Lessons about performing, lesson 27: Skip the drama!

Ah, thank you WordPress and your scheduling feature. I had a mostly free day and the weather isn’t all that good – so I’m able to write these ahead of time. It’s much easier this way and it is why I’m able to bring you fresh material all the time.

If you’re not aware of it, I’ve been compiling a list of rules that will help you become a better performing musician and increase your chances of success. Though the odds are low, there are things you can do to increase your odds and I’m trying to enumerate as many of them as I can.

If I’ve missed some, feel free to let me know. If there’s something you’d like me to add, just use the contact form or reply. If you’ve missed an entry, or would like to refresh the old stuff, this link will take you to the complete list. Do feel encouraged to check the list out and submit any suggested rules for inclusion.

By now, you know it’s a terrible career choice and you’re subjected to all sorts of stress along the way. Because of this, there’s often quite a bit of drama that goes along with it. That’s why I write this…
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Lessons about performing, lesson 26: Be in tune!

By the time you read this, I’ll have ensured you had a new article to read, every day, for a month. That’s right, there’s been something new here – every single day. In Internet terms, that’s pretty much an eternity!

I’m pretty sure I deserve a medal! I’m a damned national treasure, is what I am!

Or not… Really, this list should have been compiled with foresight and written better than I do. It wasn’t and it isn’t. However, you get what you get and you’re welcome to help. Seriously, jump in and help! I’d love the aid of someone who could edit!

Some of these are lessons you should already know. Some of them might be new. Either way, these are the rules you should follow if you want to be a successful performing musician. If you’d like to read the complete list, then click this link.

This next one applies mostly to guitarists, but the reality is that other stringed instrument players should be aware of this as well. Without further ado, here you go!
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It’s time for the 16th guitarist better than Hendrix!

Last week, my post attracted a number of comments that asserted that there was no such thing as a ‘better’ guitarist. This week, I’m going to show them why it’s not a good idea to argue with the guy who has a microphone.

They’re wrong.

Let’s say Hank the 30 year old drunk guy picks up a guitar, having never played one before, and beats on it. Let’s say that Linda has played guitar for two decades by the time she hits that same age of 30.

Linda is a better guitarist than Hank.

No, I don’t care that you preferred Hank’s passionate wailing on the guitar. No, I don’t care that you think it’s about art and expression of lofty ideals. No, words like “soul” have absolutely zero meaning and don’t belong in a list of criteria for determining the best.

This list isn’t about who’s the best artist. The list isn’t about who is popular or who appeals to you (or me) more. This list is about those who have mastered their instruments. You know, guitarists…

If I’d wanted it to be completely subjective, I’d have called it something like ‘best artists.’ I didn’t. I didn’t call it that for a reason. The reason is, it’s impossible to be objective. This list is as objective as I can make it and, frankly, I’m pretty damned qualified to author this list.

This list has guitarists on it that I absolutely don’t really seek out and listen to. As a general rule, I don’t listen to Malmsteen. As a person, I don’t even like him. I don’t even necessarily care for quite a bit of what he releases. However, he’s an absolute master of the guitar and plays that guitar with greater ability than Hendrix ever did.

So, let’s talk about Rolling Stone Magazine. They made a list (more than once) and called it things like “best guitarist.” I’d have not had a single problem with it had they called it “best artist.” When you call Hendrix the best guitarist, you’re doing me a disservice.

I am a guitarist. You know, like a pianist – except my instrument is much easier to carry on my back. I don’t say I’m an artist. I say I’m a guitarist. I’m skilled in the art of playing a guitar – but that’s a technical skill. I understand the theory and why the music works the way it does. I can express this understanding by demonstrating it. I have mastered the techniques and continue to master them. (Mastery is not a static place, but a process.)

Jimi was a great artist – one of the best. His performances, messages, persona, appeal, and passion are undeniable. However, his technical abilities with his chosen instrument were sorely lacking. That’s why, for you laymen, so much of his music sounds the same. He knew a half dozen chords and three scales.

