There is a lot to be said about playing live music to an audience. I find that after 2-3 hours fronting a band, I am physically and mentally shattered. Not to say I have not enjoyed the gig, but your average person does not realize how tiring it can be. Playing an instrument, in my case a guitar, remembering and singing lyrics all while at the same time executing a performance that is in sync with every other members of the band, also more often than not dancing, gives a lot for the brain to do. Not to mention all the unloading, set up before the gig and at the end of a gig the break down and reloading of equipment. But lets face it, the majority of us musicians do it for the love, because in most cases, it is not for the money.
Before I really started out, a highly respected musician from our area once told me that the best thing you could do, was play with other musicians, if you are unable to do that, play along with music. It was great advice, at the time I was a bedroom guitar player, not knowing many musicians at all. I tried to play along to music and I was awful, no timing at all, could not keep up with the music and struggled to find the right keys. Here was something I did not learn from Youtube guitar lessons. I eventually did find musicians to play music with, got better and began playing in bands. When I did start playing with other people, that is when I really started to progress and gain confidence.
I have played along side many different people, of all different ages. I do play quite a bit with guys who have been around since the late 60s and 70s, who used to do the circuits back then and even achieved their own success stories. I find playing alongside guys like this invaluable. It has helped me up my game and I always take on every pearl of wisdom these guys pass to me.
It has become fashionable to have a dig at cover bands…
There is more to playing live than just reeling off a bunch of songs from a playlist. You must interact and engage the audience, just like the great musicians mentioned above do. Believe me, you need to learn to do that before you ever consider inflicting your latest writing effort on them. No matter how meaningful you think the lyrics are or how catchy your tune is. Unless you can grip an audience with stage presence, your efforts will fall on deaf ears. I have been victim of this in the past. Showing up with an acoustic guitar and singing a song or two will not get you noticed. First, learn how to truly perform live. Then the crowd gives back, then you give back even more and when you get gigs like that, that is what makes it truly worth while.
I have quite a few gigs under my belt now, having been playing with bands in pubs and clubs for a while. I have played to empty clubs and jumping pubs. It can be disheartening for a venue to be empty or non receptive, but never let is discourage you. If you want to really make a go of it, give every performance you do your all, even if you are only playing to that one person in the corner reading the paper, it will pay off in the end. Every one thinks that you have to be discovered to make it in the music business. But that is not true, musicians make most of their income from touring, I am talking about the famous ones too. If you ever really want to make a career in music, you need to understand it is hard work. It is not just showing up at an audition and getting a big break, it takes hard work and sacrifice, as any well respected successful musician will tell you.
I am too long in the tooth to seriously pursue this kind of career now, plus I am a family man, so leaving my family to go on tour is not an option I would entertain. If I had known what I know now when I was a teenager, had the encouragement I get now, who knows. But I will keep gigging, a friend of mine said to me when he retired “I can finally say I am a full time musician”
So go to jams, meet like minded people, play with them and get all the experience you can.