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View Full Version : Do you only want to play for yourself or do you want to perform live



AndieZ
08-21-2016, 05:49 PM
This is a slight variation on the goals thread. I think that having a desire to perform live may affect the way you approach the uke. It certainly makes a huge difference to my approach - ha ha since the only reason i took it up was to support myself singing - ie to legitimise my standing around singing in public.

I'm interested in seeing who else plays or aspires ito play live and what extra strategies you put in place to make that go better.

I certainly think its perfectly legitimate and wonderful if people play only for themselves and with friends. That's how i used to be with the guitar as a kid. I just look back now and think why didn't i do more with it. I was so crap on the guitar. I know the answer, alas, but i also can see just how wonderful the internet is in helping people learn more and learn faster. So whether your play only for yourself or up on a stage somewhere, its all good. The more people playing music and or making art or any sort in this world the better it is for everyone, but especially the participants.

kohanmike
08-21-2016, 06:42 PM
I always enjoy playing with others rather than just for myself. I started playing uke three years ago for a summer play-along series of three Saturdays where there were up to 300 people. I enjoyed that very much. At the same time I decided to retire and joined a group out of a local senior center of about 50 people that meets twice a week. About 18 months later I started playing bass uke with them too. They also do regular gigs, and for a kid who couldn't get up in front of class to give a book report or in front of the congregation to sing at the end of services, I now feel very comfortable performing, it's an additional motivation for me to get better.

KaraUkey
08-21-2016, 07:19 PM
I've always liked playing live and have done so for many years on a guitar. With the Ukulele came a desire to start a group and get others playing along. This went through lots of steps along the way and finished up with a sort of Ukulele Karaoke. I started developing the backing tracks with lyrics and chords and have now been using them for a few years. Everyone can play along, we can all see the words and chords so it is pretty easy. As a group we have won a few competitions and I now also get asked to do private gigs and the like. It has never been more fun than it is now. I can add new songs to the repertoire very quickly and I don't have to learn them all off by heart before I can play them, which is great at my age. Although playing a few favorites often enough tends to have you learning them off by heart anyway.

The group now has nearly 500 members. Lots of them had never played a musical instrument before. We get together regularly to sing and play. The backing tracks help to maintain the beat and tempo.

Mivo
08-21-2016, 08:05 PM
I generally only aim at playing for myself, but this is a bit of a self-deceiving strategy to keep the pressure out. I wouldn't mind playing for family or friends, or even in a somewhat public place, but it's not something I focus on or make a goal.

I spend a good deal of my work days dealing with customers and co-workers, and often that puts the spotlight on me and draws attention. I have to "perform" when I interact with the community. Making music is my escape from that, and was intended to be an escape right from the start. I wanted to do something just for myself, something that doesn't get "judged", something that doesn't need to meet anyone's expectations. It's a bit of an almost meditative activity, and I want to keep feelings of frustration (not improving fast enough, not playing as well as I feel I should be able to, not being as good as those whose performances I admire, etc) out of it, because it's for recreation, for letting my soul dangle.

But that doesn't mean I have no ambitions at all or that I wouldn't enjoy a little recognition for my musical abilities (meager as they may be), because it's so different from what I usually do (writing, talking), and it's a different form of creative, emotional expression. But for me this could be a treacherous road, and so I bumble around without any clear goals, other than that of wanting to enjoy myself. For now, this mostly works for me, though not always, and when I get the guitarlele that I want, I think I'll work on a proper training schedule, just to propel myself a little forward where I can experience new aspects of the hobby.

UkingViking
08-21-2016, 08:10 PM
Well, doesn't everyone who have a creative hobby have some kind of desire to share the results with somebody? I assume that at least most have.

To me, it is more a question of what kind of forum you would be comfortable playing in.
Some have ambitions for a band.
Some just want to bring out the ukulele for a single song at campfires or parties.
Some only feel comfortable sharing recorded material rather than performing live.
Some are not comfortable enough to share their music, but probably like the idea of some day gaining the confidence for it.

