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Author Topic:  Impromptu subbing as a noob - advice please!
Landon Johnson


From:
Washington, USA
Post Posted 28 Jul 2008 7:03 pm     Reply with quote

Hi,

I have been summoned to sub for a PSG player this weekend - it's a truck show in a church parking lot. I have played these sort of events in a stable band as a guitarist, but this is a five piece with three subs; one of whom I have played with before (bass). The other sub is on drums.

Grapevine says just a bunch of good guys having fun playing the clubs.

Oh yeah - no setlist. The main guy is out of town until the day of the gig. He has the coveted setlist. I think I am going to hear stuff like "Let's do Whiskey Bound in Bb" or "Let's do that song we did the other night that went boom de boom boom"

On PSG I am about as noob as one can get. I know a few chord shapes and a few inversions, a few short runs and a couple ways to slide notes. I hyaven't figuured out how to block yet, but can do a passable job of muting the strings with the picks by touching them to the strings after the note is played (the edge of my hand refuses to cooperate.

I am somewhat at that stage where if I concentrate on the right hand, my intonation suffers; if I concentrate on the bar, I pick the wrong string or grip.

Do you have any suggestions as to how to approach this? I am willing to do it because it is for a family friend (the sub bass player). My initial thought is to

1. run the volume pedal pretty hard if the song has a lot of changes and 'preview' the chords before I let the volume swell.

2. Print small labels with chord names on my labelmaker and put them next to the frets

3. Try to stick to arpeggios or single-string leads if called upon

4. Make it look like a string broke if I really need out of a jam (is there an easy way to break a string Smile knowing that it's a one-time lifesaver.

5. Stick to major chords and move the bar, not the pedals (I do play six string)

6. Play with random songs from itunes to work a little on impromptu playing

Any suggested exercises or other things I can do to get thru this?

Thanks,

Landon Johnson
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Charles Davidson


From:
Phenix City Alabama, USA
Post Posted 28 Jul 2008 8:59 pm     Reply with quote

Landon,Can't help you much,Seems everything about this gig is negative,Maybe number four would be your best bet,DYKBC.
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Ron Wright


From:
Modesto,CA
Post Posted 28 Jul 2008 9:29 pm     Reply with quote

take as it a learning experience . grab some wire and stomp some pedals and hold on to your hat ..oh yeah sit close to the door..no better place to learn than under pressure
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Twayn Williams


From:
Portland, OR
Post Posted 28 Jul 2008 9:51 pm     Re: Impromptu subbing as a noob - advice please! Reply with quote

Landon Johnson wrote:

1. run the volume pedal pretty hard if the song has a lot of changes and 'preview' the chords before I let the volume swell.

Yes.
Quote:

2. Print small labels with chord names on my labelmaker and put them next to the frets

Yes
Quote:

3. Try to stick to arpeggios or single-string leads if called upon

yes
Quote:

4. Make it look like a string broke if I really need out of a jam (is there an easy way to break a string Smile knowing that it's a one-time lifesaver.

no, just stop playing if you're really stuck
Quote:

5. Stick to major chords and move the bar, not the pedals (I do play six string)

yes
Quote:

6. Play with random songs from itunes to work a little on impromptu playing

maybe, depends on how you learn!

I think you have some excellent ideas here, but probably the best advise I can give is: don't stess, it's supposed to be fun! No one will die if you hit a few bad notes, no one's going to think you're a bad person if you mess up.

Just make that slidey sound and everyone will be thrilled with you!
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 7:10 am     Reply with quote

I would say lay out quite a bit and pick your spots. If the singer's mouth is open don't play anything at all.
Nothing says loser hack louder than "running your volume pedal" and noodling to find your way. It is a super annoying, non musical habit that is hard to break.

I started playing doing gigs just as you describe. My over riding attitude at the time was that if I was going to screw up I was going to screw up big ! Have fun and keep in mind that if the only tool you have is a hammer everything isn't a nail.
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 7:53 am     Reply with quote

You've got the right ideas, just relax and enjoy it. In a "throw-together" band, most everyone is focusing on the singer, anyway. Very Happy
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chris ivey


From:
california - r.i.p.
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 7:56 am     Reply with quote

you've got it together. go have fun. blame any big mistakes on the bass player!
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Jim Eaton


From:
Santa Susana, Ca
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 9:15 am     Reply with quote

Your not out of tune until the bar stops moving!!!!
If it sounds bad, Keep on slidin until it sounds good! Have fun!
JE:-)>
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Gabriel Stutz


From:
Chicago, USA
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 9:23 am     Reply with quote

This will be great. I've been in the same situation plenty of times now and it always makes you better. Just listen as hard as you can. If it's a traditional country gig, you're pretty much just going to have to worry about I's IV's and V's, and your I position will work just fine over both of the others if need be. If the band leader is any good at all, he'll at least clue you in on the chord changes especially with so many subs on the gig. It will be terrifying and fun.

