Not Every Gig Is Snarky Puppy

24_6

A Quick Note: This post originally appeared in “The Load In” the weekly email from Startup Musician. To get it before it hits the blog, sign up below.

I went to college for music. Maybe you did too. While I had a great experience and am a much better musician because of it, I think there’s one big thing that they don’t talk about: restraint.

Here’s the problem that a lot of music college graduates experience: it turns us into really great musicians, but completely ignores the modern music market. (I know, I know, art vs. business. But hear me out.) I hear a lot of young players playing absolutely everything they know how to do: every lick, every substitution, every crazy fill, and doing it all the time, especially in places where you shouldn’t  Look, not every gig is Snarky Puppy. In fact, almost every gig isn’t Snarky Puppy.

But almost anyone who has ever gigged is in Snarky Puppy. There’s so many of them! How do they remember who’s all in the group? Seriously, they must wear name tags or something, right?

But almost anyone who has ever gigged is in Snarky Puppy. There’s so many of them! How do they remember who’s all in the group? Seriously, they must wear name tags or something, right?

It’s great to have a wealth of musical knowledge and know how to do lots of crazy things. But it’s even more important to know when that stuff is appropriate to play. Here’s a harsh fact: most of the time, you’re not going to need to know everything that you know. You don’t need to know how to solo over alternating bars of 7/8 and 11/8 in E Locrian if you’re playing for most pop artists. Forget pop, name almost any style and you don’t need to know how to do that. You probably just don’t need to know that period.

“I’m just writing out a simple polyrhythm over the subdominant altered sharp 11 substitute, but in a reverse 12 tone row. Sightread this and you can go on tour with me."

“I’m just writing out a simple polyrhythm over the subdominant altered sharp 11 substitute, but in a reverse 12 tone row. Sightread this and you can go on tour with me.”

The best musicians exercise musical restraint and play what the music calls for. Sure they could make it much more complicated, but it’s just going to distract from what the music is. Using 40% of their musical knowledge is going to be better than using 100%.

And your parents will still be just as proud!

And your parents will still be just as proud!

The realization that simpler is sometimes better doesn’t bum me out, it excites me (I’m a bass player so…). Imagine it like you’re painting a picture. You don’t have to use every single color paint that you own, and you probably shouldn’t. By toning it down a bit you can make something that’s beautiful in it’s simplicity.

If you follow me on snapchat, you already know the deep love I have in my heart for this man, the power he has over his canvas, and the power he has to help me fall asleep.

If you follow me on snapchat, you already know the deep love I have in my heart for this man, the power he has over his canvas, and the power he has to help me fall asleep.

I wish more musicians were comfortable and satisfied playing simple, 4 on the floor, 4 chord pop music.
I wish more bass players were fine with playing repeated 8th notes.
I wish more drummers saw the value of just  playing time.
I wish more keyboard players would play simple parts without reharmonizing.
I wish more guitar players would be okay with taking a short, effective 8 bar solo.
I wish more singers were okay with only doing 2 runs per song.

If the gig calls for Snarky Puppy-esque crazy jamming, by all means, Pup it out, bruh. But chances are, the audience you’re playing for wants to hear something simpler. Rest in the fact that even though you may not be playing the most musically interesting thing, it’s exactly what the audience needs to hear.