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Infiltrating Your Local Music Scene

by Ken Black

Don't overlook one of the most valuable and inexpensive resources you, as a musician, should have at your disposal - namely other musicians. I once had roommate, a very talented guitarist. I'll call him Freddy. Freddy loved to go to the local pub on open mic night so he could scoff at other guitarists who he deemed as inferior. These guitarists were, as a matter of fact, inferior to Freddy, but they had something Freddy didn't have - the courage to play in front of other people (not including his roommate, who was also inferior to Freddy).

Freddy continued to frequent the local pub, accompanied by his faithful roommate, and he continued to point out, for the benefit of his roommate, the shortcomings of those less talented musicians on stage. Then one night, Freddy's roommate (who was tired of listening to Freddy's criticisms) decided to put his own name on the open mic sign up sheet. Freddy was quite amused, and chuckled at his roommate foolishness. Nevertheless, the roommate took the stage when the time came, and he played a song. Everyone clapped when the roommate finished his song, and the other musicians invited the roommate to join them at the end of the night for a jam session.

The roommate had such a good time that he forgot all about Freddy and when he looked up Freddy was gone. The roommate met lots of other musicians that evening. Three months later the roommate was playing better than Freddy ever had and he was now gigging regularly in his own band. Freddy practiced day and night but his playing was beginning to level off. Freddy moved in with his girlfriend and currently works as an office courier. Freddy's roommate is currently working on an album with his new roommates.

The moral of the story: Don't be afraid to play out. You've practiced, you know a few songs and you think you sound pretty good. I've found that more experienced musicians will often be very supportive and nurturing, but you have to show that you have the courage to play in front of people. They'll respect you for taking the chance, because they take the same chance every time they play out.

Getting in with a group of local musicians is a huge step. Your playing will improve astronomically. You'll be exposed to different styles of playing. You'll gain new influences. You will learn a great deal about music just from playing with different people. Nothing great was ever born in a vacuum. Don't be a Freddy. Go out and meet your local musicians--the sooner the better!

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Ken Black is a member of the Folk/Reggae/Jazz quintet Frogula, coming soon to a small liberal arts student union near you! You can e-mail him at

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