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View Full Version : Playing for others.....or.....Feelng like a Rock Star



DownUpDave
02-12-2015, 12:37 AM
How do you play in public.

I played a little acoustic guitar before coming to the ukulele. That was a solitary indeavour, never played out and only played in front of my wife if she happened to come down into the basement while I was practicing.

The ukulele has been a very social instrument for me as I attend three regular uke jams. But that is playing with others, not in front of or for others. One of my goals is to do open Mike performances. I am taking baby steps to get comfortable playing and singing in front of others. I have done that for my wife, my son, two friends, "sam13" and Tim, you know who you are, lol.

Last night was a big step forward as I was at the kitchen table playing away when my wife and three of her friends walked in. They heard me playing came to the kitchen and I swallowed hard and continued to play. They were very complimentary, asked if I knew "Over the Rainbow", I do so I played it for them. I was neverous but got through it. I felt like a Rock Star, now I get why boys take up the guitar in school. A Day Late and a Dollar Short in my case:rolleyes:

For those of you that have been playing in front of people for either a short or long time how do you get started. What advice can you give me and others who would like to play in front of real live people instead of our cats, dogs and kitchen chairs.

RAB11
02-12-2015, 02:03 AM
For those of you that have been playing in front of people for a long time how do you get started. What advice can you give me and others who would like to play in front of real live people instead of our cats, dogs and kitchen chairs.

Open Mic is your best bet really. I used to do some performance stuff in school, I was awful, suffered from massive stage fright, but once I got on and started singing I got this buzz that I've never been able to replicate elsewhere. It took a few years after leaving school to go again but a few years ago I went to an open mic. Just decided to go for it, and predictably, it was horrible. The normal guys there had all been playing guitar since well before I was born, and as a result not only was my playing woefully lacking but the songs I was playing failed to make an impression. One guy asked me if I'd written the three I played because he'd never heard them before.

It took a few months but I ended up moving to a flat halfway between two of the pubs that one particular open mic group used, so I just started going, and kept on going. I wasn't exactly getting standing ovations but I was getting polite applause and people seemed pleased to see me back. Then I picked up a uke and my performances weren't as obnoxious, plus I'd sort of worked out what worked and what didn't. But I've made some good muso friends there and even had the opportunity to do a couple little gigs here and there.

My advice if you're not confident though is to go to a local open mic and get a feel for the crowd. Have three or four songs that you can play strongly pretty much all the time. You don't necessarily have to play first up, just go and watch, at the very least it should be an evening of good free live music. And then maybe talk to the organisers. Chances are you'll get encouragement. But definitely just go for it if you've got the songs ready. The adrenaline rush from live performance is an amazing high in my opinion.

Rllink
02-12-2015, 05:50 AM
From the beginning, I would practice out on my front stoop. People would walk by, say hi, nod, smile, one kid gave me a thumbs up one day. Then it was a ukulele festival, where I got to jam with some other musicians, and people watched, but it was a group endeavor, so I felt like the rest covered me up. Then I went to a Paranda here in PR, and got put on the spot, because a friend of ours who is the band leader, invited me up to play Bailala with the rest of the band. That was a little stressful, but after I got going, it went well. Then came the San Sebastian Festival, which is a huge street festival here in San Juan, and I live on San Sebastian street. So I went out every day, sat in front of the condo, and played away to the people passing by.

I have to say, that after a while, I couldn't get enough of it. It was addicting. My neighbor brought out an amp and a microphone one afternoon, and we blasted it down the street, singing and playing both. Now I play on the beach a lot. People seem to like it. In the evenings during the festival, I played a pandereta, which is a drum, with the Plena Band. That was a lot of fun and we really drew a crowd at times, but during the day, it was ukulele all the way. But I've pretty much lost that performance anxiety, even to start with. Didn't take long either. I'm getting real close to putting out the uke case with a little seed money and going for it. Not quite there yet, but close.

janeray1940
02-12-2015, 06:03 AM
The short version: people *want* to root for you, cheer you on, see you do well. They want to like you! I think if you keep this in mind, the nervousness will go away, or at least become increasingly less.

I'm basing that assertion on my own experience as a little kid. I was a tremendously shy brainiac, incredibly unpopular with my classmates, and on top of that, 2 years younger than the rest of my grade since I had skipped two grades. In second grade, my teacher singled me out to sing a solo in our Christmas concert. I was terrified and didn't want to do it but couldn't see any way out - and I did it, and had a fabulous time, and learned the above lesson. Despite the fact that my classmates tended to torment me on a day to day basis, they applauded! So from that experience on, I took every opportunity I could to perform and can think of only one single incident in which I got jeered. The orange satin pants might have had something to do with that; hey, it was the disco era! :) But even that taught me another valuable lesson: no matter what happens, nobody will remember it two days later.

stevepetergal
02-12-2015, 07:06 AM
For those of you that have been playing in front of people for either a short or long time how do you get started? What advice can you give me and others who would like to play in front of real live people...?

