Pushing at your own boundary

LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
edited September 2016 in Guitar Chat
Originally Posted By: zoglug:
I have no real intentions to join a band and gig as i am nowhere near good enough

Let me start by saying that I am not picking on zoglug, he just happened to post a good comment for me to get going with this discussion. I would like to encourage, to challenge anyone that identifies with zoglug's comment to give yourself a target to work towards: playing live in front of an audience. No it doesn't matter how well or how poorly you play. You may have been playing for one week, one year or 30+ years, it doesn't matter.

I first played guitar in school assembly when I was 9. Just one song. I borrowed a guitar, was shown the chords and got a blister on my thumb because that's what I strummed with! The clever kid was Andrew, the piano player. He had to teach the rest of us how to play and/or sing Hey Jude which was a hit at the time. By the time I was a teenager I was in a church youth club where along with two others we played to our peers in the youth club and were invited to play in church on Sunday evenings. And so for me guitar has been rooted in playing in front of an audience. Actually, church was a fantastic place to play as people are not there to listen but to sing along so once you have the introduction and first line out of the way everyone is singing and it's plain sailing after that. Fast forward 40 years and now I am playing bass in one band, drums in church, guitar at children's camps and festivals, flute at weddings and more. I cannot imagine life as a guitar player (or musician) without playing live; it's just so much fun!

What's my point? I feel so sad when I read comments like the quote above as our idea of how badly we play should not be a shackle that excludes us from the possibility of one of life's greatest pleasures - both for the entertainer and the entertained. Am I alone in believing that thinking we are not good enough is a false limitation that inhibits us when it shouldn't be? What do you suggest as a remedy? Recording yourself so that you can analyse your playing? Playing to an audience of one? Joining a band that doesn't need an extra player so that you can get used to playing along with other musicians? Or something else?

Comments

  • zoglugzoglug Posts: 314Member
    Originally Posted By: Lester

    Let me start by saying that I am not picking on zoglug, he just happened to post a good comment for me to get going with this discussion.


    Dont worry Lester, no offence taken as i think it is a very valid point indeed.

    The only people i have played for is my girlfriend and son, as they live in the same house and my parents when i lived there. Other than that, i shy away, as soon as friends come round, the guitar goes back on the wall and no amount of coercing encourages me to get it back out. I guess i just get gripped by a fear of failure, a fear of people saying it wasnt too good behind my back. It does surprise me, as i have a handful of 'easy' songs which i have practiced religiously and which i have recorded and put on Soundcloud and i think i could play those reasonably well in front of others.

    The other reason it surprises me, is i am quite a confident person usually. I was a volunteer football coach for 8 years and my job regularly entails me delivering presentations to large audiences, so being in front of people is not something which typically scares me. Put a guitar in my hands though and i just can not do it.

    What i will say though......is challenge accepted. My birthday is fast approaching, if i have friends round, i will pick my Crafter off the wall and try to pluck up the courage to play a few songs in front of them. If it doesnt happen then, i will endeavour to do so by the end of the year, play a couple of songs in front of an audience!

    I am really looking forwards to hearing others thoughts reagrding this subject too!
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator
    Not being good enough never stopped me. Iv'e played in bands where none of us were good enough. Aye, and got paid for it.
    Playing live, especially when "not good enough" is the ultimate adrenalin rush. Forget bungee jumping or white water rafting.
    There is no reason not to play live. It needn't be the Albert Hall. Start by playing for family and friends. We had a wine and wine party (don't like cheese) and I left a couple of acoustic guitars out. Jim played a bit of guitar so after a couple of glasses he picked up one and me the other, and away we went. Jim had a mouth organ in his pocket, so Andy, who doesn't play mouth organ, had a go and we soon had a great little blues trio. The womenfolk enjoyed it, we enjoyed it - don't know about the neighbours.
    No zoglug. Have a go. It's great fun.
  • lancpudnlancpudn Posts: 1,393Member
    I've never had the ambition to get up in front of an audience, I'm just happy playing alone or doing virtual band stuff on the internet, I don't know if its a lack of confidence but I just seem to turn into MrMagoo when faced with anything like that crazy I probably would have jumped at the chance in my youth but I didn't touch a guitar until I was 50 years old so was well into the grumpy miserable old git get off my lawn syndrome lololol. laugh
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member
    I can think of one good reason to not play live. But not for the reason of feeling not good enough.

