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Notes from the Field

Most Fun Moments

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I have performed for audiences, more than a few times, and of all my musical experiences, performance is the least fun. The least. I know it’s me. I know I have a less than a good attitude about it. If performing were mandatory, I would have abandoned music altogether.

It’s the other fun that I go after. Like:

The moment I find a great tune, long abandoned in a dusty old tune book. In playing it I hear something that has not been heard on the planet in many decades or more. I am there at the moment of resurrection, (small r, please), the moment this configuration of notes is reanimated and proceeds to work its magic on the brains of mankind.

The moment at a jam with new people that I exceed their negative expectations. Folks often seem to expect the worst from someone new. Is it my perception that this is more true with mandolin players? “Can he play that thing? Is he going to chop over my solo? Is he going to be an egotistical hot dog attempting to show us the right way? Is he going to bluegrass all over this Irish session? Is he going to throw a petulant frenzy if we play faster than he can?” Maybe I need therapy?

The moment someone picks up a tune I have brought to a jam, and evidences the same enthusiasm I have for it. Someone “gets it”. Over the top when everyone gets it.

When I put my hand on a bowlback, and realize how many centuries of hands have picked up similarly shaped instruments, and what an ancient and grand tradition I am part of. Just seeing my hands on it gives me a thrill. (Like when I picked up my father’s fly rod for the first time.) And its over the top that I can actually play something on it.

In an open jam, when I start a tune that so perfectly captures the energy of the prior tune that everyone jumps on my suggested next tune with undiminished enthusiasm, as if it was their idea, or we all were part of a mass consciousness, the energy building and carrying the whole jam to new heights.

When I am in the zone, and seemingly can do no wrong. It does not happen often, but when it does there is no better place to be. The tune just pours out of me like cold water from a tap. It is especially fun when others notice. (By others I mean other jammers, musicians who know what is happening, as opposed to a general audience member who likely couldn’t tell me what instrument I am playing.)

When an exercise or practiced riff suddenly becomes easy, and suddenly requires less mental energy to get right, so I can passively enjoy my playing of it.

The moment, in a bluegrass jam, where I take a break that, though very simple, is powerful, and I do it well, and the beauty of what I have done seems to effect everyone’s playing.


Very often I play a tune that I have found or piece I have learned, and find I can play it very pleasingly, and make it sound very enjoyable, and I am motivated to share my playing of it. I find myself wanting to show the tune off. Then I check myself. That might mean performing.

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Comments

  1. roysboy's Avatar
    Lots of players do not enjoy "performing"...no you don't need therapy. Many have chosen music as a profession ....and that necessitates live performance to pay bills and raise a family . My suggestion to you would be to try Performing for the audience' enjoyment . That is ... Play music THEY will enjoy and respond to positively . The reward you will take from THAT kind of performance will show you that your love and capabilities musically is ultimately a gift and is meant to be shared . Playing only for ourselves is just musical masturbation . If we are giving our gift to others it inspires , gives us confidence , adds incredible meaning and purpose to our lives. But only if we have the listener's enjoyment in mind .
  2. JeffD's Avatar
    Or play what the listener would like if the listener had a clue.