Music is intrinsically very soul baring. There’s just something about the sounds we make that impacts us at a core level. For this reason (among many others), many musicians prefer to play alone or have never gathered up the courage to look for other musicians to play with.
I am like this – being alone for a day with my guitar is one of the happiest days I can think of – but there is so much value in sharing the craft of music with other creators that it’s almost a crime to only create solo. Here are 5 reasons you should be playing (and recording) with other people.
1. You Improve as a Musician
Playing with other musicians forces you to play differently than when you’re by yourself. You have to keep time differently, have to follow, have to be able to keep the song going even when others make mistakes, have to be able to quickly recover from making mistakes, and have to get along well with people.
This not only improves you as a musician, but significantly increases your rate of improvement, especially in comparison with your rate of improvement playing solo.
If you really want to become better at something, it’s a mistake to be the most accomplished person in the room. Play with people who are at a higher level than you, and you will naturally become better.
2. You Get Good Feedback
Whether you play with a performing band or just hang out and jam with other musically talented people, you get great advice and insight on your technique, skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Be open to critique – if it stings, it’s probably spot on.
That being said, you’ll also hear a lot of biased nonsense (true bassists don’t use picks, anyone?). It’s well worth sifting through the nonsense to find the nuggets of gold.
If you are courageous enough to share your songs and/or recordings, you get some of the best critique on your music from fellow musicians. They listen for things that normal listeners don’t hear. Plus, they can share ideas on how to make the song better.
Collaborating on songs is one of the best ways to sharpen up musically. You get to hear new ways of songwriting, and get to share your processes. Plus, you get to hang out with some pretty cool people at the same time!
3. You Learn to Follow Cues While Improvising
Improvising is the #1 skill you need in order to play well with other musicians. The best way to learn how to improvise well is to play with other musicians, especially ones who are better than you (see point 1).
Improvising well translates well to any other aspect of music, from composing to playing live to recording. Learning to see cues and recognize signals makes you more suited to playing in various styles and genres.
If you compose songs on your own, you’ll learn a lot about song structure and how the different parts of a band work together to create a unified, beautiful whole.
4. You Learn How to Create Cues While Improvising
Not only do you learn how to follow while playing with other musicians, but you learn how to lead. Even if you’re not a drummer, even if you’re not a bassist, you learn how to guide whatever you’re playing. This also helps you understand song structure and social dynamics in composition and playing.
Once you learn how to lead and follow in improvisation, it’s easy to transition the knowledge into your own compositions. And don’t just think that improvising is only for jazz and blues musicians – improvisation is important for every instrument, every genre, and every level of experience.
Even if you picked up your instrument yesterday, you can improvise, and it’s important that you do so that you learn your weaknesses, strengths, and what you do and don’t like about your playing. Playing with other musicians, at its core, shows you what you need to practice on your own.
5. It’s Fun!
You probably got into music because you realized how much fun it is to create the sounds in your head. You know what else is fun? Hanging out with your friends.
Combining the two is the best reason to play with other musicians – because you get to meet people and create meaningful relationships through the craft of music! If you need any more reasons to play with other musicians, you might want to just use music as your personal diary: a way to express and experience the world…
…and try to find someone to play with every once in a while. ^^
It doesn’t matter how small your town is – there is always a way to play with other musicians! Keep your eyes on the lookout for other players, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself as a musician if the topic comes up. Religious institutions, schools, and other social clubs are a great place to find musicians to play with.
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. You can always send thoughts, suggestions, and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org as well 🙂 Thanks for reading!