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


Well – I’ve decided to return to blogging.

I have come to a realisation that as much as I try to tell myself that I should cut back on social media ‘stuff’, I actually enjoy being a part of the online world!

I seem to spend quite a few hours a week reading Facebook posts (and the like) by other solo guitarists, so I think it’s time to start sharing my thoughts, when I have the time.


Funny, when I returned to Music Study last year, I thought would be practicing even MORE than I currently was. Not so. I have actually experienced a drop in weekly time spent honing my skills on the guitar. Maybe it’s all that extra time I have been spending per week on the ‘other’ study material, Theory being the main one. 

It’s been a constant battle to find the time to squeeze in the time to play, work on scales, arpeggios etc., the usual stuff. (I’m doing a Diploma Of Music at TAFE, and a fair chunk of the course is jazz related). Sometimes I wonder if I have still have the same drive as I used to, you know, to practice hard! In some areas, I’ve had to own up to it; no I don’t. I guess I’ve had to be honest with myself; do I want to master the guitar? No. I read a great interview with Earl Klugh recently, where, when asked about sight-reading (and did he work on it? etc), he said “ah, I remain perpetually rusty at it”. Rusty, Earl? Wow. He said he spent his time on other things, and that “you can’t do everything all the time”, or words to that effect.

This made me feel a lot better, and relieved in a way. I have a wife & family now, and more responsibilities (including being self-employed) than I used to when I was young and played 3 hours a night. I mean, if the great Earl Klugh can accept that he’s not a great sight-reader, surely it shouldn’t bother me? 

I know I need to be more structured with my practice, but I guess I really don’t have much to worry about, at the end of the day. I’ve actually just been enjoying time away from the guitar a little over these last 2 weeks, as I have a short break from both teaching and study. i consider myself lucky that I get to spend most of my holidays with my family, as they are also on a break at the same time of the year.

So – taking time to smell the roses is a cliche that gets used often, but it’s ringing true for me lately.