Two Amps, Four Guitars: On Stage or In the Studio, Guitarists Need to Be Prepared for Anything

I was a Cub Scout, but I never made it to Boy Scout. But I did learn about their motto ("Be Prepared") and what it meant, and it's taken care of me very well over the years.

In my first blog for Guitar World, I wanted to stress just how important it is to never assume anything is ever going to go your way or the way you planned. If it does, fine, but if not, you need to be ready for anything, land on your feet and be able to do your job.

I've been making a living playing music since I was about 22. Some important lessons were learned along the way. My dad was a dock worker in New York, was never late and never missed a day of work in his life. He taught me that if you're not at least 15 minutes early for work, you're late. So if I'm called for a session, I arrive about 45 minutes before, and I'm set up and ready to play at least 15 minutes before downbeat.

My reasoning is that if a piece of gear messes up, I have time to suss it out and fix what I need to and still have time for coffee. Which raises another point: Make sure you have spares. Everything. Cables, strings, you name it. If you play slide, bring two. I rarely show for a session with fewer than four guitars, for different sounds, but also I'm covered on that front if something craps out.

If I'm working at a studio that doesn't have amps lying around, I'll have a spare in the car. Same at gigs. I ALWAYS have another amp either onstage, on standby ready to go, or if it's an in-town gig, in my car. There's nothing worse than having an amp stop working in the middle of a set. You will look like a fool, believe me.

I've been playing in Bonnie Raitt's band since 1993, and the one time a tech didn't set up a spare, my amp went down, and he had to run a LONG way to a truck for another. It's just not worth it. It hangs up the show, and I was the one with my pants down on stage, not the tech. Plus, two amps just look cool. :)

While on the “Be Prepared” topic, I'll briefly touch on the musical aspect, although I'd really like to cover that in another blog, as it's obviously as important. Whether you're a band member, a sideman/road guy or a session player, the more musical styles you're familiar with, the better. Listening to music that's not necessarily your cup of tea or in your wheelhouse can still affect your playing in a positive manner. Listening to Latin, Brazilian or Cuban music will only make your playing more rhythmically interesting, no matter what genre you happen to be playing, etc., etc.

So keep your ears and mind open to everything.

Keep playing and keep learning!

Nashville-based guitarist George Marinelli is a founding member of Bruce Hornsby and The Range and has been a member of Bonnie Raitt's recording and touring band since 1993. He has performed and/or toured with Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Art Garfunkel, Shaun Colvin, Faith Hill, Dixie Chicks, Wynona Judd and Vince Gill, to name just a few. He is busy with session work as a sideman and as a solo artist, and he often can be found recording and producing indie projects at WingDing Studios.

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