The answer is in your own words. Swallow hard and continue to play. You've already done everything. You just feel a little less queezy each time you get in front of an audience. (Wait till the audiences start getting bigger!)

good_uke_boy
02-12-2015, 07:13 AM
i sang in "public" for the first time last Sunday, by volunteering to lead my local uke jam through learning a song. Not really a true public performance -- the room was full of sympathetic uke players. But maybe that's a first step?

Steveperrywriter
02-12-2015, 08:17 AM
I second the open-jam option. If there are other players in a circle, taking turns singing or instrumental leads, you can participate as much as you want. I found an open acoustic jam at a local pub, which had some really good players, and I was the only ukulele player there. Mostly guitars, but a couple harmonicas, a flute, cello, bass, even some drums, and now and then, a keyboard. Chords on a whiteboard and try and keep up. After a couple of sessions and most of a dark stout, I offered to lead a song. Easy, three-chord blues pattern, and I got through it without screwing up too much. Nobody booed or hissed.

If you pick one that most folks might know, ask them to sing along. More voices help your nerves. Couple times we've had newbies who were obviously rattled who led songs, and if somebody joined in on the lyrics, it seemed to make it easier for them.

An open mike, at which you are the sole player in front of an audience is a little more pressure, but in a group with other players, any flubs or clams don't stand out so much. After a few times leading songs like this, the idea of an open mike didn't seem so scary to me. Pick one you can play, practice it until you can do it in your sleep, take a deep breath and go for it. (Remember the the 7-P principle: Proper planning and practice prevents piss-poor performance ...)

Pueo
02-12-2015, 08:43 AM
If you have a group you play with, those jams, you might want to ask if it would be alright to play solo for them. This is a non-threatening safe place to play for others, and other people in the group might want to do it too. The group I used to play in would have an intermission halfway through, and after break, usually 3 or 4 people would play solo, one song (one at a time), in front of everyone else. It was a great way to get over the jitters. I totally understand, I have played in front of some rather large crowds with our group, but solo is a whole different animal.

The best advice I read was that try to think of the crowd this way: They want to BE you. They want to be on stage. They wish they had the nerve and the skill to be doing what you are doing. That is why they cheer you on. What is your biggest fear? That you will mess up? Well, that was my biggest fear anyway. The reality is they are not likely to notice.

I would like to share an experience I had a few years ago. My extended family had a big luau fundraiser. They hired professional musicians and dancers. Halfway through the show they said I had to get up there and play a song. Now I know I am not as good as the pros, and I was very intimidated, but I went ahead and did it. And I totally forgot the third verse. So I mumbled and sang the second verse again. I was in a sheer panic, as the worst thing I thought could happen DID happen. I thought I had embarrassed myself and let my family down. My wife video taped the performance. You know what? You really could not tell. It was no big deal. I made it much worse than it was.
Just relax and enjoy it!

Last year was my brother-in-law's parents' 60th wedding anniversary. They asked me if I would sing and play at the party. I had never done anything like that and was flattered and agreed. I played almost an hour and really enjoyed it. People were supportive and there were some people there who had no idea I sang and played ukulele. It was a wonderful experience!

My ultimate goal is to play in bars or whatever for extra $ when I retire. I think I am on schedule, I have 20 years to go... :D

DownUpDave
02-12-2015, 09:03 AM
So glad I started this thread and asked the question. Some really inspiring stuff, thanks to everyone for chiming in so far. Keep them coming as my courage has not been buoyed enough yet. :o

Inksplosive AL
02-12-2015, 12:36 PM
I haven't preformed on anything but inking the human body for quite awhile now. When I was a wee lad I did a few organ recitals which were very stressful as they were a competition as well as a performance. You did get to play with your back to the audience though. I'm still working on breaking out with a video for YouTube and joining the seasons here.

Be careful busking without a permit. Its all fun until the tip jar comes out.

Phluffy the Destroyer
02-13-2015, 10:10 PM
I have a background in public speaking, improvisational acting, and spent years coordinating events for a local non-profit. Crowds don't intimidate me. I actually enjoy playing in groups at public venues. However...

