What would your ideal music life look like?

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What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by Chris C » November 6th, 2011, 2:54 pm

Hi all,

Do you have a clear idea of where you would like to go with your music, or is it still reasonably vague? Maybe you're even there already?


Whilst we might all indulge in the occasional fantasy of playing to a cheering stadium I suspect that a fair percentage of people who take up guitar probably aren't committed to the full rock star dream. But if you do have a goal in mind what is it? A professional playing career? Teaching? Playing in a ‘just for fun' band?

Perhaps it's just to enjoy yourself at your own pace without any particular performance aims. When I began I didn't really have any goal in mind other than to simply enjoy the whole business of exploring music. That's still my main aim, and it has the massive advantage that you can succeed from the very first day, and keep winning all the way through!

If you have thought your own goals through already, what do you think it will take to get there, and what might still be missing? Gear, skills, opportunities, or what?

It would be interesting to hear where you're headed and how far down the track you think you are.

Cheers, Chris

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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by NoteBoat » November 6th, 2011, 3:20 pm

I started out just wanting to have fun. But it pretty quickly became a way to make a living - in the good old days of the mid 70s, every bar had live music, and many had music five or more nights a week; there weren't enough decent musicians to go around. It wasn't very hard to make $300 a week playing then (and bear in mind, minimum wage was something like $1.60 an hour - so that's the equivalent of about $1500 a week today)

I had aspirations of being a rock star. Even got some work supporting an artist on a national tour, and played to 10,000+ folks. That was a lot of fun... but the reality of living out of a suitcase (and not being the actual star) isn't quite as sexy as it sounds. But I guess the grass is always greener... the actual star probably envied us sidemen, because we weren't hounded by fans everywhere we went. We just made the music.

When venues started dropping music, I considered my options. I wasn't quite as good as some of the folks I played with, some of whom went off to work with Doc Severinsen, Eddie Money, Dr. John, and Cher. I was pretty good for my local market, but placed I'd visited like LA and Nashville seemed to be teeming with people better than me. So I started teaching. That was in 1978, and I'm still doing it. Along the journey I got some academic credentials to go with my performing experience, and even taught high school music for a year.

Right now my ideal music life is a mix of playing, teaching, composing, and learning more about music. Pretty much what I do every day. While I've never been on the cover of Rolling Stone, I've had a great ride so far - and I hope it lasts another 30 or 40 years.
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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by s1120 » November 6th, 2011, 3:37 pm

Wow!!! That's a tough one!!!! Well I'm a late starter, so dreams of superstardom are not REALY going to happan. A short term goal is to get my skills up enough to maybe do a few openmics or a coffee house type gig. Or in a band doing festavels of something. At this stage of age (46) and skills. ( just starting to get some songs down, and getting my fingers to work. As far as making a living? Well I LOVE working on them!!!! I would love to be able to make a living building, or repairing guitars. Not Likely but we are talking dreams here
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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by Chris C » November 6th, 2011, 4:41 pm

NoteBoat wrote: Right now my ideal music life is a mix of playing, teaching, composing, and learning more about music. Pretty much what I do every day. While I've never been on the cover of Rolling Stone, I've had a great ride so far - and I hope it lasts another 30 or 40 years.
Thanks for a great reply Tom. :D

It's always a pleasure to hear about your musical life and to try and get some more insights into why you've done so well. I'm sure that there's a strong clue in your very obvious love of the whole subject, as shown by your willingness to keep on sharing so much of your great theoretical and practical knowledge here.

I particularly liked the last paragraph. Despite the fact that we are polar opposites in skills - you a very experienced performer and teacher, and me a fumbling amateur - we both have the idea that our ideal musical life is pretty close to what have right now. That's intriguing.


One reason for asking this question of everybody is that I hear of so many people dropping out of the playing side of music, and I wonder why. Do they perhaps set unrealistic goals and then find the pressure of trying to meet them too quickly make them feel like they were failing? Or is it something else? What is the important difference between their pulling out and NoteBoat's ability to initially stay on track long enough to get some skills, and then being flexible enough to adapt to conditions/opportunities as he went along?


I was one of the many thousands who were put off playing at school by some truly nasty piano lessons. When I finally decided to try again (many decades later) I was determined not to fall into the trap of stopping again. Part of the reason that it has worked so well for me seems to be that I have no goal other to enjoy the whole experience, and also that I can tell the differences between my dreams and my goals. So I can indulge all sorts of fantasies along the way without having the pressure of trying to make them happen in any given time span, if ever. That might apply to anything from playing a clean run of bar chords through to prancing round a stage like a rock star. I don't feel like I'm failing if it doesn't happen today, because there's always so much to enjoy about the sheer doing.

