Saturday, March 12, 2011

Say "Yes!". Sometimes.

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

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