If only I had known…
When I was a young guitar player (for me, that was around 14), I had NO idea what I was doing.
I started my first band with some friends around 8th grade. We were…well, at least good for our age. We attempted to be a blend of Creed, Rage Against The Machine, and P.O.D…and it kind of worked? (if you’re into that sort of thing)…All that to say, I was working with some pretty lame gear and a serious lack of knowledge, down to the point of not knowing which direction I should plug into my pedal chain (input means IN, right?).
Fortunately, I was surrounded by some guys who were smarter than me and helped me along the way. Although it was embarrassing to have my drummer set up my pedals at every show, I learned some important things being around people like him (Thanks Sparky).
There are a few simple things I wish I had learned earlier in my guitar-playing career. I have a desire to help young bucks who, much like me, could probably use some no-brainer tips to help them settle into the world of music with as little embarrassment as possible.
Here are 5 tips (+ 1 freebie) that should help you come prepared for the “gig”:
1) Bring a tuner – and use it.
Don’t get caught with an out-of-tune guitar. Tune before rehearsal, before you perform/play, and in-between songs (when appropriate and timely). Believe it or not, your guitar will go out of tune between uses…even if you just tuned it yesterday!
2) Have spares on hand.
A ¼ inch cable, picks, strings…be prepared for the unexpected cable malfunction or D-string bust (that happened to me during worship this last Sunday!).
3) Get your guitar worked on a few times a year.
If you are using your guitar in more than one location on a regular basis, it will probably experience some wear and tear. Constant transporting and room temperature changes inevitably affect intonation and playability. Find a good luthier (guitar-fixer-guy) and ask for a set-up. They run on average between $35-$70, depending on what you need done, and they’ll get your battle axe playing like a magical unicorn harp in no time (isn’t that what we all want?).
4) Don’t store your gear in a cold place.
Your cold garage is no place to store gear. I’ve made this mistake in my early days, and it seriously messed with my gear. Cold environments produce an uncomfortable environment for a freshly set-up guitar (or amp). Room temperature is the way to go.
5) Learn your instrument. Play your instrument. Love your instrument.
There is always room to grow. Find creative ways to learn your instrument and continue to improve. You’ll never run out of things to learn, and you’ll enjoy overall playing in the long run (you’ll probably find more opportunities to use your gifts too).
You know that guy that wants to incorporate every Metallica lick he’s ever learned into worship songs? Yeah…don’t be that guy. Your worship leader will probably try their best to be nice and give you “suggestions” on how to play, but you’d be better off learning ahead of time that keeping things simple and supporting the song is better than being a featured instrument. Keep it simple, and contribute to the whole.