I don't know about you, but I am desperate to get back to performing live!
Whether you are a student preparing for a grade exam, an amateur performer or a professional musician, we are all tired of the whole Covid19 situation but has our time performing to the camera in our homes had a good or bad impact on us? In this blog post I am going to explore this question.
It is nice to think about businesses that have thrived during the pandemic because so much of the daily news has been negative. Manufacturers of microphones, computer equipment, video editing software, studio headphones and so many other things have seen their sales increase because of the need for musicians to record to a good quality at home. Even a very basic home studio setup was a luxury before the pandemic but has become something a lot more people now desire. Not to mention the new skills many musicians have developed as a result, like learning about microphone positioning, how to edit tracks and a whole host of other music tech related stuff.
A-level music technology courses were in danger of being removed due to low demand and due to the difficulty in finding experienced music teachers who could successfully deliver the course but I bet (and hope) in the coming years these courses will start to become more popular.
For anyone who has ever recorded in a professional studio you will know how challenging it can be to get things sounding perfect. Normally you would have separate performers, producers, recording engineers and editors but for most of us, suddenly needing to record ourselves at home has meant we have needed to fill all of these roles.
When I recorded my solo CD, I thought that I was prepared for it and for the most part it went smoothly but at a few times, just the slightest little thing could require a new take and when you start making mistakes it is very easy to keep stopping and starting to get it sounding more perfect. Every tiny weakness or inaccuracy is enhanced when you record yourself and the better the equipment, the more these things show up.
Performing live, in many ways is much easier. I know from teaching GCSE music, many times a super confident student who performs faultlessly live, cannot get through one take without stopping when they are recording their performance coursework. How many takes have been binned, over and over during this lockdown when you would only get one chance at it when performing live? Those small inaccuracies we hear when listening to ourselves will have made us have a new higher standard of practice and performance.
Practice Makes Perfect
Take after take means more time spent playing our instruments which is great. That inspiration and motivation to get it perfect will have made us all better musicians. Plus, the metronome has now become our best friend because without it people quickly realised it is impossible to get more than one video to line up in sync. That time spent playing to click tracks and backing tracks will no doubt make our ensemble and rhythm skills better when rehearsals begin again.
Could all this even have helped to bridge the gap between the average musician and the professional? The average musician or even low ability musician with good tech skills could easily make their performance reach a higher level of quality than that player could ever achieve in a live performance. Likewise, the best musician in the world might not sound so world class if the equipment they use to record on limits their ability to realise their true sound.
It is both a blessing and a curse I think. How many musicians have we lost? Not just to the virus but with a lack of motivation, how many people have given up making music altogether? How many musicians have become so comfortable in this lockdown musical world that the thought of performing to an audience is now even more scary to them than it previously might have been? I know for certain that we all need to support each other in getting back into the swing of things. Be patient if someone doesn't sound as good as they used too, encourage them and remind them of their past accomplishments.
People have changed, and in some ways the mental health issues a person may have had before and kept well hidden, has potentially now grown bigger. An example of this can be when you ask someone if they have time to help you or speak to you and they say they do not, when in reality we know they are just doing nothing at home. Excuse after excuse has become a dangerously toxic and subconscious response for some people and hopefully any laziness can quickly be turned into excitement once rehearsals and live music starts properly.
The part that the audience plays is huge and the music world is going to depend on the audience even more than the performers. I actually worry more for the average audience member than I do for the performers coming out of all of this.
Has the average member of the public missed live music?
Do people still have the patience to sit and watch a whole symphony?
Will any new rules and regulations put people off attending live events?
People who listen to music through phone speakers will never understand the feeling or power that musical sound has. A live brass band, an open air rock concert, a samba band marching through the street, these are living things that can only be truly experienced from being there in the moment. You cannot skip through it. How many magical musical moments have been recorded during this lockdown only to be heard in full by a small handful of listeners? Maybe I am being harsh, and I hope I am wrong but the lack of live music may have had an adverse impact on our patience, feelings, emotions and expression. As good as playing with a metronome is, it completely removes the ability for a performer to be free, to use rubato and play music from the heart.
Perhaps also the challenges for whoever is editing videos has meant that musicians have not been attempting difficult music enough. The easy popular tunes and famous songs are the ones that will keep the listener engaged so has this had an impact on contemporary music? I haven't heard much new music during the pandemic, even though I am sure it is out there, but I do look forward to playing and listening to new, technically challenging music when we move forwards.
I know for a fact though, when you next go and watch a live performance in a quiet setting like a concert hall or church, I bet there will be a lot less coughing. I was listening recently to some live brass performances and was amazed by the amount of coughing, grunting and throat clearing going on, especially in the silent bits. I have a feeling this will not be the case at least in the immediate future.
Lockdown videos have also made musicians think more about the visual aspect and perhaps this is going to make live classical music more entertaining and potentially more appealing to a wider audience. Perhaps some of the funny things people have done in the comfort of their own home will spill over onto the stage. Perhaps some people will have a new found confidence because of this. I hope so.
The way the world has embraced the idea of creating lockdown videos is simply amazing. The creativity and innovation on display from all corners of the world, in every style possible is mind boggling and demonstrates just how resilient and adaptable humans are. Students have been able to perform for their idols and have lessons from people who live on the other side of the world. There is no such thing as a local music event anymore, everything is now international.
In answer to my initial question. Has our time performing to the camera in our homes had a good or bad impact on us? I want to believe that the impact weighs much greater on the positive than the negative, but only time will tell. With new ideas, excitement and support from each other, surely the musical world is only going to be bigger and stronger following this.
Do you agree?
Thanks for reading!