If you don’t understand this, feel free to argue. You’re not just wrong, I’ve told you that you’re wrong fifteen times already. You can continue to be wrong. I don’t mind and I’m sure your peers are accustomed to it!

If you don’t understand, maybe you should consider writing for that collection of sophomoric, window-licking, keyboard-chewing, herd of emotionally stunted morons at Rolling Stone. They’d be happy to have you!

I’m happy to have you, as well. Why? Because I can call you wrong – all day long! I love calling people wrong. I usually even capitalize it. You’re WRONG!

This list is about those who’ve mastered the techniques, mastered music theory, learned to combine multiple disciplines, and innovated. It’s not about who you want to dance to. It’s not even about who you like. It’s about the term “guitarist” and what that term really means.

It is personal and I’m taking that word back! If you want to see a good list, skip the first few (because even guitarists are subject to cults of personality) and check out the list at Guitar World. They did a reader’s poll and, unsurprisingly the list has some great guitarists on it. They also did a 30 great guitarists list, that’s also not too terrible.

It’s almost as if maybe you’ll get better answers by asking people who are adept at their instruments? Again, they’re all subject to cults of personality and popularity ends up being the ruler of the day, but they’re much closer to being objective than the dirty bastards at RSMI!

Granted, it’s not easy to explain this unless you too are a guitarist or really into music. However, I’ve made every effort to put this into words and the folks who were actually complaining hadn’t even read the articles. In fact, one of them outright refused to read the article – but thought they had a valid opinion on the subject.

They’re just wrong! 😉

Hell, I don’t even much care for the next guitarist on the list. I don’t dislike them, but I’m a bit apathetic about them. They’re here because they zoom up the ladder when you take their innovation and versatility into account.

Let’s introduce ’em, shall we?
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Things look very different from the stage, part 5.

Y’all seem to enjoy the updates, but this one isn’t very exciting – though it may be informative. Once again, I’m not sure what benefit these have and I pretty much only keep them up because people seem interested.

See, there’s a lot that non-musicians don’t actually get to experience. I try to write about those things and this looks as though it’s some sort of series and will probably continue.

Make of it what you will, but this one is probably not that interesting.
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Lessons about performing, lesson 25: Protect your hearing!

It’s hard to believe that this series started with such small aspirations. I expected it to have maybe five entries, but the reality is that there’s a lot more to learn and share.

I’d like to thank you for reading and for the continued encouragement. Remember, if these lessons help then let me know. I’m also very happy to take your suggestions and turn them into articles. I’m not yet out of things to say, but my stockpile of immediately available pithy suggestions isn’t without its limits! So, feel free to suggest things that I’ve overlooked – and help your fellow musicians out.

If you’re not aware of what I’m doing, then you’re pretty far behind. Basically, I’m telling you all those things that nobody else tells you about performing. Anyone can get gigs and play for a few bucks, but I’m telling you the things you need to know to make it a career.

If you’d like to read the complete list, then click here. That’ll whisk you away to a list of all the rules I’ve come up with so far. They’re not in any particular order and many of them have clauses and need to be approached with reason and with regards to your particular situation. Still, nobody wrote a damned book and that means you’re stuck with me.

Meh… Maybe I’ll turn this into a book someday?
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Lessons about performing, lesson 24: There be amps in them there lines!

I need to point out that I asked a lawyer for advice and I asked two electricians for advice. My lawyer suggested I be very careful when writing this and the two electricians really weren’t the most helpful. More accurately, my lawyer advised against writing this – but if I’m going to write it then I should be careful to give zero actual advice. In other words, I can’t be all that helpful!

When I say the electricians weren’t the most helpful, that’s understandable. I can’t actually blame them because who the hell wants to assume some responsibility for an article like this? I can’t actually get them to “sign off” on anything.

Stand back, kids… We’re going to do electricity!

By the way, if you don’t know what I’m doing then see this link to read the full list of rules that performing musicians should follow. Basically, nobody has written a book about the things you should know before deciding to become a professional performing musician. That’s unfortunate, because it means you’re stuck reading my version.

Let’s get on with a future date in civil court!
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Lessons about performing, lesson 23: You will have performance anxiety!

