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How Many Instruments to Use?

There have been many times where I needed to invoke the use of a pretty vast number of instruments for either a live gig or a recording session. It seems to never fail though, that I always bring too many instruments, but I feel it’s always better to be over-prepared than under! After all, the worst thing is to be unable to produce be certain sound that you’re looking for, and my way is always the “real” way, by using the right instrument, as opposed to an “effect” that simulates an instrument.

In coming weeks for example, I’ll be finishing up a new instrumental album I am working on with Michael Garvin, and I want to truly be prepared for all kinds of overdubs. This means, I will likely bring a 6-string acoustic, a 12-string acoustic, a resonator guitar, lap steel, a baritone guitar, a mandolin, and a 12-string electric as well! It’s a lot of stuff to bring, but I will have a certain sense of security that all the sounds I may need to call upon will be right there at my disposal. It also opens up so many possibilities, because just having all those guitars there will make me think more creatively, and it will help spawn new ideas that I can try, due to the fact that I have my “arsenal” on hand!

Usually, when doing a recording date for someone else, I try to feel them out as far as what kind of material it is we’ll be playing, so I can make the right choices as far as which instruments to take with me. I usually “over-bring”, but it’s the worst feeling in the world when you don’t have quite the right guitar there for a given approach that’s needed. This is usually because I take the word of the producer or someone else truly to heart when they happen to improperly describe what the music is going to be like. That’s another reason it’s always better to “over-bring” too many guitars and other instruments to a given recording session!

On the other hand, I used to make the mistake of wanting too many guitars onstage, and therefore, ending up changing them too often during a show, which only serves to break the rhythm and the flow of a good set. So because of this, over the years I have really been cutting back on how many instruments I need to really have on the stage to do all I really want to do. These days it’s basically come down to one electric guitar, and another set up for slide. There may be an acoustic thrown in if I want to play certain specific pieces during the set that call for it, but otherwise it’s really just 2 guitars onstage. Oh yes, always a backup in case a string breaks, but I’ve been very lucky in that regard, and have literally never broken a string at a live show, even with all the bending I do!

So just remember, for the studio, bring as much as you can for as many sounds as possible, and for the stage, try to always boil it down to as few instruments as possible, so you can concentrate more on the flow of the show, instead of showing off how many guitars you have! Happy gigging and recording!


Posted: 4/29/2010 7:30:22 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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