Everybody Wants to Play the Guitar

I've been trying to find a lead guitarist for my new band. We just need that final player to turn our slamming trio into a crushing quartet!

But finding the right musician is hard -- hell, finding someone who isn't a complete flake or a complete loon is itself nigh-impossible. I've been posting on Craigslist. The ad is understated and thorough. I list influences, post links to some rehearsal recordings, and explain what we're expecting: someone who doesn't mind learning and doubling existing guitar parts to thicken up our sound, but can also handle lead lines and solos, and if you have material and ideas of your own we'd be happy to incorporate it. To me, this seems very straightforward.

Allow me to share some highlights of my search so far...

Well, there was Nathan. He seemed like a good prospect so I gave him tablature to two of the songs and asked that he learn them before coming in. I had a cold the following week so it was two weeks before we could schedule a night to jam. When I emailed/texted to confirm that he was still coming in, he said

Well, I would like to come and check you guys out, I still haven't had much time to learn those tunes that well but I pick things up fast.
It's up to you, I can come in tomorrow and play a litle for you guys so you can check me out. I mean, I'll play there all night with you guys! Or, if you really want me to nail those tunes, when I walk in then maybe another time.
I think if I just come in then you guys will pretty much decide if we work or not.

To which I responded:

To be honest, if two weeks is not enough time to learn two songs then I already know you're not the right guy for us.

Two weeks! I'm not asking him to learn "Roundabout" or "Achilles Last Stand." Verse/Bridge/Chorus/Verse/Bridge/Chorus...

Many guitarists reply with varying levels of enthusiasm and then simply disappear when I try to follow-up. Some reply simply because I had mentioned Black Sabbath or The Melvins but they never actually bothered to listen to any of the multiple rehearsal recordings I posted. There was one guy who actually did listen to the music and was willing to learn a couple tunes, but when I emailed again to confirm a time to meet, he responded simply "Sorry, I changed my mind." Okay, that's cool, I said, do you mind my asking what changed your mind? No response.

Sometimes I respond to "guitarist available" ads if they seem appropriate and point them to my "guitarist wanted" ad. Leroy was one such guitarist, and he seemed enthusiastic and responsive. I told him that we're looking for someone who can play some melodic and mournful leads and he said, "That's what I do best is play melodic and mournful leads." We even spoke on the phone! That's when he finally pointed me to his recordings. The first tune he offered was "not finished it needs a Solo and Vocals but I really dig the Riff."

That "riff" turned out to be four uninspired ascending chords played slowly over and over for several minutes. I had to go to a second song to finally hear some very amateurish soloing. Suffice it to say, even Heather chimes in to mention "This guy is not good." That's fine, not everyone can be Buckethead. I took the route that creative professionals take when they break up and want to make a public point of it being amicable: I cited "creative differences":

I checked out the tunes you linked to as well as a couple others you posted. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to mesh stylistically. Riff-wise and solo-wise, I think I'm looking for someone different. Sorry! Best of luck with finding the right band.

Don't worry about Leroy, he rebounded. His next "guitarist available" ad showed that he's not a quitter:

Too Heavy for Rock Not Heavy Enough for Doom
Mid 30's guitar player looking to Join or form a band. I play too heavy and fuzzy for the Rock guys but not slow and dark enough for the Doom crowd. I have that "in-between" sound that no one else has and it's guaranteed to scratch your itch if you have been looking for that elusive "It Sound"

So, yes, I've become a bit more wary about "guitarist available" ads. Or maybe I just can't recognize that "It Sound" when I hear it.

I am going to quote in full my email conversation with Kenneth, the most recent guitarist. This one is my favorite.

Kenneth:
Great bands mentioned in ad. I'm heavily into Asunder as well. What tunings do you use?

Me:
Hadn't heard of them before, but listening to Asunder now and digging them. They remind me of a similar defunct local band that I really enjoy, Anon Remora, and a little Agalloch as well. (Hm. All "A" bands...)
Most of our tunes are in CGCFAD, but a couple are in DGCFAD. We're pretty comfortable there, but not opposed to tuning lower so long as it's still possible to articulate the parts.
Did you check out the tunes? (Not everyone who responds to my ad actually does.) They range in style a little so I don't feel comfortable citing any one of them as our definitively representative.

Kenneth:
Was actually jamming to one in G# an octave down on my 8 string. I have a very technical side to my musical persona as well and use the full range of any instrument I pick up. Not that guy who bought an 8 to use just the 2 bottom strings.
That octave shit sounds sick as hell and I can't believe no one else has tried it that I know of. And no, it sounds nothing like a bass guitar.

Me:
Cool. So is this all just conversational or are you interested in the project?

Kenneth:
Tentatively interested. Recently returned to a normal dayshift schedule and am feeling things out. Been playing in bedroom too long.

Me:
Well, I can't tell if you're looking to be cajoled, or if you really can't decide whether you even want to come in and jam, or if you're just naturally dramatic, but whichever is the case I can already tell this isn't the project for you. Good luck!

Kenneth:
Wtf?

Look, talking about various guitar tunings is all well and good, but is this going somewhere? Oh, you're "tentatively interested"? It's not like we're asking you to walk in the door with your share of the monthly studio rent in cash and promptly commit to six months of touring. If after three emails you can't even decide if you want to jam then you're not somebody I want to deal with on a weekly basis.

There was one guitarist who actually showed up to jam with us and had even learned (one of) the tunes! Derek was really likable and we enjoyed playing with him, but whereas our style is "thrash slowed down" his was more "slow jam band turned way up." I had to tell him I didn't think it was going to work, but as he and his wife had just recently moved from Baltimore to my neighborhood and knew no one in town, I offered to take him out for hot dogs and pool. How about next Wednesday? He said, "Sounds great!" When I emailed to confirm, he said he had forgotten and that a friend of theirs was in town that night, could we do any other night? I said, sure, no prob, how about Friday?

I have not heard from Derek since.

I've been analyzing the tone and content of my ad and my email replies, atypically self-conscious about whether I might be coming off as demanding or unfriendly, etc. But in this case I really don't think it's me. I think human beings are a flakey, fickle, delusional bunch. And that goes double for guitarists.

I should point out that I've always said, "I play guitar, but I'm not a guitarist." I mean it.

Anyway, I will keep looking. Wish me luck!


Comments
On the subject of Kenneth: It's called FOREPLAY, Adam. You were looking to bust your nut right away, Kenneth was just looking for a some cuddling before getting in too deep. Rather than communicating your desires, you turned your back on him.

You should walk down to PSU and post some flyers in the music department.

You're looking for a guitarist in a sea of amateurs. Isn't there a better venue for your search than Craigslist? Craigslist is full of idiots that are bored at work wishing they could be cooler....sounds like each of those idiots up above.
» Posted 2.21.2012 12:46:20 by Tom [Website]
I was all good with two emails of conversational foreplay. But by the third email he can't even decide if he's interested? Nah, fuck that. I'm not here to coax and cajole. It's a yes-or-no proposition: Do. You. Want. To. Jam?
» Posted 2.21.2012 12:50:29 by Botch the Crab - WEBMASTER
I agree; if I'm not interested then I won't respond to the ad in the first place. I go right to the chase with stuff. In my first email, I ask when we can do stuff.
» Posted 3.13.2012 9:04:04 by Onslaught Six [Website]



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