for a few hours work. This is perhaps the most difficult situation. This is a conundrum as now I want to do both and it looks like I need to clone myself to pull it off. Time to flip a coin or roll the dice!
Now maybe all that seems funny to some folks but I don’t mind. Perhaps your life requires a good studio, loads of guitars, nice car, trophy spouse, and a few goodies now and then- and you have an ambition to succeed that is very strong. Just remember you only need one great guitar and one good amp to make a living. And of course, some good songs. If you can’t sing then find a great singer to write songs with and be all the best parts of you that you can be all the time for them. If you don’t wish to give more than what is asked for then you are not very likely to be asked back to fill the slot as “First Call” Guitarist. Music makers, such as Producers and Composers and Band Members will always remember the guy or gal who is thoughtful and who can do the job and is a pleasure to be around. And they most certainly recall who not to invite back.
One of the funniest stories I ever heard came from the LA Studio Giant, Tommy Tedesco. Tommy, when he was alive, was the most recorded guitarist in the history of the planet ! No easy feat to pull off. Tommy loved good music and good food. He was a natural storyteller and a great musician to boot. On his first big studio gig he was well mannered, polite and set up early and ready to go. There were 100 orchestra guys there all gathered to be conducted by John Williams. It was either a score for a blockbuster movie or an important recording artist. Tommy felt pleased he got the gig. He was a good sightreader.
One problem occurred he didn’t bank on…He got a case of stage fright or nerves. It started in his left foot and worked its way up his leg and across and down his right leg, and then back up to his chest, arms, and his neck. He had the shakes. By the time the orchestra had played all the parts they were expected to enough time had elapsed Tommy was in a cold sweat. They played perfectly and it was now time for Tommy to take a solo on his Classical Guitar. His hands shook as he held the guitar. He made a sound that closely resembled broken glass and 100 guys all turned in unison and looked at him. The Conductor for the gig looked at him and pointed to him and simply said “ You- out!” The next day he was back on the assembly line at Douglas Aircraft in Burbank, California. But he learned from the experience and two years later he returned to the same employer and all went well. By then the Composer and Producer had forgotten him and his faux paus. He never got so discouraged he gave up. And of course he did a great job so they had him back again and again. He had rolled the dice that things would be different the second time around and it paid off. He made $800.00 that day. The parts were extremely tricky and he nailed it.
Tommy would also drive 45 miles out of his way to play a gig with friends for very little money - $30.00 usually, sometimes nothing. But this built a new thing into the friendship and a regular gig that was good for the soul.
Most people who only play for the money don’t last in the music industry. People who love music have a passion for it and a certain something in their hearts that can’t be defined except to say they would play music even if it was just a hobby. They have something inside that can’t be denied and will transcend all difficulties just to get to the perfect note and tone and play something sublime.
PS: Live The Dream, and don’t forget your iPod !