What is it that makes a musician experienced? By that I mean real experience not fake cv ‘I played with Chad Smith at my college’ shit. Experience to me is hundreds or more likely thousands of hours with that instrument in your hand standing on stage, in a rehearsal rooms or recording studios learning. I don’t care about the 100 great gigs you’ve done, I’m interested in the 10 disasters! That tour that nobody came to, the bands that haven’t worked and the bollockings you have had from live agents, tour managers or piers. THAT is the experience you learned the most from.
Experience needs comparison. How do you know if your guitar is good unless you’ve gigged and recorded with 30 others? Every year at BIMM, bass students would turn up to classes on week one with their driftwood basses telling me why their guitars were amazing. Sadly for them, I know that a name on the headstock means nothing. But the growl of that low E through an amp or the zing of the 12th fret G will tell me instantly if you bought a lemon or a weapon. Spending thousands on a guitar doesn’t mean you will automatically get a good one and unfortunately liking your axe doesn’t mean it’s a good instrument. The reason why I know a good bass from something that belongs on the xmas fire is because I’ve sat in class after class after class and rehearsal after rehearsal for years listening to musicians play them. It’s not about what I like, its about what sound will work for the music being played and the comparison is the Important bit and where experience comes in.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the 10’000 hours rule – which is his theory that it takes that amount of time to become a true expert in anything. So what does this mean for you now? It shows how patient you need to be while searching out that real world experience. There is nothing wrong with aiming for the stars however lets become a dead shot first.
When it comes to building experience, fun gigs don’t necessarily mean good gigs and tough gigs don’t mean bad experience. I collect gigs! Every gig to me is another notch in the bed post its another step ahead of my competition. For me gigging gets me out of the office and allows me to play with my friends as a hobby but I still gig around 120 times a year… Think about that …. as a hobby I gig a third of the year. So for musicians who want this as a career, how much should you be gigging to gain experience?
If you’re out performing and doing this day in day out you will be building experience and for me the times when you turn up and think ‘what the hell are we going to do?’ are the ones that will build your confidence and problem solving abilities. Go and seek out the right experience and learn from every moment, have patience and over time you will become the bullet proof musician!