When we are first learning a song, we need to break it into sections and take it slow. Eventually, though, we start increasing the tempo and size of the sections until the song is performance ready. If we spent all of our time playing slow small sections, we will never be ready to perform.
At the end of this process we have to actually practice performing the music. There is something different about playing straight through a song without stopping. New issues can arise that weren’t present when you were playing in sections. Plus we have to deal with the logistics of the sound mix, managing the background tracks (if you are a smaller act – not full band), maintaining a steady tempo throughout, maintaining endurance throughout, the added pressure of live performance, connecting with the emotion of the song and conveying that emotion (along with many other issues).
Some of these issues can be simulated and rehearsed in our practice room at home, but it is impossible to create an exact replica of the live performance experience. Therefore, one of the best ways to practice performing is to perform. The more time we spend performing in front of an audience, the more comfortable we get performing in front of an audience.
Many of us share the same excuses of not feeling ready or not having “good” gigs booked. I am not saying that musicians should just go out and perform without any practice or preparation. We do need to realize, however, that it is impossible to be perfect. There will always be something about your performance, song, or recording that you want to improve. If we keep waiting until we reach perfection, we may never get to perform.
I also understand that we don’t want to sell ourselves short. If we have reached a certain level in our musical ability it feels degrading to continue to perform at open mics and other low or non paying gigs. We want to play for crowds of people and make a decent amount of money. Unfortunately, until we reach superstar status those types of gigs may be few and far between. What are we doing with our time during the between stretches? Would it hurt to play at an open mic once a week just to keep our performance chops up?
I constantly remind myself that I write record and perform music because that’s what I love to do. I would probably still do it even if no one ever paid me. I’ve got to keep a balance with my walk with God, my family and the 9-5 (pays the bills); but I want to use a chunk of that spare time performing music. The more I do it, the better I’ll get.