RADIO TOUR SECRETS FROM A TOURING PRO

RADIO TOUR SECRETS FROM A TOURING PRO

Special radio tour tips from veteran touring and recording guitarist Scott Whitehead.

DON’T OVERPLAY

“It is easy to overdo it, to attempt to include every fill and riff and break found in the recording. I try to put myself in the position of the songwriter: How would he or she play the song at a writer’s night? This can mean shortening the song’s intros and turns, and deleting solos. It can take away from a singer’s delivery if an accompanying guitar player strums chords four or eight bars longer than needed while an imaginary electric guitar solo takes place.”

INCORPORATE THE SIGNATURE RIFF

“After the basic acoustic arrangement blueprint is drawn, I add the signature riff, or a variation if it is not possible to pull it off completely on acoustic guitar. An example would be ‘Nobody Knows’ (written by Don Du Bose and Joseph Brooks Richards). That song has a beautiful signature riff played on fiddle and steel and doubled on piano; it’s vital to the song. It can be pulled off on solo guitar enough to be recognized by the audience while not taking away from the chord structure.”

USE HARMONY WISELY

“Harmony vocals can enhance an acoustic arrangement nicely. But choosing when to add harmony should not be based entirely on the song’s production. If one tries to harmonize with the artist at all the spots on the recording, it could distract from the singer’s performance.”

CREATE A NEW VERSION IF NEEDED

“Some songs are difficult to pull off acoustically, and attempts to sound like the record might not pay off as well as just creating a completely new version. For example, Eric Clapton’s acoustic of ‘Layla’ is very different from the Derek and the Dominos recording, yet it comes off well and even has hints of that classic electric guitar riff.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

“An accompanist’s reason for living is to assist the artist in selling the song. If the song touches the audience, then the artist has done his or her job. An accompanist has to be able to mold a full production as needed to make it work in the new setting. It does not matter if the song’s new arrangement sounds exactly like the recording, as long as it moves people.”