The Real World Difference

Musicians spend a lot of time with themselves, communing with their own thoughts and creating on a personal level. They develop their own little world which incubates and nurtures their creativity. Whether it is songwriting, performing, composing, or practicing techniques, they are constantly reshaping their talents, goals and careers from within. Naturally, in order for musicians to gain any credit, reward, or recognition for their efforts they must eventually display their artistry in the real world.

Leaving the warm comfort zone they had assembled for their creativity can often be the source of tremendous anxiety and culture shock to any musician. Here are some common circumstances of which you should be aware. Knowing that many others have experienced these same situations may help you to overcome some of the stress that stepping out from that personal creative world can evoke.

Five things that are different in the real world

Those 5,000 facebook friends mean nothing. You have 5,000 Facebook friends and over 48,000 views of your Youtube video (a cover of the solo in "Master Of Puppets"). They all commented - great solo, you're a phenomenal guitarist, when are you playing live? etc. You set up a live gig and send invites to all those people - they are your hardcore fans.

The night of the gig comes and you have six people in the audience (and one of them is your mom). Welcome to the real world.

Your great guitar sound actually sucks! You've molded that phenomenal sound that makes your guitar cry like a soaring eagle, a bird-like scream that echoes in the valley and rides upon the wind. It is perfect for your Youtube videos, it amazes your friends, and combines great with the electronic drum programs you have. You decide to form a band to play some live shows. When you add live bass, drums, and singing, that great sound you thought you had actually sucks! You will spend the first ten rehearsals blaming everyone else in the band, the bass player is too loud, The PA monitors are facing the wrong direction, the drum fill is overpowering the guitar solo. It's not them, it's you. The sound you get through all those effects units becomes thin and shrill, unclear and undefined. It has no gusto and is washed away no matter how loud it is in the live mix. Welcome to the real world.

You can't do what you did on your recording. Playing live? You can't do that great ending run to a solo of yours and start the re-intro rhythm of the song at the same time. One or both are going to suffer. Unless you get another guitarist, those twin guitar harmonies are going to suffer, too. If you previously recorded a song that started out with a lead guitar and rhythm at the same time (ex. Scorpions - "No One like You"), and you don't have a rhythm guitarist, you may have to rework the song for a live setting. It is important to establish the rhythm before breaking into solos, melodies and themes. Some recorded songs are just not going to work at all, in a live situation. Welcome to the real world.

You never thought to practice and play guitar standing up. Unless you are playing classical guitar arrangements, you better ditch the stool. Also, we are into rock music, which is just as much about attitude as it is music. If you're wearing your guitar so high that it doesn't even cover your belly-button, then you are going to look like a dork. I know your music teacher told you wearing a guitar that high would give you greater movement and flexibility for your fingers, but you have to look cool on stage, too! Wearing a guitar slung low never hindered Jimi Hendrix! Or Jimmy Page! If it were all about musical ability, we would all be listening to classical music all the time. Rock on! Welcome to the real world.

Drunk people don't hear intricate details. People that have been drinking don't hear a difference between the Harmonic Minor scale or the Natural minor scale. To them, very fast solos only sound like mindless noodling, no matter how much thought you put into it. They barely register a half-step chord change. They don't notice any complex chord voicings, to them, an 'E' chord still sounds like an 'E' chord no matter how it's played or what notes you've added. If you are playing in front of new audiences in bars and trying to win new fans, most of the musically in-depth, intricacies and complexities you've developed will be overlooked. You know what music most people in bars and clubs understand best? AC/DC !!! The can catch the rhythm of a simple drum beat. The chords chosen for the songs have a distinct distance from each other and they are clearly different chords. E to A to D can be understood from somebody that is quite intoxicated. These types of chord progressions are quite familiar to the non-musician. So, if you are going to be spending a lot of time gigging in clubs and bars to build your fanbase, you might want to start writing songs for the bar mentality - songs that beer drinkers can appreciate the first time they hear them. Welcome to the real world.

Just some thoughts to think about...

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Michael Knight is a composer and guitar player from Floral Park, NY, who has released several independent CDs on his own label, Knight Music Productions.

His latest CD is entitled "Electric Horrorland", another musical descent into the darkest depths of the abyss.

Michael Knight