Tip of Week: Play with other people

I took lessons in drumming some years ago. About six months in I had a lesson with a dep teacher (my usual teacher was away on a gig). He asked what bands I was in.

‘Oh no!’ I said, ‘I’m not good enough to be in a band.’

‘Nonsense!’ he replied. ‘You can play a rhythm, go join a band.’

That is probably the best advice I’ve ever had from a teacher.

I duly put an ad in Loot (free classified ads paper) and got a reply from a singer looking to form a girl band. We were joined by a bass player who had just started learning the bass, and a guitarist who hadn’t played since childhood. The next 18 months was the most fun I’ve ever had. To monitor our progress, we recorded our rehearsal sessions. Three months in we fell about laughing listening the first rehearsal which sounded like everyone was playing a different song at the same time. We gigged around London, got to record a demo at an EMI mini studio, released an independent record and acquired a manager.

Artistic differences eventually split us up. (The singer wanted to write all the songs, the bass & guitarist wanted to do their own thing). The singer now has her own backing band & record label, the bassist and guitarist formed a duo & are popular in Europe. I released my heart was more in my classical roots, so I now play clarinet in a wind orchestra.

If you can play an instrument, at any level, get out there and play with other people. You will learn so much that sitting in at home/ in a practice room by yourself will never teach you. The benefits include:

• Listening skills – you must listen to what’s going on around you, not just what you’re playing.
• Timing. Playing alone you can be quite unaware of errors in rhythm. In an ensemble you must figure out where and how your part fits.
• Motivation to practice – there’s nothing like knowing your fellow musicians will hear all your mistakes if you don’t get to grips with your part to get you practicing.
• Discover new music – you play and hear music you would not necessarily seek out or know about.
• Last but certainly not least, it’s FUN. There’s such a sense of achievement and camaraderie when you master a new piece. You may make new friends too.

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