Okay, so you got called for a gig
, and you think you can hang. You know your standards
and you can solo
over the major tune
s quite nicely, so you accept and mark the date: your first gig. Two weeks of heavy practicing, just to be in top shape, you think you're in for smooth sailin'.
So, the night of the show finally arrives, and you drive to the venue, a small bar that fits thirty at the most. It's all cool, though, and the tender welcomes you and points you to where the band is setting up. The other three guys are already there, and unpacking their gear.
You were thirty minutes early, but that time quickly blows by, and you find yourself with the band set up, warmed up, and ready to start to show.
One of the cats looks at you, and says, 'Okay, why don't you pick the first tune, kid?'
Flustered, you stop to think. 'What would be a good tune to start out with? One that's a little difficult, so I can impress them, but not too difficult, because I don't want to fuck it up.' They keep looking at you, and you know you've thought for way too long, and now look inexperienced and childish.
"'So What' !!" you call suddenly, the first tune to pop into your head. Yes! That should be great. Not too tough, and people love to play it. Sure, a little overplayed, but still a beauty. I should really fly on this one...
You count it off, and away you go...
The tune takes off just like it should... but something is wrong. The bass is soaring away on the intro, and you can hardly keep up! Who said to play the song at 320? Oh shit! In your anxiety to get the tune finally started, you forgot to think about the speed you actually wanted it. You just blurted out a " 1..2..1234 " without thinking.
Fine, I'll just deal with it. A simpler solo, thats all. Don't panic. But the keys are now adding the hits, and you are needed for the little melody to go with it. You can work that, but who is supposed to start the solos? You didn't assign a solo order. Now you're fucked. Proper fucked.
You didn't ask if they care how many choruses you take.
You didn't ask if there's a limit to the length.
You didn't ask who even wants to solo, or if you'll be trading with the drummer, or giving 'em a whole solo.
You're thinking, God, how did I even get to the gig? I'm a fucking failure, and I don't belong here.
The show goes poorly, now that you are so self-critical, and nothing can flow.
Worst case scenario, you just plain suck, word of your suckage gets around, and now no one will call you, and you're done for. You start looking for jobs as a trash-truck driver or pumping gas.
Or maybe they'll just say, "It's your first time, you'll do better with more practice and some experience."
This can happen, and does happen to many, maybe even most, players starting out. But it doesn't Have to...
The point of my stupid little horror story is that there is much more to playing out than just knowing your scales, arpeggios, and forms, etc. There is much to know about playing that is often Not taught in any school course.
When playing live, there are important things to pay attention to that are not directly part of the music.
It is very helpful to think ahead before the song is even started. Before you start a tune, quickly ask the cats you're playing with these types of things:
1. Do you all know the tune? (fundamental..duh!)
2. Who wants to solo on this one?
3. Are we trading fours, eights, etc. with the drummer? Are we giving 'em a whole chorus? or are they sitting this one out?
4. Want to make a quick arrangment? (for more expirienced players) Such as, start with bass, add chords, drums enter with melody.. or something like that. Quick, impromptu arrangments can make a tune sound extra tight, with only a minute of work before the song starts.
5. How fast do you want it?
6. Who's comping chords and when? Who has the melody?
7. What style should we do? Like the original, or change it up?
It only takes a quick thirty seconds to plan the gist of a song, and it makes everything go a lot smoother.
And, if you forget to ask those, or you think of something that you left out, just keep your eyes up, and look around, and when you catch the other players' eyes, ask them what you're thinking. Mouth the question to them, or lean in, and whisper it.
This is stuff they don't really teach much of, and if they do, most kids don't listen. Practice these things, so they are second nature when you're on the gig...
One of the most important things to do is to keep your eyes up, and be alert to the other players, cuz they may have something to say, too. Many young players do not look up, and they miss out on everything thrown at them.
Paying attention to what's going on around you in the gig will make everything go smoother, and hopefully you'll avoid the little fiasco told above.
A special goodluck to all new players. I know what it's like, and it ain't easy.