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In our continuing efforts to get you off the internet and out there playing music live we have visited a few JAM nights. This article is not about that. This one is about Open Mic Nights.
What’s the difference? Generally speaking, it is simply what it says: an open microphone on a stage in front of people. People get up there and play a song, read a poem, tell a few jokes or whatever is right for the venue and their talent.
Click through for an Open Mic video of a brand-new song!
For songwriters it is a great place to try out a new song. For singers it’s a chance to sing with a live musician instead of a karaoke machine. For listeners it is a chance to hear some really good unknowns play really good music. For beginners it is a chance to get your feet wet in the most welcoming environment.
The people that go to Open Mic Nights go there for a reason. They want the new, the unheard, to hear an unusual take on an old favorite song, maybe sing along with a classic cover. They are one of the most supportive audiences you could ever play for. You’ll get real feedback from other players if you want and the listeners will encourage you to come back and play more. Veteran players might teach you something and give good advice about JAMs, other good Open Mics or even where to play and get paid for it. Networking is a good part of it. As an added bonus, a lot of venues use their Open Mic Nights to audition players for the paying weekend gigs.
The key difference is: you get to go up there by yourself. No need to perform with players you don’t know or that might have a very different skill level than you. You get to sing your song the way you want and, if you choose to, you can invite others to help out. Quite often, a good Open Mic will produce a great JAM but, for the most part, it is about individuals.
It is about getting your feet wet performing or growing a new local audience. It is about participating in and supporting your local music scene and giving back to the venues that support live music. Meeting other musicians, making new friends and finding new fans are great reasons to get out there. However, there is another good reason. It’s fun.
It’s way better to play for people than to an empty room. I am working on a new CD; it is really positive to just step away from it now and then. It’s good to get out of the studio and play a few songs for people instead of panels of lights. More importantly, it is good to hear different songs: original music from people you’ve never heard of and may never see again. Or, years from now, you may tell the story of the night you sat in a room with a couple dozen other people 10 feet away from the latest, biggest star on the scene – and sang along on the chorus.
Sharing music is an interesting phenomenon. Simply sharing our music actually educates other musicians. We are all different and a different take on an old favorite cover by someone that only plays for his family can really teach you things if you let it. An original song by a 15-year-old girl may make you cry and teach you something about articulating emotions while being extremely emotional about it. The opportunity to play with a guitar player that is way better than you might motivate you rather than intimidate you.
This is something every young performer should do as a milestone on the path. It’s also something everyone should try. It can be a great confidence builder or ego booster and very humbling when some kid gets up there and brings down the house. People are funny. They are amazing. Somewhere, tonight, every night, in a bar or coffee shop or bookstore, there is someone with a guitar or maybe a keyboard singing with all their might a song they wrote with all their heart and a crowd is standing and applauding or, better yet… crying.
Get out there, go listen, go play, go out and participate in your local music scene. You may occasionally be disappointed by an off-key newbie but, for the most part, you will be delighted. Get in on it, get up there, get confident, get drunk if you have to, just get up there and be a rock star for three and a half minutes. The first time you hear that applause you’ll be hooked!
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