    The reason is, simply, one of having no desire to do so and not getting any benefit from the experience when done.

    There's the issue of why we play a guitar - it'll vary. There was a discussion on a recent thread that went into the question of how much a guitar player is an entertainer and how much they're a musician. It'll be some mix of the two of course - but I'm afriad the entertainer is a very, very low % in the mix for me. Or maybe I'm anti-social! I've tried playing in public in the past BUT I don't play what a typical audience wants to hear, and they don't want to hear what I'd like to play. So the whole experience is either dull for them or for me - if I play what they want I just feel I'm going through the motions (as the sewage plant operative said).

    I also want to play my best when I do play - there's too many distractions and noises off playing live for this to happen. Too little chance of getting that focus going. Playing live also means playing when a timetable, or people, dictate and I'd far rather play when the mood takes me - that's when it "happens" musically.

    If I could have a room of guitarists who were interested enough in constructive comments I could see a benefit in that. Which is why for the past few years I've posted a lot of recordings in a specifically blues forum - and had some very useful tips that have improved things a lot. I enjoy Soundcloud because there's a few people there that share my developing weird taste for cross genre, difficult to define genre music.

    I play because I enjoy the experience of the sounds and tones and the challenges of creating melodic runs that work. I just like creating a piece of music for its own sake. Purely selfish pleasure in that it doesn't really make me feel much happier to know that other people like it too. If people do hear my music and give postive comemnts I appreciate that they've listened and will genuinely thank them for that but the hints and tips and suggestions for improvement are the gold-dust rather than the "hey dude that was cool" or "hey dude that sucked" comments.

    Maybe it's in the genes. My father could with great skill rip into music by the likes of Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin on the piano. But I don't recall him ever wanting to play to an audience. He played a lot better on his chosen instrument than I do on mine - but maybe that's part of my drive to learn the damn guitar as an instrument just to be played rather than be an entertainer.
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator
    When your band is playing good old 12 bar Rock and Roll and the dance floor is packed, then that is constructive criticism for me.
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member
    Originally Posted By: Jocko
    When your band is playing good old 12 bar Rock and Roll and the dance floor is packed, then that is constructive criticism for me.

    You have a much bigger % of the entertainer in your blood than me I think.

    FWIW I do envy those like you that have that - it must be real fun and a huge thrill. Dunno where my adrenalin's gone.

    Makes me feel a bit like someone in a room that's not getting the joke when everyone else's laughing in hysterics at a comedian.
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator
    One of my best nights was a National Semiconductor charity do in a pub in Clyde Square, Greenock. We had formed four or five bands among the workers. Our band (introduced as The Fiery Rings) had played together once, the previous night, when we ran through the set twice. The second time was only to time it!
    I turned up, with my gear, in a taxi, to hear our lead guitarist warming up. He was amazing. It was a beautiful warm summers evening and the pub doors and windows were open and all I could hear, as could the rest of Clyde Square, was this great guitar playing. The evening just got better after that.
    Never played to the general public since.
  • zoglugzoglug Posts: 314Member
    Over the weekend, I’ve had quite a bit of time on my hands whilst I’ve been out and about with the little lad and I’ve really been thinking about my motivations for learning to play the guitar. Mark P’s initial comment regarding entertainer/musician really got me thinking about it.

    When I first picked up a guitar back in 2012, it was not with the aspirations to join a band, or entertain the world, but to give me some focus during a particularly difficult time. Doing this saved me from slipping into depression and potentially ruining my entire life. So I owe a lot to this humble instrument.