Gabriel
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Steve Norman


From:
Seattle Washington, USA
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 10:47 am     Reply with quote

This will be a great learning experience for you!

String 5 and 8 are real good melody strings, and since they are lower sounding you can get away with feeling out the chords on them without being to obvious. When you get the feel of the song you can get some higher sounds on strings 3 and 5, 4 and 5, etc.This will break up the feel that you are doing the same thing over and over. Also, with just the A ped those duos will work over some minors as well as majors. Hopefully the guy will know what key his songs are in,, and you can use that as your open position. If its key of C start on fret 8, and move from there to fret 3 and back. That little box will help you. Key of D is fret 10 and 5. (of course there is more than just the 2 fret combo but that will get you started).Just remember the Key chord is no peds on the open position and ab down 5 frets down. So in C, Cmajor is fret 8 open, and 5 frets down (on fret 3), Cmaj is ab down on the same strings.

If you get called for a steel break,,move up above the 12th fret and keep that bar going! (key of c go up to 15) Its scary above 12, but its sure is pretty when it get done right. Use your vibrato to sound in tune.


So:

1 find the Key the song is in and start on that fret
2 find the position 5 frets down from the start position.
3 this repeats above the 12th fret
3 experiment on strings 5 and 8
4 solos and fills alternate on higher strings and higher frets than the melody.
5 you may want to stay away from 3 string chords for now as they will really sound bad if they are not the exact chord, or are improperly maj or minor, or if the guitar player has a tremolo bar fetish. 2 string combos sound pretty and can cover more chords.


Good luck,,and remember its the singers fault if it goes to hell for making absolutely no preparations for his show. So if he starts whining about something going wrong you can tell him to go suck eggs.
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Mike Perlowin


From:
Los Angeles CA
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 11:09 am     Reply with quote

When in doubt, lay out. Always remember less is more.
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David Doggett


From:
Bawl'mer, MD (formerly of MS, Nawluns, Gnashville, Knocksville, Lost Angeles, Bahsten. and Philly)
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 12:02 pm     Reply with quote

I would practice a little on knowing the open or no-pedals home fret for the common keys of G, C, D, A, E. They are the same as if you were making E chord type bar chords on 6-string. Strings 4 and 8 are the roots. Pick two note harmony on alternate strings of the chord, for example 4 and 6, 3 and 5, 5 and 8, 6 and 10. And doing that alternate string picking, practice sliding into the IV (5 frets up or 7 frets down) and V (two frets above the IV) chords.

After you can do that, do it the pedal steel way by getting the IV by mashing the A and B pedals. Pick the two notes on alternate strings as above, then mash the pedals for IV, or mash while sliding up two frets for V. This is easier than counting frets up the neck, and sounds more pedal steel like.

Then if you really want to get the pedal mashing sound down, realize that if you are at the V fret and you mash the A and B pedals, it gives you the I chord, but with the twang of pedal mashing. Now you can go up or down 5 or 7 frets for the IV and V chords with the pedals down. Release the pedals before sliding into the new chord, and then mash the pedals to twang it.

So if the song is in G, instead of always hanging out at the 3rd fret without the pedals. Hang out up at the D fret mashing the pedals. Drop down to the G fret and mash the pedals for the IV, and go up two frets and mash the pedals for the V. In other words, you are playing the frets as if the song was in D, and you have lots of opportunities to mash the pedals and sound like you really know what you are doing. Try it, it's easier than most people would imagine. Smile

Then, when you can noodle around a little bit with that kind of stuff, put on a CD of simple country songs, and try to play along. Don't worry about the melody, every time the singer pauses, just hit the chord and mash the pedals. If you are at the wrong fret, slide to one that sounds good and pretend that was your plan all along. Smile
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 12:54 pm     Reply with quote

When I first started, I had my first gig after woodshedding for 2-3 weeks. I look at this stuff as "survival skills".

I agree with Bob Hoffnar - definitely lay out a lot, pick your spots, and don't sneak into every phrase with your volume pedal regardless of what's appropriate. If a swell is what is needed, fine - but not all the time. Wait for spots you're pretty confident about, play as authoritatively and in-tune as you can, then back out. It is OK not to play at all for significant periods of time. For the most common styles of PSG playing, it's way different than the usual rock guitar approach of switching between lead and rhythm guitar playing.