I don't recall thinking that I'd give up trying to learn to walk or talk because it was so hard as a baby, yet I was persuaded that I should give up on music. How stupid was I? Now I can't even write a post this long without drumming on on the desk or picking up the guitar next to me and noodling for a while between the words. It's just become a part of what I do and what I am. I can't describe how deeply satisfying and rewarding that is, and what a wonderful gift it feels like. Yet I'm not that good, I'm still a beginner. But I just seem to have stumbled on the only thing that really matters, which - for me anyway - was to discover the pleasure of learning and not to focus on some fixed end goal where it would all “pay off”.

But others may see it completely differently. So whether it's your first year playing, or your fiftieth, it would be good to hear how you all see it.

Thanks,

Chris

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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by Chris C » November 6th, 2011, 4:53 pm

s1120 wrote: Well I'm a late starter, so dreams of superstardom are not REALY going to happen.
:) Yes, I waited until I was nearly 60, so I've put superstardom on the back burner too. Maybe we could settled for regular stardom... for now anyway.... Surprisingly, I still don't rule out the possibility of some sort of success (maybe one day composing a popular song for instance) but I just don't hang anything on it.
A short term goal is to get my skills up enough to maybe do a few openmics or a coffee house type gig. Or in a band doing festavels of something. At this stage of age (46) and skills. ( just starting to get some songs down, and getting my fingers to work. As far as making a living? Well I LOVE working on them!!!! I would love to be able to make a living building, or repairing guitars. Not Likely but we are talking dreams here
Sounds like a good balance between achievable goals and pleasant dreams. The key seems to be "Well I LOVE working on them!!!!" . To my way of thinking, you already have one of the most important elements of an ideal musical life. :)

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by TRGuitar » November 6th, 2011, 6:33 pm

I'm very close and the ball is in my court. I want to have toys, and I do. I want to play alot, and I do. I want to be able to play anything my heart desires and within reason, I can if I try. I do wish to share this with people though. A local bar is plenty good enough venue. A party, get together, whatever. Now that the renovations are done to The Man Cave, time to get to work I suppose.

Do I wish I had chosen music as a profession? I don't think so. My knee jerk response would be to say I'm not that good but I play, I don't work at it so if I were to get serious I think I do have the potential, although I too am now old. I make good money caring for people and saving lives as a critical care nurse and that is fine by me. Music and guitar is a special world I share with my son and do wish to share it with others. (Or should I say subject them to it) Time to get to work I suppose.
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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by bkangel » November 7th, 2011, 12:37 am

This is a very good post! And maybe a difficult one, too...

I am a late starter, but even as a late starter, I'm in the slow class. I struggle to keep focus and I struggle to practice, but I don't seem able to give up on the guitars, either. I'm just whittling away, hoping that this year I might be a fraction better on some level than I was the previous.

In an ideal world, I would play well enough that I could stand my own with musicians of any level and contribute to the making of music, not just the repeating of existing songs, but creating something new and exciting to me and the other players.

I think of music as a language, and I'm struggling with the a's, b's and c's, but I long to think that one day I will be fluent enough to have that conversation.

I'm not a sociable person. I enjoy my own company and find it rare to meet people that spark my interest/connection beyond an acquaintance, but I really love the feeling of working with others to each do our bit that combines to create music... everything else stops for those moments and it's just the rythm and the music.

So, I don't know that I'd want to be a superstar or anything like that. It would go totally against my nature. But I'd love to create and share music with people on a level that would keep my inspired. Regular gigs, not too far from home, with people that "get" where I come from.

hehehe. You did say "ideal", not "realistic".
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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by cnev » November 7th, 2011, 7:47 am

I would like to be able to play anything at any time, that's my ideal. Will it happen probably not though.

I do enjoy playing but I am also of the mind set that if it's just by myself it loses much of the appeal. I'm not a singer/songwriter so the sitting around playing by myself only goes so far.

I'm somewhat happy that I got as far as I got with this and never had any aspirations of rock star but I am also disappointed of where I am at.

Sure I can play alot of covers but I've learned that even knowing that there is not a big avenue to play them unless you have people that know the songs too. At the open mic unless it's a standard and even then it's not a guarantee there isn't to many people that you can play with, so unless I am in a band the chance of me playing much is slim. being totally fluent with the guitar would allow me to jump in at open mic's for a lot more music.

In all my time at the open mic though there is only one person that I know of who is capable of doing that none of the other guitar players that I have seen can do it. They are like me they know what they know and that's it and most of those guys play songs "close" to the original at best and it's difficult playing with someone who puts there own spin on a song that you aren't aware of.
Last edited by cnev on November 7th, 2011, 8:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by notes_norton » November 7th, 2011, 8:04 am

For as long as I can remember, my favorite toys were ones that made music.

