A few weeks ago, I came to BHO for advice on how to prepare for my first gig. I had the gig last weekend and thought I would report back.
In addition to me, we had a guitar player, vocalist and bass player. The bass player and vocalist had a lot of experience, although not with bluegrass. Like me, the guitar player was a solid intermediate but this was his first time playing with a band.
We kept it pretty straight. Eight tunes, mostly classics. A couple of vocals like I’ll Fly Away and Bury Me Beneath the Willow and a few instrumentals.
Practicing for the gig taught me a lot about backup. If anything, that was the best thing that I took away. Kept it simple but that was enough for the first time out. If you have been playing for a while and focusing on lead breaks, playing backup with others is an awesome next step. Many believe that learning backup first is the quickest entry into bluegrass and Scruggs and now I tend to agree.
It was totally low stakes and I tend to not get nervous in front of crowds but it is still nerve-wracking and uncomfortable to totally lose your timing or mess up the lead break (Dueling Banjos was more like Drive-by Banjos).
Having said that, when I went back to watch the video, I was surprised to see that I had magnified the mistakes in my own mind. People were focused on the vocalist or if people saw mistakes, we were on to the next tune in a few minutes. I was really glad to get it on video because I was a little bummed when we finished because I wasn’t as clean as I hoped.
The singer asked us to play in B. That was my first time capoing into B and it seemed awkward at first but after a few practices, it felt fine.
My "resting banjo face” returned. When I first started to learn, I would subconsciously twist my face into all kinds of contortions when I focused on hitting that next string. That has gone away as I have gotten better but It came right back in front of the crowd. I had to remind myself to smile and enjoy the moment. I think repetition and stage time is the only cure.
I appreciate the advice I received. We all had a good time and our already planning our next gig.
Congratulations. Sounds like it was a huge success as a learning experience, as well as the performance.
Your big "take away" says it all:
[quote] Practicing for the gig taught me a lot about backup. If anything, that was the best thing that I took away. Kept it simple but that was enough for the first time out. If you have been playing for a while and focusing on lead breaks, playing backup with others is an awesome next step. Many believe that learning backup first is the quickest entry into bluegrass and Scruggs and now I tend to agree. [/quote]
Like many other beginners, I, too, concentrated on the tunes at the neglect of back-up -- big mistake.
Performing with a group, back up is what you'll do most. Clean, tasteful, and complimentary back up is probably more difficult than learning tunes, at least, it was for me.
I still say Earl Scruggs was the master at it, so listening to his back up is probably the best reference, by far, especially his "up the neck" back up. His book covers a lot of it too, but learning it cold isn't enough--best to hear how and when he uses specific licks, vamps, and what not. Best way to get familiarity with the neck, too, and a lot of his back up licks can be incorporated into lead breaks--great for improvising.
You "broke the seal" and got the first one under your belt successfully. It can only get better from here. Way to go, and good luck from here on.
Edited by - Banjosephus on 07/22/2019 22:15:54
Congratulations, you inspire this closet picker to try and get out there. Keep picking.
Congrats on your first gig i have a lotta gigs under my belt and still get a little nervous and feel like my mistakes stand out but really the crowd doesnt notice if you blow on thru it keep picken it gets easier with experience and put the thumb to it ??
Always remember ......The audience don't have a re-wind button.
Kind regards and well done.
smart idea making a video.
Glad to hear it went well. I'm also glad to hear I'm not the only one to make weird faces when he plays.
Really great observations and insight by both VJ and Joe on backup and performing with a group!!! Spot on!!
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