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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
How do you know when you're ready to begin gigging? I am certain this question has been posed many times before, but I don't have the easiest time using the "search" function on the site.

Anyway, as a couple people on the forums may already know, I've been playing tenor saxophone on and off for the majority of my life, and I'm just coming off a long hiatus (like, 6-7 years... I know, it's terrible).

I can probably list a few "no brainer" answers- be comfortable improvising in all twelve keys, have a working knowledge of the classics, have some solid gear, and so forth. I do have an itch to begin jamming with some local musicians, and I think it'd be really cool if I got to that live gigging phase here in the city of Chicago, a city historically known for its jazz and blues contributions.

Thus, I'd like to ask what you guys think. What advice would you give a young guy in his mid 20s regarding gigging? If the path to live performance was a road, what would the stops/checkpoints along the road be?

Insightful, creative answers that normally wouldn't get mentioned are very much welcomed!
 

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Honestly, for me, it was like diving into the deep end of the pool. Yeah you're cold and intimidated at first, but you learn how to swim real fast.
 

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This depends on many factors. Jazz or pop? Would you be a role player or "the guy"? Even if you are going to be playing jazz, and be the main instrumentalist, does the backing band know how to pick songs that will keep you out of trouble (and are they interested in keeping you out of trouble)?

There are some jazz songs that I can do a representative job on, and others that would tear me to shreds and look like an idiot.
 

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I would say think of who you are going to be playing for and what kind of music and work back from that. In other words, can you deliver?

In my own case, I think I was too naïve to know the difference. I was 13 or 14 and just glad to get the gig and to enjoy playing. It was at the Pearl Harbor recreational center. I always enjoyed going to Pearl for certain activities, because sooner or later the Swabbies and Jar Heads would get into fights with one another. I think I made five bucks.
 

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If you are playing jazz to a knowledgeable listening audience the fact that you are asking the question to me says not ready.....if you are playing a few solos at a bar gig you probably already know the answer to that one too.

If in doubt record a rehearsal or jam.....your ears will tell you.......if you REALLY listen
 

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How do you know when you're ready to begin gigging?
When I did my first gig, I'm not sure I was ready. But someone else was willing to pay me to show up and play the gig.

It's always a work in progress, and you'll never be 100% ready. After 25 years of playing gigs, I'm much closer to that standard than I was at the beginning. Part of that skill set is formed only by going on the band stand and doing it. Experience usually happens right after you needed it and didn't have it.

I can probably list a few "no brainer" answers- be comfortable improvising in all twelve keys, have a working knowledge of the classics, have some solid gear, and so forth.
I work, on a professional basis, with a number of people who couldn't check off all of those items...and that doesn't necessarily disqualify them from certain kinds of work. Of course, it's better to have the total package...

My first gig today had an 11am rehearsal/sound check. No guitar player. Turns out he had March 22 (wrong month) in his calendar for the gig...sometimes the most important aspects of professionalism have nothing to do with being able to play your instrument.

I do have an itch to begin jamming with some local musicians, and I think it'd be really cool if I got to that live gigging phase here in the city of Chicago, a city historically known for its jazz and blues contributions.
Chicago's a great town for music. Get out there and play, play, play. Jam, network, sit in, get some experience. You'll find out soon enough what aspects of your playing need improvement.

I, along with others, have bellyached about doing freebie gigs "for exposure." But when you're starting out and need experience and networking, this may be a reasonable thing to pursue. It's the equivalent of an internship.

What advice would you give a young guy in his mid 20s regarding gigging? If the path to live performance was a road, what would the stops/checkpoints along the road be?
This is a great time to start. As you get older, other things tend to get in the way...
 

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How do you know when you're ready to begin gigging? I am certain this question has been posed many times before, but I don't have the easiest time using the "search" function on the site.

Anyway, as a couple people on the forums may already know, I've been playing tenor saxophone on and off for the majority of my life, and I'm just coming off a long hiatus (like, 6-7 years... I know, it's terrible).

I can probably list a few "no brainer" answers- be comfortable improvising in all twelve keys, have a working knowledge of the classics, have some solid gear, and so forth. I do have an itch to begin jamming with some local musicians...
If it is "jams", then get out there and do it. You'll learn quickly whether it "was meant to be" yet. The worst thing that can happen is that you don't go back for a while - but even then, you'll gain a sense of what you need to do.

G'luck!
 

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I came off a 35 year hiatus with the same issue. The best way in my experience is to look for incremental, low-risk opportunities to play in a gig-like situation and see how it goes and what response you get.

