Finding A Compatible Guitarist

By Devlon Horne
In August 15, 2017
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“Fun loving, second guitarist for playing relationship and maybe more. Must enjoy late nights, cheap liquor, drummer jokes, the smell of feet. Sense of humour and timing essential. Moral compass optional. Must have two hands and at least eight fingers. No whiners, widdlers, divas, dictators or morons. I might be your Angus. Could you be my Malcolm?”

Right, that’s the small ad written, but I’m still in two minds whether to submit it. See, working with a second guitarist isn’t just some casual decision that you make on a whim, like choosing to study law, having a vasectomy or signing up to a suicide pact with your ex-girlfriend. This is the most important and intense relationship you’ll ever have. Friends, lovers and mail-order brides come and go, but a good guitarist is your shadow for your musical life.

You’ll watch his back. He’ll fight in your corner. He’ll put you in the recovery position. He’ll sleep with your sister. You’ll carry his coffin – and he’d do exactly the same for you. Rock history is full of such bromances. Lennon and McCartney. Page and Plant. Young and Young. Hetfield and Hammett. The list goes on.

Think of the likes of Metallica with Hammett and Hetfield. AC/DC with Malcolm and Angus. Some songs just would not sound the same without 2 guitar players. And yet, like any relationship, when a guitar partnership goes pear shaped, you better stand well back.

It would be easy to blame the pressure of fame, but even at a schoolboy level, working with the wrong guitarist can be like pulling teeth. Trust me, I’ve been there. At school, our lead guitarist was a rugby player who would never learn the material.

He would then roll into rehearsals, turn his amp up to ’10’ and play the same blues notes (that I was trying to learn haha) over every single song. When it ended, he would continue, eyes closed, drifting into the void, the implication being that we were almost non-existent to his soulfulness. By the end of our 5-month stint, I’ve never felt such an urge to strangle someone in my life.

6 Things To Look For When Selecting a Compatible Guitarist

How well does he play?

This one seems like an obvious one but it’s not quite as simple as you think. Most people look for someone that can play really well and seems like a nice enough guy but there’s much more to it than that. If he is a really good guitar player, the chances are he won’t be content in a band who already have all the songs written and just needs a rhythm guitarist to play them as intended unless they are challenging or interesting. What sort of band are you? Is he going to get enough mental stimulation out of the music, or leave after 5 months?

Does he write his own songs?

Is he going to be happy forever playing someone else’s songs and keep all his creative ideas bottled up? Are you okay with letting go of creative control? Are you okay with sharing the limelight on stage? If not, you might want to look for someone who isn’t that great of a player yet but has the potential to improve and pull the songs off in time. That sort of guitarist will be more likely to be happy as a traditional rhythm guitarist who is purely there to support you as the lead player. You need to decide what you want out of a 2nd guitarist and make a decision based on that. If you’re happy to let him write some songs, great! If not, then think twice.

What sort of music does he like?

Take a look at his music playlist on his phone or iPod and look at what he likes to listen to. Are your tastes in music similar? No? Play him some bands that your band draws influence from. If it doesn’t at least spark something in his eyes then there’s no hope and he will leave eventually.

Does he have a serious girlfriend?

If your band plans on getting a set tight, hitting the road and playing as many shows as possible in as many places as possible, then the fact that he has a girlfriend will definitely hold him back and naturally hold the band back.

On the other hand, having a serious girlfriend is a sign of dedication. If your band just wants to focus on online content and play the local shows then he might be perfect for you.

What’s his work ethic like?

Being in a band is hard work. Does he know his audition songs note for note? Did he bring hand written tabs or sheet music along with him? These are signs of good work ethic. You want to find someone who is going to put in the work to help make the band a success.

What else is he bringing to the table?

If his work ethic is kind of okay, think about other ways he can benefit the band. Does he have any other skills like Photoshop, people skills, a mind for marketing? Does have a car or good musical equipment? A nice practice space maybe? These things don’t seem important at first but they can mean the difference between whether your band makes it or not.

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*Has over 10 000 hours teaching experience *He has played locally and abroad for original & cover bands *Has biceps 3 times the size of an acoustic guitar's fretboard radius *Graduated top of his class at Damelin Contemporary School of Music

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