How many guitar players does it take to change a light bulb?
Four. One to change the bulb and three to say, “I could do that!”
A student of mine was describing a performance at a local watering he witnessed recently. A guy was playing some music – loudly… way too loudly. The bar owner (not someone to be trifled with by the way – a former pro hockey “enforcer”) asked the guy to turn down, not once but a few times. Finally he did, but then sarcastically asked the audience, “So, can you hear me now?”
My guess is it was that guy’s first and last performance at that place. My student then went on to describe another guitarist who plays there, a very well respected and talented guy who sometimes cannot be heard due to the crowd noise. This can certainly be frustrating if you want to hear a performance but it bears mentioning that a person playing in a bar is NOT doing a concert. His function is at least partially to fill in the gaps in conversation. Sorry to sound so cynical but that is a fact.
This all gets to another question. How do you react to a performer, not someone famous but a local musician? I think we guitarists all suffer from an almost immediate reaction of comparing our own musical abilities to those of the person performing. I used to be horrible about this, truth be known! To the point that my wife just about refused to go out with me to places with entertainment knowing that at some point I was likely to make some snide remark about the performer. That was just dumb of me and I sincerely hope I’ve matured enough to put that useless attitude aside.
But in just about anything in this life – our jobs, hitting a baseball, doing something creative in the arts – we can’t help being at least a little judgmental about someone doing something we too can do. The trick I think is to consider the circumstances and for lack of better description, the honesty of what that person is doing. Do you sense that they are playing to best of their abilities and that they are enjoying what they’re doing? If so, it doesn’t matter that you know the player should be playing an Em7b5 when he’s just playing a straight Em.
I’m not saying you have to enjoy a performance every time. But at the very least you should be able to take away something that will help with your own performances. If someone is playing way too loudly, or just doesn’t care that his guitar is painfully out of tune, time to go. However, if a performer is up there giving his or her best, cut them some slack, maybe a lot of it. We should always remember that playing in front of any kind of audience is a very “naked” thing. Supporting and encouraging live music is the bottom line.
Peace & good music,