The studio guitarist’s guide to happiness and personal fulfilment. W – WTF?
Here’s a thing. You dedicate your life to the impossible quest for musical perfection. You put in the hours. You memorise scales and arpeggios. You obsess over guitar, amp, string gauges and plectrum thickness. You sweat over a melting metronome until you can give a passable impersonation of a cat with time, groove and feel.
And then. This happens. You turn up to the TV date, the movie session, the concert. And you can’t play. Zilch. Your worst nightmare is made real. You and your Fender appear to have met before, but not recently. Those little black squiggles on the page are clearly written in Aramaic. The MD exhibits symptoms of acute appendicitis when he hears your first attempt where the music states: ‘Solo – tasteful overdrive with light chorus and delay’. Your fingers move. But someone else is working them. And that someone doesn’t play guitar for a living. In short, WTF?
If I were to suggest that most of this is about egotism and little to do with musical ability, it’s likely you’ll raise an eyebrow and reprise vocally the subject of this article. But read on and reserve judgement.
The day starts promisingly, even if it’s the wrong side of 7am. The coffee hasn’t run out and the milk isn’t off. Sadly, that is as good as it’s going to get today. Two and a half hours later, your 45-minute trip into London is completed. Your Zen-like state is diminished further when your allocated parking space has been gifted to one of the singers. You attempt to find the last pay and display space in southern England. After what seems like an eternity you scramble onstage with 10 minutes to set up. You have been provided with so little space that even Houdini would be pushed for wriggle room. Using a combination of diplomacy and barely concealed threats to turn round and go home, a messy compromise with the viola section is reached. Four guitars, two amps, pedals etc are shoehorned into position. But without a power supply. Those over stretched chaps from sound have forgotten you. At the moment that the MD’s baton drops onto the first beat of bar one, electricity courses through and... Oh, Jesus! Where is that awful hum coming from? You sound about a quarter tone out of tune as a result. That’ll be the earth loops, the RF off the music stand lights and the endless runs of cables. You can’t see the conductor through the raised piano lid, you can’t hear a thing through the in-ear monitor and you can’t move for fear of wiping out the £50K fiddle belonging to the young lady sitting next to you. No need to make matters worse. She hates you already. After all, she’s a concert artiste and you are an overpaid oik making a racket.
What follows does not come close to you ‘giving of your best’. And why should it? You never stood a chance. Most of this has nothing to do with you. So. You do you what you can and drag yourself back home, expunging the horror of the day from your mind.
Next day you turn up on another date and play like a cross between Paganini and Pete Townshend. You’re a genius. And are told so by any number of gushing admirers. Only you aren’t, of course. Same strings, different day. All else is egotism, one way or t’other. Ignore both states of mind and keep going?
WTF? Or, ‘Where’s the food?’ in David Cameron-speak. Probably.
you do what you can and drag yourself back home, expunging the horrors of the day from your mind