When I play alone in front of people I get extremely nervous, and that stems from being insecure about my ukulele playing. I've found a few things that have been helpful:

* What I play in public is always much less complicated than what I play in private. My setlists are all simple, really hard to screw up songs. I play these songs a lot, and if I start feeling comfortable with the audience I'll fancy them up a bit.
* I never actually look at people while I play. Early on I noticed that I make more mistakes if I do. I pick out spots around the venue behind people and scan those.
* Since I am quite comfortable with public speaking, I work the crowd between songs. You know... "How is everyone tonight?" and "Let's have a big hand for the waitresses!" sort of stuff. That's the only time I allow myself to make eye contact with anyone.

It's getting easier, but it still ultimately comes down to forcing myself to just do it.

DownUpDave
02-14-2015, 03:58 AM
I have a background in public speaking, improvisational acting, and spent years coordinating events for a local non-profit. Crowds don't intimidate me. I actually enjoy playing in groups at public venues. However...

When I play alone in front of people I get extremely nervous, and that stems from being insecure about my ukulele playing. I've found a few things that have been helpful:

* What I play in public is always much less complicated than what I play in private. My setlists are all simple, really hard to screw up songs. I play these songs a lot, and if I start feeling comfortable with the audience I'll fancy them up a bit.
* I never actually look at people while I play. Early on I noticed that I make more mistakes if I do. I pick out spots around the venue behind people and scan those.
* Since I am quite comfortable with public speaking, I work the crowd between songs. You know... "How is everyone tonight?" and "Let's have a big hand for the waitresses!" sort of stuff. That's the only time I allow myself to make eye contact with anyone.

It's getting easier, but it still ultimately comes down to forcing myself to just do it.

Thank you so much. This is very helpful, especially about keeping the songs simple and looking at spots around the room and not the people. Specific items like this can really make a difference for us newbie wanabee performers.

DownUpDave
02-14-2015, 10:02 AM
In line with that, play songs people can sing along with. Their singing will mask any flubs you make.

Good suggestion. How about playing something nobody knows so if you do flubbed it up nobody can tell :rolleyes:

hendulele
02-15-2015, 03:35 AM
I second the notion of leading a group of jammers. I've found the group I join very supportive. The experienced players are always eager to make suggestions if some chord changes give you trouble. Also, the few times I've brought new songs to play, the others really appreciate it.

Another possibility: see if you can get together a few of your local players and offer to play a few songs at a senior center. Talk about an appreciative audience!

philpot
02-16-2015, 07:38 AM
What I've found as a ukulele player playing in guitar-heavy open mics is that rather than hindering you, playing the ukulele gives you a boost. People expect a lot of guitar players. They've seen it all, and to be anything special, you're going to have to be really good. Most people at open mics haven't seen a lot of competent ukulele players, so if you're halfway decent, you'll already be shattering expectations. Let that boost your confidence!

I've also found that people at open mics are incredibly encouraging. They WANT you to do well. They came to listen to and share music, and you're part of the party. They won't be hard on you. You aren't asking for money, and you aren't asking for criticism as if you're a professional. You're just there to contribute to the "great conversation" of music that's going on. With that understanding, people are very open to hearing new things and giving you support.

Final point that is more subjective than the other two: unless requested, try to avoid the SUPER cliche songs. My very first open mic, the guy running it gave me a warm handshake as I got offstage and said "man, I LOVED that you played X song... and I LOVED that you DIDN'T play Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Everybody who comes in here with a uke plays that, we're sick of it." I don't mean to discourage you from playing songs you love, just keep in mind that certain songs might be fairly common. This piece of advice you can take or leave, up to you. You might just as easily find an open mic where SOtR gets you a standing ovation. YMMV.

Sabantien
02-16-2015, 01:57 PM
I don't play in front of people, not yet anyhow, but in my job I have to present science shows to families/school groups. Public speaking was never my thing, and I was incredibly nervous, but now it's actually quite enjoyable.

One thing that helps is knowing your stuff really well. So if you're going to play in front of people, stick to the songs you know best.
Don't worry if you screw up, everyone does it. Ignore it if you can, if you draw attention to it it becomes bigger than it needs to be. Unless it's a huge mistake, then make a joke out of it.

Maybe try doing it in groups/jams first too. I went to a ukulele group that was in a cafe, and plenty of people walking past would stop and listen, and it tends to put a smile on people's faces.

DownUpDave
02-16-2015, 03:25 PM
I do attend regular uke jams and they have open mike sessions part way through the night. This will be the venue I step up and do my first performance at. As most have said in this post these uke jams, meet ups will be the easiest stage with the friendliest crowd. I have sat in attendance and listened to others perform and you are always pulling for them and ignore any flubs.

