The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
I don't enjoy performing my songs Control Surfaces
Old 15th March 2013
Gear Head

Thread Starter
I don't enjoy performing my songs


So I've been writing songs for something like 15 years now and I feel very confident in my songwriting abilities. It's the thing I enjoy doing more than anything else in the world and at this point, I think I do it very well. The problem comes with performing the songs. I feel like I can never manage to put them across the way I want to in a live setting.

I don't care that much for performing either, whether solo or as a sideman or as a band leader. Sure, I've had some great moments playing in front of an audience, but compared to the satisfaction of writing a new song or doing a good mixdown, it's really not that great. It feels like your reputation hinges on every moment when playing live and for what? Most of those people are chatting to their friends, not really paying attention. There are some people watching you. Maybe after you finish playing, a few people will go up to you and say something like, "That was really good." And maybe a couple people buy your album if you're lucky, so you make an extra $20. But as far as artistic expression? I don't feel like I'm doing anything artistic when I perform. Which makes me annoyed because when I see people like Gillian Welch or 60s Dylan or Tori Amos or Randy Newman or Nilsson or Will Oldham, it looks like they are having a great time on stage and they are acting the song, really getting into it. I feel like I've never had that feeling. Nor do I lust after it. To me, it just seems like a way to maybe get a couple new fans and network and "get your music out there". To me, performing is, at best, an empty experience and, at worst, a humiliating one.

As an example, here's a clip of me from a few nights ago playing a song:
El Camino Largo @ Parkside Lounge - YouTube

Barring the fact that I'm playing a tango ballad on a honky tonk piano, I feel like I never really pulled off this song. I can never get my voice to do what I want it to. As a result, I get frustrated. Is it worth it to go to a vocal coach? Maybe I could enjoy performing more if my voice were better trained. Alternately, I've toyed with the idea of having someone else sing my songs. I used to practice my songs with my ex singing. She had a good singing voice, and even though it sounded great, neither of us were very eager to spring for an open mic night. It also felt weird for her to sing my lyrics which are extremely offbeat/quirky/personal. And that keeps me from getting into writing songs commercially. I have no interest in writing generic top 40 stuff.

I keep thinking that I should be focusing on production and engineering instead of wasting my time trying to be a singer/musician.

Anyone know what I'm talking about?


Old 15th March 2013
Lives for gear
Lenzo's Avatar
I suppose if you don't really enjoy performing, at some level the audience picks up on that...and if you're not having fun, they aren't having fun. How do you have fun with performance. Perhaps it's about developing your skills to a point where you know that what you are doing is really good...and it is really good. That you have practiced and honed your skills to a point that you know when you go up in front of an audience that you are going to nail it down pretty well...not necessarily be perfect but be impressive. When you have that confidence, they will see it in you and enjoy your performance. They want to see that in themselves. If they see hesitation or uncertainty, they also see that in themselves. Nobody really wants to see that. So many performers I see really don't put in the shows and so does their apprehension. And of course some just have a natural charisma that helps a lot. For those that don't, it takes a lot of time and practice. Most of these ideas were conveyed to me by people who I thought were pretty excellent performers. Then again, some people make great performers, some great engineers, some great producers, etc, etc. If you what you love to do, you'll probably excel at it. Good luck.
Old 15th March 2013
Lives for gear
Mr. Lau's Avatar
Hey Dodgers!

I am like you, I do like to perform live, but no singing, I play the keys and sequences, with a bassist, drummer, guitarist and my ex wife sings! Haahha ex wifes! We work together better now than when we were married.

But I prefer to be in the studio, mixing!

I write my songs, but they are more electronic than anything else. Jazz, reggae, rock, everything goes, fusion everywhere

I also do music for jingles, tv documentals, tv spots

And I mix other people's music

You know what?

What I really like most is to mix other people's tracks, amigo!

More than doing my own stuff!

Documentals also give me a lot of pleasure!

I like to hear my work in mixes, watch documentals with my sounds in public tv in my country!

