Monday, July 5, 2010

Does Not Play Well With Others

You've probably seen that on a shirt by now. Well, I want to change that to "Plays Well With Others." Truth be told, you would like that, too. Wouldn't you?

This blog entry is once again hitting on something that we've talked about before. Practice what you want to be able to do! I'm telling you this again because I hear it all the time. I see it all the time. My students want to play with others, but many of them only do it once every two weeks when they meet for the instructional jam.

I've heard all the excuses.
1. I can't keep up. Everyone plays too fast for me.
2. I just can't play with a recording.
3. There's no one near me to play with.
4. I get nervous just THINKING about playing with others.
5. I don't know enough songs.
6. I'm too bad. Too embarrassed. Too shy.
7. I don't know the chords. The songs. The people.
8. I don't want to bore everyone. Or drag the others down.
9. I'm not getting any better even though I've been playing with others.

I'm here to tell you that if playing with others is your goal, you just can't give up! YOU CAN DO THIS! I'm going to address each of these issues. Have you got one I'm not covering? Lay it on! E-mail me or respond to this blog entry and I'll answer you!

1. I Can't Keep Up: Of course you can't keep up! If you never practice it with others, you will never be able to keep up. That's like trying to run a marathon without training for it. If certain songs are too fast for you, play on the ones that are slower. When it's your turn to pick a song, pick something slower. You are the leader! You get to do whatever you want!

2. I Just Can't Play With a Recording: Once again, of course you can't! You have to practice it to get at it. You have to keep trying. Again and again. If the recording is too fast, then use a program to slow the recording down to a speed you CAN keep up with. Or find a different recording that is slower.

3. There's No One Near Me to Play With: You might have to practice with a recording, a DVD, a CD, the radio, etc. Maybe you could post a note at a local music store. You could also try asking people at jam sessions.

4. I'm Too Nervous: Try to relax. Don't drink any caffiene. Start off slow. Maybe you will just play backup to start with. Ask someone else to play along with you when you take the lead. Having someone else play with you will go a long ways towards making things better. Once again, to get over your nervousness, you'll just have to make yourself do it.

5. I Don't Know Enough Songs: When you get to where you know all the songs, let me know! The whole purpose of jamming is to meet new people and learn new songs! How can you learn them if you don't hear them? Usually at jam sessions the same people will tend to sing or play the same songs for a while until they learn new songs. You will be doing the same thing yourself! Take a pencil and paper with you and make a note of the songs and the keys they were played in. You might even want to take a note about the chord changes.

6. I'm Too Bad, Too Embarrassed, Too Shy: We all were at one time. I'll bet just about every musician that currently jams can tell you a story or two about when they first started jamming. It's good to remember where you are coming from because you will be that person helping someone else down the line get over feeling that way! Jamming isn't about being the best. It's about learning and having fun. It's about friendship and comraderie. If you are worried about being too loud while you are learning, then use a mute unless you are the one leading the song. Another thing to remember: Folks like to eat. Bring some cookies or other goodies and you'll be an instant hit! :o)

7. I Don't Know the Chords, the Songs, the People: Once again, of course you don't! How are you going to know that without doing that? You will learn the chords and the songs once you start going. Grab that pencil and paper and start taking notes. Better yet, bring a friend or relative along who likes music and have them help you with notes. You'll have a built in friend and support system!

8. I Don't Want to Bore Everyone or Drag Them Down: As long as you don't jump in the middle of the jam session while you are still learning and play really loud and make a scene, you'll be okay. It's not like you are the one leading every song. It's about you learning to follow them for the most part. They only follow you once every round.

9. I Don't Feel Like I'm Getting Any Better: Chances are good that you ARE getting better. You just don't FEEL like you are. Try recording yourself every once in a while so that you'll be able to hear the difference. Maybe try easier songs for a while so that you can be more confident and more successful.

When I first started entering fiddle contests, I'd get so nervous I didn't know if I was going to throw up or pass out first. I'd be in the middle of my songs on stage and inside my head I'd be asking myself why I was doing this. It was very hard to keep my concentration on my playing. All my mistakes sounded HUGE and my bow wouldn't stop shaking, especially on my waltzes. I didn't give up, though. I decided that I would start playing songs that were easier for me. I picked songs that I could play in my sleep, so to speak. This allowed me to play better and also helped me with my confidence. I continued to practice the harder songs that I wanted to play in the contests, and eventually I did play them in contests! I also tried to play the songs that I was intending to play in the contest for other people BEFORE the contest.

More than anything, don't give up! You CAN do this!

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