When I was still a very young guitarist and still living in Indiana, someone higher up the "food chain" advised me to never say "no" when asked if I could play something. Instrument or style. That advice got me into trouble almost right away when I agree to play banjo on a bluegrass gig. I played neither. Fortunately for everyone's sake I mustered up the courage to bail early. I think I even told them the truth, always a good thing, that I was foolishly taking some advice when I agreed to do something I wasn't qualified to do.
Flash forward about ten years and a composer I really wanted to work for asked me if I played mandolin. To get the gig I said I did and asked, "when is the session?" Thinking I could get one, practice, maybe take a couple lessons, etc.
"The day after tomorrow."
The day after tomorrow! Immediately I went into panic mode. I bought a no name mandolin from a friend for $50. Found a beginner book about mandolin at the library (this was before youtube and the internet). And started mapping out chords and scales on the tiny neck like I was cyphering reentry calculations to save my life.
I learned more in that 48 hour period then I had in any other prior. When I showed up to that session nervous and sweating, I learned I was way over-qualified. Yes, way over-qualified. Now was this because I had obtained sick David Grisman-type skills through pure tenacity or through the sale of my soul? Neither. All the composer wanted me to do was a couple of lines of tremolo.
Done. $50. I'd broken even and worked on music that would appear on television all over the world with a composer that I would now work for for years to come. And I got started on a instrument that I would utilize on many occasions.
The lesson? Have a qualified yes handy. Ask a couple of questions. Make sure you aren't going to burn a bridge if you say "yes" and blow it big time. A while ago a composer I work for quite a bit asked me if I played oud. I told him "no". I barely even knew what one was. Then he asked if I could get one and learn it in a couple of months. That I could do. I did. And now I've got another weapon in my arsenal that I've used at least a dozen times and will pull out every now and again just cause it's a flippin' crazy fun instrument to play!
Cheap instruments to have around for fun and the occasional session...
Egyptian Deluxe Oud w/ Soft Case & CD & Oud Pick
Oscar Schmidt OB5 5-String Banjo
Fender FM-53S Mandolin, Sunburst