Tuesday 12 July 2011

Live Music

Another poll processed, this one was quite interesting, not what I expected! Out of 164 votes cast on "What's your main guitar goal?" we had:

60 (36%) Hobbyist; only playing for me
52 (31%) Playing for family and friends
28 (17%) Occasional public live gigs
20 (12%) I want to play professionally!
 4 ( 2%) Recording internet audio/video

So 2/3rds of guitarists polled aren't interested in playing guitar to someone they don't know. That's understandable, we all need that time to learn and build confidence, we don't need to have our spirit crushed by a stranger. I would have thought the recording videos would rate higher, seeing as that is the path I took. It's not as intimidating as public performance but it has all the prerequisites for it - being able to play a song at performance level from start to finish, and then dealing with the (eventual) feedback, both positive and negative.

To the rest of us, who feel the need to put their stuff out to the general public, good luck and good skill to us! :)

In the same vein, I bumped into a guy at work today who is a both a guitarist and a wise fella; we had a bit of a chat about music stuff. He said a few things that made a lot of sense, well worth sharing with my mates here.

He has observed that in Australia, we don't really have a culture of live music. As in, if you were to take your guitar around to a party, people there wouldn't know what to do - do I be quiet and listen? Do I have to sing along? Should I ignore it? He said in other cultures throughout the world he'd seen live music firmly embraced; at parties live music always came out and it was an enjoyable experience for everybody. They knew what to do. It came as no surprise to me, I've seen the lack of enjoyment/understanding of live music at parties many times. How sad for us Aussies.

Further, he said the live music scene (specifically here in Perth) was disappointing. He'd played in restaurants where they saw live acoustic music as merely something they can put as a promotion on their door and flyers. That they weren't particularly interested, very slow to pay (if at all) and if the live musicians were having a great time "and getting too loud" then that was distracting for the customers - tone it down. That live music to them is just slightly higher than having a CD playing as background music.

Interestingly, he thought that fingerstyle guitarists in places like the USA were on every street corner, each one worthy of a record deal, but not wanted for their music. I don't know if I agree with that - if youtube is anything to go by, there aren't that many *outstanding* fingerstyle guitarists that make me say "wow". There is definitely a lot, and probably more than the market needs, but I'm not thinking one on every street corner.

This all adds up with my inability to find anywhere to perform. I'm a bit picky, and not trying as hard as I could, and I'm certainly not a record-deal-worthy; but so far out of maybe 15 places I've talked to nobody is jumping at the idea of having me play at their venue. Without even talking price (I'd basically play for free if someone haggled me down that low!)

I'm living in possibly the best place in the world for engineering and mining - which is important because that's how I earn my crust - but possibly the least live music cultured. Lucky my guitar is a hobby not my lifeblood!



  1. YET, australian's got talent was won by a fingerstyle guitarist. That shows a different side of Australia I think.

    I think you should go for the live gigs JAW. You don't need to do it as a 'job'. Check the laws and see if it's legal to play in the street with/without amp, and just go out and start playing in any square/ave. YOU WON'T REGRET. And chances are someone will pass by and will be interested in your music for something else.

    In the poll I voted "Occasional public live gigs", yet I have never done any. But I want. I'm just too shy, my hands tremble when people watch me play. It's fucking ridiculous, huh. I care too much what people think.

    Anyway, I agree that youtube is the ideal pre-step for live gigs. I should start putting up some songs but I'm having trouble with the technical part. I have a loop station (a pedal that records and replays what you play through the amp), which can store the audio and pass it to the PC. But I don't know if the quality would be better, and in that case, how to mix images from the webcam, which is pretty bad, and whatever file the loop station stores his recordings as. So it's all just in stand by...

  2. Ah yes indeed, Joe Robinson won that a few years ago - good point :)

    I've done a few live gigs, and I've done the busking thing a few times. I didn't enjoy the busking as much as the gigs, so that's what I'm looking for - gigs. Interestingly, while busking, someone recognised me from youtube and stopped for a chat. How amazing is that!?!

    Post a video. Just record the thing straight up with a webcam, nothing fancy. It won't be as good, but that is something you can work on in the future, just get the first one over and done with. You are being a perfectionist, stop it :) Firstly, perfectionism is causing you to do nothing. Secondly, if your first recording is perfect, you're not leaving yourself anywhere to go!

    Time in the saddle will help you get over what people think. Your video will get a whole bunch of "good work!" and "enjoyed!" and it will pump your tyres, and then someone will say "you suck and you look stupid". You will be flattened for a week, and want to throw the towel in. Don't let it get to you mate. Be happy that you are enjoying yourself, that some people are enjoying your music, and accept that there are plain'n'simple dickheads in the world, there ain't nothin' you can do about it, and get over it ('scuse the French).

