When I started playing guitar two years ago, my goal was to be good enough to entertain family and friends around a camp fire. I think I've gotten there, but as I've built up a few skills, I only appreciate more how much there still is to learn. As I practice and play more, I'm starting to recognize the subtleties between banging out chords that are recognizable for a sing-along vs. playing something that really sounds good.
Can some of you veteran players list a few of your goals and experiences with the first few years of guitar? When did you start going to open-mic events, playing in a band or performing in front of an audience? How did you decide you were ready for that, and how did it affect your progress?
It's not a Seagull specific question, but my Seagull is part of what's motivated me to continue playing - so there is the link to the Seagull forum.
My cousin had a baritone uke tuned like a guitar when I was about 12 and she taught me a few basic chords. Then when I was in Nuevo Laredo, MX at 13, I got a cheap acoustic and took those 4-string chords she'd taught me and applied them to the 6-string guitar. Gradually, I learned how to incorporate the other two strings into proper full guitar chords and with the aid of a basic folk song book (Darling Clementine, Red River Valley, John Henry, etc.) I used the chord diagrams to gradually teach myself to play those songs. Fortunately for me, I had an innate sense of rhythm, so keeping time andf strumming was never a problem.
I did this for a couple of years and then on Christmas of 1965, at the height of the Beatles craze, I got Harmony Rocket electric guitar and a little Fender amp fior Christmas. Knowing how to play a few chords and having this gear got me invited to join a budding garage band and that experience led me to invites to better more established bands, culminating in a year or two of playing clubs and dances every weekend and actually making decent money while having a ball doing what I loved.
Then I went away to college and my band mates went different directions, so I basically drifted away from playing or performing publically. I was never a "front man" anyway, so the thought of doing any sort of solo performance was terrifying to me.
Fast forward about 4 decades ... when I bought myself a new Seagull S-6 and suddenly I re-discovered how much I enjoyed playing. Then I gave it some serious thought and decided that I was at an age where if I didn't get myself out of my comfort zone and begin playing in public again, I never would.
So, last August I headed out to a local bar that had an open mic. I downed a little liquid courage and signed up. I did one song ... "Melissa" by Greg Alman ... and that was it for the night, but I was hooked. From that point I have started making it a habit to hit at least one open-mic a week on average.
My play list is now up to about 30 songs and my stage fright has gone from seismic proportions to a mere tremor or two. I love playing in public now and do it every chance I get! Just wish I'd had the fortitiude and courage to go ahead and take the leap years and years ago!
Better late than never, though as they say.
"Better late than never" is my guitar motto. I couldn't strum a chord until I was about 35. Getting my daughter into lessons made me realize I'd like to learn to play.
Thanks for the story. I'm starting to think about when I'll be ready for an open-mic type of event, and it terrifies me. At the same time, I feel like I'm getting a little bored just practicing at home and going to lessons - so I know I'm going to have to jump in at some point.
I did have the opportunity a couple of times to play (along with a friend) for an audience of about 20 little kids and their parents at a big campout/sing-along. At first I was terrified. The second time, I had learned that kids appreciate the music and have a good time singing along no matter how many mistakes I make. I had lots of fun, and it's put the idea in my head of doing an open-mic sometime... but hasn't quite gotten me confident enough to get up there yet.
Nike says it best ... Just DO it!! If there's one thing I've come to realize about open-mics it's that about 99.9% of the time, the audience is very, very supportive and is not hyper-critical at all. Visit a few open mics and find one where you're comfortable with the environment, the audience, and the host, etc. I've found that I like coffee houses better than bars because the audience doesn't gradually get louder and less attentive as the night goes on, LOL. The downside to a coffee house vs a bar is that you do occasionally have an audience of young kids who may not totally be "into" the music you like to play (and vice-versa) ... but overall, bar or coffee house, I've yet to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or unappreciated in an open mic. Good Luck!
As an intermediate step between the "home front" and "out in public", may I suggest playing in church? Of course, I don't know your religious affiliation (or lack thereof...), but...
Been playing, on and off, for a long time - have always played strictly for personal satisfaction, occasionally with friends. Re improving - the best boost I got along the way was doing weekly classical guitar lessons for about 2 years - learned to read music, and it did wonders for my sense of timing, melody, musical structure, fingerpicking techniques, and just getting comfortable with fretting in different neck positions.Still get out the classical sheet music books from time to time, and start to remember how much I've forgotten...LOL...
Yes, the very thought of getting up in front of a group of people for the first time all looking at you expectantly pretty much makes me want to go screaming for the exit or to the dentist for a root canal!
Over the last year and a bit I've been honing my talent safely within the confines of my house with only my son and cat as music critics, but then I DO feed them.....if I want REAL criticism a have a wife for that :O. I've often thought that the next transition would be to go out to a park and take over a bench in a quiet spot to practice a few tunes for the edification of the occasional passerby, and if all goes well, maybe go to senior's facility starting in the Alzheimer's section (no offense intended) and branching out from there.
The idea being just to get comfortable making mistakes in public and hopefully learning from it to eventually feeling comfortable playing solo in front of a group of people and not having to worry about being judged!
Another thought, what do you people think of posting videos of your performances on YouTube as a vehicle to expose yourself...so to speak...even though some of the comments can be quite nasty and negative.
Perhaps posting your videos HERE first would be a better way of receiving constructive criticism, outright praise, or useful thoughts - without the expletives of the "internet idiots"... ;-)
Great idea! What kind of gear would one need to post?
Nerves and memory (lyrics)!!!.... After the campfire/living room, I think the local folk club or coffee house "open mike" is the best place to start. The folks are usually right with you, regardless. In a bar, you can lose audience attention before the 2nd verse... but you can always have a couple of shots to ease that pain.
Do not get too fancy at first. It may be playable at home, but it may not be so on stage. If you want to take a stand for the words, do so. Myself, I keep a tiny bit of my mind as the director, so as to not be caught in that spot where the words (usually when starting a verse) simply disappear.
Stay at it... there is no better buzz than a successful stage show (even one song).
Someone once said, "Just pretend the audience is naked." Just hope that most of them are women.