Ses­sion shenani­gans

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment, as re­lated by ses­sion ace Mitch Dal­ton. This month: Strike Up The Band!

Guitar Techniques - - IN­TRO - For more on Mitch and his mu­si­cal ex­ploits with the Stu­dio Kings, go to: www.mitch­dal­ton.co.uk

At some point in what might be de­scribed loosely as a ‘ca­reer’, a gui­tarist’s thoughts turn to the idyl­lic no­tion of writ­ing, ar­rang­ing and per­form­ing his own mu­sic and pre­sent­ing it to rap­tur­ous audiences in pres­ti­gious venues across the land. This fan­tasy of­ten man­i­fests it­self half-way through record­ing a cat food com­mer­cial, in the midst of a TV va­ri­ety show or even when be­calmed on the M25 calculating the ap­prox­i­mate num­ber of hours late you’re go­ing to be for the gig.

In short, it seems like a good idea at the time. But be­fore plung­ing into this pu­ta­tive world of cre­ativ­ity, self ex­pres­sion and ful­fil­ment, ask your­self this in­con­ve­nient ques­tion: why are so many band­leaders a tad, well... grumpy? Is it na­ture or nur­ture? Were they born with a metaphor­i­cal sil­ver ba­ton in their col­lec­tive foul mouths or did the tin­sel ’n’ glit­ter lure of Show­biz some­how turn them into so­ciopaths whose one re­main­ing buddy is Jack Daniel’s?

Let’s take an al­lit­er­a­tive look at the root cause of the mis­an­thropy be­hind the mu­sic, the angst be­neath the adu­la­tion and the break­down be­hind the beat.

First off, you’re gonna need a hip combo to back you, daddy-o. For the sake of your san­ity, you will be ad­vised to re­strict your­self to two or three top side­men in your very own groove ma­chine. In my ex­pe­ri­ence the ideal num­ber would be none, but this is rarely prac­ti­cal.

Hav­ing hired the best avail­able tal­ent in their price range, you may con­sider that a day of re­hearsal can only en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence for au­di­ence and band alike. How­ever, there’s lit­tle point in per­form­ing an avail­abil­ity check too early, merely to be dis­ap­pointed later. Let’s say for the sake of ar­gu­ment that you re­quest col­lec­tive free dates in the month be­fore the gig. If you’re lucky, you’ll find two days that fit. Thus en­cour­aged, you choose one and book a pres­ti­gious re­hearsal es­tab­lish­ment with free park­ing and an in­ter­mit­tently func­tion­ing cof­fee ma­chine. And a snip at £10 per hour. You email con­fir­ma­tion to your paid ac­com­plices.

Within 30 min­utes, the bassist texts you with min­i­mum re­morse to an­nounce that has he has just taken a ses­sion on that morn­ing. You put the ket­tle on and re­book your chums and venue for the one re­main­ing day in the merry month. Next morn­ing your key­board ge­nius col­league shares the news that he must be away by 5pm at the lat­est that day. Con­se­quently, you ar­range to cram the two three-hour ses­sions into one day by fore­go­ing a for­mal lunch break and bring­ing a bag of Value Sand­wiches, to be dis­trib­uted to the needy on an ad hoc ba­sis.

A week later, your drum­mer rings in a panic with the news that the su­per­star gui­tarist with whom he’s tour­ing has added an ex­tra date in Hol­land on the very day of your mod­est en­ter­tain­ment. With but a to­ken ad­di­tion to the grey­ness of your re­ced­ing hair­line, you re­pair to the tele­phone for no more than a day and a half, hire a will­ing re­place­ment, mail the mu­sic and CDs in ad­vance of the re­hearsal and con­tinue with the re­main­der of your life. Which at this point con­sists mainly of writ­ing and ar­rang­ing new ma­te­rial in ev­ery spare mo­ment, for­mat­ting it in Si­belius with the aid of a 10-year-old child and print­ing it out, should your com­puter hap­pen to be on speak­ing terms with the malev­o­lent de­vice re­sid­ing be­side it. (Top tip: Never un­der­es­ti­mate the time it takes to stick all those pages of A4 to­gether. And the quan­ti­ties of pa­per and tape in­volved. Laugh if you must. But ig­nore me at your peril.)

Fast for­ward to the great day it­self (we’ll omit the re­ac­tion of your col­leagues at re­hearsal to those ag­o­nis­ingly wrought tunes, which is not dis­sim­i­lar to the dis­taste one sees when the cat has dragged some­thing un­pleas­ant into the house; ap­par­ently, your mas­ter works are all too dif­fi­cult, too easy, too com­plex or too light­weight of­ten si­mul­ta­ne­ously).

Some­how, af­ter weeks of stress, the pieces of the jig­saw stum­ble into place. Park­ing. Set-up. Sound­check. A bite to eat. And fi­nally. The gig. Where you dis­cover that you have for­got­ten en­tirely how to play the gui­tar; you ap­pear to be read­ing un­playable mu­sic beamed from another planet, and those hi­lar­i­ous links be­tween tunes die in the air the in­stant they es­cape your quiv­er­ing lips.

Don’t say you weren’t warned. I’ll be back next month. Mean­while, here’s Lot­tie with the news and travel in your area.

ap­par­ently your mas­ter works are all too diF­Fi­cult, too easy, too com­plex or too light­weight

Mitch pon­ders the premise of form­ing one’s own band to play one’s own mu­sic

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