Building your musical toolbox...

Truth be told, gig mishaps often provide more inspiration to develop than any music room based study can.

Case in point, one of my earliest paid gigs proved eventful for two reasons. One, I was getting £50 (good back in 1990) and two, my second string broke early on in set one (bad, whatever the year).

Money aside, the string breakage was a considerable game changer for my development as 1) it proved my practicing approaches at the time had substantial benefits and 2) suggested further ideas on cultivating a real world 'music tool box'.

Here's how the gig went: it was a new band, rehearsals had gone well, I was playing new tunes and trying out new music gear. So all was good until the second string broke early on in the gig. Thankfully, the guitar had the trem set flat to the body but losing a second string does create numerous irregularities for chord shapes and solos.

However, I had a couple of readjustment approaches to keep me playing. At the time I was big into three string chord voicing approaches, typical of guitarists as broad as Wes Montgomery and Nile Rodgers. So although I was denied the fabulous four/three/second and three/two/one string combinations I did still have the five/four/three combination; just needed to play different chord shapes higher up the fretboard - great, new terrain to explore.

The other approach drew on my practicing sixths in all keys, inspired initially by Steve Cropper's intro to Soul Man. So even with my second string gone, I still had the third/first strings to use for doublestops and solos. It wasn't an ideal situation but aspects of my practice regime had significantly saved my unfortunate gig predicament.

So, here's a thought for you to ponder on - what material from Guitar Techniques could add to your 'musical tool box', ready for a gig's surprise setback? Drawing on GT210, will Jon's Latin rhythms article or Eric Clapton's funky comping in I'm So Glad provide fresh new rhythms to play if an echo pedal fails? Will Pete's Emily Remler article (eg Ex 1 and 6) help you to imply II-V-I depth if you're faced with an unexpectedly long bout of soloing over a 'treading water' one chord vamp? Or maybe example 2 from John's Warren Haynes blues appraisal will provide killer intervallic lines if your distortion pedal dies and sustaining string bends cease to be possible?

Remember, the more useful musical nuggets you absorb, the better you'll be equipped for the unexpected on stage, broken strings included!