The Next Stage

Live music is the cure for what ails ya.”

Henry Rollins

Our recent inaugural student showcase left me feeling so proud of all our students and inspired, both as a teacher and musician, I thought it might be timely to highlight the importance of live performance. It is my belief that music is better shared with others, whether that be an audience or simply playing with other musicians. Even if it isn’t your ultimate goal, performing can be a deeply profound experience for both audience and performer.

There are countless benefits to being involved in live music. Research has shown regular gig attendance as a spectator can actually improve your physical and mental well-being and even increase your life-span. As a performer playing live can be a key tool in our growth as musicians and enable us to cultivate certain aspects of our musical ‘personality’ and development:

1. Confidence

Perhaps most importantly, performing live builds confidence in both our musical abilities and, more generally, our overall confidence as a person. The scrutiny of a crowd (no matter how supportive) forces us as musicians to confront and overcome many of the insecurities and concerns every person has. It is our job as the facilitators of such live opportunities to ensure this is done in a safe space. If we are successful, we see our students stand a little taller and act with more confidence in their daily lives as they are able to display their talents, to others and themselves.

2. Goal Setting

A looming performance opportunity provides a measurable and time sensitive goal to work towards, where there are some stakes should we fail to prepare effectively. This ‘deadline’ often reveals to us where we feel the need to improve most and can focus our attention onto certain aspects of our playing. An upcoming gig can be invaluable to drive lessons, practice regimes, and add a sense of momentum to the musician’s journey.

3. Community & Networking

Live music events are a great place to hear others play and to meet other musicians who in turn can hear you play. There’s nothing like playing to a room full of people who totally appreciate what it’s like to learn, play and perform – these are your people and performances are a great way to connect. Performing solo, or getting involved with local jam and open mike nights can be a great way to network with other musicians. As well as scouting out potential future band-mates, you’ll also make friends and foster a community. Showcasing your own talents and vulnerabilities can be a pretty intimate thing, as a result you’ll never experience friendships like those forged through live performance.

4. Inspiration

Both attending live gigs, and performing yourself, can be extremely inspiring as a musician. Obviously, watching your favourite bands or artists in concert can help motivate you to work on your own craft, as well as give you ideas and blueprints for your own musical performances. But playing live can, and should be, a learning process in and of itself. As with all crafts, the more you do it the more you will improve; in both confidence and technical proficiency. Use these early gigs to hone your performance ready for bigger things in the future. Try to notice what works and doesn’t, experiment onstage with your repertoire, running order, and stage craft amongst other things. Live perfomance benefits from creativity, consideration and practise as much as any other aspect of your musicality.

“Live music is where you get the inspiration and the creativity.”

Paul Rodgers

5. Overcoming Fear

We all know performing in front of a crowd can be pretty nerve-racking, no matter the context or discipline. However, it also provides an opportunity to voluntarily overcome these challenges. Once you do you will find it easier to approach a bigger stage, or another musician to work with or to go solo and play and record by yourself. Like all challenges it forces us to rise to it’s level. It is one thing to be able to say that you play an instrument but is another thing entirely to acknowledge that you’ve performed music to a live audience. Each performance under your belt adds credibility, to both yourself and others, that you’ve followed through on your craft and have taken perhaps the biggest and most intimidating step in the musician’s journey.

6. Find your voice

Practising privately enables us to develop our techniques. It’s a crucial part of understanding the mechanics of playing our instrument, and expanding our knowledge. Once we have some level of technical proficiency however, there is no greater way to test ourselves, and forge an even greater understanding of what we are playing and how we are playing it than performing live. Performing live requires us to cultivate our unique creative voice and, in turn, find our audience.

7. Fun

Although performing live can be a challenge, a tool for self-development, a way of overcoming our insecurities and becoming a better musician; ultimately it should be fun! Rising to the occasion and putting on a great performance can be exhilarating, terrifying and confronting but it’s the experience, the rush that drives us to do it again after that first time. To me, an utter music obsessive, there is nothing than can even come close to the experience of playing live. It may be daunting, but once you’re over the initial hurdle of stepping onto that stage; remember, if you can, to take a step back and actually enjoy the act of performing.

“If you’re a new artist, practice your art and share it. Set up shop somewhere, whether it’s a street corner or a coffee shop. I got my start in a coffee shop that didn’t even have live music. I wanted to play in coffee shops that did have live music, but I didn’t have an audience.”

Jason Mraz

Thank you and congratulations again to all my students who embarked on their first performance this past weekend, you all have a great deal to be proud of, and have inspired your teacher a great deal.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest post and felt encouraged to give performing live a shot. If you’d like any help with achieving this goal, or would like to share your own experiences of playing live, then please get in touch or leave a comment below. If you’ve enjoyed this article please take a look at our other blog posts, and look forward to hearing from you, and to helping you further your guitar playing soon.