I don't know about venturing up to the 15th fret too much. That first few gigs, it was hard to hear myself - my intonation was sorta tolerable up to about the 10th or 12th fret, but past that it was a problem. Small bar placement errors are less noticeable down the neck. To assess this, critically listen to yourself playing along to some drone tones or a record to find your comfort zone. I agree that the high stuff is pretty if in-tune, but pretty awful otherwise.

Of course, work on developing a nice vibrato - as long as it's not overused, it sounds good and masks small intonation errors. When working on pitch control, I play without vibrato first and then listen to the effect of the vibrato in smoothing out the pitch errors. I want to hear how close I am when practicing.

I agree that double-stops are easier to get in-tune than full chords. Taking that even further, sometimes single-note figures give a very nice lyrical feel to one's playing, and chordal intonation issues just aren't there.

As soon as you get the set list, make sure you have the keys on there, and make a mental note of where the important fret positions are before you start each tune. In the meanwhile, practice finding those quickly in every key. For example, in G, root position G major on strings 8, 6, 5, 4, 3 is fret 3, A+F 1st inversion G is 3 frets up or fret 6, the A+B 2nd inversion G is 7 frets up or fret 10. The relative minor Em is at fret 3 with the A pedal, and the II minor Am is also at fret 3 with the B+C pedals. There are lots more, but I think those are a good place to start. Practice going back and forth between the ones you know, and a sense for what they sound like, over and over. You need to know those fret interval relationships cold - then if they pick a key like F# or Ab, you can go right there. But it's important to map that stuff out before you start the song.

I brought a B-Bender Tele my first few gigs as an escape hatch. That gig was mostly original folk-rock-Americana-alt-country and a lot of the chord changes were not obvious. In addition, some of the stuff was way over my speed limit, so the only way I could reasonably contribute was on guitar. If that's not an option and you're in over your head - lay out.

Of course, your situation may be different, so YMMV. BTW, where in PA are you?
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Landon Johnson


From:
Washington, USA
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 2:58 pm     Wow! These are excellent ideas! Reply with quote

Thanks so much for your answers so far - lots to think about!

I have asked the Bass player (who knows us both) to get me seated to the right or left of the stage so I can see the guitar and the chords being played. I put little labels on my steel so I can see what chord is at what fret - two lines; one open pedal, one A and B. I can back off 2 frets and hit B and C to get the minor version of any open chord, and I can press up the horizontal (V?) lever to make an AB chord minor. I can press LKR and RKL at the same time and get a V from the open, with the IV being AB so I think I have a plan.

I agree that sneaking in may not be such a good idea. I am trying to rig up a headphone so I can hear what is being played before I raise the volume pedal and make sure I am in the right place.

I want to get over this blocking problem - I can't get my palm to work properly so I am falling into a bad habit of using the picks to stop the strings - makes a clicking sound so I know it's going to be hard to get used to the palm. I am going to use bare fingers so I don't get that clicking sound - blocking this way works well for me but for the picking sound; I'm willing to give up the fingerpicks for ease of blocking. Guess it's time for the RH Alpha...

Thanks again

BTW Dave Mudgett I live in Spring Grove PA... you local?
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Michael Johnstone


From:
Sylmar,Ca. USA
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 5:52 pm     Reply with quote

Drink two beers and go for it. Too many rules and regulations and volume pedal obsession will be distracting - it's exactly what you should not be thinking about. Just keep your ears open and play music.

Oh yeah - you'll break plenty of strings. No need to fake that.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 6:32 pm     Reply with quote

Landon - I'm in State College, a couple of hours north of you. I get down Harrisburg/York way from time to time.

I agree on a beer or two (probably not more), keep your ears open, and have fun - that should keep you from worrying too much about the volume pedal. I don't think about it as a "rule", but I think mapping out the important fret positions before each song is a good survival strategy in a situation like this.

Palm blocking is very useful, but I wouldn't try to change your blocking technique right before the gig. If it's a fairly loud band, little clicking noises will probably get buried in the mix. Anyway - there are some very good players who use pick blocking exclusively. Work on blocking over time, but in the meanwhile, prepare yourself as best you can, and then enjoy the gig.
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David Doggett


From:
Bawl'mer, MD (formerly of MS, Nawluns, Gnashville, Knocksville, Lost Angeles, Bahsten. and Philly)
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 7:44 pm     Reply with quote

What Dave said, most of that finger blocking clicking you hear practicing alone is not picked up by the pickup and is lost a gig volume. And like Michael said, at some point you gotta just get into the music, even if it means just sliding around between good sounding notes by ear on a single string.
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Twayn Williams


From:
Portland, OR
Post Posted 29 Jul 2008 10:09 pm     Re: Wow! These are excellent ideas! Reply with quote

Landon Johnson wrote:
I agree that sneaking in may not be such a good idea.