    I do think this has had a bearing on my using the excuse of not being good enough to play in front of others. As I started out simply for my own enjoyment and to help me through some difficult times, I never had the interest to play in front of others, as id never thought about it. So on the odd occasion when the opportunity has arisen, (friends/family asking me to play) I’ve simply said ‘I’m not good enough’, people then tend to leave me alone. I mean, who really wants to listen to a poor guitarist? I guess the other thing holding me back, is the fact i am unable to play and sing at the same time. I know this should not be an influencing factor on playing in front of others but for me it is.

    I will certainly look to give it a go before this year ends i will set myself that challenge. At least then i will know if i actually enjoy playing in front of others and if nothing else, it will help me to focus my practice.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,191Member
    That is quite a story about your guitar beginnings zog, thank you. Some interesting, and I think very true, points you make also. I can relate to the issue with not being able to sing - I'm no good either! If friends want me to play the guitar for them, I have to have some instrumental piece, usually jazz for me, already prepared and practiced up ready to go. For me, it's quite a pressured situation, and in some ways I envy people who can sing well, and are able to entertain by singing a song with just a relatively simple strummed chord backing.

    I am in a better position when playing with a band, since then I have other musicians there providing a chordal backing, and if I'm taking a solo, it sounds good if I'm just playing a single-note line or melody. That just doesn't cut it unaccompanied though. So I guess one point from this is - do you know any other people learning a musical instrument, or who want to sing maybe, and if so you could form some sort of duo or bigger group. There is safety in numbers lol, and it can be a good way of overcoming the initial barriers to performing live I reckon. There seem to be quite a few "open mic nights" around at pubs and places these days, which can provide a good un-pressured environment to have a go at playing live. smile
  • john87300john87300 Posts: 162Member
    Originally Posted By: Mark P
    I can think of one good reason to not play live. But not for the reason of feeling not good enough.

    The reason is, simply, one of having no desire to do so and not getting any benefit from the experience when done.



    I totally empathise with the views Mark expressed in this earlier post.
    I don't have the "need" to entertain, which isn't to say I don't enjoy being entertained. I will, (being weak), sometimes play for friends and family if forced, but I get no real pleasure from it. I too am not sure whether they enjoy the experience when I do play for them either, as I don't play what they want to hear, and when asked "can you play such and such?" my answer is " probably if I actually wanted to, but I don't!" I've spent too many years finely honing a "grumpy" disposition to spoil the effect now, which means I don't actually worry about it.

    Basically I play for me, it gives me the chance to express myself and voice my emotions by actually creating something individual and it is in some ways private and very personal.

    Genetically I should be predisposed to performing in public, my father having been a singer with some of the popular Big Bands of the 1940's, but it's skipped an generation.

    I sometimes envy those who get pleasure playing to an audience, I certainly enjoy being at a gig with a good band rocking on stage.

    If there's one thing I'd say to anyone who thinks they're not "good" enough to play in front of others it's this. Just bear in mind that 99% of whoever you play to can't play at all, and of the 1% who might be able to, the more knowledgeable will appreciate what you're doing, so that just leaves a fraction of 1% of your audience who may not be impressed. This puts you in great company, as SRV himself was booed at Montreux! So, steel yourself, do it, and you may find you enjoy it!
  • LurcherLurcher Posts: 710Member
    My introduction to live performance was in a big enough band that I could hide a bit and just concentrate on my lead playing. One guy said a very true thing to me. 'If Hawkwind have the bottle to do it, everyone has.'
    That did change a bit the first time I played one of my own compositions to a Jam Night audience. i.e. all better guitarists than me. Got to the end of it and you could hear a pin drop. Then they all started cheering and asking for more. That acceptance is a bit addictive to say the least.
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,203Member
    I think I've got better than I ever hoped to be but in general people aren't interested in hearing me play. Certainly not immediate family or friends.

    There has been disrespectful piss-taking. In some cases people at venues have got visibly annoyed that I'm playing and that's something I never set out to do by learning the guitar.

