Practice

July 27, 2013

Last night I played a gig with a great Adelaide singer, Tania Savelli, in a new duo we’ve started. (Soul Inc) We play covers of classic blues, jazz, and soul music.

We both run our own teaching businesses, and play weddings & event gigs too. We’re well suited musically, and have similar favourite genres.

Our duo is sounding good, however, I was reminded of a key important point about preparing for a gig. I must know the songs in the gig rep – thoroughly!  We both were comfortable with our song list (as far as the forms, chords, lyrics etc) but I personally found a big hole in my playing. I had my charts, so I thought I could ‘wing’ the songs I hadn’t played as much.

I ‘think’ that I’m good for any gig that may come up, and ready to tackle any song that I’ve heard a million times, even if I haven’t actually played it live much.

I played in a great duo ‘Black and Blue’ with blues/rock  vocalist Brett Littlefair for many years. We were tight, but that came from years of gigs together, and knowing each others’ style inside and out. I even knew which chord voicings Brett would use in songs, so I could try and add different tones. We rarely did songs at gigs without rehearsing them.  I think that is what led me to write my blog this week.

Sometimes I watch other musicians play songs on the fly, and they can do a reasonable job with it; making it groove, swing, rock or whatever. I used to think that I also possess this skill, but you know what? Maybe I don’t. It’s not a self-effacing thing either, it’s just being honest with myself. It’s okay to just ‘get through’ a song every now and then, but in the long term it can lead to frustration.

Example – we played ‘Superstition’. I have watched both Adam Rafferty & Pete Huttlinger play their incredible solo guitar versions of that song, so I thought I’d just ‘borrow’ some of their ideas, riffs etc. It didn’t work. The main problem was that they play it solo, and I was accompanying a singer. The verse riffs that I played were too ‘heavy’ underneath the vocal line, and it just didn’t suit. The other problem was that we did the song in F, and I remembered about 2 bars in that Adam & Pete play it in E!! Oops.

There are some players around who, like I said, can pull it off, and just make it work in any key, but last night was a wake up call for me. I play through many different types of exercises during my practice time, convincing myself that I need to keep my chops up so I can be ready for any gig, on electric or acoustic guitar. I do sight-reading, scales, arpeggios…..but, in all honesty, I don’t spend enough time on my actual gig rep for that week.

It’s so important to have a structured practice plan, and to be honest about your musical abilities. “Play to your strengths” (Tommy Tedesco’s wise words), and know when to make necessary changes.

Ken wordpress pic

Find your own voice

July 18, 2013

Find your own voice.