SES­SION shenani­gans

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment, as re­lated by ses­sion ace Mitch Dal­ton. This month: Ex­is­ten­tial­ism for dum­mies.

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

The ti­tle ‘Self Em­ployed Mu­si­cian’ car­ries with it any num­ber of as­sump­tions, most of them ut­terly er­ro­neous. But I’ll re­frain from trot­ting out clichés de­scrib­ing sleep pat­terns which be­gin and end at 3 (am and pm), heroic con­sump­tion of craft beers and an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship with the De­part­ment For Work And Pen­sions.

The re­al­ity is very dif­fer­ent. And with­out en­gag­ing in some crit­i­cal self-anal­y­sis, can be as dark as a dawn De­cem­ber commute wear­ing pre­scrip­tion Ray-bans. So the next time you en­gage an itin­er­ant ukulele player in con­ver­sa­tion, I’d avoid pa­tience-test­ing en­quiries as to what ‘real’ job he un­der­takes when not at­tempt­ing to en­ter­tain the great un­washed. Un­less you’ve a thing about A&E de­part­ments.

First off, the com­bi­na­tion of con­stant in­se­cu­rity and the re­liance on ran­dom of­fers can be more than enough to punc­ture even Mary Pop­pins’ pos­i­tiv­ity. And se­condly, there is a cor­ro­sive emo­tional as­pect to pe­ri­ods of un­em­ploy­ment in the cre­ative arts. Mu­si­cians feel de­fined as much by what they do as by what they are. And by ex­ten­sion there­fore, what they don’t.

The loss of any job is a source of anx­i­ety. But when a fac­tory closes or re­lo­cates to Slo­vakia it is rarely ac­com­pa­nied by the no­tion that you - per­son­ally - aren’t good enough. So, be­fore punch­ing ‘Beachy Head’ into your sat-nav, it might be help­ful to re­mem­ber that most of the stuff that hap­pens has lit­tle to do with you. Here are just some of the causes of angst in Show­biz, made in­fin­itely worse by the fact that you’ll never know for sure if all or any of the fol­low­ing lies be­hind your vigil by an ap­par­ently dis­con­nected tele­phone.

1. You’re too old.

Now, ’too old’ could eas­ily be 25 in some sit­u­a­tions. For ex­am­ple, there ex­ists a cot­tage in­dus­try pop­u­lated by at­trac­tive young things who are em­ployed to add glam­our to pop tours and TV dates. Nice work, as­sum­ing you don’t mind mim­ing to a sam­pled sound, some­one else’s per­for­mance, or even your own. It’s not a mu­si­cally de­mand­ing way to pay the rent but it ain’t money for old riffs. You’ll earn ev­ery penny due to the in­evitably gru­elling itin­er­ary. And sadly, your shelf life will com­pare un­favourably with the life cy­cle of a cab­bage white but­ter­fly; an end­less pro­ces­sion of kids out of col­lege con­tin­ues to roll down the pro­duc­tion line. Top tip - it’s best to play pretty, not look it.

2. You’re too young. There’s noth­ing more com­fort­ing to a Hol­ly­wood movie mogul than to look out from the con­trol room at an orches­tra lib­er­ally laced with white hair, bat­tered in­stru­ment cases and vari-fo­cals. The mes­sage is clear; here’s a bunch of sea­soned pros who’ll lick this ex­pen­sive score into shape. And within bud­get. What’s not to love? 3. You read mu­sic too well. It’s easy to in­tim­i­date a self-taught singer-song­writer by ef­fort­lessly shred­ding his ag­o­nis­ingly crafted tale of Love, Loss and Lament in one take. Some­times it pays to take time, share the pain of the jour­ney and bond with the song. 4. You read mu­sic too badly.

Don’t at­tempt the last ap­proach when sit­ting with the rhythm

sec­tion in The Royal Phil­har­monic Orches­tra. Hit it and quit it. You get one run through. And mov­ing on… 5. You aren’t the artist’s new

girl­friend, or son of the or­ches­tral man­ager. They prob­a­bly all play a bit of gui­tar.Un­for­tu­nately, any of the above will sig­nal the end of that par­tic­u­lar mu­si­cal re­la­tion­ship. 6. The artist thinks you’re too

pas­sive. Un­known to you, he or she is des­per­ately in­se­cure and wait­ing for you to come up with

STOP MI­CRO-ANALYSING AND SEEK­ING AN­SWERS TO UNAN­SWER­ABLE QUES­TIONS. IT ISN’T ALL ABOUT YOU

three dif­fer­ent ideas to turn demo dross into master magic. 7. The artist thinks you’re too

proac­tive. It’s their song. They know what they want. Just play the thing down and get out of town. 8. You’re too cheap. Ergo, you can’t be any good.

9. You’re too ex­pen­sive. No mat­ter that a third-rate plumber would laugh at the record in­dus­try’s con­cept of free­lance fees. Don’t bother to in­ter­est a pro­ducer in the child­hood sac­ri­fices of time and friends, of end­less prac­tice and the pur­chase and main­te­nance of equip­ment. He doesn’t care.

10. You’re too good. If you can cut it with­out re­hears­ing for 10 hours a day in a dun­geon un­der a rail­way arch, fel­low mu­sos may con­fuse your ge­nius for ‘lack of com­mit­ment’.

11. You’re not good enough. I saved the best un­til last. Be­cause this is the point at which mad­ness meets mu­sic. A cre­ative en­deav­our is not a quan­tifi­able ac­tiv­ity. The lit­mus pa­per doesn’t turn blue when you rip out a killer tune. There’s no ac­cu­rate method of di­vin­ing why one date goes well and an­other leads to de­spair. And that, my friend, is where we came in. Try to rid your­self of the ego­tism that im­plies that it’s all to do with you. You’ll save your­self a ware­house full of mis­di­rected emo­tional en­ergy. Your mis­sion is to ad­dress the 10 per cent of the job that’s within your con­trol. Learn to play in time. And in tune. As my dear old Mum used to say, “Al­ways say ‘yes’. Un­less you can’t.” Have a good ad­di­tood. Stop mi­cro analysing, ag­o­nis­ing and seek­ing an­swers to unan­swer­able ques­tions. It isn’t all about you. Un­less you’re Madonna.

Next time - Teach Your­self As­sertive Bud­dhism, Lose Ten Stone In Ten Min­utes, and Fifty Easy And Nu­tri­tious An­swers To The Mean­ing Of Life.

Re­serve your copy now...

“It re­ally isn’t all about you,” in­sists our ses­sion hero

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