The 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