Before moving to Nashville in 1999, I asked a lot of musician friends what skills I would need to improve my chances of getting work in Music City where everybody is a guitarist. I had a music degree and I knew I could play well enough to hang with other guitarists but I wanted to know what separated the guys who worked from the guys who worked… at a pizza place.
The best answer I got was from my friend Richard Aspinwall who had lived and worked in Nashville for years as a sound engineer and player. He put his pants on just like the rest of you — one leg at a time. Except, once his pants were on, he made gold records with Garth Brooks.
He had a very short answer for me when I asked about going to Nashville. He just said, “You’ll do fine. You’re always on time and you’re always in tune.” And the wisdom of that little statement helped me to work consistently alongside some of the best players in the world. I never made any gold records, but I rarely was hurting for work. I got gigs because of following simple rules that I didn’t necessarily learn in music school.
So is it really that simple to work in a town like Nashville? Just be on time and be in tune? Not exactly. But it is true that there are often-overlooked skills that separate the pros from the wannabes. Whether you are looking to play professionally as a career or once a month in the worship band at church, these little skills are usually not that hard to learn and adopt but make a big difference in not just your playing but your contribution to the band. And that makes everyone happy. Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of the tips I have learned from Richard and the other musicians I have worked with as a player, music director, and producer. Some of them will be general and some will deal directly with your instrument. So be sure to subscribe via RSS or email and check back starting tomorrow where I’ll dig deeper into “on time and in tune!”