A while ago, I posted some thoughts here about performing (as opposed to playing), and it generated lots of interesting comments and suggestions. I can now recommend another fine book about performing -- MUSIC PERFORMANCE, by David Dumais. It's available from Amazon as an e-book ($3) or a paperback ($7). It's also "free" if you subscribe to Amazon's Kindle Unlimited plan ($10/month).
There's lots of good commonsense information here, and although it's directed primarily to classical musicians, it's applicable to anyone who plays any kind of music. I especially enjoyed and appreciated his recommendation to smile while you're playing. That way, the audience can see you're enjoying yourself, and so they will also relax and enjoy the show as well.
This sounds simple, but it's actually difficult to do unless you make a conscious effort to do it and can also turn it into a habit. I know and see plenty of musicians who are so intent on playing that they look like they're in the middle of taking an SAT test or are simply expressionless. While their music may be great, the image is not appealing! As Mr. Dumais explains, when you're playing music, you're not just a musician, you're an actor, too. If you watch the bandleader of the Nighthawks, Vince Giordano, on YouTube, when he plays he's constantly smiling and looks like he's having the time of his life up there (and he probably is!) --- what a great example to follow.
Mr. Dumais also has some very wise words about musicians and perfectionism, why it's an impossible and harmful goal, and what to do about it. His booklet is a worthwhile read! SETH
Edited by - sethb on 06/16/2022 12:59:01
Seth...I find this topic of interest...but I approach it from a seemingly opposite side. My wife has dementia and lives in an assisted living place...she is a fiddler and she and I have played tunes together for decades...I am able to keep our connection alive...at least somewhat... by going and playing tunes with her...5-6 days a week...when I go there to do that my primary purpose is to nurture that connection...I am not interested in it being a performance for other residents to hear...it is a session, not a performance...but we typically play in the common areas...as you might surmise, some of the other residents sit and listen to us...it has evolved...for me...into something akin to family members sitting in the living room...or on the porch...playing tunes every day...and other family members listen if they wish to do so...even if we tend to play the same tunes every day...we play from her tune list...some variation from day to day...but pretty much the same thing...nevertheless the same group of folks come listen most every day...I have long since gotten past any aversion to going to a "nursing home"...for me it is going to someone's home...to my wife's home...to the home of 40-50 folks...and I almost never look at the listeners whilst I am playing...mostly because I am playing a flush fret fretless 5 string that provides visual cues for where to put my fingers...and if I look away from the fingerboard the notes quickly tend to get sour...to most folks this would be called a performance...we even get applause sometimes...I like that...but I have long since gotten past any need to please others with my tunage...if I do so...great...if I don't...so be it...I do not like phony smiles...and tho some of the smilage u encourage is probably NOT phony...I suspect that a lot of it is...u don't have to smile when u r having fun playing tunes...nothing wrong if u do so...as long as it is genuine
Joe --- Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions! Our band has played a number of nursing homes, and we're very used to the situation there. We find that although most residents show little or no reaction to the music while we're playing, many of them will come up to the bandstand after the show and tell us how much they enjoyed the music. I've also learned to watch people's feet in nursing home shows --- if their feet are tapping, then they get it!
I do the patter intros for the tunes, and at those times I do try to make as much eye contact with all parts of the audience as I can. But when I'm playing, I'm primarily looking at the music or looking at the fretboard once in a while. On the rare occasions that I've tried to look at the audience too, I've invariably gone off the rails, either by losing my place in the music, by or ending up in the wrong place on the fretboard! So I agree that looking at the audience while you're playing is not necessarily required, and can create more problems than it solves. If someone has the music, lyrics and the fretboard memorized, then have at it, but that's still above my pay grade at this point.
I guess we'll just have to "agree to disagree" about smiling. We videotaped the band on a few occasions, and until we dealt with the smile issue, we looked like we weren't having a good time -- tightly closed mouths, no expression, etc. Of course, we were concentrating on playing the music, but the audience doesn't know that! So I told everyone to please make a habit of smiling --- it doesn't have to be a big silly grin, but at the very least, have a small pleasant smile.
I don't consider that to be phony because we generally do have a good time on gigs, and making music together is usually very enjoyable. All the smile does is telegraph that info to the audience. When we play, we are putting on a show, and it's just part of the show. Besides, if the band doesn't look like it's enjoying the music, why should the audience enjoy it? SETH
Edited by - sethb on 06/29/2022 16:39:14
jojo25 I like your attitude very much. " I ain't dyin', I'm gettin' ready to fly." A quote from another traveler.
Once upon a time, there was a 94 year old man in a nursing home who hadn't spoken for ten years. One day a student with a little boom box came in and plays some Count Basie for this guy. The man stood up and said," Now this is what I mean, music is good for you."
They found a way to "call" this person in from the "pasture" by using the music of the time when the person was young and vital.
This has now worked for several people, and is working its way up into the logistics of Geriatric Medicine.
So that's why I like what you are doing, it isn't "now Everybody", it's the real deal.
sethb I volunteer at a non-profit music venue where we book locals, regionals, nationals and internationals to stop by and play acoustically without a PA. Our local Thursday night open stage has been on Zoom for like 113 weeks while our venue is closed. due to Covid. We have a small 49 seat room, so we've had to go back and filterize.
My point is we get to see so many different ways to perform in front of people. I agree it is VERY helpful to look up and away from the instrument, look at each other and grin a little. Take a look at last year's Bluegrass awards on Zoom. These people are the best bluegrass performers in the country. Yet they don't look like they are joyful and resident in the moment. They look bored.
I've been playing at sunrise down at the New River bench on the bike path. I can play as loud as I want to. I've met a lot of new people lately without all the trappings of a pro performance. Here's a rare photo of who else is down at the river.
Edited by - Helix on 06/30/2022 03:56:26
I totally get this. I'm a solo performer, playing the blues on my Irish tenor banjo. Before I perform a new song, I always try it on my girlfriend first.
She'll often give advice like "Get a bit more gravel in your voice", "Sing it like you mean it", or (relevant to this conversation) "Try smiling while you sing that one". Some of these pieces of advice are at least as valuable as the musical advice I've received from others.
The first time she told me to smile, I thought that was a ridiculous thing to say, until I tried it. Suddenly there was warmth and more feeling in my vocals. That's some good advice, y'all!
Larry...love the pic of the heron...I have been seeing a LOT of sandhill cranes on the north side of Madison, Wi...where my wife lives...a couple of weeks ago...as Jill and I were playing tunes outdoors in front of her assisted living place...a crane stolled by going south...only about 15 yards away...and just after we finished the crane walked by again...going north...and cardinals often sing along to our tunes when we are outside...it does a soul good I tell you
Smiles come easily if the music and audience are both friendly. However, I've encountered audiences that began unfriendly, and smiling at those people just looks insincere. Once in a while, I have felt that if I played too much, I'd have my banjo smashed or that I'd smash it myself. With some, there isn't a smile ion the world that will help a performance and the player just has to put uip with it and not bust someone's inconsiderate head.
'Big sister is watching' 3 hrs
'This is concerning' 6 hrs