I'm a fool
April 19, 2010 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Hey, I got a really stupid problem. I really really want to play in a band, but I never have and don't know if I'd make a fool of myself.

Hey what's up guys..

So this is a pretty nerdy question. I know.. Well about 13 years ago.. when I was like 23 or so I wanted to play guitar and all that. Impress the girls ;) I had a decent job so I was those guys who bought a $1000 guitar only to play No Doubt all day. And always hit a wrong note about 1/3 of the way into the song.

I just didn't have that "I'm in a band" kind of thing about me. I was so average. So I just stayed a bedroom player.. and admired others for what they could do. I mean, I just love music.. and I have this alto-ego of me who's a badass player, so while I'm driving I'm listening loud and have these long fantasies it's me playing.

I kinda gave it up.. my martin acoustic gathered dust.. I kinda didn't like guitar. Can't explain it.

Then about 6 months ago.. my older sister, who's in her 40's.. said, hey I got some drums. There's a bass .. and next thing I know I'm jamming with her, and something about the bass just struck me naturally. I guess, all those years what I was doing on the guitar was really playing basslines.. all the walking basslines on the minor pentatonic (just tryin to sound cool here ;P).. my style was more fitting for bass. And this I discovered while playin w/ my sis on drums.

She couldn't grasp it, so gave up, but I continued on my own, practicing.. even getting one warning from a neighbor playin too loud ;P

(I did something "punk" woooo)

So now, all I gotta do is meet some people. Hopefully people who are like 'friends'. I don't want to go look on craigslist and even try. If I look stupid or feel dumb I'll hate myself and give it up and go shoot myself.

I wish there was like a .. pay $20 and play in a temporary band kind of thing at the mall. Something easy.. where I can just do it just to get that feeling of being on a stage with 3 other people and so I can know whether I can handle it or not.

Does anyone know is there anything like that? I'm kinda afraid of the open mic things too. I know of a club here but
I mean.. it's like... "LA".. the indie hipsters..

I want to try first with something cheesy. Maybe even kids. Teens.. I don't know.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This is not goofy.

And if you can play bass, I can tell you that the HARDEST member to find of the bands I've been in here in Chicago (back in my misspent youth) was a bass player. Drummer, check. Lead guitar or rhythm guitar? Dozens. Singers? Have to beat them away with a stick. But bass players? Not enough to go around.

If you are in a city like Chicago, there will be schools like the Old Town School which offer classes that are more like jam sessions. Ensemble classes that are built around a style of music, ensemble workshops that are just one long class taught by a master of the style, or free jams which are unstructured and fun. These settings are non-competitive, collegial and structured towards letting everyone participate at their level.

You are not a fool. You are completely normal! Have fun.
posted by jeanmari at 8:52 AM on April 19, 2010

One angle would be to start taking some bass lessons - often music schools will offer "ensemble" classes where they do a school of rock type thing and pair you with similarly skilled musicians (you may end up playing with kids, but what the hell, right?). Even if they don't do the ensemble thing, you could put up a sign saying essentially what you have told us: "Beginner bass player looking to jam - call me"

Good luck!
posted by davey_darling at 8:53 AM on April 19, 2010

You might do best starting by looking for adult classes/ensemble classes/jam sessions offered through things like Park Districts, community colleges, local music foundations, etc. That would be a much more low-pressure way to start meeting other musicians, playing with others in ensembles, etc.

It will help if you don't worry about looking like an idiot, though. Adults learning new skills pretty much always look like idiots. As long as you look like an idiot who's HAVING FUN, people will mostly admire your bravery and gameness to try new things.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:54 AM on April 19, 2010

I did pretty much the same thing-- played in the bedroom for years until a chance to join a band came up, then dove in head first. Now I'm playing shows and writing songs, and having a great time. We even went into the studio a couple weeks ago.

You're right that playing with friends makes things easier. If that isn't possisble you might look for some open blues jams, that would be a good opportunity to practice playing with others and introduce you to some of the local musicians. Open mic nights are good too, since you might meet someone who is playing solo but wants a backing band.

Jeanmari is right that bass players are in huge demand-- if you go the Craigslist route just take your time and don't rush into anything. Look for people whose personalities are a good match for yours, and who are a little better than you are. One of the best things you can do to improve you playing is to play with better musicians, but it can be frustrating if they are too much better.