I don't always have their focus on a specific goal when sitting down to practice, beacause it is enjoyable for its own sake. But I must say that the Seasons setting a weekly goal does mean a lot. For many years I sporadically picked up my guitar to play, without any idea when I would get the next chance to play what I practiced for anyone. As a result I could play almost no songs from the top down, why bother focusing on that?
With some kind of deadline for learning a song it helps a lot.

mrStones
08-21-2016, 10:28 PM
Well, I played live (in pubs or festivals) for 6 years or so (bass guitar) but I think that time is gone and I don't miss it.
I started to play ukulele to have something to teach to my kid (2 years) and I found out that it is so good to make him sleep (tried to just sing, read novels and so but it was not so effective), so double victory :D
Some months after I started, my sister (that lives on the flat right on top of mine) started too.. so now the house is almost always full of music on evenings and weekends.

So basically my "goal" is just playing for myself, my family and friends, hopefully someday with my sister and with my kid (IF and when he will want to learn to play uke).
Maybe soon I will start to make some recordings (when I will buy a microphone :) ) but the main goal there is just to improve my technique and partecipate to the UU season (I would REALLY like, but... still no microphone yet).

But I don't think I will start a band or perform on a stage or so.
Never say never, but I just have no interest (nor have time) in it right now.

janeray1940
08-21-2016, 10:58 PM
Performing for an audience is definitely not one of my favorite things. I play in two trios and an ensemble, and while I love playing *with* others, more often than not I find that playing *for* others means having to live up to their expectations rather than just doing it for the sheer enjoyment of playing. With a few exceptions, playing for an audience has always resulted in requests for songs that I don't play or even like, and disappointed reactions when I can't deliver, and this just kind of sucks all the joy out of it for me.

AndieZ
08-21-2016, 11:08 PM
I have no interest at this time in starting a band either. I'm pretty happy to go soloing about but if i had friends who were doing it too, then it would be fun to play with them. I probably woulnd't even worry about doing it to make money unless there was easy money to be had.

I found that playing in a big group has very limited appeal. It would be ok if you could hear yourself and what you played matters but in the jam session i joined with, it didn't matter what i played or did, i couldn't hear it. It was fun to be there but a waste of time as far as getting better at playing i think so i stopped going as i don't have the time. Likewise I don't rank playing iwht a large group for fun as performing. If your group is giving a performance, then yes i would call that performing becuase you are expected to know the song and play it well but if its just a matter of joining a large group and it doesn't matter whether or not you can play it, that's not what i'd call performing.

mrStones
08-21-2016, 11:29 PM
playing for an audience has always resulted in requests for songs that I don't play or even like

You hit the point :) That's why I don't miss the time I performed live. Music I love is not for everyone, at least here in Italy, and if you have to perform live you must stick with "mainstream pop" music that I don't like at all.

Croaky Keith
08-21-2016, 11:34 PM
Took it up as a hobby - no intention of performing live. :)

Want to get as good as I can be, but at my pace.

The Seasons have been a big influence, joining in has made me do a lot of things that I would never have dreamt of doing myself, & by doing so, I have improved my playing quicker than I ever have managed before.

Picker Jon
08-22-2016, 12:04 AM
I've got to the point where when practising I feel like I'm playing music rather than a series of notes, this makes practising and playing by myself very enjoyable and I have a lot of fun finding stuff to play and researching the music.

A couple of years ago I took the plunge and started going to very informal pub sessions round here. I play folk tunes fingerstyle and I really enjoy it. We go round in a circle and listen or join in as we please, a variety of instruments but I'm the only fingerstyle folk uke player so far. I enjoy the feedback and encouragement of other players.

kvehe
08-22-2016, 12:09 AM
Playing for myself, definitely. The first time I played in front of others as part of a small (4 others) group was fun, but every other time was so excruciatingly horrible that I see no reason to ever subject myself to that sort of trauma again.

padlin
08-22-2016, 12:58 AM
With how slow I'm learning the uke I doubt I'll ever feel good enough to play in front of folks, at least not by myself. I did go to a big group/club play along a couple times, it was fun, but too far away. Of course no one could hear a thing you were actually playing.

teryg
08-22-2016, 04:04 AM
I'm enjoying playing with a small group of friends, but we're not performing, just playing together for fun. They're actually what got me started on the uke. Other than that, I want to play for myself. When I played a lot of guitar, playing when I came home from work helped keep me sane (I had a stressful job and didn't really fit in corporate America). I love getting lost in playing music.

