“Remember my name. Fame! I’m gonna live forever” – Lyrics from the song Fame by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore
Standing in line at the local ice cream shop one day recently, I contemplated my choice of frozen confectionery when a voice interrupted my musings. “Hi there. Don’t you play guitar?” I had to look around to make sure the woman speaking was indeed talking to me. Apparently she was, and she went on, complimenting my performances in the various middle school talent shows in which I’d performed with my children and husband. We concluded a pleasant conversation with her hope that she would be able to hear me play again sometime. I floated away from the shop, my Jamocha Almond Fudge ice cream cone in hand.
Fame! Most of us enjoy being recognized. I’ve been recognized as a neonatologist (a doctor that cares for premature and sick babies in an intensive care unit), as my father’s daughter, as my husband’s wife and as the mother of my kids. But up until the ice cream store event, I’d never been recognized as a guitar player! For a perennial beginner, it was quite a thrill. I was pleased that someone had enjoyed my music enough to approach me, a total stranger, and compliment me. While I play because I enjoy it, I was gratified to know that someone else also enjoyed it. Then I began to worry: What if I suck next time? Will my fans (well, fan, anyway) hate me? What if I don’t practice enough? As I contemplated all this, I started to laugh. In my two minutes (not even fifteen!) of fame, I’d literally soared, basking in the glory of performance and recognition, and then crashed back to earth.
As you know, Guitar Noise and guitar playing are not my “day job.” I love my regular job and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I also love playing guitar, singing and performing. But let’s get real; not all of us can enjoy a career in music that will pay rent and put bread on the table. I tend to look on this wonderful hobby as stress relief. Well, most of the time anyway. Occasionally it’s stressful when I can’t figure out how to play something! It can also be a bit nerve wracking to perform in public. Getting the courage to get up and play for an audience means letting go of worrying about mistakes you might make, stupid riffs you might play, or forgetting lyrics and chords altogether. When you do manage to let go of your guitar playing insecurities and perform, it is exhilarating. You realize that all of the things you worried about lose their significance in the whole of making music with others. You learn to laugh about the mistakes and learn from them (See Darrin’s article, Love Your Mistakes).
It’s a bonus when someone recognizes you for your performance and appreciates you for that. But then, of course, the “pressure” of recognition sinks in. Like many of us, I then begin to worry that I won’t be good enough next time, that I don’t practice enough, and that my future performances might disappoint any listeners. I started to have a good fit about it, until I realized that my worries were just my insecurities speaking. I don’t harbor the illusion that my guitar playing will support my family, or even my music habit. I just enjoy playing. It’s my love of the guitar that entices me to practice and to master new or more difficult songs. It leads me into listening carefully to new and old music by musical artists of many different genres. I find that I can always learn something from other guitarists. That same love led me to GuitarNoise and to blathering on enthusiastically to you faithful readers. If you focus on the joy the guitar brings you, you can then share that same joy with others.
Take a risk. Get out there and play for someone other than yourself. Fame may or may not follow, but I know you will enjoy your experience.
n.b. This column continues in a series dedicated to the female musician. We have our own forum in the forum section. As always, I would love suggestions on topics you would like to see covered. Please email me and tell me your story. I enjoy hearing each and every one.