    I don't find anything in life easy and it must show in my playing. Though I can play pieces seamlessly I expect the performance comes across as far too introspective. I play solo guitar chiefly because there was always a better band guitarist available (certainly not one committed to shifts.)

    I find the balance between fun and fluency difficult.

    In truth I'd give it up and sell my gear if I had the guts. The fact is that I've invested far too much of my life in it to walk away from it now even though, logically, that would be the right thing to do. The resources I put into it in relation to the virtually non-existent return from audience reaction verges on madness.

    I must confess that sitting in the corner of a restaurant playing guitar is all rather odd. My motivation is that I love the sound of tone wood. That's what I shall revert to. Playing at home to myself whilst dreaming that I'm on stage.

    It is not a matter of being 'good enough' as the OP says. It is about you being the right person to be on stage. Whether innately talented or simply likeable - either will trump hard work and ability any day.

    Don't let 'not good enough' hold you back. You might not need to be good enough if you are the sort of person for which things just flow. You might have the right image to balance the stage.

    As for getting serious about playing an instrument in later years ? Forget it.

    Short courses on things like power boating, motorcycling or learning to cook gourmet food are easier, quicker and deliver far more bangs for the bucks in terms of kudos and appreciation over effort.
  • Never really bothered me whether I was good or not, you'll always get negative criticism from people about your playing abilities, I started playing guitar, because I liked the sound of the instrument, and It gave me a lot of pleasure playing it,-still does, I have never aspired to anything higher, than the satisfaction I get from playing a song from start to finish, knowing it sounds reasonably coherent, life is too short.
  • Robert NesbitRobert Nesbit Posts: 19Member
    Originally Posted By: Laughlin Mcgill
    Never really bothered me whether I was good or not, you'll always get negative criticism from people about your playing abilities, I started playing guitar, because I liked the sound of the instrument, and It gave me a lot of pleasure playing it,-still does, I have never aspired to anything higher, than the satisfaction I get from playing a song from start to finish, knowing it sounds reasonably coherent, life is too short.


    Ditto on that comment.
  • coombsycoombsy Posts: 64Member

    im 53 and been playing a little over 3 years.Something ive been meaning to do for 30 years.In that time, ive really done some hours.Ive a great tutor who apart from being an amazing(I dont use that term lightly)guitarist, is very adept at leading me, and getting me doing the right things, even to the point of predicting what im thinking at a certain moment.

    Ive learnt some nice stuff.I didnt want to just be a 3 chord strummer,so I pushed the envelope.Just finished 4 months of torture learning the acoustic layla,which Im pretty proud off.Eric, doesnt have to fret, but I can at least get it done.

    However, during lessons, and when confronted by an audience I really struggle to play anywhere near the same level as when im alone.

    My tutor keeps asking me to do a few warmup songs when he gigs.Easy stuff like Romanza.The thought fills me with dread...

    Im a pretty confident guy.ive boxed infornt of 600 at York Hall, with no worry.However put a guitar in my hands and im a wreck!

  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    edited September 2016
    Originally Posted by coombsy:
    My tutor keeps asking me to do a few warmup songs when he gigs.Easy stuff like Romanza.The thought fills me with dread.

    I am not surprised as playing solo as your first experience in front of a live audience is a recipe for a nervous disaster. Far better for your teacher to invite you to play along with his band so that you can get used to being on stage, used to playing quietly so that mistakes won't be noticed, and when you have run up some experience then a chance to play solo will be more manageable.
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator

    It is definitely not easy. I even seize up when I press "Record", even knowing I can just delete it afterwards. I enjoy playing with a band, but when playing solo there is "no where to hide".

  • coombsycoombsy Posts: 64Member
    Originally Posted by Jocko:

    It is definitely not easy. I even seize up when I press "Record", even knowing I can just delete it afterwards. I enjoy playing with a band, but when playing solo there is "no where to hide".