Rllink
08-22-2016, 04:23 AM
I like playing for other's entertainment. A couple of things there, I have always admired entertainers, and wished that I could entertain people. And I've always had a bad case of stage fright. All my life I had to totally psych myself just to speak up at a work meeting, and I never sang in church. Then the ukulele came along, and I totally embraced it. It was my ride to neighborhood stardom. Not only do I now sing in church, sometimes I get up front and play songs for them. Somebody said earlier that there were too many expectations when playing in front of other people. That's what I love about the ukulele. You walk out with a uke, the expectations are not high. Anyway, my whole ukulele life is aimed toward playing for other people. It has been an exhilarating experience.

Ukejenny
08-22-2016, 06:23 AM
I enjoy playing for myself and in groups, but I would like to be less inhibited if an open mic situation were to come up.

Picker Jon
08-22-2016, 06:47 AM
I love getting lost in playing music.

Me too! There's nothing quite like it.

greenie44
08-22-2016, 07:27 AM
I play for myself almost all the time. I get a large majority of satisfaction from this, without the extra work required to play in front of others, i.e.,, making sure you have everything memorized, reliably playing things close to perfect, etc.

However, I did play live a while back, and it was a complete blast! I asked my fellow performers if it was always that much fun and they said it usually was. But I am still just playing for myself, although I will admit that I practice things more with the idea of playing for others.

Finally, I have had some times that are nothing short of magic playing with others, but my circumstances make this less frequent than I would like.

Thanks for the excellent question.

DownUpDave
08-22-2016, 07:47 AM
W.C. Fields said " I only drink on two occasions, when I am with other people or when I am by myself" I only play ukulele when I am by myself or with other people. I enjoy playing by myself the most but I do perform with an 3 piece ensemble at open mics on a regular basis and quite enjoy it.

actadh
08-22-2016, 10:00 AM
I have no desire to play in public and actually have an opportunity to do so with our college's Music Club. But, I have no desire to do much of anything in public or around other people :)

JackLuis
08-22-2016, 11:42 AM
I just like playing around on my uke. As I learn more 'actual songs' that people recognize it's more fun for them, but I play 'stuff' and don't sing well, but I'm getting better.

PeteyHoudini
08-22-2016, 12:22 PM
I can perform live if need be, but I prefer to make videos of myself playing live, alone. The trick to playing live on the stage is that you just keep going and never stop if you make a mistake. Also, try to have an opening or at least a good ending to the song you're playing. Also, try to know the song as best as possible if you're going to play on the stage.

Jim Yates
08-22-2016, 12:33 PM
I like both situations. It's a lot of fun playing in front of an audience that appreciates what you do. I haven't often played to audiences that made requests of songs that I didn't know or like, since we've made it obvious what genre of music we play. If I'm playing bluegrass, folks won't request Achy Breaky Heart and if I'm in the jug band, they won't request Stairway To Heaven.
I really enjoy informal jams in someone's kitchen or rec room where we go around the circle and each player chooses a song or tune to play and the others join in. This works best with three to five players. This isn't a rehearsal, but just a jam and they're a lot of fun.
I do not enjoy sing-alongs where someone says, "Hey Jim, bring your uke/guitar/banjo to the party and we'll do a sing-along." These often are composed of non-musicians who do want to sing songs that are familiar to everyone and that I either don't know or don't like.
My family are all musical and when we get together for a family reunion we almost always have instruments in our hands. I have performed at different times on stage and around campfires or in living rooms with my wife, my two sons, my siblings and my niece, though never all at once on stage.