Well, we’ve made it all the way to 23 (A prime number!) and I’ve not yet run out of lessons to share. I’m actually amazed that it has gone on this long, but I’m not out of stuff to say and you seem to really enjoy them. So, we continue!

For those that are curious, or unfamiliar and new, this is another entry in my series of things that aspiring performers should probably know. Click here for the full list – and it’s quite a list. There’s a lot of things you should know.

These are lessons learned over decades of performing. This is stuff that I’ve learned along the way. At one point in my life, music was my sole source of income. I played because I needed the money. After I no longer needed the money, I just kept playing!

Either way, what should have happened is someone should have written a book with all this stuff in it. I can’t find said book and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist. Sadly, that leaves you with me and my writing style. Sorry about that, but I’m all you’ve got. Really, this information should have been written down by someone far more adept at writing than I am.
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Lesson about Recording for the Complete Novice: Tracking

Aloha, Chris here with The Kilt Lifters back again with another lesson on Recording for the Complete Novice.  This is going to be a long one, so grab a tasty beverage of your choosing and buckle up!
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Lessons about performing, lesson 22: Be Critical of Yourself!

Good morning and welcome to the next entry in the list of rules that aspiring performing musicians should know. We’ve covered a lot of ground and have done so with remarkable speed.

If you’re new, click here and read the whole list of rules – and there’s a lot. The goal of this series is to tell you everything you need to know to give yourself better odds for success.

There’s a lot to it, a lot of things that people don’t realize or think about. It’s not easy and the chances of grand success are pretty slim. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try – nor does it mean you have to be a grand success in order to continue.

There’s many reasons to perform, and some of them are pretty noble. Some just want to share the music, to make people smile, to give people a reason to dance, or even just do it for the free beer. Whatever your goals are, you still need to feed yourself.

And that’s what this series is about. It’s about telling you how to do this as a professional and, ideally, as a sole source of income. In other words, how to make a career out of being a professional musician.

It takes work, continued study, and an effort to continually improve. Continue reading “Lessons about performing, lesson 22: Be Critical of Yourself!”

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Things look very different from the stage, part 4.5…

Once again, I’m not sure who I write these for – nor what their purpose really is. But, seeing as I’m awake, I am going to write this and hope that it sends some sort of message.

Warning: This is likely to be quite long because, umm… Reasons! Yeah, reasons.

As I return to the stage, having spent remarkably little time on one for the past decade, I find myself being reminded of many things. As I’m pretty sure that my age dictates that I insist this be my last grand adventure with a regularly playing band, I sometimes find myself staring into the great abyss that is my past.

And I wonder… I wonder what could have been?

For those that don’t know, this is my second time where I’ve had a band that was mine. I’ve been in many bands, but as a band member. This time, I’m absolutely the leader – and this is not the first time I’ve been in this role.

In fact, my first time was in the mid-1970s and we failed miserably. As the band leader, it was my responsibility and I am accountable for that failing. You’ll actually have a pretty good understanding of the story if you’ve ever heard Neil Young’s ‘Needle and the Damage Done.’

It was then that I lost my recording contract, my band, and my heart. It was then that music had changed for me, forever. But, what if it hadn’t? What if I’d stuck it out? What if I’d formed a different band? What if I’d tried harder?

Meh… Instead, I drove back across the country and dropped off my former bandmates at various locations, returned to visit my parents, and signed up for the United States Marine Corps. That’d turn out to be a pretty good decision, but my views towards music were irrevocably altered.

What had once been a passion for creating new music would become a passion for faithful replication of music. What had been a pretty relaxed view would form into the semi-disciplined self you see today. What had been a grand adventure of discovery was now turned into rote.

I don’t regret that but I think that’s the period where I’d say, “I sold out.”

I no longer gave two shits about making new music, saying something new, and inviting people to understand me. I cared about playing music as a source of income – and playing for myself. I’d not seriously (and publicly) perform again for years, and then I’d only do it when I’d reached the point where I needed the money.

Which brings me to this! (See? I got this intro shit figured out!)
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