Tim Pierce, a session guitarist known for his prolific work with some of the biggest musicians in pop and rock music, discussed one of the biggest issues he had to deal with in his profession. However, it’s not about the music or the recording process itself but rather having an ergonomic work environment.
As he revealed in a new video shared on his channel, Tim dealt with a potentially serious physical issue that almost cost him his career. Looking back at a certain problem that he “only told family and friends” and which happened in 2020, Pierce says it was because he “spent too many years working too hard playing the guitar.” To give a little background, he first explained how these issues came to be (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):
“Musicians are workaholics and I am no exception. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in keeping up with the business, with technology, and a lot of that meant bringing the clients home at a certain point.”
“And I have two mirrored Pro Tools stations. What that means is everybody can sit at their station with their speakers and their monitor and I can sit with mine. And whoever runs it faster can then run it.”
Tim then added that, in most cases, he could do things much faster. This ended up making him do all the things all the time. He then continued:
“I play a lot of different guitars because it’s important to get different sounds. I play Les Pauls, I play Nash Stratocasters, I play other Strats, I play Gretsches, and so on and so forth — you get the picture.”
After sharing the background, Pierce then explained how all of the things combined “literally turned my body into a ticking time bomb that finally exploded in 2020.” He offered:
“I’ve spent my entire life in recording studios sitting down while I play. And if you look at sessions, most of the time, most of the players are sitting down while they play. And that’s on every instrument.”
Now, guitars as we know them may seem like pretty usual ergonomic instruments. However, there are a few important issues that we tend to overlook. He continued:
“[A guitar] looks very ergonomic. But, in fact, it sits low. So you end up kind of leaning over the guitar while you play.”
“And it feels cool and it looks cool. But when I started to work at home a lot, not only was I over the guitar with my back bent just a little bit, I was leaning forward to run the computer. And I would run it sometimes for six, seven, eight, nine hours.”
He also added:
“The lockdown happened and I started working harder, and I started working more. And I was leaning over a lot, doing Pro Tools, playing my guitar. And then, I would go over to the couch and lean over and look at my laptop and answer emails to administration, just getting a lot done and these two fingers [ring and pinky finger of his left hand] actually started going numb.”
“I kept powering through. Who cares? Keep playing, whatever, just happens, right? But it got worse and worse and went to the doctor and it turned out I had a pinched nerve in my upper spine.”
But things went from bad to worse. As Tim adds, things became “really scary.” He explained:
“Every time I reached my arm out to play a C chord on an acoustic guitar, my arm, and my neck would light up in painful pins and needles. I literally could not play anymore.”
After dealing with these “really scary” issues, particularly numbness in the aforementioned two fingers of his left hand, he decided to sort it all out. Tim explained that, fortunately, things turned out for the better:
“I went into physical therapy. And after five months of exercises basically to open up again, it began to subside. And now, I have totally healed. The bulging disc has shrunk back into the spine, the nerve is no longer pinched. The only lingering effect is a little bit of weakness in the little finger but it gets stronger every couple of months, I can feel it coming back.”
And, most importantly, Pierce adds that he can still play all of his guitars and that his “bad habits are gone.”
Of course, he also reveals that he decided to get one of the headless Steinberger guitars. In particular, it’s the Boden model. In addition to the new guitar, Tim also points out that it’s incredibly important to have a proper chair to sit in while you’re playing, as well as a setup that allows you to keep your mouse and keyboard very close to you. For more details, you can check out the entire video below.
Over the decades, Tim Pierce got the chance to work with some of the most important names of popular music. His session work started sometime in the 1980s when he gotten the chance to record with Rick Springfield.
After also working in his touring band, other names started piling up. These also include Michael Jackson, Goo Goo Dolls, Beth Hart, Roger Waters, Phil Collins, and many others. For instance, almost all of the guitars that you hear in Bon Jovi’s debut single “Runaway” from 1981 — it was actually Tim.
Photo: YouTube screenshot