Some guitar players don’t know the difference between a fill, a pad, a solo, a ride, and rhythm. They play on top of the vocals, the steel guitar, and whatever else they have available to ruin. They wang away with out of tune open chords and walk-ups and walk-downs, oblivious to what’s going on in the song and what they can and should do to make it and the singer sound better. A steel player can’t get a good tone or play up to his potential working with a guy like this, but it’s a challenge.
I’ve been playing Saturday nights at the same place for the last five years. Our fan base is mostly in their 50’s and 60’s and beyond and I was just thinking last weekend as I was watching them dance that they’re all getting fat and bald, mostly fat. (Damn, I hope they weren’t thinking the same thing about me). Yep, they’re victims of that popular national epidemic, obesity.
There’s always a lot of bleating and prayer requests at churches and on the Steel Guitar Forum because someone has health problems, and these usually seem to involve obesity.
If you’re middle aged and overweight you really should do something about it. Imagine yourself a year or two down the road, asking for prayers and good thoughts because you’re going in for bypass surgery tomorrow. You might avoid this distressing scenario by losing that weight now. Cut back on the fast food and the booze and get your fat ass off the couch and walk or lift weights or swim a few days a week. You may not see results for a while, but don’t give up, and if you really don’t make any progress you can just tell yourself that’s the way God made you and we’ll see you in the OR.
I went from 8 pounds to 220 in 55 years and then down to 180 in 6 months without that much effort, and you can do it, too. The only hard part about it is to actually decide to do it, and then it’s a piece of cake (whoops, bad metaphor).
Steel guitar players are often perceived as boring to watch. “Why don’t you smile? “You look bored.” “Why are you so serious?” “What is that damn thing, anyway?”
It’s hard to be entertaining when you have to keep your eyes on your hands, and when your arms and legs are locked into the “playing position”, and so you might appear somber and preoccupied.
Classical musicians often come across the same way, but, hey, they’re playing “serious” music, and patrons of the arts don’t expect them to cavort around and grin while rendering La Valse de l’Adieu. I guess “The Bottle Let Me Down” isn’t considered quite that profound, and the audience expects a little showmanship, huh?
You’ve probably noticed that nobody on the dance floor ever plays air steel, but patrons of the arts don’t play air cello, either.
Your job as a steel player, or a guitar player, or any other lead instrument, is to make the singer and the song sound good. You complement the performance of the song, you don’t detract. But, damn, I’ve worked with so many pickers who don’t understand this basic concept. It’s astounding, really. You play your fills between the lines the singer is singing, mostly. You don’t play walk-ups and walk-downs and big loud chords over the vocals. Damn, listen to a record once in a while, and hear how it’s supposed to be.
And, by all means, don’t play a bunch of garbage when the steel player is doing a solo. If you can’t play something that complements and enhances what he’s doing, then just lay the fuck out. Don’t play. Light a cigarette, take a drink of your beer, smile at the audience. But don’t fuck with the steel player. He won’t like it.
Can you say “taste”? Do you even know what it is? Do you understand this concept? If you don’t know. then just lay the fuck out.