The end of March will make it one year since I first picked up the ukulele. We have a uke jam scheduled for March 23rd. that is when I will make my first performance. There.........I have now made it public so I can't chicken out :eek:

janeray1940
02-16-2015, 03:41 PM
Good suggestion. How about playing something nobody knows so if you do flubbed it up nobody can tell :rolleyes:

Ha ha, you just outed me - I'll admit in part this is one thing I love about playing mostly classical! :)

Manalishi
02-16-2015, 10:51 PM
DownUpDave posted:'Good suggestion. How about playing something nobody knows so if you do flubbed it up nobody can tell '
Well I have always used the idea that if you flub a chord on verse one,flub it again on every other verse,and call it jazz!

DownUpDave
02-17-2015, 01:27 AM
DownUpDave posted:'Good suggestion. How about playing something nobody knows so if you do flubbed it up nobody can tell '
Well I have always used the idea that if you flub a chord on verse one,flub it again on every other verse,and call it jazz!

Oh that is such a good line. A friend is a huge jazz guy, me not so much. I enjoy stuff like Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, country, folk, classic rock etc. He, good naturedly makes fun of my tastes and says the term "Country Music" is an oxymoron.

Next time I hear him playing jazz I will say " You are getting real good at flubbing every second verse" . :pThanks :shaka:

RAB11
02-17-2015, 03:55 AM
What I've found as a ukulele player playing in guitar-heavy open mics is that rather than hindering you, playing the ukulele gives you a boost. People expect a lot of guitar players. They've seen it all, and to be anything special, you're going to have to be really good. Most people at open mics haven't seen a lot of competent ukulele players, so if you're halfway decent, you'll already be shattering expectations. Let that boost your confidence!

I've also found that people at open mics are incredibly encouraging. They WANT you to do well. They came to listen to and share music, and you're part of the party. They won't be hard on you. You aren't asking for money, and you aren't asking for criticism as if you're a professional. You're just there to contribute to the "great conversation" of music that's going on. With that understanding, people are very open to hearing new things and giving you support.

Final point that is more subjective than the other two: unless requested, try to avoid the SUPER cliche songs. My very first open mic, the guy running it gave me a warm handshake as I got offstage and said "man, I LOVED that you played X song... and I LOVED that you DIDN'T play Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Everybody who comes in here with a uke plays that, we're sick of it." I don't mean to discourage you from playing songs you love, just keep in mind that certain songs might be fairly common. This piece of advice you can take or leave, up to you. You might just as easily find an open mic where SOtR gets you a standing ovation. YMMV.

This guy knows what's up. Especially the first and third points. I remember after one uke set the sound guy came up to me and said "you're the first guy I've heard who can make a uke sound in tune, well done." Helps that I don't play uke music on my uke either.

The third one is a big one too. It's like the guy who busks out in the street playing Wonderwall on his guitar. Just gets tuned out after so many goes.

Another point, and this is my personal take on it, have one or two 'signature' songs that you use to either ease you into a set or save you from a bad one, that people are going to recognise you for and associate you with. Mine are Layla by Clapton and Final Countdown by Europe. If I find I've not really thought about what I'm playing one night or I've taken too big a risk with my songs and the crowd aren't feeling it, I'll pull one of those two out and people usually enjoy it. Apart from that though, try and mix your sets up after a while. I don't like seeing the guys who play the same three songs month after month with the same tired schtick before them, so I tend to zone out while they're playing and nobody wants that.

RedBeth
02-17-2015, 04:24 AM
I have yet to do an open mic performance, still too scared for that, but I perform twice a year in my living room. I host a Spring and Fall music party and invite all my friends, musicians and non-musicians alike. I invite other noobs to play whenever I can, because I mostly just play for the cats and my husband the rest of the year. I also used to do Karaoke quite a bit. I don't have any ambitions or need to perform, I just love music and want to surround myself with like minded peeps. But there are times when I've worked really hard on a song that I do want to share it with people.

wrestlingmatt51
02-17-2015, 04:56 AM
If you can manage it, it also helps to play in a band or some kind of group rather than solo. Also, the gigs I've played have mostly been background music. That's nice to start with rather than being in front with everyone's eyes on you.

CeeJay
02-17-2015, 02:19 PM
This guy knows what's up. Especially the first and third points. I remember after one uke set the sound guy came up to me and said "you're the first guy I've heard who can make a uke sound in tune, well done." Helps that I don't play uke music on my uke either.

The third one is a big one too. It's like the guy who busks out in the street playing Wonderwall on his guitar. Just gets tuned out after so many goes.