I joined the Junior High School band in the 7th grade playing drums. When the tenor sax player moved, the band director chose me to 'inherit' her rented instrument. In high school, I was the first sax in the all-state band each and every year. This usually goes to an alto player by default, so getting this honor on tenor 3 years in a row was something I'm still proud of.

Soon after learning to get around on the sax I joined a little rock band. We were terrible, but so was everybody else back then. We were playing a junior high school dance, I was having a great time playing rock 'n' roll with my buddies, and that cute girl who didn't know I existed in English class was suddenly making eyes at me! And at the end of the night they paid me money!!!!! I was hooked.

I've been a professional musician for most of my life with the exception of just a couple of day-gigs I took while exploring what the rest of the world does for a living. During these day-gigs I still played music on the weekends, and when the two jobs conflicted, music won.

In my life I've played for just about any venue a musician can play, from bars where they passed the hat, to star-studded stages, to cruise ships, to 5 star hotels, to show clubs, to yacht/country clubs, to retirement communities, to neighborhood hang-outs, to singles bars, and so on from almost every US state to the People's Republic of China.

I've been almost famous and played to what where the huge venues of the mid 60s warming up for headliners of the day, backing up a few, and almost landing a contract with Motown. Our manager/lawyers wanted money, Motown didn't want to pay, eventually the talks broke down, and Motown's second choice, The Sunliners eventually became Rare Earth instead of us. The band broke up over that and that was when I tried my first day-gig (it didn't last that long).

I'm of retirement age now, but I have no plans to retire. The thrill ain't gone yet. As long as I can 'fog a mirror' I intend to play saxophone, guitar, flute, wind synth, bass, percussion, voice and anything else I may learn to an audience. It's my second favorite thing to do (can't say what's first on a family forum).

I would have made more money if I had stayed in the electronics field, but I wouldn't have had as happy of a life as I have had so far.

The two short day-gigs and my training in the electronics field helped me when computers first came out - unlike most people back then, I wasn't afraid to play with them. Since then I created a mail-order and now internet-order business creating and selling musical aftermarket products for both Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith. I run the business, create the products, create and maintain the website - http://ww.nortonmusic.com -- make executive decisions, sweep the floor and take out the trash. It's not making me rich, I don't charge much for the products as I know most musicians are strapped for cash, but it brings in supplemental income to take me through the slow season here in Florida so I don't have to go 'up north' to get steady work in the summer.

I'm in a duo with my wife http://wwws-cats.com -- we met 33 years ago when we were playing in different bands. After my first marriage ended in divorce, I decided I needed to meet somebody in the biz. It has worked out better than my expectations. Leilani is my wife, lover, best friend, band-mate, and partner in every way. We have so much joy together it seems we should feel guilty about it (but we don't).

So am I living my dream? Almost. I did want to become famous when I was young, and got a touch of it playing with the likes of Eric Burdon, Smokey Robinson, The Four Seasons, The Association, Marvin Gaye, The Kingsmen, Rick Derringer, The Supremes, The Shirelles, Little Anthony and so many others. But who knows what would have happened if I did make it. I'm having a delightfully happy life right now, so would that road have been happier? It is likely, but there is no guarantee.

Drop out of music? Not as long as I can play. I love playing with my buddy, I love playing to an appreciative audience, I love hearing the music as I'm making it, I love feeling the wood or brass vibrate against my hands and body, I love the mind space I get in when I'm playing music where neither time nor place has any relevance, I love hearing the applause and seeing the smiles on the people and feeling the bond of affection they feel for me and I feel for them. It's bliss. If I won the state lottery or if an unknown rich relative left me more money than I could ever spend in my lifetime, I'd still play music in public.

Anyway, I'm a lifer musician, and I have absolutely no regrets.

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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by Chris C » November 7th, 2011, 4:58 pm

Thanks to everybody for some great replies! :D
cnev wrote:being totally fluent with the guitar would allow me to jump in at open mic's for a lot more music.
Chris, I'd kill for that skill too.

I had a wonderful demonstration last week of exactly what you're talking about. A friend of mine who has been a pro for 40 years was playing at the local pub. All classic rock covers. He often plays solo but also has a band, which tends to consist of whoever he gets at the time. The drummer was unavailable that day so he only had a bass player left. But he'd seen a sax player who impressed him playing jazz at another pub, so he asked him to join for the night.

The sax player was excellent. He had the ability to either not play, play softly in the background, or punch it out full throttle when appropriate. They blended beautifully. I noticed that the sax player was paying close attention to the singer/guitarist and would sometimes raise the reed to his lips and then lower it again without playing. Occasionally, he would turn his back and appear to quietly blow a note or two.

