Credit to Reddit user otherwiseyep

Getting the gig and keeping the gig is the ultimate goal for any professional guitar player or musician. It’s much easier said than done, and of course it takes a lot of hard work, practice, and patience.

Thankfully, we stumbled upon a great post from Reddit user otherwiseyep that shed some light on how to get the gig, and we wanted to share some of the highlights with you because we think they are spot on.

First off, this sage advice is coming from a very well-experienced and clearly talented musician. He’s a “multi-instrumentalist who is lucky enough to find myself in demand as a studio musician/producer, a live sideman, and a jam buddy, throughout an extended network of bands and musicians. Sadly, I usually find myself having to turn down gigs (I wish I could take them all).”

He’s so popular he has to turn down gigs! If only we were all so fortunate. Well, maybe we all can be if we follow the following tips for how to get the gig:

1. Focus on Playing Instruments Others Don’t Play

“I focus on playing instruments that others don’t play. Bass and drums are especially in-demand, but something like a banjo, mandolin, or ukulele can be picked up pretty inexpensively and is fairly easy to learn for a guitar player. Brass and woodwinds are tragically under-utilized by modern rock bands, too. You know who is awesome to have at any jam session, and who makes almost any song sound better? Someone who can play tambourine, shaker, bongos, stuff like that. And they don’t even need to be very good, as long as they can keep time.”

2. Make Others Sound Better, Not Just Yourself

“I try really hard to accompany what others are playing, and to make them sound better.”

3. Nail Down Your Ear Training and Theory

“I have my ear-training and theory down pretty well, so I can quickly figure out things like the chord, key, and changes, and I can accompany other musicians on the fly. This also allows me to help in a teaching/arrangement/coaching role, when someone is trying to write/remember/figure out a song or progression, and/or trying to figure out what scales, chords etc. go with the song.”

4. Keep It Simple

“I keep it simple. I keep my playing volume appropriate for the room and the ensemble. I try to play in a way that makes the other musicians sound more impressive, rather than trying to show off how fast or flashy I can play.”

On the flip side, there are also some negative behaviors you should try to avoid in order to get the gig and keep it:

1. Listen More Than You Play

“Musicians who do more playing than listening. Especially among those whose ear/theory skills may not be the strongest. Some musicians get in a room full of competent players playing at volume, and their excitement just gets the better of them, I think: they just want to let rip and go all rockstar… you have to be really, really good to pull that off without annoying everyone else.”

2. Don’t Play Too Loud

“Musicians who just play too loud, especially if their playing is not perfect. Nobody likes having their playing stomped all over by a More-Me, but it’s especially offensive if the volume-whore is playing in the wrong key, making mistakes, etc.

3. Don’t Be a Control Freak

“Musicians who want to plan out everything that everyone is going to play, and/or who want to stick to only material that they have already learned and practiced. Instead, be like the tambourine man: just find a note or two, a chord here or there, that you can play for texture or accents. Find a groove, even if it’s just one note per measure. Then build from that. Good sidemen have more friends than jam nazis (and they make for funner and better-sounding jams).”

In addition to some positive behaviors to work on and negatives to avoid, he also offered up some general jamming tips, which we find to be very useful as well:

1. Learn the Pentatonic Scale

“Learn the minor pentatonic scale inside and out, up and down the fretboard. It’s not hard. You can master it in a weekend. It is the “safest” scale to start with, when you’re not sure what to play. It fits over a lot of different keys and modes. You can even get away with playing it over major, sometimes. At minimum, be able to play major and minor barre chords on both the E string and the A string cleanly, clearly, and quietly. Know the difference between the major and minor shapes.”

2. Learn Note Names

“Learn the note names on AT LEAST the E string and A string, for pete’s sake. You may not have memorized every possible voicing and shape for every exotic jazz chord out there, but at least be able to play to a basic Eb barre chord on demand, in both major and minor.”

3. Don’t Try to Make Great Music

“Instead, focus on listening to what the others around you are playing, and ease your way into make their music sound better. If the other guitar player has a cool riff, don’t start stomping all over it with a solo, don’t try to copy it and then play it louder and bigger… instead, find an accent note that you can play to make her guitar sound bigger and louder. find a chord or a double-stop that you can play behind the riff to sweeten the texture.”

4. Sound Good

“You may have noticed that your guitar has a pickup switch, and volume and tone controls. They are there for a reason, and it’s not just to be permanently set to bridge pickup, full tone and full volume. Use them. Learn them. Learn to love the “woman tone” of neck pickup, tone knob rolled down.”

5. Turn Down Your Gain/Distortion

“Seriously, every guitar player everywhere starts out with too much gain. It’s just too addictive to keep adding a little bit more detail, loudness, and ear-scraping presence, so the tendency is to keep gaining up just a little more, until the sound has turned into a hashy, fizzy, nasal screeching mess of harmonics (that’s when you decide it’s time to buy a new amp). Dial in your favorite guitar sound as usual, then turn down the gain and distortion settings by half and immediately put the amp on standby and take a break. Go out for a smoke or a bite to eat, change your strings, or whatever. Come back to the amp, flip it back on, and 9 times out of 10, I bet that you and the rest of the band will agree that it is absolutely perfect. Gain is both addictive and self-defeating, past a point, even for metal.”

In the end, it’s clear that there is one common theme throughout all this great advice: be a team player. “The absolute best jams I have ever been a part of were ones where the star was room itself, the collective sound of everyone trying to make everyone sound better. The absolute worst jams I have ever been part of were places with a bunch of people all competing to be stars and trying to drown each other out with chops and volume and general obnoxiousness. If you want to be awesome, and to have an accompaniment that does backup according to your instructions, then buy a drum machine. But if you want to be part of something greater than yourself, if you want to contribute to the creation of a new and complex reality of multiple minds and spirits coming together in sound, then play to make that collective better, make the room sound better.”

We certainly will take all of these things in consideration during our next jam session or gig, and we thank otherwiseyep again for the outstanding insight!

Do you have any other tips or thoughts on how to get the gig or jam session dos or don’ts? Share them in the comments!