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Competition Advice from Rodney VerBrugge

Competition Advice from Rodney VerBrugge

Competition advice from a veteran player

What competitions have you been involved in?
I was first runner up in Guitar Player''s Guitar Hero 2005 and took fourth place at the North American Rock Guitar Competition.

How long have you been playing?

25 years.

Who are some of your biggest influences?
Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani.

Describe your favorite rig.

1983 Kramer Pacer Imperial (modified), Gibson Les Paul Chambered Custom Quilt Top. I love plugging the Kramer in for leads and the Les Paul in for rhythms to my Behringer V-amp 2 and my Johnson J-Station. From there I go straight in to my computer and the tones are amazing.

What sets you apart from other players?  

I would like to think that it''s my songwriting skills. There are a million guitarists out there who are technically accomplished, but what really turns people''s heads and keeps them coming around are the songs. If you don''t have the songs then you are really limited.

Any interesting stories from guitar competitions?

From 1990 to 2005, I concentrated on my full time job and my family. I kept up on my "chops," but not more than 10-15 minutes per day during that time. Prior to that, I had grown accustomed to being rejected every time I sent in a demo or submitted material for review. Then in the summer of 2005, I was selected for Guitar Player ''s First Annual Guitar Hero competition, which was to take place at the Rock n'' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
What led to my decision to enter the contest and being selected is another story altogether. Needless to say, I went into the event with zero expectations. After all, I hadn''t kept up on all the current "tricks of the trade," equipment or anything guitar related for the 15 years leading up to it. And here I was, up against nine other amazing players who all had current instruments, effects, recording equipment, tricked out websites and everything else you could possibly imagine. I had no website, an old beat up Kramer Pacer, a tiny Fender Squire practice amp and a 1980s Tascam analog four-track cassette recorder. So, the only recordings I had were from 1987-1990 on old analog demo tapes. To add insult to injury, I hadn''t even played any of my songs in 15 years.
I selected a song to play that I had written in 1990 and I had three weeks to learn it and prepare for the competition. I practiced my ass of for those three weeks and I really was just happy to be there, it didn''t matter if I even placed in the top three. Sure, it would be nice, but all I really cared about was finally being able to share my music with a broader audience. By the time I got up there, I was nervous as hell, but I just told myself to slow down, get into the groove and just let it rip! In the end, I was satisfied and relieved to say the least, but I was happy to know that I impressed the judges enough that I was the first runner up.
And after hearing his comments about my performance, impressing one of my all-time heroes, Joe Satriani, was one of the most satisfying and exciting things I have ever experienced.

Give PG readers 3 tips for playing in guitar competitions.
1) Pick the song or songs that exemplify what you do best.

2) View it as an opportunity to be heard and to celebrate your music and playing, not as a competition.

3) Most important: HAVE FUN!

What’s a big no-no at a guitar competition that you would advise against?
Never go into a competition expecting to win or place in the top three. Also, don''t get bogged down by trying to decide what song(s) will please the judges. In other words, don''t over think it and just think about what you do best and stick to that.

What’s next on your horizon?
 I would like to get cover art and liner notes done for my first CD and find a way to distribute it. Of course, I''d love help from a label (indie or otherwise). If anyone has any interest or suggestions please feel free to contact me. Eventually I would like to set up some kind of tour with some of the Guitar Hero and NARGC alumni.

Where/how can PG readers find out more about you?