Nickie
08-22-2016, 12:35 PM
I enjoy both. I've played in public before, but didn't practice, so it was always just short of a disaster. Then I found Irish folk tunes. I love playing and signing them.
I formed an ensemble, there are 4 of us, including one bass. We're gonna try playing for our peers in our open mic later this week. I've practiced a lot with them and alone, with a metronome. My voice lessons are helping my confidence.
We call ourselves the 4 Uke-A-Teers. Silly....but loads of fun.
We won't do requests, unless it's one of our usuals that we have nailed down well.

sopher
08-22-2016, 02:35 PM
I only want to play for myself. I have played in a band a few decades ago, and I didn't love it. The downside of the logistics far outweighed the rush from playing in front of a crowd. With uke there are a lot less logistics than a rock quartet, but my opinion is set. I also tend to prefer music that is not particularly popular and I want to play what I want to play. And I don't have to punch anyone for asking for Stairway to Heaven.

drjond56
08-22-2016, 02:54 PM
I have zero interest in playing with others or in public--ukulele or guitar. That said, it does happen on occasion, perhaps a church or Christmas event (played a house concert or two). The problem is that my repertoire is not what most people want to hear (classical, jazz), and they especially don't like it that I play purely instrumental and don't sing. The other thing is that I have no interest in "jamming" with a group of players.

I like guitar and uke because they can be "anti-social" instruments. By that, I mean that you don't have to play with others to have harmony. Like with a piano, you can play by yourself and be just fine. I came up as a trumpet player and that is a social instrument--you pretty much have to be with others to make it work. I played that in duets, combos, bands and symphony and got my fill of public performance. Since music is not my day job, I can fortunately do as I please.

Jon

Jim Yates
08-28-2016, 05:52 PM
drjond56 - Your post reminded me of Jesse "Lone Cat" Fuller, the famous one man band who wrote San Francisco Bay. He played in bands for a while, but, like you, preferred playing alone. "Nobody in this band is late for rehearsals or shows up drunk," he said.

I, on the other hand, love playing with others. I spend a lot of time playing on my own, but need to get together with others a few times a week.

Rllink
08-29-2016, 03:48 AM
I like both situations. It's a lot of fun playing in front of an audience that appreciates what you do. I haven't often played to audiences that made requests of songs that I didn't know or like, since we've made it obvious what genre of music we play. If I'm playing bluegrass, folks won't request Achy Breaky Heart and if I'm in the jug band, they won't request Stairway To Heaven.
I really enjoy informal jams in someone's kitchen or rec room where we go around the circle and each player chooses a song or tune to play and the others join in. This works best with three to five players. This isn't a rehearsal, but just a jam and they're a lot of fun.
I do not enjoy sing-alongs where someone says, "Hey Jim, bring your uke/guitar/banjo to the party and we'll do a sing-along." These often are composed of non-musicians who do want to sing songs that are familiar to everyone and that I either don't know or don't like.
My family are all musical and when we get together for a family reunion we almost always have instruments in our hands. I have performed at different times on stage and around campfires or in living rooms with my wife, my two sons, my siblings and my niece, though never all at once on stage.I like jams as well. I learn a lot from those, and sometimes you have to think fast to keep up. To me those are what jams really are. I don't consider the big group strums to be jams, even though they are often times referred to as jams. Jams to me are where a small group of people get together and work off of each other. I don't especially like the big group strum-a-longs, but I don't hate them either. But I'll do them. I mean, it is just another opportunity to play my uke.

I do like those, "we're having a party, bring your uke." That's where I started out, neighborhood bon fires. I kind of got myself stuck with those a few summers ago. But I enjoy but them a lot. Yes, they request songs that I don't know, and sometimes we have to sing something a capella, but I can usually come up with enough chords to a song to fake it, especially if I know the tune. If I don't, sometimes I can pick it up after the first verse, or sometimes not. I also bring along a pile of sheet music that I know pretty well, and my daily ukulele book. I've found that if you give them some music to go through, they will do that rather than coming up with some obscure song that no one knows. That's a tip, I guess. Bring plenty of music. But really, I've played a lot of songs that I didn't know and played a G all the way through, or an Am, and gotten away with it. Like you said, they usually aren't musicians, they don't know.

