Finding the thing that sets you apart
I’ve been blessed to be in Nashville touring,
recording, and writing for the past six years. I
am a relative newbie to the scene here, but in
a town where dreams are made and crushed
every day, six years could be considered a
lifetime. As I navigate the seemingly impassable
obstacles of this business, I constantly
hear about players landing gigs, sessions, and
situations that make the hair on the neck stand
up—going on tour with Peter Frampton or
Ryan Adams, or getting hired to do the new
Willie Nelson record. Musicianship, a little
good ol’ boy networking, and all luck aside,
many of these players can chalk the big gigs
up to one truth: They have a “thing,” something
that makes them who they are. It’s a
unique trait every artist wants, and we as players
aspire to have.
What Is a “Thing?”
This cannot be narrowed down into one specific category, but can run the gamut of characteristics. You can be the P-bass player with a solid groove and tasty licks to complement the song. Duck Dunn, anybody? He’s got a thing. You can be an over-the top effect and speed player that does everything big—hello, T.M. Stevens. He’s also a snappy dresser to boot. Speaking of dress, Slash, aside from the signature hat, has his signature tone.
You can probably run down the list of your favorite players and find that one thing—a lick, a tone, a distinctive persona—that makes them your favorite. But how did these players get to a point where they separated themselves from the pack? Rarely is it an overnight process. There are times when players explode onto the mainstream and make us take notice (Flea’s opening bass lick on “Higher Ground,” for example), but many times we’re able to watch the development of a style, such as following U2’s The Edge for a few records, as he delayed, chopped, and chimed his way into our guitar vernacular.
I will say this—no matter how fast or slow it takes to get there, you can’t force it. The thing has to happen, and it can’t be a one-off lick. You have to have follow-through and substance to elevate a good tone and decent licks to a great thing. Most of all, it has to come from the heart.
Developing Your Thing
What is it you do that makes you special? You may be able to change the channel on the remote with your feet, or make amazing blueberry pancakes, but that only helps your home life. If you are looking to break away from the pack, you need to find your voice in order to be heard. Many technically great players out there are not unique because they haven’t found something that separates them from everyone else. The key, of course, is being you. Imitation is great, but add your own spice to the soup. You know all the licks, but where you put them is also part of your thing.
Who are your influences? What made you start playing in the first place? Answer those questions, and you’ll have a pretty good start in finding your way. Now take those influences, and do a little reverse engineering. What made those people want to play? Who did they listen to? Somebody had to get into Chuck Rainey’s head to help him become Chuck Rainey. If you dig deep, you’ll find a whole new world of players that inspired your heroes. Take that research and add your own heart and soul to the mix.
How can this translate into real value? Well, if it’s purely money you seek, then you should seek elsewhere. If you want to bring your thing to a bigger table, then pull up a chair. Let’s say there is a producer making a record, and he has a specific sound in mind. He’s doing a concept record, and walks into a club one night—the night you happen to be playing. It sounds like a long shot, but in a small town like Nashville, it’s not a long shot at all. You don’t know that he’s there, and maybe, just maybe, if you are doing your thing, you may be the next “cat” in town. There are more industry folks walking around this town than you can shake a stick at, and if you stand out, it will be noticed. The important thing to remember is that they like you for not sounding like everyone else.
There is musical life outside of Nashville, of course. The internet has revolutionized the ways we live and do business. The web is now a great way to focus your efforts on showcasing your playing style to the world, and maybe land a breakthrough gig. Many management companies do their research for new players through social networking and video sites. Even if you aren’t looking to play with major touring acts, local players are checking you out as well to see if you fit what they are looking for—keep that in mind when setting your pages up.
We have to forget the glitz and the glamour for a few minutes, because nine times out of ten, there is none. Just like tomorrow, success in this business is not guaranteed. But that’s not why we are here. Something deep inside of us ignited a passion for what we do, and that passion is the reason for all the gear we buy, and the reason you are reading this magazine. Keep that fire burning and don’t lose sight on your musical goals. It is that passion that will ultimately help you find your thing.
Steve Cook is currently fortifying himself in the back of a tour bus, awaiting the low-end revolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org until the coast is clear.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.
The new finish, according to Lava Music, is “inspired by the beauty of the golden hour,” a shining time just before sunset and after sunrise when photographers covet to capture stunning pictures.
With bright and warm golden hues, the new finish adds a brilliant metallic glow to the surface of Lava ME 3, complementing its AirSonic 2 carbon fiber unibody which features L3 Preamp with FreeBoost 2.0, delivers industry-leading sounds by breakthrough acoustic technologies, and houses a multi-touch display powered by Lava-developed HILAVA system.
Speaking of the HILAVA system, Lava Music also added four new effects: Nebula, Desert Rose, Cassette, and Edge of Breakup. As unique as their names sound, they are very much different from what we normally know about effects. Programmed into the HILAVA system, each of the four is powered by the company’s latest ArctanDrive algorithm and incorporates effects like Pitch Shift, Delay, and Reverb. And every one of those incorporated sub-effects comes with various parameters that players can adjust to design unique, overdriven sounds by just tapping on the multi-touch display. That said, those effects enable users to play with overdriven tone on an acoustic-electric guitar without even plugging in any external gear.
LAVA ME 3 | Now in Golden Hour | LAVA MUSIC
Lava Me 3 in Golden Hour is now available starting from $999 on LAVA MUSIC, Amazon, and local guitar dealerships near you.
For more information, please visit store.lavamusic.com.