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How Do I Know If I'm Any Good?


Andym0908

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I've been playing for quite a few years now, some live, mostly home studio only. I've never been trained, and my 'tuition' came from Genesis live concert videos...

 

But since today I'm not feeling wonderful about my playing, I'm wondering how one would rate themselves?

 

I can play some Genesis solo's, and for example, the two-handed piano intro to Firth of Fifth, ITC solo, etc...

 

I think I'm just after an honest answer when someone asks "do you play?", and I answer "yeh, keys", and they ask "you any good?", I never know what to answer to that..

 

Help, my confidence is in decline!

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Andy,

 

It's kind've hard to make that kind of determination without actually hearing you. And even so, the answer you get will vary depending on the criteria of each individual listener. All that really matters is if you're enjoying yourself. And if you're not, then maybe you need to raise the bar and set some new challenges for yourself. Do you have professional goals and aspirations, or is music just a hobby? How serious are you about it? Is it your main focus? If not, then just HAVE FUN WITH IT. It's not a competition. Just express yourself through music as artfully as possible.

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Great words..

 

I have done, and intend to have fun with playing (my A90 which I still have!!).

 

I used to be in and out of bands and am currently trying to get a small duo covers thing going, more for the fun of playing live. It's kind of a hobby, but also I would like to take my ideas somewhere (if only I had the time!! sigh!!).

 

:cool:

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Interesting question Andy. If you have doubts, it might be because you feel you're weak in a particular area, such as the ability to play in different keys. Sometimes a lack of a broad base of musical knowledge can lead to you doubting yourself. I was faced with the same problem some years back and decided to get some training. I took a few years of piano lessons as well as a few years of organ lessens from an excellent teacher. I'm not going to say that "I've arrived" as a play. But training did improve my skills and was worth the effort, not to mention I needed to PRACTICE a lot more.

 

If someone else things you're not very good (as compared to whom?) don't worry about it. There's always going to better players, and usually a lot more that are not as good as you. The main thing is to enjoy the music, that's the whole point of playing to begin with.

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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Honest self-analysis is always difficult.

 

Here are some questions that might help you decide if "you are good" or not. These are strictly my opinion, not anything else.

 

1. Can you play anything you want,in any key, at any reasonable tempo, with out major restrictions of technique (given some time to practice)? Or do you play everything in c major?

 

2. Is learning new material easy or difficult for you?

 

3. Do you select new material solely for its personal appeal, or because it's pretty easy technically?

 

4. Can you sit down and work out a part by ear in a reasonable period of time?

 

5. If you read music, can you sight read a sheet of music with reasonable proficiency...or is it a struggle?

 

6. When you play with other musicians, can you join in with whatever they are playing? In a musically appropriate way? Or can you only play a few songs in one style?

 

7. When you listen to other keyboard players that you like or respect, how do your skills compare to theirs?

 

8. Do you have a wide knowledge of songs in a variety of musical styles?

 

9. When you play with other people, what kind of feedback do they give you? Are you reasonably pleased if you hear a recording of yourself?

 

10. When you get a chance to solo, how does it go? Smooth...or fumbling?

 

If you answered positively to most of these questions, then I think you can honestly say that you are pretty good.

 

 

Hope this helps stimulate some thoughts.

Cheers!

Tom F.

"It is what it is."

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I like Tom's questions. My only additional suggestion would be to consider them against your own priorities and what you're trying to do with music.

 

For me, for example Tom's criteria for "good player" that are most important are #4, #6, #9, and #10. Because that's how I want to communicate on my instrument; in a combo setting, with "feel" players and attitude to the music, to create something people smile at instead of wince when they hear it.

 

Less important for me is #8; I'm not often a studio hire, I'm not a jukebox, and I'm not an academician (?) -- and don't want to be either of those things.

 

NOW, if I wanted to be considered a great session musician, my reading (#5) would have to be great, I would have to excel at learning new material (#2), and #8 could become important if I want enough work to sustain me.