Another point, and this is my personal take on it, have one or two 'signature' songs that you use to either ease you into a set or save you from a bad one, that people are going to recognise you for and associate you with. Mine are Layla by Clapton and Final Countdown by Europe. If I find I've not really thought about what I'm playing one night or I've taken too big a risk with my songs and the crowd aren't feeling it, I'll pull one of those two out and people usually enjoy it. Apart from that though, try and mix your sets up after a while. I don't like seeing the guys who play the same three songs month after month with the same tired schtick before them, so I tend to zone out while they're playing and nobody wants that.

I have only ever played at two Open Mics ...and very nearly won't play again.......The first was brilliant fun ...and enhanced by a guy coming up and saying that he was a session harmonica player and that he would love to have a chance to do a couple of numbers ......I have very low self esteem and actually think that I am rubbish,....this boosted me a fair bit.....however ..turns out that he has a bass (very good bassplayer) and it quickly became clear that there were songs that he wanted to play , as bassist ..the harmonica notion seemed to disappear...fair enough...on the second Open mic night we played three songs....first set and had another set of three to come......

He had a hissy fit and said that he wasn't going to do the second set ... the sound was nothing like it had been in rehearsals (in his front room , totally acoustic on the uke and they do sound better acoustically) my uke was distorting through the PA (soundman's fault ?) and the house Bass Amp he (had "Chosen" to use)was not throwing his sound out (getting close to the truth here) ,he also said that it was tacky and that I was all over the place.( I wasn't , not timing wise..I did fluff a line or two because I had lost my voice and was singing around that ,and I don't sing brilliantly ...think Tom Waits gargling Johnny Cash and a bag of Nails LOL )...I politely pointed out that I had sung like a trouper , I woke up with no voice that morning , he said that then we should have cancelled ...I replied ..you're the Pro mate....I thought the show always went on ...I then swore like a trooper and told him to get himself hence....at which point he realised he was being a dick ...too late....

My point ? ....I'm not sure..probably a bit damaged and uncertain of ability again , maybe the Seasonista Folks are real nice but not entirely honest ...perhaps I just play a shit sandwich ( credit that expression TCK Christmas 2013:))

Or maybe this is the point ...if you're going to do these Open Mics ...do them with good buddies or by yourself......have two or three songs that you absolutely f######g (for emphasis) know back to front , inside out and if they clap ..take it they liked it....

So ...Feeling like a Rock Star ...Musical Difference Fall Out First Time Out ...Wahaaaay :cool:

Story for amusement and edification.

RAB11
02-17-2015, 08:40 PM
If you're jamming with a bassist who's a bit of nob, you're gonna have a bad time.

Think you just got unlucky there Ceej. I don't think I've seen a better strummer either online or in 'real life' (is it just fantasy) but with that comes the tendency to change what the song does maybe?

There's an Indian chap who goes to my open mic who performs what he calls 'Indian Fusion' music. Basically when he first turned up he had a 'band' (made up of local musicians who were already known to most of the people in the pub) with him who gave the impression of being pretty well rehearsed and made all sorts of wonderful sounds while he sort of dances around a bit and sings with the mic pretty much in his gob and the reverb turned up to 11. The first couple times it was a breath of fresh air and we all thought he was brilliant. After a couple months you start seeing a couple guys not turn up or not get up to play with him, and soon he didn't have a band at all. Seems he was difficult to work with but he still seemed like a nice enough guy. So he started turning up with backing tracks on his tablet but didn't have them queued up and his sets suffered for it so he took to asking regulars to get up and jam with him. Problem being he wouldn't tell you what he wanted apart from a vague feeling (English isn't his first language so that didn't help) and maybe the odd clapping rhythm. One time a fairly new guy got talked into joining him, but with absolutely no cues as to what the song needed and the Indian chap berated him on stage for not playing. Most people went off him at that point but I went up for a couple sets with him and it was hard work. Didn't help that you could hear his singing over in Southampton so my uke stood no chance.

What I'm trying to say is, the best open mic jams are either the ones with mates you've played with before, or when there's a group of people on stage, one guy shouts "Dm" and away you go. If it's the blues, even better because nobody goes wrong then. Sounds like your guy wanted an excuse to play bass but perhaps some of the guitarists had had a go before and, like you, found he was a bit difficult to work with.

Rllink
02-18-2015, 03:34 AM
I have only ever played at two Open Mics ...and very nearly won't play again.......The first was brilliant fun ...and enhanced by a guy coming up and saying that he was a session harmonica player and that he would love to have a chance to do a couple of numbers ......I have very low self esteem and actually think that I am rubbish,....this boosted me a fair bit.....however ..turns out that he has a bass (very good bassplayer) and it quickly became clear that there were songs that he wanted to play , as bassist ..the harmonica notion seemed to disappear...fair enough...on the second Open mic night we played three songs....first set and had another set of three to come......

