Get Out And Play Part 5

Photo by Oscar Jordan

It’s Not The Arrow It’s The Indian

Don’t get caught up in the snooty psychological dementia that says your guitar can only be played through a certain type of amp. It’s bullshit. When you get up onstage and plug into an unknown amp, you have to make it work. This is part of the challenge. It’s a test. The test is, “Can you sound like you no matter what?” Your home rig and your stage rig will never sound the same anyway so just get over it. Plug in, quickly trouble shoot to dial in what you need to hear, then play. People who bring their full rigs to blues jams are a pain in the ass. It’s just a jam. It’s not an audition for Guns n’ Roses. There’s a reason they call it “Sitting in.” You’re sitting in with somebody else’s rig! High maintenance people who bring all their gear to blues jams clutter up the stage and rarely sound better than the gear that’s already included in the backline. Being a good musician is about being able to communicate. Sure, you might have to turn a few knobs or attack your guitar differently than you normally would, but that’s the cool thing about playing in the trenches. It’s a new experience. It forces you to reveal your soul without a crutch. Everyone else is playing under the same battlefield conditions, why are you so special? Tone is in the hands and Jeff Beck will sound like Jeff Beck no matter what crappy amp he plugs into. Plug in, have fun and make it work. You’re playing a few songs in a crappy little club. It’s not that big of a deal.

Everybody’s Everything

These are just the basics. I recommend you attending your first blues jam without your guitar just to get the lay of the land. Just hang out, have a drink and get a sense of the vibe and level of musicianship. Keep in mind that becoming a better musician is a process. Know that putting yourself in this uncomfortable situation is a positive thing. You’ll only get better playing with better people. Over time you will get comfortable, learn to relax, and have fun on stage. The idea is that you’re improving your musicianship. You’re making living and breathing music in real time with high functioning life forms. You might wind up on stage with musicians with a lot less experience than you, but you still have to make it work. Being on stage is about working with people and finding a unifying sound and groove. You’ll find that it’s not about sweep picked arpeggios and fast scalar sequences with a metronome. Finding tasteful and simple ideas to play in a slow blues guitar solo will have more importance than knowing “The Attitude Song” note for note. It’s about thinking on your feet, giving over to the moment and being an ensemble player. Maybe you don’t want to be the next B.B. King. That’s all fine and dandy, but being able to play well with other people is the whole point of being a good musician.

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