I just finished editing a new Boss Tone Radio interview with Brendon Small. Brendon is a really good guitar player who also happens to be a stand-up comic and TV show creator. His current show is Metalocalypse. Brendon co-writes the show, does voiceovers for some of the characters, and creates all the music. If you haven’t seen Metalocalypse you can check out a few episodes at youtube.
Brendon’s a funny guy but he’s also really smart about guitar. He told me a story of when he was 15 and he did his first performance at a talent show. He blew it bad. After the show, Brendon went home, unpacked his guitar, then looked down at his hands and his guitar and had a conversation with them. He told them, “we are not going to do that again”. This reminded me of what Howard Roberts once told me.
Howard was the great jazz guitarist who played on those big TV and movie recording sessions in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Have you ever heard the iconic guitar riff for the Twilight Zone? That was Howard. You’ve heard Howard a lot, you just don’t know it. Here’s a short list of TV themes Howard played: The Munsters, Bonanza, Green Acers, Get Smart, Batman, The Beverly Hillbillies, Wild Wild West and on and on. Here’s a link to wikipedia if you want a bigger list. Howard also started a music school in Hollywood called Musicians Institute. I went there in 1980 and was very lucky to have Howard as one of my teachers.
Howard had ice in his veins. (A good excuse to use my Marshall fridge picture, above.) Howard could go into a Hollywood session crowded the best musicians in the world and virtually, instantly translate a chart of notes into what the composer had imagined the guitar part should be. All while surrounded by the best musicians, composers and producers of the day, a full-on pressure cooker situation. When the record light came on, it required the ultimate confidence and concentration, not to mention Howard’s uncanny ability to never make a mistake. If he made a mistake they would have to stop the session and all the musicians would have stop and fix it. After a couple of mistakes you would never be called back.
Howard told me a simple way to avoid mistakes. He said you can always reduce music to single notes, one at a time, strung together. He said, whenever you make a mistake, find the wrong note, play it, visualize it, and say NO! Now play the right note, visualize it and say YES! Make a mental note of the right note, concentrate.
I told this to Brendon and he said, yes! That’s it! You’re raising a puppy! You are training your playing like you train a puppy. Don’t let it get away with anything. Off the couch! Down boy! Brendon also said be honest with yourself, record yourself and if you hear a problem figure out how to fix it.
That talk Brendon had with his hands paid off. Check out his playing on Dethklok’s, Doomstar Requiem and his solo albums.