Birds of a Feather Flock Together
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
In the first blog of this series, I Used to Disrespect Tribute Bands, I said that there are two personality types when it comes to how musicians-in-bands relate to music and each other. I qualified the statement by pointing out that these 2 types occur along a continuum; it's not all of one or the other.
I defined Type 1: They consider the iconic recording of the song to be the goal. They are concerned with recreating the sound of the original recording as close as possible. The original recording is to them what the written score is to the classical musician. These are the guys who transcribe and memorize parts and solos note-for-note and play them perfectly every time. The parts are set in concrete and not to be messed with. That's the mind-set.
In the second blog of this series, Being George, I talked more about Type 1 musicians and gave some examples of where that type of musician is most comfortable; well-rehearsed bands with defined presentations, tribute bands and, on a higher level, as hired guns in worldwide, big-name acts, playing the parts required to support the big name, whoever it might be.
In the 3rd blog of this series, An Improvisational Attitude, I defined Type 2 as musicians who consider the iconic recording of the song to be the starting point, not the goal. The tune-as-recorded is the springboard or launchpad for taking it somewhere else, maybe somewhere the original artist never even thought of. It's an improvisational attitude - I call it a jazz attitude, as opposed to a classical attitude. Type 2s are ALL about improvising, being in the moment, taking chances and performing without a net. They thrive on the drama and danger of doing that in front of an audience.
In the 4th blog of this series, The Best of Both Worlds, I explained how each type crosses over into the other's territory. I noted that, in general, it's easier for Type 2s to cross over into Type 1 territory rather than the other way 'round and gave specific examples; George Van Epps, Steve Gadd, Jimmy Johnson and Larry Goldings.
Now for the last installment in this series:
"Birds of a feather flock together."
So goes the old saying and it's true. As I said previously, I'm more of a Type 2. I've been around long enough that most of the gigs that now come my way and most of the musicians I play with are Type 2. There's a lot of cover music but, being Type 2's, we try to take it somewhere.
Technically, I don't join bands, I commit to gigs. No rehearsing, minimal internal politics. Go to the gig, play music, be spontaneously creative, have fun, get paid, go home. Dad loves his work! Type 2 all the way. I generally network with bandleaders and other musicians rather than booking agents, club owners and promoters. Bandleaders call me when they need me. The only time I function as a bandleader is on solo gigs. Occasionally a booking agent will contact me for one of those. If a prospective client or a booking agent calls me needing a band I refer them to whatever bandleader I think would work the best for the situation. I've worked steady for decades using this philosophy with a minimal amount of drama - because I don't join bands!
Occasionally a situation comes along where I'm willing to disregard this philosophy, commit to a band or a situation, rehearse my ass off, etc. If this happens, you can be assured it's a special deal. The last thing like this I did was working with an African Pop singer named Jose Hendrix.
Occasionally I'll take a Type 1 kind of gig just for the challenge; to put myself out of my normal comfort zone, or for the money, or to network with other musicians who may be involved that I want to connect with. I'm pretty picky about the Type 1 gigs I take. Any rehearsal that's required is usually a deal-killer, although I'm willing to do homework. Most of these kinds of gigs I'm a sub for the regular guitar player who can't make the gig for one reason or another. The story that started this blog series wherein I saw the Rolling Stones tribute band that changed my attitude about tribute bands was one of those situations - I was subbing for the regular guitar player in a Type 1 kind of band. I do whatever preparation I need to do, make a bunch of charts, and spend the gig with my head down buried in a book, reading parts. Even if I screw up, the band is glad to have me there because I'm helping them out, usually on short notice - sometimes it's somewhat of a crisis situation. The idea of doing a gig minus a player is a very insecure feeling for a Type 1. Just think of the parts that will be missing! If I'm offered the job as a regular member of a Type 1 kind of band, I turn it down because, while I enjoy doing it now and then, playing in a Type 1 band on a regular basis would drive me crazy, and was partially responsible for a burn-out I had in the eighties (see I Used to Love This! What Happened?).
How does the Type 1/Type 2 construct relate to teaching?