 

Also, depends on what you listen to. Sounds like a lot of Genesis, obviously. If you can pull of a lot of that and your goal is to play in a Genesis cover band or music very similar, then you can say you're good, I'd think ... but you may want to temper your opinion of yourself based on player you admire (#7). Consider: I love Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Kenny Kirkland, etc. My playing simply doesn't compare to theirs; they are greats. I know people who cop their licks, sure, but what about the musicality of how they put a solo together, or compose? That's why those people are who they are, and the rest of us are not. Those who fall short can't categorically themselves a lame player.

 

BUT, it could be helpful to jam with other musicians and see how you get on ... go to jam nights at clubs, etc, sit in, check other people out ... even still, if you don't excel at that format, it doesn't necessarily mean you're not good; it may just mean that scene is not your thing.

 

Sorry if this is rambling and pointless. Just some more thoughts/perspective that I thought may be helpful.

 

I think the bottom line is, if you can accomplish your musical goals and are not frustrated with your own level of technique or creativity, you're "good enough."

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

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If people pay to hear you, you're doing OK. If you ask for more money and you get it, you're doing even better.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Signs that you are getting pretty good.

 

1. You notice that other keyboardists come to watch you.

2. Rival bands ask you if you are happy in your current band.

3. The singer treats you nice, sometimes.

4. A manager takes you to lunch.

5. People ask if you give lessons.

6. You are asked to play an extra hour, with adequate compensation.

This post edited for speling.
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Originally posted by Tom Fiala:

 

1. Can you play anything you want,in any key, at any reasonable tempo, with out major restrictions of technique (given some time to practice)? Or do you play everything in c major?

More or less.. I don't seem to have too many difficulties in adapting to different scales, although having never formally learnt my scales, I occasionally stumble.

 

2. Is learning new material easy or difficult for you?

Easy-ish.. Nothing is ever tooooo hard, unless of course it's been multi-multi-multi tracked and beyond my listening ability!!

 

3. Do you select new material solely for its personal appeal, or because it's pretty easy technically?

I used to play stuff more for it's technicality, but nowadays it'll be more because I personally like the material, regardless of technicality.

 

4. Can you sit down and work out a part by ear in a reasonable period of time?

Yep.. more or less, as long as (as mentioned above), the part isn't drowned by other tracks.

 

5. If you read music, can you sight read a sheet of music with reasonable proficiency...or is it a struggle?

Oops, no. I don't/can't sight read.

 

6. When you play with other musicians, can you join in with whatever they are playing? In a musically appropriate way? Or can you only play a few songs in one style?

No, I try to blend. If it's a funky riff, led by guitar, then I'll rhythm it up with shots of hammond, or if it's ballady, then it'll be appropriately sparse piano, etc... I always wanted to be able to play various styles, never sticking to one for too long.

 

7. When you listen to other keyboard players that you like or respect, how do your skills compare to theirs?

To be honest, where I live, there's not many other players. The few I have seen, are soooo restricted in terms of technicality, taste and style.

 

8. Do you have a wide knowledge of songs in a variety of musical styles?

It's building up... :D

 

9. When you play with other people, what kind of feedback do they give you? Are you reasonably pleased if you hear a recording of yourself?

Not had enough experience of feedback, although when I hear myself, I nearly ALWAYS hate what I've done.

 

10. When you get a chance to solo, how does it go? Smooth...or fumbling?

Fairly ok, but when it's finished I'll always be annoyed at why I didn't try this, or that. The same analogy when you have a fight with someone, and when it's finished, you remember all the things you should've said!

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Hi Andy. Im no great player but I thought Id respond to your question because I believe I am in a VERY similar place. Genesis is also a major influence/interest and the ability to play some of the more difficult pieces (for me) usually makes me feel like Im achieving some proficiency. Having said that, I can only say that Im good AT WHAT I DO. And what I do is very specific. Within a rock, prog, or pop cover band setting I think Im good. But my abilities dont come from what I would consider a creative place. I dont write music, I couldnt jam my way out of a paper bag, my reading skills are abysmal (but I can decipher notated music if given enough time,) and I have no feel for playing Jazz or R&B. That list of deficits would no doubt put me in the terrible column of many peoples idea of a keyboard player, but since I have a good day job and I play to please myself, Im not bothered by it. Im good at accurately learning music by ear, can put together a decent solo, and I think I have a good ear for sounds and textures. Most importantly, I love playing. Theres nothing else like it, especially when youre playing with a group that clicks.

