My apologies for lack of meaningful blog updates lately. My holiday season was chaotic as usual, then for the past few weeks I have been moving into a new house. Things are still a mess, but I am excited, as I will have a music room/studio. It will be nice to have a space where I can shut the door and try to be more productive.
I want to talk about performance, and how it can really be a catalyst for improving your playing. I think that playing for an audience forces you on executing the music, concentrating on the big picture and not fretting on the little details that one deals with during practice.
As guitarists, a lot of our practice time is focused on the details. Is my tone even and consistent, are there any string buzzes or squeaks? Am I playing with enough volume, and is there any excess tension anywhere? I think this all good and neccessary; the music needs to sound smooth, polished, and relaxed if the listener is going to enjoy it.
But I also feel after a certain amount of this, one can benefit most just by going out and performing. It can be as simple as a three song open mic, a small gig at a coffee shop, or something more formal where folks are sitting down and attentively listening.
A lot of musicians better than myself have said there is no substitute for playing out as much as you can, and I am inclined to agree. It forces you to “get out of your own way” and just deliver the music at best you can. There is no time to go back and dwell over a finger squeak or a missed note, the music just goes on. And I think often times you may suprise yourself by how well you play.
Case in point, I was filling in today for a friend at a coffee shop gig. I have not been super consistent with my practice time lately, due to moving and being busy. My technique has been feeling ok, but I have not been overly happy with my tone, and certain right hand finger combinations are feeling awkward. But I just went out and played the music I knew, and told myself to have a good time and play confidently.
It went great; I felt totally relaxed, and it was great to be out gigging after some time off. I had several nice conversations with folks about my music, and people seemed to enjoy it.
If you have a body of music and are feeling the desire to share it with others, go out and play! This can be as simple as inviting a few friends over for an informal living room show, or you could go out and setup a gig a local coffee shop or other appropriate venue. You might be surprised at how much it jumpstarts your playing.