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Steel Guitar News December 13. 2012

Today’s newsletter comes from Dave Thomas. His reply to my previous newsletter is brilliant as far as I’m concerned.


Thanks for your newsletter and ideas for “breaking out of the rut,” we often create for ourselves. Working for a music store, you may not be able to offer these suggestions, without them sounding self-serving, but one way I’ve found to stimulate my playing, interest, keep me practicing and learning is to simply, “go out and buy a new guitar.” Seriously, try it, and I’ve worked in more than a few retail music stores!!

How long have you been driving an automobile? Decades I bet; but remember the last “new” car you bought? Whether it was a beat to death, oil burning, 4-door sedan; or a brand new, luxury van to haul your equipment; for the first six months, you washed it weekly, rotated the tires, changed the oil religiously, and read the owners manual cover to cover. It was your pride & joy. After a year, it became just transportation, and after five years; that windshield chip, the rust on the fender, the noise when you turned left…well, they didn’t seem that big an issue.

New cars, like new guitars, need only be “new to you” to re-stimulate your interest in using them. In fact, it need not be a new car or guitar…often a repair or new accessory will do the trick. Get tires, an alignment & tune-up…fix the chipped windshield, repair the rusted fender and replace the worn out brake rotor…and see how much more you enjoy driving that five year old gas guzzler.

Similarly for guitars, try a new effect pedal, stomp box or amp…get an inexpensive lap steel, add a knee lever, learn the C6 neck, or even if you’ve played and taught for 40 years, take some lessons…and see how much more interesting it becomes to play, practice & learn the guitar.

A couple other ideas?

1) Teach. Most of us do, or at some time, have taught. It need not be teaching “Stairway to Heaven” to 30 teenagers a week, in black Metallica T-shirts at some national chain music store. Nor does it need be a lifetime commitment, or pay union scale for an hour lesson. Choose your venue…private lessons, group lessons, seminars, workshops, online video, whatever… Prepare for the lesson, take pride in the skills you’ve acquired and often; the benefit you receive, will far outweigh the effort and service you have provided.

2) Play unorthodox jobs. Mirroring your recommendation to sit in with bands that play differently than your normal style, try playing other, previously unfamiliar venues. Too often, when we play for a living, it becomes “just a living-what’s it pay, can I get leader or doubling fees, who’s the contractor, will they pay mileage or per diem?” I’m not advocating setting up on lower Broadway with a tip jar, spending every Sunday afternoon playing nursing homes, convincing the symphony that your rendition of “Yackety Axe” would be a hit for their Pops series or hitting the wedding circuit with “Trumpet Voluntair” or “Canon in D by Pachabel.”

Instead, grab a couple friends, and provide school convocations…funding cutbacks have nearly eliminated field trips, and often the arts in education. Call a prison and see if you can play a free concert…you’ll never find a more appreciative audience. Solicit and play MPTF jobs at the lunch hour…shucks, go back home for an evening and play hymns for an elderly parent. Playing unorthodox jobs is not about a studio player, switching to roadwork and stage performances. It’s about getting us out of the rut, and like teaching; the benefit you receive, will far outweigh the effort and service you have provided.

Just my 2 cents worth…
Dave Thomas
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Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday

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