When it comes to students, whether the student is what I call a Type 1 or Type 2 figures into how I deal with them.
Type 1's are generally the ones who want to learn specific songs. They want to know about gear, what brand/model of guitar, what string gauges, what type of pedals etc...
I remember a guy who was willing to pay me for an hour a week and all he wanted was to sit and watch me transcribe Stevie Ray Vaughn solos. We did that for several weeks but it was a huge revelation for him to learn that Stevie Ray tuned a half-step down and that's why he'd had such a hard time figuring it out. That took less than a lesson. Like about 30 seconds.
In 1991 when Nirvana hit big I had a huge influx of Type 1's wanting to know, “How do they get that sound?” Usually one lesson on the Drop-D tuning was enough for those folks. That takes about 2 minutes. Maybe another 5 minutes demonstrating how to play Nirvana songs in Drop-D.
I'm getting fewer and fewer inquiries from this type for a couple of reasons;
My marketing is not directed towards this type. My approach is theory-centric, not learn-the-song-of-the-week-centric. The only way I try to appeal to this type is, “Whatever it is you want to learn, be it a song, a lick, whatever – I can teach you how to figure it out for yourself. Then you won't need to pay me to show you the song. You'll be able to tell for yourself that the online tab chart is wrong!” Sometimes they'll realize the value of me teaching them to fish for themselves as opposed to paying me to feed them a fish every week.
Any song you want to learn just google it and pick one of the 70 gazillion links that pop up. Whether the transcription you pick is accurate or not is another issue (it's probably not) but a lot of guys these days are learning songs from YouTube. Online resources illuminate altered tunings and position issues. Songs, solos etc. are tabbed out note-for-note ad infinitum, ad nauseam. The internet wasn't around for the Type 1 guys in the eighties and early nineties - they needed me more then than they do now.
If I get a Type 1 that signs up because he realizes the value of learning to fish instead of buying a fish from me every week, I will spend more time and emphasis than I would otherwise on application. I will show him specific songs that use whatever the content of the current lesson is. I will let him make suggestions as to which songs he wants to learn and IF any apply, I will use them. I do this with everybody but with Type 1's I do it more – time-wise and quantity-wise. Theory first, then the song. Doing the song first and then trying to derive the theory from that is a random and sub-optimal process that is dictated by what the student brings in – which has the wrong person in charge. It's a gratifying thing when a Type 1 comes in all excited because he heard a song and recognized a component of it that I'd taught him previously. He begins to realize that I have the key to him being able to figure out whatever he wants, no matter what it is.
Many times a Type 1 will sign up, not because they can't figure out a song, but because having worked on it from a YouTube video or a tab chart they got online, they've realized they don't have the chops to actually play it. In other words, technique issues. It's extremely difficult - almost impossible - to adequately deal with technique issues in any way other than one-on-one, in person.
Type 2's are, by definition, interested in what I like to teach. They are interested in the Type 2 kind of questions; “How do they make that stuff up? What scale are they using? How are they thinking? What's the vocabulary?” A lot of times they're frustrated by their lack of knowledge, not lack of chops or abilities – although those things can be factors as well. They want to understand what they're playing, and they want to understand the guitar and music - not just play by rote.
Dealing with Type 2 is easier than Type 1 when it comes to remote teaching like Skyping lessons or answering questions via email that they may have about content from one of my lesson series downloads. This is because we're dealing more with conceptual issues rather than mechanics.
In a previous installment of this blog series, The Best of Both Worlds, I spoke of how it's easier for Type 2's to cross over into Type 1 territory than the opposite. However, if a Type 1 learns what I have to teach, even though it's geared more towards Type 2 concerns, it will make him a better Type 1 player. He will understand his instrument better - as well as the parts - and consequently will play the parts more accurately.
And Type 1's are all about that!
No matter whether you're a Type 1 or a Type 2, Sign up as a Master Guitar School site member - it's free! - and get access to dozens of free site-based lessons, a monthly newsletter that contains a brand-new free lesson, and DEEP discounts on lesson series downloads - plus more!
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