He had a hissy fit and said that he wasn't going to do the second set ... the sound was nothing like it had been in rehearsals (in his front room , totally acoustic on the uke and they do sound better acoustically) my uke was distorting through the PA (soundman's fault ?) and the house Bass Amp he (had "Chosen" to use)was not throwing his sound out (getting close to the truth here) ,he also said that it was tacky and that I was all over the place.( I wasn't , not timing wise..I did fluff a line or two because I had lost my voice and was singing around that ,and I don't sing brilliantly ...think Tom Waits gargling Johnny Cash and a bag of Nails LOL )...I politely pointed out that I had sung like a trouper , I woke up with no voice that morning , he said that then we should have cancelled ...I replied ..you're the Pro mate....I thought the show always went on ...I then swore like a trooper and told him to get himself hence....at which point he realised he was being a dick ...too late....

My point ? ....I'm not sure..probably a bit damaged and uncertain of ability again , maybe the Seasonista Folks are real nice but not entirely honest ...perhaps I just play a shit sandwich ( credit that expression TCK Christmas 2013:))

Or maybe this is the point ...if you're going to do these Open Mics ...do them with good buddies or by yourself......have two or three songs that you absolutely f######g (for emphasis) know back to front , inside out and if they clap ..take it they liked it....

So ...Feeling like a Rock Star ...Musical Difference Fall Out First Time Out ...Wahaaaay :cool:

Story for amusement and edification.Well, from you story, your problem is the people you picked to play with, not necessarily your playing, or your singing for that matter. It sounds like a lot of outside forces were conspiring against you. I have two points to make. The first being a documentary I watched a few months ago that was about the protest movement in Greenwich Village, back in the sixties. They were interviewing Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson said that Pete Seeger used to tell the story, that the first time he saw Bob Dylan sing, he thought that Bob was probably the worst singer and guitar player he had ever heard. Two months later, everybody was trying to sing and play the guitar like Bob Dylan.

I've gotten to an age where I don't set goals. I just go with the flow. When I retired and announced that I was going to take art classes and learn how to draw and paint, my wife said that she had never seen me draw anything more complicated than a stick man. I told her that if I were never able to draw anything more complicated than stick men, I was going to make stick men my art. And so my art has grown to much more than stick men, and I have never, from the very first day, been shy about showing off my art. And people actually want my paintings and my drawings, and in fact, my wife had one matted and framed, and put it on the wall. Some people say that I should sell them, but I give them away. I don't want to sell them. I'm an artist, I don't produce picture for people. I have approached the ukulele with the same spirit. I like to share it. No one pays me to play. I don't owe anyone a perfect performance. I make lots of mistakes, and no one seems to mind.

IamNoMan
02-18-2015, 08:39 AM
I have been involved with open mic's since the early 80's both as a performer and a club manager or EmCee.

Preparation for the Stage
1. Learn a "party piece". When Aunt Mathilda says "Oh a ukulele play some thing for us" you roll out your party piece. - works good with kids too. As you get more than one party piece they become your GoTo Songs. The songs you go to when somebody asks or when you are dealing with a hostile audience. (It does happen).
2. Go to the Jams and song circles. At Jams you can learn some hot licks. At song circles you can choose and lead the songs. I always do sing alongs and Stuff like Momma don't allow where everybody can take a lead. Don't be afraid to go for it when you take the lead. I have never been laughed at when taking the lead in this type of environment. It is the most supportive group you'll ever find. They have all been right where you are now, good or bad.
3. Attitude: Some folks may disagree here but I think you should work on being an "entertainer". Your job is to entertain and involve the audience not show off how good you are. A lot of this is mental attitude on your part and has nothing to do with how well you sing or play.

Preparation for the performance
You'll have two or three songs or ten or fifteen minutes on stage; whatever the rules are. Prepare an extra song, one of your Goto's just in case they want you do do more. You can always back out after one encore.

The Green Room
Your up next! The Butterflies in the belly arrive. Don't worry about them. Its just adrenaline, Fight or flight. Your gonna Fight and use that adrenaline to improve your performance. Make sure your instrument is tuned!

On Stage
Break the ice. Tell a joke, be self deprecating it loosens you and the audience up. Check your tuning one last time. It pays to have a tuning joke or story in reserve just in case. GO FOR IT! Don't hold back. Give it all you have got. A lack luster performance cannot happen when you are pouring out energy. That's what the Adrenaline is for! If you make a mistake smile. The audience will think you like what you just did and approve. If they are musicians and they know well they are musicians and they've been there too. They won't rat you out.

