THIS COLUMN IS ACTUALLY ABOUT
a session I didn’t do. Let me explain…
Most guitarists have their own area of
musical expertise. No matter how versatile
we become as musicians, there is always
a certain style for us that is real. I know a
few great country players who dabble in
jazz and rock, but it’s the twang of the
Telecaster and that perfectly bent pedalsteel
lick that is real for them. Some fine
blues players can sound very convincing
at jazz-fusion, but their heart and soul is
in the blues. A lot of jazz guys think they
can rock, but it’s “rock-lite” that comes
out if rockin’ is not real for them.
This is not to say that a guitarist can’t
be very proficient at many different styles
of music—in fact, it’s desirable. The Pat
Martino licks I hear in a bluegrass player’s
repertoire expands the music and
takes that style a bit further. The hybrid
picking I learned from growing my fingernails—
in an attempt to learn some classical
guitar—later influenced my ability to
play wider intervals in my lines. Everything
you learn on the guitar is good
for you, and all influences are welcome
deposits into your musical bank account.
But somewhere along the way, your
style becomes defined. As the sum total
of all your musical influences grows, you
begin to sound like you, and the music you
make is different from anyone else on the
planet. This doesn’t happen right away—
Joe Diorio once said, “Forget the first 20
years”—but as your style blossoms, you
begin to make some unconscious decisions
about your musical direction. Ultimately, an
artist emerges from the former craftsman.
Anyway, I recently got a call to play on
American Idol. It sounded like a gig I would
take—until they told me it was on banjo.
I actually own three banjos: a 4-string,
a 5-string, and a horrible 6-string beast
called the Bantar. But, to be honest, all
of them suck. I’m well known for having
the lamest banjos in town!
So I turned down the American Idol session.
Somewhere down the line, I realized
that banjo playing is just not real for
me. I can do it in a pinch—I was once
called to play the 5-string-banjo perennial,
“Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” on
Scrubs, and with about an hour of pre-session
practice, I nailed it—but there are too
many guys I know who really play that
instrument. They know the difference
between clawhammer style and frailing,
and they use those gnarly metal fingerpicks.
In a moment of compassion (and
possibly weakness) I recommended a real
banjo player for the session—a guy who
deserves the job, and has a great sounding
banjo. Banjo is real for him.
A member of Supertramp since 1985, Carl
Verheyen has also logged a dazzling 25-year
career as one of L.A.’s premier studio guitarists.
His most recent Carl Verheyen Band
release is the DVD, The Road Divides.
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