Also, a local Human Rights office is creating a You Tube channel, and they asked for my OWN music to be used there!

All this was a 15 years struggle, never gave up on music! I am 37 and feel more motivated than ever, because my work is really starting to be appreciated!

Now I just perform live because I NEED to. And also I am keyboardist for a local rock band, since they liked my work on their album and the synths I put in their songs!

But, thing is, I LOVE MUSIC! I'll love it till I die!!!!!! (whoa, if only with my ex things were so easy when we were married? hahahaha)

Come on man! Just do it! do it! do it!!!!!!
Old 15th March 2013
Gear interested

Hello, just joined, so please excuse if I make any errors or 'forbidden' bits in the comment. We have the complete opposite problem, always trying to find good original songs, performing no problem. Re the vocal coach, I think it is really essential. It will protect your voice. Have a listen to Iroko Rose on soundcloud, (have to say, in my opinion there is a recent performance that to me seems mind numbingly boring - but then it was an odd sort of gig lol) Hannah performs and teaches vocal and keyboards/piano, she teaches confidence, lots can sing, just need a tweak here and there and the confidence they can do it live and know they can still talk at the end of the performance. Most is about breathing properly. I just wonder if, like many other skills, singing can be taught across continents via skype. Any one ever tried it?

Old 15th March 2013
Lives for gear
Mr. Lau's Avatar
Online vocal coaching? Don't think so!

My ex wife is a very good soprano and teacher and coach, she needs to hear the thing LIVE, also sometimes she gets annoyed with some students and tuck balls of toilet paper into their mouths to get them to keep the position of the mouth and open throat (excuse me my English is not good enough to say some things)
Also she teaches first correct breathing, and needs to put her hands on the stomach of the student, does stretching exercises, relaxation, etc.

Oopss I apologize to all, my ex wife is teaching now thru Skype

Last edited by Mr. Lau; 16th March 2013 at 06:28 PM.. Reason: I was wrong
Old 15th March 2013
Gear Head

It's a special hell being a musician who hates performing.

The heat isn't so bad, but the pineapples are starting to get old.
Old 15th March 2013
Lives for gear
Ain't Nobody's Avatar

I'm a recording artist. It's just what I am. A lot of musicians live for the applause. As many gigs as I've played, it's just never what moved me.

It's just a different philosophy. I never could understand why anyone would WANT their album to sound like a live gig. What's the point? To me, the whole purpose of being in a studio is the extended palate, and the opportunity to create something that goes beyond those limitations.

Nothing against playing live (I was in multiple bands simultaneously and playing out nearly every night for years)... but I'm clear that the studio is my home. It's not a confidence issue. It took me a long time to realize I just have a different muse than many other musicians.

I can't count the number of times someone has told me I just need to play a few hundred gigs to work out this aspect or that. Just keep plugging away at it until you get "discovered" or whatever. It's like they're speaking a foreign language. When I was a kid singing into my mom's hairbrush, I was recording an album in Studio A, not playing to a stadium crowd.
Old 15th March 2013
Lives for gear

Yes, yes.....I understand completely. Sometimes forcing myself to play at the same time as I sing gets my left brain going too much and interferes with the right side of the brain that emotes feelings. It becomes even harder in front of an audience. When I have these difficulties I focus on the feeling side rather then on the notes being played which helps.

There was a time when I spent years, day in day out, practicing scales, modes, chord progressions, and whatever other technical BS I could to make myself a better musician. I was a walking talking left brained musical freak show. Then one day my brother who also plays said "Frank you sound like you really know what you're doing but it just doesn't have any feeling and frankly sounds like ****." It hit a nerve with me because I knew he was absolutely right because inside I felt the same thing but I just didn't want to face up to it. I had trained myself to play like a machine and lost contact with why I became interested in playing music in the first place.

