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So You Wanna Be A Rock Star?  Part - 2 Getting An Act

3rd May 2003

If you want to make a career in music, it helps if you're good. To become proficient at the particular skills required to play or sing, you need to do two things - learn, and practice.

Most of us start to learn by listening to our favourite artists and learning their songs after picking up the basic playing skills from a friend, a book/CD/tape, or a teacher.  These basic skills are normally simple chords and scales, combined with basic rhythmic concepts. 

At this point, it may be very handy to develop some good habits regarding technique and practice. Today, the advent of the tutorial DVD and video has made it easier to develop good technique, because you can actually see and copy the examples shown. Good technique will not only help your playing/singing to improve, but it will give your career longevity, by reducing the wear and tear you put on your body through constant use.  RSI and associated disorders are commonplace among musicians who play constantly, and vocalists are not immune.  Vocal nodes (lumps that grow on the vocal cords) are a serious concern (Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull is a prime example – Ed), and general health contributes to vocal health.  There are many good websites dedicated to vocal health, as well as player health.  The search phrases 'vocal health' and 'musicians and RSI' will yield good results.

Practice makes perfect - or rather, perfect practice makes perfect.  If you learn the right things to practice and practice them properly, you will improve.  The rate of improvement will vary between individuals, but it will occur.  Some people seem gifted, and achieve great things in a short space of time.  For the rest of us, the fruits of our labours appear at slightly less rapid rate, but the feeling of mastering a new piece or technique is still a big buzz, and a great sense of achievement.  It is that feeling that keeps us going, as we realize that as our musical abilities grow, so too does our range of expression... and this, my friends, is a truly wonderful thing.

Unless you dream of being a solo performer, the next step usually involves finding people of a like mind and similar level to play with.  Jamming with friends is a great way to get the feel of ensemble playing, as most popular music today is performed by a group of one description or another.  For example, a violinist may seek out a quartet or orchestra, while a guitarist might join a rock band or perhaps they might join forces and form a prog band!

While jamming and rehearsing is fun, the urge to perform onstage in front of an audience is at once attractive and repelling.  Most musicians find getting up on stage a thrill, but when faced for the first time, it is a thrill tinged with fear - the dreaded stage fright.  Your first onstage experience may have been at school, or perhaps being made to get up in front of the family to sing or play. Whether or not these were pleasurable memories, the first public performance with your first band (to get that far) is usually one not soon forgotten.  Again, persistence is the key. The more you do it, the better you get.  You will soon find that there is more to being a good performer than just being a good player.  There are a few other things that will stand you in good stead when it comes to 'getting the gig'.

When you are playing in a band - any band - you are working with other individuals who have opinions, dreams and goals, just like you.  There is a balance that must be achieved so that everybody involved feels comfortable with their role and position within the structure of things.  The best possible thing you can be, to fit in to an ensemble situation, is a nice person to work with.  There are a lot of brilliant players out there who will never find a long-term gig because they just aren't easy to get along with.  This also applies in recording sessions, when time is money, and a session musician who can put personal ego aside and focus on the project at hand will always get the call over a prima donna.

- In a nutshell, unless you are that mind-numbingly brilliant that people are willing to put up with your shit, learn some manners and consideration or your road to fame may be a lonely dead-end.

Next time, I will go through what it takes to get a band off the ground and on to a stage, with a few pointers on developing 'the right stuff'.  Remember, you can email me with any questions you may have, and I will answer them right here in Behind The Scenes.

Graham Greene


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