So in my case, I had some long-time friends that I had played with in high school who were still together (40 years later) in a blues/R&B band. Once I decided to get back on the horse, I spent a few months getting some of my tone back, some sight reading skills, and a few blues and pentatonic scales and asked them if I could sit in one on or two numbers at one of their rehearsals. They were cool with that. All I did was read some simple charts (as a fourth horn) and they let me take one solo on a blues. That lead to my sitting in on one tune at a real gig. That lead to my sitting in on more rehearsals, taking home the charts, and finally joining the band as the fourth horn. Eventually, as I started practicing my blues more I got to take a solo on one or two tunes. Since I knew what tunes they would be, I practiced my solos with backing tracks at home and became OK doing an F# (damn those guitarists!) blues. So now I was gigging. But I wanted to take it further, so I found an adult student jazz ensemble and started playing weekly with them. This really stretched my harmonic and improvisational skills, again in a low-risk environment. We ran the ensemble (a quintet) like it was a working band, so I was getting experience leading up to gigging. Eventually the guy who ran the music studio started getting us low-risk "gigs" doing Sunday afternoon recitals at local jazz clubs (attended primarily by friends and family) and then eventually opening for his jazz band (thankfully before the crowds would usually show up). After doing that for four years, we now gig out a few times a year on our own. Meanwhile, all the horns in the R&B band left a couple of years ago, and I'm now the primary horn and soloist. And I was ready, having now enough playing time, and having "apprenticed" with the lead sax player over the years. And a year ago I joined a jam band (essentially playing major pentatonic solos all night). And now between the three bands I'm gigging once or twice a month. And I'm not the greatest player, but the gradual low-risk immersion over time along with my own practicing at home has really made it come together.

So it's not binary - ready or not ready. Rather it's find something that you are ready for and use that to move yourself to the next step.

Specifically regarding jam sessions, there are a couple of beginner jam sessions in my area, and that is something you might look for - or even start yourself. A few years ago I lost my mind and decided to take up five string banjo. I saw a CL ad placed by a fiddler looking to start a beginner's jam session. We eventually became a gigging band (somewhat similar to story above). I left that band when I decided to get back to sax. So you could place an ad to get something going for yourself. Once you get confidence there, you could all go to a jam session together.

So just find or create that low-risk opportunity and jump in and get started.
 

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Improvising in twelve keys and having the best equipment is not a bad idea but it will only get you so far. Others let you know if you are ready to gig. It also depends on who you are gigging with. Are these super pros that expect seasoned technique and talent? Have you done any busking? That gives you a clue about how much audiences think you are ready to gig.

Best advise is to play with as many people as you possibly can and as often as possible. Sooner or later you will know where you stand. You'll either get pats on the back or the hook. Can't be sensitive to horrible criticism or false praise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you all for your very thoughtful responses. Seems like the consensus is:

1. It takes time,
2. Just get out and jam wherever you can, on a slow, step-by-step basis (i.e., at first, don't expect the top jazz club in town to give you a spot, but the neighborhood bar might let you play if you can practice with the musicians who play there),
3. Seek out as many neighborhood practices as possible,
4. When you can record yourself and actually enjoy listening to your performance, then you know you've got something going on.

If you'd like to add anything, please comment away!

I really appreciate Scott's quote:
Experience usually happens right after you needed it and didn't have it.
 

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If the path to live performance was a road, what would the stops/checkpoints along the road be?
1. Decide what kind of music you want to play
2. Play that music at home, with backing tracks, along to recordings, solo
3. Learn to play a lot of those tunes that you want to play
4. Find other local people who play that same music
....a. at jams
....b. through craigslist ad
....c. word of mouth, networking
5. Get together with 1, 2, or 3 other players who want to practice and work out tunes
6. Go to jams and find out which jams play the music you want to play, what tunes they play in the jams, who plays in the jams
7. Learn those tunes; practice with other people; go to the jams and play
8. If you're good enough, someone will ask you to play with them either in a practice situation or a gigging band
9. If no one asks you to play, ask a few people you feel comfortable with if they would like to play in a rehearsal band or put something together to gig

Repeat 1 - 9 above
 

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When you get out of the basement with the band and get some...and repeat gigs.
 

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You'll never really know until you get on it, then you'll know.
And I tell you, you will practice really HARD after a messed up gig... or you'll quit.
 

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In my area it is really tough finding a sub for our R&B/funk band in our horn section. When I look for a tenor/alto sub I expect someone that can sight read horn charts on stage and follow the phrasing of our trumpet player. Solos are often without changes written out so a good ear is mandatory and must be able to play the style. A Brecker solo over every song won't work which means knowing the original song And staying melodic and close to any original solo if possible is required. The other critical things are showing up on time, play as part of a section, and generally be professional.
 

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http://groovenotes.org/thelonious-monks-advice-to-musicians/

"don't sound anybody out for a gig, just be on the scene"

Jams are great for this for lots of reasons:

- If you get hosed, you have something to go work on
- If you don't get hosed, someone might ask you to do a gig
- If nobody asks you to do a gig, go home and work on the things you got hosed on

Rinse, repeat.
 

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I think this question is a bit pointless unless we specify whether the OP means amateur or professional gigs. Amateur gigs are fine to start doing once you can play and people don't instinctively cover their ears, but pro gigs - well it's hardly up to you a lot of the time, since so much of the industry is word of mouth all you need to do is go to jams and network and get people to hear you and you'll see soon enough whether you're at the level to be doing pro gigs. I would second Monk's advice in the post above, not that he particularly needs my endorsement of his view...
 
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