 

A few years ago I was feeling especially substandard, so I took the time to learn a few classical piano pieces. Beyond the satisfaction I gained from learning and playing them, it also gave me a way to respond to people who knew that I played but had never heard me. You cant really sit down at a piano in front of people and play the solo from In the Cage and expect anyone to have a clue what it is youre doing or to judge your abilities with something so far out of context. But most people can appreciate your abilities from hearing a nocturne by Chopin, even if it is a fairly simple one.

If you can define what you want to accomplish and maintain high standards for yourself within that framework, you should be pleased with your abilities.

 

BTW, how is your Firth of Fifth? Ive heard a few people play the Firth of Fifth piano intro and was amazed at how far off they were. (Just curious :) )

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I agree with Geekgurl. Tom's talking points sure do serve as a good basis.

 

If you can't find ample reason to be humble as a musician, then you need professional help -- from a psychiatrist. In my case, I find it REALLY easy to be humble. I can work out chords better than most folks I play with, but my chops are relatively simple and my lead playing (to put it frankly) sucks.

 

Nevertheless, because I LISTEN to the other players and do whatever's needed to make the song work, people like my playing -- both the musicians and the audience. Also because I also feel passion, and that comes through. I usually only play at local blues jams and ocasionally sit in with folks. But regardless of the fact that technically I'm way behind the average -- or even below average -- gigging keyboard player, I get lots of requests from people who need keyboard players.

 

When all's said and done, "how good am I" is such a vague question that the answer is usually meaningless. If you enjoy it and the folks you play with enjoy it, then the answer is "GOOD ENOUGH!"

 

If you're planning to embark on a career as a musician, then there are a lot of questions that are more important than "How good am I"? The main ones being "How much am I willing to sacrifice to be a professional musician?" and "How good could I be and what do I need to do to get there?"

 

For me, the answers are "Not much", and "A whole lot better, but I'd have to dedicate a lot more time and discipline."

 

:)

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Agreed - there certainly is lots to be humble about in music, even if, technically speaking, you are "pretty good" in one particular area.

 

For example, while my chops for rock and roll are pretty good, they are certainly not what they used to be for doing classical repertoire. My ability to play jazz is close to zero...I could certainly stand to work on jazz chords and modulations.

 

While I've got a good ear, and can transcribe almost anything, I still struggle as a composer, and really struggle a lot as a lyricist.

 

In other words, even if you CAN play like an Oscar Peterson or a Keith Emerson or whoever your current fave keyboardist is, there are always some musical skills that are under-developed, and that could be improved.

 

Like most things in life, it's probably a balance of giving yourself a complement ("I've really come a long way"), yet being humble enough to see the room for improvement ("I've still got some things to learn...)

 

:cool:

 

And don't ask me where this stream of philosophy is suddenly coming from - I don't know either!

Tom F.

"It is what it is."

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

If people pay to hear you, you're doing OK. If you ask for more money and you get it, you're doing even better.

Please - this is a bit more cynicism than I'm prepared to take. Is money your only parameter in judging a musician? Was it your main reason for becoming one?
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Originally posted by marino:

Originally posted by Dave Horne:

If people pay to hear you, you're doing OK. If you ask for more money and you get it, you're doing even better.

Please - this is a bit more cynicism than I'm prepared to take. Is money your only parameter in judging a musician? Was it your main reason for becoming one?
My reason for becoming a musician was that I did not like working in a steel mill 48+ hours a week. Playing (and sitting on my ass) for three or four hours a night or working my ass off for eight to ten hours a day for five to six days week was a no brainer for me; I chose music. I was naturally good at it and was afforded the opportunity to pursue it professionally - that means making money to press down those little white and black keys several hours a day.

 

As I tell my occasional student, you can practice for hundreds of hours in your living room and then what? The only reason for becoming a musician is to perform for other human beings.

