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Mark Whitfield On Delivering On Live TV

June 1, 2010
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GP0610_Riffs_MW_nrThe answer to the question, “Who played that great solo with Sting on the Hope for Haiti Now broadcast?” is Chris Botti sideman Mark Whitfield. Unlike some of the people on that telecast, Whitfield knows how to bring it on live TV.

“When guitarists play on television, most of the mistakes I see have to do with volume and sound clarity. Even the more sophisticated televisions don’t have the sonic capabilities to reproduce the subtleties of, say, multi-effects layering. I keep it simple, make sure my sound is clear, and play just loud enough to be heard on stage. The sound engineer’s job is to make sure the guitar is present in the TV mix and, if you play too loud, you may come through distorted or muffled by auto compression.

“For rehearsal, we ran ‘Driven to Tears’ probably six or seven times on the day of the broadcast. I’m a huge Sting fan and I already knew the arrangement from Bring on the Night. My solo was completely improvised. I’ve been playing for 37 years and have built up the confidence that I will be inspired to play something decent on the spot. Years ago, however, I would probably have worked a few things out beforehand just in case.

“Just like being in the studio, television takes whatever you’re playing and puts in under the microscope. This will always expose any weak areas in your performance. I teach my students at Berklee to master the fundamentals so they’re never out of tune, out of time, or just plain out of place!”

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