    My tutor calls it "red button syndrome" you can play it perfectly until it matters!

  • pakamakpakamak Posts: 153Member

    i've had the 'i'm not good enough' conversation a few times over the years and my feeling is that some folk just aren't into being in bands and performing. i've been in dodgy little punk bands for 20+ years and absolutely love it. only recently have we started getting any decent feedback, for years we would play to stony silence! never put us off tho as we enjoyed every second of it

    each to their own i reckon, but it is a blast if you do play live. i'm still buzzing about our last gig because 2 people said they liked it. it does help that we are 5 40+ year olds playing hardcore punkrock with tongues firmly in cheeks...

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator

    We went on stage once to stony silence.  The singer opened by saying, "Don't know if you are going to enjoy this, but we f***ing are".  We went down a storm.

  • HobbioHobbio Posts: 21Member

    I don't feel good enough to perform, and I certainly get stage-fright and this red button syndrome. Even playing stuff I know really well in front of a new teacher yesterday gave me the wobbles.

     

    I'm surrounded by professional musicians (wife, both in-laws, loads of our friends etc) who have the ability to just do it but I'm so self-conscious about making even the tiniest mistake. My wife is desperate for me to join her panto band that she MD's every year, but even though I'd be hidden in a band loft and the idea of playing live does intrigue me I just don't think I "belong" up there with with proper musicians. I'd also love to play in a band, and indeed I played bass in one or two almost 20 years ago but we only rehearsed and split before we ever gigged, but again the fear overtakes me.

     

  • GlorybluesGloryblues Posts: 14Member

    Hi All.

    I would like to throw my 4p in to this.

     

    It can be the hardest thing in the world to get up in front of others and show off your skill. I would say that the ones who run you down are jealous and therefore don't matter.  It's still hard to hear.

     

    I admire the people who have said that they just like to play for the challenge and their own amusement.  More power to you.

     

    Once you can play three chords and get through "Bullfrog Blues" you are a "proper musician".  As you progress, you will learn more songs and more chords. 

     

    IMPORTANT...  Singing.  PLAY THE SONG IN YOUR KEY.  I have had singers in my bands who just HAVE to sing stuff in the same key as their idols.  Some have pulled it off, others struggle.  Then you transpose the song until they can sing it.  Guitarists can use a capo to keep the same feel to the backing if you are not up to barre chords and lots of different shapes.

     

    I am not good enough!!!

     

    Well, me neither.  I could care less.  I am a mediocre guitarist and a totally poor singer.  Never stopped me.  Just find out where the nearest exit is to the stage and park as close to it as you can.

     

    Open Mike Nights...

     

    Never take your '59 Les Paul and your '63 AC30.  Take a practice amp and a cheap guitar.  If gigs are a bit thin on the ground, be deliberately really bad and they might throw food. I put on a lot of weight doing open mike gigs.

     

    Open Floor Nights (Folk Music equivalent of open mike nights)...

     

    Avoid. They all know the words better than you do, all 73 verses.

     

    Stadium Gigs...

     

    No problem.  No one can hear you, no one can see you.  After 30 years you can say that Clapton played rhythm guitar for you and no one will be able to prove otherwise.

     

    So there you have it. The Gloryblues guide to playing in public.

     

    GB

     

     

     

  • SalihSalih Posts: 23Member

    This totally speaks to me I have never considered myself as a good musician but been gigging a lot. Used to play drums, bass and producing none of them i believed i was good but I was playing to an audience always.
    Being from cyprus there wasnt many musicians around so there was always an opportunity to take and I did and I made money met with many new people and had lots and lots of fun.
    Even now being a beginner didnt stop me from gigging I play in a reggae band as a rytm guitarist( who ever needs 2 guitars in reggae !) but doesnt really get me down and I have put a mic and a keyboard in front of me as well so when I am not needed i play the keys or sing backvocals and suprise suprise, people love it!
    Anyways all I am trying to say is this is an amazing article I think more musicians should read this and get encouraged

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