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How To Get Good Gigs/Jobs Playing Guitar

How To Get Good Gigs/Jobs Playing Guitar

Some folks just play for the sheer fun of it, this blog ain't really for those people; it's for the players that want to get out and PLAY. In particular, I'm talking about pro level gigs here in Nashville, but it should translate well to any major market anywhere in the world. I've been on both sides of the equation, as both a guitar player on major tours and also as an engineer and producer tasked with hiring the right players. So yea, I think I'm qualified to speak to this subject. But ... I decided that just MY voice would be a little one dimensional, and so I reached out to a few of my guitar buddies who just happen to be some of the busiest and most respected guitar players in Nashville, let me introduce you to them:

Brad Sample

has been playing professionally since age 14, or about 16 years now. He's done everything from hardcore country to contemporary Christian to bluegrass to fronting his own Indy Rock band signed to a major label. Brad's had gazillions of pro gigs, but currently, Brad is the guitarist and band leader for Country act William Michael Morgan.

Chris Casello

is the quintessential players player. Chris doesn't EVER sweat, instead he drips cool. Chris is the world's number one roots rock and country player, my opinion, of course ... but I haven't met anyone who does not agree, and he's certainly got the awards, credits, and accolades to back up that enormously audacious title.

David Graham

fronts the Eskimo Brothers band, one of the hottest honky-tonk acts out of Nashville. Again, a player amoung players who distinguishes himself as an authentic Tele string bender of the highest degree.

John "Elmo" Szetela

... speaking of Tele string benders, John is another of the best. Take in a show at any of the premiere clubs in downtown Nashville and you'll have a darn good chance of hearing John weave his magic; he literally plays with EVERYBODY who's anybody in the Nashville music scene. He's known as a world-class Tele wielder, but that's just the tip of the iceberg, John knows no limits and can cover any style of music with total mastery.

So ... are ya convinced? We've got a pretty darn qualified panel of hard gigging guitar slingers here, so listen up! Here's what they have to say about how to actually get gigs as a guitar player, not just any gigs either, gigs that will either pay the bills or pile up cred ... probably both at the same time. Sounds good, huh? I'll throw in my two cents at the end, but here's what the experts say ya gotta do to be a hard-working in-demand guitar player:

Brad: In my opinion this is a four tiered answer: First, you have to know what’s expected of you. I’ve had gigs where they the artist or band leader want you to be super creative and spur of the moment, and I’ve had other gigs where I’ve been threatened with fines if I played anything but what was on the record. Do you need to be Shreddy-Van-Halen up there or just holding down chords and playing rhythm? If you know what your job will be you’ll go into an audition way ahead of the game. Second, you have to have the right gear for the job. If you show up to a Steve Via tribute band rehearsal with a Tele and a Princeton you’re probably going to be laughed out of the room. That is a very obvious example, but it holds water all the way down the line to making sure you have the right pedals to accomplish the sounds you need to make. Third, good work ethic and attitude go a very very long way. You can always tell when someone has really put in the time and done their homework. The music just feels better when a player has really learned their stuff. Many times I’ve chosen players who came to an audition prepared over someone who was maybe more “talented”. Also having a good attitude is imperative. You’re on the road. On planes, in busses, and lets be honest, very often in a crappy van. No one is completely comfortable in those situations all the time. The only thing you have control over is your attitude. So make it good. Last, be a good hang. Again, you’re stuck in super tight places with guys and gals you might not know very well yet. Have fun, get to know people. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be able to laugh at yourself. Trust me you’ll need to a bunch! Be self aware. Feel the environment and people out and try and be as good of an addition to the hang as you can without being someone you’re not.

Chris: Show up, do your homework and be nice!

David: I say a good hard work ethic is the answer to everything.

John: In Nashville, you must be present to win. Meaning you have to be active in the community, go out to events, go out to shows, shake hands, sit in and play ,get to know people ,get to know your scene. Must do your homework and practice and be prepared for when your opportunity comes up. You have to get out from behind your computer and physically meet people. Everybody thinks now they can post on Facebook and get a gig, it isn't that easy, you have to do the time and meet people before that will work. Take pride in your work! And always keep cool even when things are going wrong, always smile!

... Wow! Y'all digest a little while ... there's some serious wisdom here ...

"The only thing you have control over is your attitude. So make it good."

Folks, if this ain't your motto, make it yours NOW! Along with "Be a good hang" and "do your homework". WAY, Way, way too many guitar players think that the key to landing a dream gig is simply to be the best, fastest, most knowledgeable player, and that just flat-out ain't the case. Dude, the planet is littered with 13 year old kids who can shread their frickin heads off, if ya don't believe me just search YouTube. But ... and this is important ... unless they have the qualities that have been mentioned here, they'll never be heard outside of their hometown (and YouTube), and their career will involve the line "would you like fries with that"!

Sure, having some God-given natural talent and nurturing that talent is important, but that ain't what'll make you a REAL working guitar player. What is? To re-cap:

  • Be Present / Show up (preferably a little early).

  • Do Your Homework.

  • Have a Good Attitude and Work Ethic.

  • Be a Good Hang / Be "nice".

So what do I feel I need to add to this list? Absolutely nothing! See y'all next week :-)

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