I'm going to have to disagree with all the fine players here who say you shouldn't sneak into a chord. Being, I suspect, far, far closer to a beginner than the other folks who answered I can tell you that while it may be the sign of a rank beginner to do this, hey surprise! you are a beginner and training wheels are necessary! Another name for volume pedal is "mistake eraser" Mr. Green Eventually, you will of course want to stop doing this, but when you're a beginner, anything that helps on the gig is good!

Quote:
I want to get over this blocking problem - I can't get my palm to work properly so I am falling into a bad habit of using the picks to stop the strings


This is not a bad habit, it's called "pick blocking" and there are plenty of pros who use it as their main method of blocking. The clicking sound from pick blocking can be solved by using Propik Fingertones instead. I agree that as primarily a guitar player it's easier to play without the picks, so if you have nails, you might consider it for this gig.
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Rick Barnhart


From:
Arizona, USA
Post Posted 30 Jul 2008 6:03 am     Reply with quote

Slant your bar clockwise to about 2:00 above the 13th fret. With the volume pedal off, strum strings 10 9 8 7 & 5, then push the volume full on while sliding the bar up a fret or two...everyone will think a train's comin' and they'll pay no attention to you. Hey, it's a truck show in a church parking lot, have fun, you'll be the only one there who knows anything about steel. They'll think you're great.
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Les Anderson


From:
The Great White North
Post Posted 30 Jul 2008 8:23 am     Reply with quote

I agree with Mike, "Less is more". Most times a very simple slide or comfortable chord structure can sound just great, will fit in perfectly and save a lot of embarrassment.

Far too many players get in over their heads by trying to impress the world with their picking only to end up with egg on their face or even worse, a bad name in your music circle.

Practise at home until your fingers are ready to fall off. When those once problem areas become second nature with no conscious thought involved, move on to the next problem area.
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Last edited by Les Anderson on 30 Jul 2008 8:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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John Steele


From:
Renfrew, Ontario, Canada
Post Posted 30 Jul 2008 8:23 am     Reply with quote

After reading the Jessica Simpson thread, my advice would be: Wear a nice shirt, and smile alot.

-John
p.s. Oh yeah, and don't put your feet on the C6 pedals when you're playing E9.
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Steve Norman


From:
Seattle Washington, USA
Post Posted 30 Jul 2008 8:36 am     Reply with quote

You can mute that clicking noise by curling you ring finger under and when you pick block, lay your ring finger knuckle on the string.

If you make a big mistake, smile bigger versus getting an oh **** look on your face.
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Ben Jones


From:
Seattle, Washington, USA
Post Posted 30 Jul 2008 10:00 am     Reply with quote

I waited two years before I had the courage to play this instrument with other musicians. I wish I hadnt been so foolish and shy and had dived right into live playing from day one, as I learned more on my first night with a band than did in those two years in my bedroom.

best of luck , have fun, and heres to the first of many more to come.
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Jim Robbins


From:
Ontario, Canada
Post Posted 30 Jul 2008 6:45 pm     Reply with quote

John Steele wrote:
After reading the Jessica Simpson thread, my advice would be: Wear a nice shirt, and smile alot.

-John
p.s. Oh yeah, and don't put your feet on the C6 pedals when you're playing E9.

You must have been at my first gig with the D-10. I thought I had mechanical problems. I think this ties in with that thread about playing E9 without pedals ...

In addition to all the other good advice, Landon, you can back off on the volume pedal on verse 1 for a free run through, then come in on verse 2 like you mean it.

I'll bet for every steel player that spent years refining technique before gigging, there's crossover guitar players (like me) that jumped in where angels fear to tread as soon as they learned what the pedals did, and did ok. Use your ears and keep it simple; they'll love it.
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Steve Norman


From:
Seattle Washington, USA
Post Posted 31 Jul 2008 10:09 am     Reply with quote

Jim Robbins wrote:


I'll bet for every steel player that spent years refining technique before gigging, there's crossover guitar players (like me) that jumped in where angels fear to tread as soon as they learned what the pedals did, and did ok. Use your ears and keep it simple; they'll love it.


thats it right there,,since you have band stand experience experimentation is in your favor.
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