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Sunday, November 19, 2006

My Thoughts on Playing Guitar in Grease

Me Rocking out at Thirty in the Air.
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Wow! What a week. For the last two weeks Grease has took up at least four hours of my day. Four full rehearsals then five straight performances. All in a row!

When I heard they were going to do Grease last summer I thought it would be cool to play guitar in it. I didn’t know if they were going with a rock band or only piano at the time. Then I offered to play guitar if they needed me. I didn’t hear anything about it for months, so when I got the call about two weeks ago to play guitar on Grease I was shocked and surprised.

Fortunately for me the guitar part was mainly chords with a few blues guitar solo lines. This is what I’ve been playing on guitar since I picked my first axe up back in the 1980’s! So I could sight read the part, which we all did the first rehearsal.

I have to say that even the first rehearsal sounded great. All the cats in the band can play. As time went on, we got tighter as group. It was fun to rock out with them.

You all know that I’m a rock and roller. The few solos I had, I did my best to mimic the 1950’s guitarist that I love to listen to. So I didn’t use my standard blues licks that I use all the time in my own music. I used what I call the ‘chicken picking’ style. Man it was fun to rock out in that style!

If you had a chance to see the show, you saw that I had a ball rocking out. Whatever I style of music I play, I try my best to mimic that style. The jumping 1950’s bands didn’t sit still. That was for the jazzers of the time. Rock and roll was fun with a lot of energy, so if I was going to mimic that style, I have to rock out as hard as I can. And everyone had to see that too!

So if you saw me facing my guitar towards the audience, moving to the music and smiling a lot, that’s was that style. Back then when you went to see a rock and roll band, energy is what you felt every time the band played. Rock and roll is fun! I did my best to share my energy with the folks in the audience. That’s rock and roll!

One of the hardest things for me playing in Grease, was that the band had no monitors of the singers or the band. That means I don’t know how loud I am playing. So this is what I did, if I heard the singers I played louder. If I didn’t, I played softer. As an electric guitarist, you always get that you are too loud. And I was nowhere near playing at eleven.

Now I’m first a musician. If I could hear the singer, I can play soft with intensity. I always play with the singer in mind. The way I play, I do my best to adjust to the singer to make them sound good. Well if I can’t hear them, there isn’t much I can do.

Apparently this is how all musicals work around the world. The band can’t hear the singers or themselves. So they have to rely on the director to tell them to play up or down. I like to rely upon myself so that I can play as musical as I can.

In my mind, I know how to make my guitar talk the best and blend with the singers. In a musical I guess that this isn’t possible with all the parts going on. When I play rock and roll on my own, I only have to worry about myself. In Grease there are a lot of singers, so maybe it’s impossible. I’m just used to having monitors when I play on stage so that I can adjust. So I can rock out as hard as I can!

After Grease, I’m going to have to play more electric guitar. And I may have to put a band together. I love playing in my solo act with a classical guitar. As you all know, I rock out hard all by myself. I still rock out harder than anyone I know all by myself.

To get that rocking sound that you only get in a band is something that I want again. We’ll see if I can put a band together once again. Maybe a power trio.

I want to say that all the work that I put into Grease was nothing as compared to the actors and the rest of the crew. We took a cast shot on Thursday and the whole stage was filled. There must have been about a hundred people on stage. It took that many people to make Grease happen.

Everything from the stage, costumes, props, crew, people that worked with the actors on singing and dancing and so many other things, all make Grease the two hours of fun. And since Grease sold out all five nights, all the work was seen and enjoyed by many. I have been around SFA since 1993, and I don’t remember anything selling out like this. That’s the power of rock and roll.

I want to say thanks to all of those that made Grease happen at SFA. It was cool to have a small part in this adventure. Well now I can say that I have played guitar in musical and I can take that off the list of things I have to do in life. It was similar to playing violin in the pit for an opera that I did back in college.

I did have a chance to rock out a bit more in Grease. Rocking out at thirty feet in the air was great. My solo at that end was for all my friends that came out. I did that for you, thanks for coming out! And also for all those that worked so hard on Grease! I wanted a solo line that you could dance out to with a big smile on your face. You guys are the true rockers!!!!!

Grease was a great learning experience for me. I bet that I will write a musical now. All I have to do is follow the form of Grease. A musical about a nerd and a guitar, that sounds good to me. Maybe one day SFA would put on that production too. That would rock.

Rock and roll!!!!!

Me rocking out!
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Me and my axe!
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I got an award for my guitar solo.
Not really, but it looks that way!
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