Tuesday, 31 January 2012

DESTROYING Myth #6: Music Stands make you look like a Pro!

This one is perhaps my BIGGEST PET PEEVE!!!

Granted, there are times and situations when the use of a music stand is a necessity and practical. However, if you are using one outside of these precise scenarios, YOU LOOK LIKE A HACK!

Now, I can already hear the rumbles of people, many of which are friends of mine whom I respect immensely, saying that I am WAY OUT OF LINE on this one. Well, I will now endeavour to argue my point and convince you to at least reconsider doing this if you do, if not stop the practise all together.

I will start by listing the situations where it is a given that music stands are not only acceptable, but often needed:

1. Orchestral music. I include things from string quartets to full blown symphonies. Basically, styles and disciplines of music that have been founded on the use of sheet music and hence, stands. The people playing music in these situations are not generally referred to as BANDS.

2. Jazz ensembles. I am not talking about jazzy bands, but situations where jazz musicians get together to jam on various pieces of music. There tend not to be rehearsals for these situations, so the use of guiding sheet music is what gives the musicians the shared structure they will use to then create their own improvised thing. Cool, man. (snap those fingers)

3. Guest musicians. This are those situations where a band invites a guest instrumentalist, vocalist, or small ensemble to join in a song or two, but there is not time to rehearse with these guests before the performance and the guests need sheet music (and/or lyrics) to guide them through.

4. Recitals. If you don't know what this is, click here and read #2.

That doesn't mean there aren't other situations where it might be acceptable, nor does it mean that some of the above 4 cannot be avoided.

So, this is my stance. Whether or not you use a music stand in your BAND's live performances should be dependant on whether you actually care if the audience is to become FANS of your band or not.

Sure, if you are a function band playing gigs like weddings or are the house band at a hotel where your actual role is to act as a living breathing radio, then music stands are not going to be a detriment. You are a perfectly valid band, but your role is as a commodity rather than as artists. In these situations the goal is to definitely be a great band that is very proficient at your task, but equally important is to NOT be too much of a focal point; you don't want your performance to detract from what people are really there to do. Remember, you are there to build a client list rather than a fans list.

This does not follow through for cover bands, however. As a cover band that is playing at different venues in order to DRAW A CROWD, you should indeed be trying to build a following and gain fans that will come to see you over and over again. Therefore, YOU NEED TO PRESENT YOURSELF AS A PROFESSIONAL! (like the chaps in the above photo!) Just because you are playing covers rather than originals doesn't mean that your crowd doesn't want you to be into what you are doing and taking them with you.

You might be begging the question, "But doesn't using a music stand show your professionalism? After all, REAL musicians like jazz guys and orchestral people use them." Well... NO! If you just want people to appreciate your virtuosity and adeptness at your instrument or even your sight reading abilities, get in one of the above described situations.

The thing is, if you are in a band that expects to gain a following of FANS then people expect and deserve a certain amount of effort on your part. That means you should KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! Part of your job is to sell the fantasy of perfection just like in the movies.
Let me give you an analogy here: if you went to a film or a play and the actors were walking around with scripts in their hands reading off their lines instead of having them memorised, would you feel cheated? I'm betting you would. And that is how we feel when we see you staring at a piece of paper at your gig. We want to feel YOUR EMOTION from the stage, not just hear you playing the right notes at the right time.

The worst case scenario, and I see this so often it is depressing, is when someone has one of these horrible 'PROPS' on stage, and it is obvious that they don't need it! They are literally using it as a prop, and the act of going and flipping a page on it then never looking at it again is just a TAD BIT INSULTING to the intelligence of your crowd. Really, we don't buy it.

Now, I do understand the comfort of having notes to guide you through a new piece that you are still not completely comfortable with, and I do understand how having notes or music can help out a fill in player even after a bunch of rehearsing; no-one is perfect. But at least put in the effort to hide your cheating from us, your audience. You can't do that with a big, ugly music stand with a light glowing at the top placed between us and you. We want to feel like we are part of what you are doing, not just casual observers, and we can't feel that if you put obstacles between us.

Try rehearsing your songs until you actually know them before you hit the stage. If you need notes to help, make the writing big enough to where you can read them from a piece of paper on the floor. That goes for your set lists too. Just like toilet paper, we all know it gets used, but we don't want it shoved in our faces.

So, bands... PLEASE... Unless you are using it as a percussive instrument, KEEP THE DAMNED MUSIC STANDS OFF THE STAGE!!!

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