After thoughts:
Become comfortable with the idea of making a fool of yourself on stage. Nobody likes this but it happens. Crash and Burn happens too. Every now and again it raises its ugly head for everybody. You don't have to like it, accept it and shake it off ASAP.

"Break A Leg"!

peterbright
02-18-2015, 03:51 PM
Last night was 3 of our restaurant's Chinese New Year Party for family and employees and I had my 4 acoustic guitar students (2 grand nieces and 2 nephews) and my 3 year old granddaughter with her soprano ukulele and myself on a Heritage Super Eagle (Gibson Super 400 clone). Little Rita went full diva strumming up a storm. After all the applause she was bowing for fifteen minutes and wanted to sleep with her uke. She is hooked. The two grand nieces want to sing next year. Everyone enjoyed themselves even the two nephews who froze in front of the "crowd" of about 50. Inflict yourself on your friends and family. Record yourself...it really helps...even if it is with your cell phone. Learn one tune really well and then a second etc. 10 or 20 songs done badly are not nearly as good as 3 or 4 done well.

Nickie
02-18-2015, 05:26 PM
I applaud those of you who play onstage, you're couragious! I however, do not enjoy it. I cannot tolerate the mic in my face, I feel like I'm gonna sh-- my pants. I'm not good enough yet to do instrumentals without making a mess of them. I'm with you guys who prefer to lead a jam session. I was a little nervous the first time, but I'm looking forward to the next one. I doubt if I'll ever do an open mic again, I'll leave that to my more talented friends, who look fearless up there. I get a kick out of watching them.

sryoder
03-08-2015, 06:42 AM
Did my first performance at the open mike part of the Salem Ukulele Strummers' Association's (Oregon) monthly meeting a couple years ago. It was a song called "I'm A Ukuholic" set to a blues progression. Not even sure where I found it. I'm not an advanced player by any stretch of the imagination but I even did a little instrumental break in the middle that mostly consisted of sliding a G7 up a couple frets a couple of times. At the end of the "solo" the crowd actually applauded me like they would if I was an actual blues musician. Took me completely by surprise and I almost forgot to do the rest of the song. Missed a few beats but managed to finish. IT WAS SO COOL! Couldn't wait to get up there again.
-Steve

bunnyf
03-08-2015, 05:00 PM
Starting to play in public is hard, no doubt, especially when you know you are not a great player (yet) and are not a great singer, (I am neither) and it is especially intimidating when there are other musicians present who are more experienced than you. That doesn't mean, though, that you cannot put on an entertaining performance. There are performer like Willie Nelson, for example, who may not have great voices but they have a quality and style that is very pleasing none the less. Also, the song you perform does not have to be one of great technical difficulty to be enjoyable. Lots of great songs are simple 3 or 4 chord progressions. Remember, most of your audiences are not musicians and really won't know that you're playing a simple piece. There are ways to ease into playing in public. I don't think I'd jump right into an open mic situation, unless it really felt supportive and comfortable. In our Uke jams, we encourage folks to share a piece of music they brought and if they like, they lead it. This gives you a chance to "star" but not be alone. Others will be playing along and if they know the song they will certainly be singing along. It takes a lot of pressure off. As you get more comfortable, you can introduce a song that perhaps others don't know, they can play along because they'll have the chords, but you will be the only one singing probably and it will start to feel like you are really performing. Take your Uke out to the beach, out camping, out on your porch, wherever, and get used to playing where people can hear you, but where you are not necessarily the main focus. It will get easier and easier. You can then move on maybe to playing in a music circle where you will take your turn performing a song and others will jam along and there will be an audience, not just other players. Like others said, pick songs that you know well, songs that you feel you do well, not too challenging, in a comfortable key and range. It's true that playing an obscure song means that no one will really know if you make any mistakes (In the guitar circle I go to some players perform original music and it is usually not well received. These same players never play anything familiar and you start to wonder if maybe it's because they can't). It's a safer bet to play mostly (not entirely) things folks know. PRACTICE and go for it! The first time I performed in front of a fairly large audience I was nervous, but I got through it and actually enjoyed it and wanted to do it again. Each time it got easier. Taking all those baby steps, and easing into public performing, was really key for me. That and thorough preparation. Good luck.

