I’ve always been more a doubter than a believer. My inclination has always been to say no more often than yes. This applies to everything from concerts and gigs to parties and dates.
Which explains a lot about my social life.
When you want/need things to be perfect all the time, it’s hard to risk looking like a fool. But the unfortunate truth is, taking risks is the only way to grow. The trick is figuring out ways to take calculated risks.
So, when my friend Meagan asked me if I would play with her band, my first instinct was to say no. After all, how many times had I been asked “hey, can you play the Devil Went Down to Georgia/Lion King/the Titanic theme/Let It Go?” or any other popular tune and not been able to?
But after taking some fiddle lessons and going to folk music camp, I felt a little more courageous about trying it out. After all, I’d been to a few open jams and fallen on my face a few times and gotten back up, not too badly scratched up and feeling a little more confident.
Here are a few things that made the risk feel worth taking for me, though, wherein the benefits would outweigh the costs.
Play with people that will empathize with you
Meagan is a classical trained singer, so she understood my fears about getting up in front of a strangers (both in the band and in the audience) and playing music that is not in my comfort zone. At the first rehearsal, she told the guys, “hey, remember me, two years ago? All freaked out about singing with you guys? Well, that’s Tricia, now.”
And then someone cracked open a beer and handed it to me, with a pat on the back.
Listen to the band
There’s jamming and then there’s JAMMING.
Being able to sit in on a band and play along with them really effectively takes experience and skill. You might not be able to do that right off the bat so ask for a set list and a playlist. If you can’t have access to stuff to do homework ahead of time, ask them to teach you the tunes in rehearsal.
Don’t worry, they’ll be cool about it.
Find out what kind of venue you’ll be playing
Since it’s unlikely your first gig playing in a band will be with the Rolling Stones or Lady Gaga, you probably won’t have to worry about being overexposed. But it does help to start small. My first gig was here, followed by a lovely burger and drinks.
Relax and have fun
Remember that this is an experiment and an opportunity to grow in skill and artistry. Trust your bandmates and your own vast skills as a musician to carry you through. I bet you’ll surprise yourself with how much music there is living inside of you, waiting to get out.
Which brings me to my next point…
Value your own skills
Once I got comfortable playing with the band, I realized there were things that I could do that added value to the sound of the group. Whether it was a particularly classical sound/flashy lick/layer of counter melody, I became aware of things that I take for granted that I can do. And their appreciation made me appreciate myself more, seeing myself in a different light.
Which is important when you’re trying to find new ways to be creative.
I’m still a total novice and there’s tons more for me to learn. But the first step is often the hardest to take, and that part is done.
Are you a classical musician who’d like to play in a band? Do you play in one already? Do you want to join or start one?