Saturday, 24 August 2013

Confession #31 - Play in a Band!

Want to take your playing up a level?  There's one sure way to do it!


It can be difficult to stay motivated as a musician if all you do is noodle around on your guitar at home.  You're not letting anybody down if you watch TV instead of practicing that new song you've been working on.

 If your motivation suffers, then you don't practice as much as you should and thus your progress suffers too.

One way to kick start your motivation is to join a band!  And better yet, join a band that has an upcoming gig!  Now you have two very powerful motivators to get you to practice:

  1. Not wanting to let the band down by showing up at rehearsal without knowing your part.  
  2. Fear of getting up on stage at your first gig and blowing it.

One of my goals when I got serious about the guitar a few years back was to play a gig.  When I felt I was ready I signed up for a program offered by a local music shop that put me together with other musicians in a band, coached the band through 2 months of rehearsals, and had a gig at a local bar booked for end of the program.  This experience was a lot of fun and a lot of work.  It forced me to improve my playing  to be ready for the gig.

Some of the benefits that I took away from the experience were:

Learn the Whole Song

One thing that I am often guilty of is starting to learn a new song, getting bored half-way through it and never learning the whole thing.  Being in the band forced me to learn the songs all the way through.

Skip Some Notes if You Have To

For years I believed that I had to play a song exactly as it was on the record.  If I came to a part in a song that was too difficult, I would give up on the song.  Being in the band forced me to either improve my skills and nail the difficult part, or to find another way to play it by sacrificing a note or two to make it less difficult.  Giving up on the song wasn't an option as the rest of the band was relying on me.

As musicians often say, unless somebody in the audience is in a <insert band name> cover band, odds are nobody is going to notice that you skipped a note or two.

Use Your Own Rhythm Patterns if You Have To

Looking at the TAB for a song that the band wanted to try, it looked like the guitar player never used the same strumming pattern twice in the entire song!  It wasn't practical to learn and memorize all those rhythm patterns, so I came up with my own patterns for each section of the song. This simplified the arrangement to something that was manageable.

Focus on the Feel of the Song

Some of the songs we played in our gig had multiple guitar parts on the record.  Obviously I couldn't play all of the parts at the same time, so I had to customize the arrangement so as to pick and choose the parts that gave the song its feel.

Be Flexible

Even in a short 2 month program, I experienced some real band drama.  The original singer quit after only two weeks.  The original bass player quit 2 weeks before the gig.  A song that we had been working on wasn't working out so we dropped it and added a new one only two weeks before the gig.  All these events created some stress, but with a gig date looming we had to roll with the punches and focus on using the resources and time available to put on the best show we could.

Mistakes Will Happen

As we started the first song, I was fairly nervous and my hands were literally shaking.  Fortunately, it was a song that I knew really well and thus was able to play through the shakes.  However nerves did come into play on some other songs.  In one case, probably only the band noticed my mistake.  In another case, the mistake was glaringly (and embarrassingly) obvious and everyone in the bar noticed.

Mistakes will happen, but don't let them throw you.  The show's not going to stop, so jump back in and focus on the rest of the song, not your mistake.

Next Week's Confession - ???

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