Background music gigs, w or w/o music?

  • Participant
    Cecilia Kim on #148876

    Hello everyone,

    Just curious to know how most people does at the background music gig. Do you play with music or just memorize and improvise?

    Sylvia Clark on #148877

    I play memorized repertoire.

    Paul and Brenda on #148878

    We play memorized music.  We don’t improvise.

    joan-steinberg on #148879

    I do a lot of music from memory, and bring sheet music for selections I’ve recently learned and haven’t memorized.

    kay-lister on #148880



    Rachel Redman on #148881

    I memorize my music. I like to keep a list of songs that I have chosen in advance in my binder, which sits on my music stand.

    For you, it just depends on how comfortable you are with your music, and your ability to memorize.

    adam-b-harris on #148882

    At home I use sheet music to learn tunes or maybe give me ideas for tunes to learn. On a gig I will play the tunes pretty much by ear using my own arrangements. I improvise, in that sometimes I will play things a bit differently or reharmonize the tune on the fly (if I am having a good day!) but I won’t be sitting there playing randomly, everything will be based on something that i’ve played before.

    I don’t recommend relying on sheet music at gigs. Bad things can happen to sheet music, it can blow away or fall off the stand or something. Also it places a barrier between you and the audience which is not a great thing, even when doing background music gigs.

    onita-sanders on #148883

    When I perform in a background music situation, I treat it as if

    Jerusha Amado on #148884

    Hi Onita,

    I too improvise while gigging.

    michael-steadman on #148885

    I mostly play from memory.

    David Ice on #148886

    I am in such total awe of anybody who can play a gig from memory.

    Sylvia Clark on #148887

    I’m probably different from anyone else (understatement).

    barbara-brundage on #148888

    Both! I’ve learned to my sorrow that if I don’t haul around the music for the stuff I play from memory, it goes something like this: forget to play memorized piece on gig, forget to play it again at next gig, eventually forget I know how to play that piece.

    Fortunately, the ipad is very helpful for that sort of thing–just seeing a title in my song list reminds me to play it.

    Also, while I’m sure others here are probably better at that sort of thing, when guests at a party want to sing something in a key I don’t normally do, I’m no good at all at transposing with nothing in front of me.

    Christian Frederick on #148889

    ….. it all depends. I happen to memorize everything, but that may have evolved having had issues with my eyes all my life. But, when playing background music (which I mostly do for a living), I’ve always got three or four new songs on my music stand that I am in the process of memorizing.

    So, it all depends on the way your brain and eyes are wired. There is nothing wrong with playing from music for background, but it is better to be free and make eye contact and gestures with your audience. I do draw the line with someone flipping from page to page in a fake book…. that is really bad show…

    Also, I also don’t like soloists reading music on stage. I heard a great harpist this past summer doing that, so I closed my eyes to hear her beautiful not to be distracted by her reading music in a concert setting…..

    Cecilia Kim on #148890

    Thank you all for your great replies!! It became such an interesting thread 🙂

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