From that point forward, I tossed out the daily scale and mode exercises and began a regiment of training myself to feel music again, and I have never looked back. When I practice these days it is always to get the feeling first. And the funny thing is that when I do this, the technical aspects of playing just kind of resolve themselves and somehow fall into place. Everything sounds better and frankly it is more fun.
Old 15th March 2013
Gear Head

Originally Posted by Aint Nobody View Post
When I was a kid singing into my mom's hairbrush, I was recording an album in Studio A, not playing to a stadium crowd.
That was exactly me. Thank you for putting that into words.
Old 15th March 2013
Lives for gear

Your song has a Springsteen feel to it. If somehow you could build your voice to have the strength and inflections of his, you'd hit a home run. Ballads usually put me to sleep but if you add a strong vocal, they can be just as exhilarating as a rocker.

Are you concentrating on playing too much while singing? Maybe switch that around by letting the piano notes be damned and focus on projecting your voice as your first priority.

Your vid is not bad. But your vocal is weaker than your piano playing. Practice strengthening your vocal because your overall voice is more than adequate. I say this sincerely. I find the best way to do this is to sing through a good mic and preamp at home while listening through headphones. You can do this for hours without the smile leaving your face.

Good luck. I think you're 70% there so don't give up.
Old 15th March 2013
Lives for gear

Originally Posted by duckdodgers View Post
And that keeps me from getting into writing songs commercially. I have no interest in writing generic top 40 stuff.
You don't have to write generic top-40. Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the Billboard charts reached #9 in 1976 and #2 on 1992 re-release.

Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy" reached #1.

Would you call those 2 songs "generic"?

I keep thinking that I should be focusing on production and engineering instead of wasting my time trying to be a singer/musician.
You know yourself more than anyone what you like to spend the most time on.

Anyways, I also prefer songwriting over performing. (Personally, I think the attention given to performance factors is lopsided but that's another discussion.) I also happen to detest recording/engineering activities: bored by endlessly tweaking knobs on digital plugins, mic setup, punch-ins, editiing, splicing, etc. My main goal is to write songs that can be performed by lots of folks with good results; the other stuff such as recording and performing are side activities that are a necessary evil at this point.

The thing is, if you're a songwriter, you already know you want to devote effort to that activity without people telling you -- because that preference is natural.
Old 15th March 2013
Lives for gear
pinkheadedbug's Avatar

I love to write and record and I also love to play out, either solo or fronting a band. The key (for me) is that playing live, or even just rehearsing a full band, has a whole different energy level to it, and inevitably it brings out something different in the songs -- they tend to find a whole new pocket from the way they were recorded, that is often more natural.

It sounds to me as though you feel very self-conscious performing and are worried about the technical aspects. There are a few things to unpack here:

1. Simplify your piano playing so that you can concentrate on the voice and delivery.

2. If you're not happy about your voice, get lessons, and fix up what you don't like

3. Delivery and passion (and material selection, to an extent) is FAR more important than technical prowess when you're playing live. Would you rather go and see an entertainer who hit a few bum notes and forgot the words here and there, but absolutely burned with intensity, or someone who never fluffed a note or line, but just phoned it in?

Playing live should never be humiliating. If it is, you're either under-rehearsed, trying to do too much, haven't figured out the arrangement properly, or need to work on something else. It's a fixable problem.
Old 16th March 2013
Gear Addict
intolerance's Avatar

You may have just found yourself

Hey man, what's wrong with being a songwriter?! You might just find what you're looking for through the passion of another performer -- moved by your song.

I mean, we all do this for the goosebumps; you get them from writing, the performer through performance, and the audience through the both of you. It's a ecosystem.

Why break the chain?
Old 16th March 2013
Lives for gear
pinkheadedbug's Avatar

And yeah you don't HAVE to enjoy it or do it, but if you need to, you might as well enjoy it.

If you're not enjoying it, nobody else will usually.
Old 27th March 2013
Lives for gear
Jose's Avatar

I don't like to perform.
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.

Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread Starter / Forum
te-problematique / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording
michaelepstein / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording
Rufuss Sewell / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording
maks / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording
Steve Smith / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording

Forum Jump
Forum Jump