Canadian Musician - November/December 2017 - Page 25

PHOTO: NICOL SPINOLA PHOTOGRAPHY GUITAR Peter Serravalle is one of Vancouver’s busiest guitarists. As a live and in-studio session player, Peter is a regular guitar chair for many musical theatre productions throughout Vancouver, as well as a regular guitarist with John William Dexter’s “Bailamos!,” the Vancouver Men’s Chorus, Musical Occasions, and various cover/event bands. By Peter Serravalle Ou Tales from the Pit: Out at Sea I ’m writing this article 37,000 ft. in air on the way to meet a cruise ship gig in Palermo, Sicily. Seriously, how cool is that?! Anyways, after some in-flight rumination, I started thinking about preparation, maintenance, and growth. Fitting this into the context of pit playing on the ships (which is really kind of like being a session player when one thinks about it) got me think- ing about, when it comes to the moment of playing the part, how much preparation, study, and experience has gone into being able to tackle the gig; furthermore, it really got me thinking about how important it is to be over-prepared for the gig. ness and get it into one’s playing, but having it in your hands and being able to recall them on demand will get ears (and hopefully more gigs!) pointed your way. The best way to go about this is through serious listening and transcription. Music is, after all, an aural art form. It hits our ears first. And that brings us to our next topic: reading. Sight-Reading Rock/Pop (‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s & ‘80s) Soul/R&B/Gospel Blues (Chicago, Texas, Delta) Country (playing styles of Danny Gatton, Roy Clark, James Burton, Hank Garland) Jazz/Broadway Revue Latin (Salsa, Brazilian) We’ve heard it over and over again: work on your reading. I prob- ably heard it said a million times that the ship gig is a reading gig, but there is more to it than that, isn’t there? Of course reading it important, but it’s more than just being able to locate dots on the page and put them on your instrument. Really, what it’s all about is making musical decisions in real time. One can really expect to get anything put in front of them as a house band musician on the ships. More often than not, a guitarist can expect to get a piano part or a bass part, or even if there is a guitar part, it’s usually not written by a guitarist and isn’t very musical or practical. So what’s the key here? The key is knowing your styles well enough to be able to make your own part if the part you have is either A) non-existent or, B) not that great. Having an internal catalogue of tunes will be the most ben- eficial in this endeavour. It’s great to be able to play “Stella by Starlight” in 7, 26-2 or “Moment’s Notice” at 300 bpm, but what about being able to play the solo to “Bohemian Rhapsody” or be- ing able to whip out some Hendrix tunes or just even being able to play a slow 12/8 blues? The audience doesn’t really know how you can superimpose substitutions in your solos, but they do care that you can rock out or lay down some feel like B.B. King. Having a solid grasp of the differences in subtleties between each style doesn’t hurt. It does take time to be able to cultivate an aware- What it really comes down to is: Know your tunes, know your styles, be flexible, be nice, and don’t complain. The Skills & Scope I was always fascinated by the skill set of those LA session cats. The styles, instrumental versatility, sight-reading chops – they just had it all together, though these days, it seems like anyone with a Telecaster who plays “modern country” and owns a laptop is calling him or herself a “session player.” Sure, the times are a changin’, but come on! Let’s check “The List,” shall we? In terms of styles, here’s the gamut from what I have experienced in past cruise ship scenarios: W W W. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N . CO M C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N • 25