Adam Goldsmith adds a few more tips to this issue’s feature, pertinent for the jobbing musician
When I heard about the theme of this issue’s big feature – ‘100 Ways To Be A Better Guitarist’ – it got me thinking. There are obviously many different types of guitarist, which would mean one man’s essential Ibanez Jem 777 is not necessarily the thing needed for another man’s Sunday-night folk-jam at the Whistle and Ferret.
However, for this column, I’ll look at what’s essential for a jobbing studio musician. Unfortunately for me, I often have to separate my enthusiasm for vintage guitars (I am currently eyeing up a highly ‘essential’ refinished 1963 Strat) from guitars that are 100 per cent reliable in every way. After all, if someone is paying £3,000 a day for Abbey Road Studio 2, they don’t want to have to wait for me to retune the tuning peg on the E string of the original lute from Henry VIII’s drawing room for the 50th time…
I recently did a couple of sessions for the forthcoming film Mary Poppins at London’s Air Studios, filling in for my colleague John Parricelli. This film required mostly Archtop guitar. John and I both own vintage archtops, in my case a 1934 Gibson L50, all original. And, if memory serves me correctly, John has a lovely old L7, but for this film he had used his modern ‘Loar’ archtop guitar, which can be bought for around £750 – considerably less than a prewar Gibson as I’m sure you can imagine. I brought my L50 with me and was slightly dismayed to notice the Loar sounded a bit ‘better’ for these purposes. I use inverted commas around the better as obviously this is a relative and personal concept. My L50’s original tuners are a bit stiff and not as accurate as the modern tuners on the Loar, and the intonation was slightly better on the modern guitar, so for these reasons and continuity of sound, I used John’s Loar for these two sessions.
I’ve had several sessions since that required archtop guitar, so I investigated the new Epiphone Masterbilt series, eventually purchasing their Deluxe Classic, which I’ve used on several sessions since, including, as I write, a big-band session yesterday at Angel Studios. The engineer combined a mic on the guitar itself to capture the acoustic sound, with a mic on my AER acoustic amp for the best of both sonic worlds. Its tuning gears work perfectly, it sounds fantastic, and intonates perfectly up and down the neck. My L50 currently resides in the window of No.Tom guitars in Denmark Street.
The modern-electric guitar equivalent I have is a Suhr S-type guitar with a humbucker, which I’ve had a coil-tap fitted to for those Dick Dale moments. This type of guitar I would consider an essential for a working studio player as you can cover 99 per cent of styles convincingly, it’ll stay perfectly in tune and will intonate accurately. I used it recently on Sheridan Smith’s new album in conjunction with my faithful old 335. These guitars, a clip-on tuner, a decent Fender style amp, your favourite distortion pedal, and, at least as far as studio playing goes, you’re pretty much ready to rock. Or jazz, or country, or whatever else you fancy.
I feel that all these ideas are also equally relevant to that staple of many a jobbing guitar player’s income – the function band. In musical terms at least, it can be fairly similar to doing a TV show session such as The Voice or The X Factor, in as much as you are required to cover a lot of sonic territory quickly and with the minimum of fuss for your employer. After all, the biggest essential if you’re going to do this for a living is making sure you get asked back for the next gig!