SteveZ
08-29-2016, 04:39 AM
Once in a while, getting together with a couple folk (instruments immarerial) to "make noise" and split a couple brews is a lot of fun. Going to a ukuleke club playalong where it's the same pre-WWII songs every time is much less enjoyable. Performing for an audience (always with the Do you know "Melancholy Baby?" or equivalent) got to be a downer after a while and is now avoided.

Have to admit enjoying not only playing alone, but working on instruments to get the most out of them I can.

ProfChris
08-29-2016, 06:07 AM
I see that very few contributors to this thread like performing in public. I suspect that's because performing and playing are two entirely different skills, and if you haven't developed the performing skills then it can be quite a miserable activity as people lose interest (no matter how well you are playing). Conversely, if you are performing well, it's surprising how badly you can play and still keep the audience's attention and give them an enjoyable experience.

And of course, some of those who do know how to perform don't like doing it - a certain level of egoism ("Look at ME! Right NOW!") is required.

I've thought quite a bit about performing because the day job involves a lot of lecturing and conference presenting, which need exactly those skills, and I try to teach them to my PhD students.

The most important thing is that performing is communicating with the audience. So you need to "speak" to them somehow, to get their attention and then keep "speaking" to them through your playing. Generally this requires projecting yourself out to them - eye contact is good, focusing on individual audience members and switching that focus regularly so that each feels you are playing directly to them. What fails is the player who builds an imaginary glass screen, probably through nerves, and plays behind it. The audience feels excluded (or if the playing is technically excellent, even patronised) and starts to switch off. As an audience member you don't want to be a mere spectator, you want to be involved in the music. And as the performer you need to be watching your audience to see how they are reacting, and to be constantly working out what to do next to catch and keep them focused on you.

Having said that, there are rare performers who do the opposite - they don't project out but somehow draw the audience in, so that the result is very intimate and feels like the player(s) are playing just for the one person (and each audience member feels that). I saw Aaron and Nicole Keim do this as the Quiet American at this year's Grand Northern Ukulele Festival, and they were entirely wonderful and a privilege to watch. I can't analyse and explain how they do it, so I guess it's just a natural talent.

The other important element is that all performances are stories, because that's how audiences understand and appreciate things. Each song is a story in itself (so it needs a narrative arc in the way you play it, and a clear ending so the audience knows it's the end of that part of the story), and there have to be some links between the different songs (even if there's no big, overall story) to keep the narrative going - if you stop and switch off, the audience will switch off too.

Performing in a band does exactly the same things, though the responsibility is shared between the members and you can vary the narrative by stepping back to let someone else lead, or vice versa.

Playing in front of a group of friends (unless you make it a performance) is quite different. There's an advance agreement that they will just listen, so you already have their attention, but you still need to focus on them so that you can tell when they've had enough!

Jamming with other musicians is different again, because if it works you are all cooperating to build something greater than the sum of its parts, and you're all focusing inwards on what the others are doing.

If you want to perform, then I think you need to learn performance skills to catch and hold your audience. Playing brilliantly isn't enough (and isn't even necessary, though I wish I could). I'd start by watching videos of performances that you think are excellent - ignore the playing and singing, and try to work out how the performer is communicating with the audience through eye contact, body language, what they say between numbers, etc. Steal the ideas which you think might work for you and try them out on friends, or in front of the mirror, or by videoing yourself. And then you have to learn how to use these ideas and techniques when actually playing, which requires quite a lot of practice before audiences; you won't get it right the first time. But if you do acquire these skills, much of the terror of public performance goes away. You know the audience will enjoy you at least to some extent, even if you make lots of mistakes, and that relaxes you enough to make fewer mistakes (which builds your confidence for next time).

janeray1940
08-29-2016, 07:44 AM
And of course, some of those who do know how to perform don't like doing it - a certain level of egoism ("Look at ME! Right NOW!") is required.



Nailed it! All of my life I've said if I could have a super-power, it would be invisibility :) It's not stagefright, or shyness, or any kind of fear, but plain discomfort at being the center of attention for any reason, especially when that reason can easily lead to something out of my control (e.g. drunks heckling me at a party, requests for contemporary pop, etc...).