In the break I complemented the sax guy on his skill and discovered that not only was he not familiar with all the songs (he was basically a jazz player) but they had never played together before!. I mentioned that to my friend and he laughed and said "Yeah, I was supposed to call out the key to him at the start of each song, but sometimes I forgot. So he'd turn round, blow a couple of quick test notes to check, and jump in"! :shock:

Awesome display of experience and flexibility. Often the sax just had to guess or 'feel' when the singer would be likely to start again, or where the song would go. Of course, the singer/guitarist was also experienced and flexible, so he could also change seamlessly and extend out for a few bars while the sax played. It was a real joy to watch and listen.

Hang in there Chris, maybe one day we'll both get more of a taste of how to do it. :)

I do have a suspicion that if I can get a better grasp of the basic underpinnings of music that I will be able to join in with simple improvisations. I've just started learning bass and that seems to be a good entry point. You can start by simply playing root notes - comfortably spaced too. Then add a little more complexity... and a little more variety... and so on. It seems that bass players often get a lot of freedom with what they choose to play.

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by Chris C » November 7th, 2011, 5:04 pm

notes_norton wrote:
I love playing with my buddy, I love playing to an appreciative audience, I love hearing the music as I'm making it, I love feeling the wood or brass vibrate against my hands and body, I love the mind space I get in when I'm playing music where neither time nor place has any relevance, I love hearing the applause and seeing the smiles on the people and feeling the bond of affection they feel for me and I feel for them. It's bliss. If I won the state lottery or if an unknown rich relative left me more money than I could ever spend in my lifetime, I'd still play music in public.

Anyway, I'm a lifer musician, and I have absolutely no regrets.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫
Thanks for a great all round post Notes. What a wonderful description at the end. :D How many people can say that about their job? I wouldn't want to swap the life I've had, but I may have to start believing in reincarnation - because yours sounds wonderful.

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by kent_eh » November 7th, 2011, 7:16 pm

Hmmm..

I'd like to be able to jump into a jam on any given song.
And be able to do it at a level of competence to be invited back to do it again. And again.

Gig for money? Maybe, though more in the way Terry said. Just small parties and local bars.
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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by Chris C » November 7th, 2011, 7:27 pm

kent_eh wrote:Hmmm..

I'd like to be able to jump into a jam on any given song.
And be able to do it at a level of competence to be invited back to do it again. And again.

Gig for money? Maybe, though more in the way Terry said. Just small parties and local bars.
So how's it going so far mate?

The others parts to the question are how close are you and what does it still need to get there? I reckon that many of us are closer than we might think. Maybe "It's just a jump to the left....and then a step to the right"... and you're pretty much there! :wink:


Chris

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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by kent_eh » November 7th, 2011, 7:46 pm

Chris C wrote: The others parts to the question are how close are you and what does it still need to get there? I reckon that many of us are closer than we might think. Maybe "It's just a jump to the left....and then a step to the right"... and you're pretty much there! :wink:


Chris
My 11 year old son is closer to my goal than I am. He has demonstrated the ability to play some riffs by ear that he heard a couple of days ago!

What stands in my way...
un-interrupted time to practice. Exhaustion from overtime..
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Re: What would your ideal music life look like?

Post by Alan Green » November 7th, 2011, 11:44 pm

I wanted to be a pop star too. I was a teenager in the 1970s and Glam Rockers were on the front of the papers, TV and radio and seemed to have a stratospheric lifestyle. I did some work with a couple of local bands, and one of them had a bit of an underground following but most of us were working regular day jobs to earn a crust. Our bass player quit to go travelling, our drummer got bored, and it all fell apart.

Fast forward a lot of years - marriage, kids, career, redundancy, career, half a dozen concerts in Germany, back to the UK - hold it! What? Concerts in Germany? For the first time in ages, I'd taken my guitar on stage as part of the Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre 25th Anniversary show "Still crazy." By this time I'd started playing solo classical guitar and was really enjoying the technical challenges.

The night I met Kathy, we talked about what we did and when I said I worked in Investment Banking she asked me "What's your escape route?" It took almost six years, and I probably wouldn't have done it but for the recession and redundancy, but I turned pro two and a half years back.

I look at my diary - ten Schools and two Music Schools, and a bunch of students coming to the house for individual lessons - and I just know I should have done it a lot earlier.

And people buy tickets to come and hear me play - that's really something, and I really did leave that a lot later than I should have done. Roll on Saturday - in concert with the Essential Sounds Big Band and we're almost sold out so go get your tix quick.
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