    Let me know when you are there!

  3. Anon: I agree, there is nothing like a live gig. And tell you what, i was nervous as all hell, trembling hands and all pretty much every time i got up there... until i made my 1st mistake (always early on haha), and most of the pressure to be "perfect" was lifted. The youtube is VERY similar, I also very much suggest it. I rather enjoy watching the other videos from people who come here, many I dont recognize but I notice their tab is all JAW :)

    Wow, surprised here as well. I think though, many people secretly want to play for others even though they say its private etc.. but, maybe not :)
    Also, how many videos did you do before you felt entirely "comfortable" with the camera recording you?


  4. Did you know about the official 'Maybe I'm amazed' cover competition?

    The 1st & 2nd (the "singing" boy doesn't count) place was taken by fingerstyle players: Troubleclef and Adrian Holovaty. I was surprised and very happy for them!
    And what if Naudo was entered for it too? :D

    "I'm just too shy, my hands tremble when people watch me play. It's fucking ridiculous, huh. I care too much what people think."

    OMG, that was shocking for me too when I tried to play to others at the first time. I didn't understand what's going on: I played this song flawlessly so many times !!?? Now It's getting better, but I still wouldn't dare to play for dining strangers :)
    JAW is right: record and share something, don't go for the perfect take! (which does not exist) BTW, I literally started with "Something" :) Playing for a webcam helps a lot to build self confident playing.


  5. Anon nÂș1 here.
    I actually posted 4 songs to facebook. Worst part was recording quality, and I feel I need something better for youtube. So, once I find an appropiate 'recording method', I'll start working on uploading songs. But before that, I need to feel comfortable with the recording...

  6. Thanks for the link Lefty, good to see Trouble and Adrian up there! I've been following them for a while, both different styles, but both fingerstylers. It must be the non-Perth people who are supporting fingerstyle guitar :)

    I'm glad that you guys agree that videoing yourself and posting is beneficial - I think it is the step you take before playing to the public; it's a smaller step from bedroom playing to recording than straight to a gig. From that last poll I thought I must be in the minority posting videos!

    Ryan - what makes you think I'm "comfortable" with the camera? Heh, I'm glad I've got you bluffed then! :)

    Anon n°1 - You're already there then. Learn to forgive yourself - both playing and recording. Like Lefty says there is no such thing as the perfect take. I barely tolerate the videos I upload...it would be nice to "like" them, but if I aimed for "like", I'd never post one! We are our own worst critic. Get one to "barely tolerate" and post it for us. Maybe check with my webpage http://jaw.iinet.net.au/stuff/makevideo.html about making videos for hints/tips - it's good to have a minimum level of video & especially audio.


  7. I know this blog entry is somewhat old, but I'm just reading it and this discussion caught my attention. I live in Austin, Texas USA which is pretty well known as a center for live music (The self-acclaimed "live music capitol of the world"). I'm not really embedded in the music scene (software developer by trade), but I've been teaching myself to play fingerstyle/classical guitar for a few years now to entertain myself. Whenever I talk about it with folks, it still amazes me how little people know of (or are intrested in) this style even in a place like Austin.

    Also, I thought I'd comment about the talent I've seen on the street. One thing we have a lot of here are starving musicians, vagrant types, panhandlers, etc. I see a fair amount of people playing acoustic guitars on the street (with a tip jar usually), but I've yet to run across even one playing fingerstyle. In my experience they are all strumming relatively simple chords and trying to act like they're doing something difficult.

    There's probably more opportunity for gigs here than most places, but interest in solely instrumental guitar music seems to be pretty sparse. (Tommy E. only manages to sell out the "One World Theatre" which is only a few hundred seats.) That's OK with me as I'm in the majority with this poll...playing for me, family and friends. I'll probably record some YouTube videos eventually, but then again that focus would be primarily to share it with family and friends.

  8. There is definitely some connection with software/engineering and fingerstyle guitar :)

    I agree, fingerstyle is not as common as you'd think. That will be because even entry level fingerstyle is hard. Anyone who is playing even relatively simple fingerstyle (including classical) has put in quite a bit of time and effort.

    Which is why I recommend that "mature aged" new guitarists learn a few chords and learn how to sing. You can get an immense amount of enjoyment quickly going down that path. Of course, some of us love the challenge of fingerstyle, and devote all their time to that "more noble" pursuit - and that's great, I'd have nobody to talk to if there weren't other guitarists out there who love fingerstyle!

    Get a piece ready and put up a youtube video and send me a link. It's good for you - you will find out why only when you have done it a few times :)

    Thanks for stopping by!