 

As long as you are performing, ask for money. Anyone can play and make music for free - the point to to do that and make a living in the process. Making money in music is nothing to be ashamed about and in this instance, where the poster asks, 'How do I know if I'm any good?, it seems like a good way to measure one's ability.

 

Marino, have a glass of wine.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

... The only reason for becoming a musician is to perform for other human beings.

...

I always thought the joy of playing and self satisfaction was the biggest reason for becoming a musician. The audience is only there to feed the ego.

 

Rober

This post edited for speling.
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Dave, if you trained for years to become a musician for economic reasons, I feel really sorry for you.

 

You could have completed an undergraduate degree and medical school in less time than it takes to become a skilled musician.

 

Really, to compare working unskilled labor in a steel mill to being a musician is ridiculous. If you trained as a musician to make money, you really made the wrong choice.

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Dave, if you trained for years to become a musician for economic reasons, I feel really sorry for you.

No need to feel sorry for me. There are very few jobs where you can make good money for sitting on your ass for several hours at a stretch. (I retired at the age of 44, ten years ago, so I think my life style choice was pretty good.)

 

Wait a minute - the muse has left me ... what will I do? When I played six nights a week at a Holiday Inn flirting with the waitresses (and occasionally getting lucky), music was a lot of fun. I worked a day job (steel mill) to support a wife and two kids and music was in addition to that - it was much more fun and it was a professional hobby at that time. When I worked professionally (just music), I approached it differently - I practiced whether or not I felt like it, I practiced whether or not I was sick - it was (still is actually) a job and I had a professional responsibility.

 

If I ever have to go under the knife, I want a doctor who is as disciplined as I am. I don't care if he does it for the money as long as he does it well.

 

What is the crime in doing something very well and making money to boot? I always tell my daughter that playing the piano is like driving a bus. I try not to speed, try to be courteous to other drivers on the road, try not to have accidents, and try to return the bus back to the terminal in the same shape in which it left.

 

I'm a professional bus driver. If you want to glorify that, that's fine with me. I drove the bus for two and half hours tonight and have a tour planned this weekend. Safe driving.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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There's nothing wrong with being a musician for a living. Here's an open question: if someone chooses another profession over music as their main income source, but plays music for their own enjoyment, does that make him any less of a musician, assuming his skills are as developed as a professional's?
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The question I would ask of you Andy is "Why do you want to know if you're any good or not?". When you answer this, you will know what it is that's nagging/driving you to ask, and will lead you where you subconciously want to go with your music/playing.

 

In my case, these days I avoid asking the "Am I any good?" question as much as possible since I know (deep down) that I am only average and simply don't have the time to put in the practice required to become good. I deliberately avoid comparing my skills (or lack of them) with others. Granted, I try to learn from others styles/riffs etc., but not for glory, purely for personal satisfaction.

 

Therefore, I play purely for my own amusement, enjoyment and stress relief. I honestly don't care if anyone else derives any pleasure from my playing at all - as long as I'm enjoying it, that's all that matters to me. I shun audiences and opportunities to play in public.

 

I don't agree with Dave H. that the ONLY reason for becoming a musician is to play for other human beings. I believe I am prime example that proves this statement wrong.

 

I'm sure there are others like me out there.

 

:DTR

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

.... flirting with the waitresses (and occasionally getting lucky) ....a day job (steel mill) to support a wife and two kids....

darn it all Dave, you shouldn't have gone and said that. While I have found your attitude to be mildly aggravating in the past, it's nothing compared to my present revulsion. Eeessshh.
"........! Try to make It..REAL! compared to what? ! ! ! " - BOPBEEPER
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Originally posted by gangsu:

Originally posted by Dave Horne:

.... flirting with the waitresses (and occasionally getting lucky) ....a day job (steel mill) to support a wife and two kids....

darn it all Dave, you shouldn't have gone and said that. While I have found your attitude to be mildly aggravating in the past, it's nothing compared to my present revulsion. Eeessshh.
I was wondering if anybody else caught that too... I didn't say anything, not knowing if monogamy was optional in the Netherlands.
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