And don't sweat the LA club scene-- outside off Hollywood and Silverlake there are a ton of venues covering any kind of music you could think of. The suburbs rock!
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:09 AM on April 19, 2010

When I was first learning to play drums I took lessons from a guy in town who also taught guitar and bass. One of the really cool things he did was put bands together with his students, selected by age and skill level, and have each band learn a few songs. Then we played a concert at a local bar. Aside from hearing 8 versions of Soul Asylum's Runaway Train (the easiest song in the world, which every band learned), it was really fun. There were people of all ages there - many of the students were adults. Maybe your city has a guy who does stuff like this.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:12 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congratulations -- you're in exactly the same boat as I am, and I'm in Los Angeles. I've been writing and recording for the last five years or so, and occasionally performing, but I've been thinking it is time to find some other casual musicians and start a band -- if for no other reason than to learn how to do it. Where your sudden discovery of musical-ness came with the bass, for me it was the ukulele.

So, if you're interested in having someone who can write songs, doesn't mind singing even though he isn't very good at it, and who usually plays the ukulele but can pick up other instruments as needed -- hit me in MeMail. And don't worry -- I, too, am worried that I will "look stupid or feel dumb".

Also: a lot of my songs are children's songs, so if you want to start small and cheezy, we could always do those.
posted by davejay at 9:36 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

"something about the bass just struck me naturally. I guess, all those years what I was doing on the guitar was really playing basslines.. all the walking basslines on the minor pentatonic (just tryin to sound cool here ;P).. my style was more fitting for bass."

I made exactly this same discovery about 10 years ago. I had been playing lead guitar (badly) before I picked up the bass and discovered that it made much more sense to me.

As everyone else has said, a good, reliable, non-flaky bass player will always be in demand.

It sounds like you actually have two problems. Finding a friendly ensemble to play with is the first. For that, maybe you could put an notice up at your local music store. Alternately, you could go watch the local open mic night and cheer on the performers you like. If you see someone whose music seems like a good fit for your bass playing, talk to them after your set and tell them how much you enjoyed their music. If they seem friendly, then say, "are you interested in having a bass player?" and take it from there. Even if you don't end up playing together, you may make some friends in the local music scene that way, which will be helpful.

Dealing with stage fright is the second. "If I look stupid or feel dumb I'll hate myself and give it up and go shoot myself." A huge part of performing is giving up on that self-judging outlook at least long enough to get on stage and share your music. If you really enjoy the music you are playing and can share that enthusiasm whole-heartedly without worrying about whether you look stupid, then quite a few people will pick up that and enjoy your performance even if you technically suck as a musician.
posted by tdismukes at 10:57 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

This bit, here: "If I look stupid or feel dumb I'll hate myself and give it up and go shoot myself."

That's your biggest obstacle.

Here, watch this. It's an excellent and endearingly goofy take on the idea that, in order to get a creative idea out there, you kind of have to throw caution to the wind, take a deep breath, and just jump.

Embrace the idea of failure. Being willing to take risks and fail is the biggest ingredient in success. Make a decision that you are going to play ten horrible gigs. Cobble together a band from folks on craigslist or wherever, practice a bit, and then play ten gigs -- store openings, DIY show-in-a-parking-lot, busking at the farmer's market, whatever. The perfect is the enemy of the good. If you wait for the Perfect Pre-Built Band to arrive, you will wait forever. Get out there and make your own luck.

After ten gigs, if it sucks, you can give it up. But you will no longer be able to say "I've never done this." You will no longer be able to believe that it can't be done.

There's plenty of talent to be had on craigslist -- on this show, the This American Life producers cobbled together a band out of people placing classified ads and made a pretty good go of it. You can do the same thing. You might have to wade through a little bit of weird, but hey, that's craigslist.

You can do it.
posted by jennyjenny at 12:18 PM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Open mikes are probably the quickest way to get your stage legs under you. Seriously. The expectations are not that high and nearly everyone there is in the same mind-set/boat that you are. You don't see a lot of pros playing open mics and if you do, they're generally pretty supportive. I went to my first open blues jam in 1985 and have been playing live off and on, since then. And to this day, my knees still shake and I still mess up but man, you just smile and keep moving.
posted by Kskomsvold at 1:06 PM on April 19, 2010

"Embrace the idea of failure. Being willing to take risks and fail is the biggest ingredient in success."

Quoted for truth.
posted by tdismukes at 1:08 PM on April 19, 2010

Yeah, open mics are the way to go! You'll get to know people to play with in bands. I too find the clique-ness very off-putting, but realise each open mic is different, each has their own little social group. Try them out until you find one with a supportive circle. They'll be happy to teach you stuff even.
posted by yoHighness at 3:28 AM on April 20, 2010

From your post, I'm guessing you're in LA, but if you're in Seattle, you could memail me. My casual metal band needs a bassist.

(That goes for any other lonely bassists who are reading this thread.)
posted by Sauce Trough at 4:18 PM on April 24, 2010

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