There is an element of performance etiquette that many fantastic players neglect to remember — how to be considerate when sitting-in on someone else’s gig. All too often, folks who are incredible on their instruments show up to sit in with a band or other performer complete with a huge pedal board or other large footprint items, making their plug-in time an extended event and incorporating far more than necessary. I am very protective of my sound and tone, but when I am sitting in with any group, I bring just a tuner pedal and a preamp.
However, beyond the impression of imposition that showing up with every piece of gear you own can create, the other grave mistake so many wonderful players make is the assumption that they can instantly solo on a song they have never heard. Yes, many songs follow a predictable chord progression, especially if you are playing certain flavors of rock and blues, however there are a number of tunes written in the Americana and folk genre that employ a fairly standard set of chords in a non-standard order. Too often, both soloists and support sit-in players don’t take into account that they don’t have to be in the groove on the first note. Even if you are playing drums or bass, you can sit back and listen to how the chords and feel of the song is unfolding, and then come in with your addition.
Many times players jump the gun, thinking they have it all figured out, only to find that they have now thrown other core group players off their game and out of the progression entirely. Even the best solo players can fall into that trap and not take those few moments to listen through the verse and chorus and then be able to step in without stepping on the song. So many bands in general don’t value leaving spaces in their sound, giving the listener a chance to enjoy all the different aspects that the solo instruments have to offer.
So those of us who work as hired guns, stepping in when invited or simply needed, we must give every song the respect it deserves and the core band the opportunity to show us how it should be played. There will be plenty of time to shine and add our talents, preferably without detracting from the very music we are trying to enhance.