Rllink
03-09-2015, 04:22 AM
I don't think that you have to be a great musician to be a good entertainer. A lot of things play into it. What you play can have a lot to do with it. How you play it. How you interact with your audience. Guys like Jake, who don't sing, have to dazzle the audience a little more with their ukulele playing, but even Jake has a good stage presence. I keep going back to Bob Dylan, but I don't think he was ever known for his great guitar playing, or for his beautiful voiceH he had a message, and he conveyed that message to the audience, and the audience didn't just hear the message, they felt the message. That is what makes a lot of musicians great. I think that if people wait until they are masters of the craft, before they get up in front of people and play, they are never going to get up there. And I also think that no matter how good someone is, they are not going to be received well if they just sit up there like some automaton plunking away at complex chords. It has to be the whole package, and a lot of it is simply reaching out to the audience. Anyway, that has been my experience.

During the SanSe festival, I sat out on the street playing my uke, and at first people would walk by, glance over, and keep on walking. But one time some ladies walked by and one of them said something to me. I was playing Don't Worry, be Happy. So I immediately started singing it to her. And they stopped. And they danced around a little in the street. And they stayed for another song. But the thing is, I sang to them. I played to them. It made a huge difference. So I started playing to people who walked by rather than just sitting there playing. It made a lot of difference, and I'm not even that good. It is the interaction, not the playing skill that seemed to carry the day. Rum helped a lot too.

DownUpDave
03-09-2015, 05:25 AM
I don't think that you have to be a great musician to be a good entertainer. A lot of things play into it. What you play can have a lot to do with it. How you play it. How you interact with your audience. Guys like Jake, who don't sing, have to dazzle the audience a little more with their ukulele playing, but even Jake has a good stage presence. I keep going back to Bob Dylan, but I don't think he was ever known for his great guitar playing, or for his beautiful voiceH he had a message, and he conveyed that message to the audience, and the audience didn't just hear the message, they felt the message. That is what makes a lot of musicians great. I think that if people wait until they are masters of the craft, before they get up in front of people and play, they are never going to get up there. And I also think that no matter how good someone is, they are not going to be received well if they just sit up there like some automaton plunking away at complex chords. It has to be the whole package, and a lot of it is simply reaching out to the audience. Anyway, that has been my experience.

During the SanSe festival, I sat out on the street playing my uke, and at first people would walk by, glance over, and keep on walking. But one time some ladies walked by and one of them said something to me. I was playing Don't Worry, be Happy. So I immediately started singing it to her. And they stopped. And they danced around a little in the street. And they stayed for another song. But the thing is, I sang to them. I played to them. It made a huge difference. So I started playing to people who walked by rather than just sitting there playing. It made a lot of difference, and I'm not even that good. It is the interaction, not the playing skill that seemed to carry the day. Rum helped a lot too.

Thanks Rolli, there is a lot of sustance and great advice in your post. I always think of Bob Dylan and Neil Young when looking for proof you don't need a good singing voice to "sing well"

RAB11
03-09-2015, 05:30 AM
Since becoming a dad in October, my uke time has dropped off dramatically and as a result I haven't gone to an open mic in months. The last week or so I've been really down in the dumps, bordering on depression (according to my fiance, Louise, who suffers from it herself). so I made plans to go to an open mic last night. Thing is it was a completely new to me open mic, in a different part of town to my normal one and a pub I've never been to. Started to get really anxious and Louise was having a bad day herself so I nearly didn't go. She told me that I needed to be a bit selfish, go out and play. So I did. Rolled up to the pub and while I'm queuing at the bar for some Dutch courage I've got the shakes. Never been this nervous about going on stage since the first couple of open mics I did. Sat down, put myself as 4th on the list. Only guy with a uke in there (no surprise there although I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn't just guitars).

Open mic starts. First act is two lads about my age who blitz through three originals and are absolutely awesome. Second is two guys who are sat on my table who've been playing since before I was born. Awesome playing and the singer was out of this world. Next is some 15 year old kid playing an awesome original, and two belting covers. Then me. By this point my pint is finished, so I'm feeling a bit better but I'm thinking (christ, I've gotta follow all that?). Sit down, plug my uke in, get the mic right and go "Right, this is my first open mic in a good few months so I'm gonna ease myself in with some Clapton...."

Blaze through a cover of Layla (one of my 'safe' songs), probably the best I've ever played it. Chord changes all spot on, vocals going great, and a half decent solo taboot. I'm on top of the world. Then for some reason I decided I was gonna do two songs that barely anyone knew and that I hadn't played in ages. Bad move. I fumbled through them, got polite applause and then went to get another drink. Knew I'd screwed up what was a really good start to the set but I didn't care. It helped me let off a lot of steam and I'm still on a high about it now.

Performing live is good. Adrenaline rocks. But don't change your mind about your set half an hour before you play.