Where To Play Gigs by David Weiss

As I have shared before, one of the best online resources for musical saw information is the Saw Player News, the newsletter of the IMSA. There are marvelous free articles by some of the world’s best saw players, players such as Natalia Paruz, Morgan Cowin, and David Weiss. These experts offer great advice on all aspects of saw playing.

Here’s a great article by David Weiss, offering advice on places to play.

“My past columns have covered the gamut from musical saw humor, to what to look for when buying a saw, how to practice, how to prepare for auditions, what to expect at recording sessions, etc. So by now you must be getting quite good and are looking for more places to play! This column is devoted to exploring a range of possibilities to help you discover some really fun venues where you can introduce the saw to new audiences, enhance your reputation, and maybe even make some money while you’re add it!

Developing a reputation has to start somewhere and being a good musician and entertainer is the first step. Our unique instrument benefits a lot by having an “accomplice” to sound its best. Working with a pianist (or guitar or harp player etc.) can really help you sound better. Find some time for several practice sessions with your accompanist or group (keep the group small not more than three players total) and work up at least a 20 minute set before putting on a performance. If you don’t have your act together you hurt your chances at getting a repeat performance. Be smart about choosing the tunes you play. Keep it within your ability to play well and geared towards your target audience so they find the music familiar and enjoyable. Avoid traveling with lots of stuff (amps, mics,wires,speakers) as that gets cumbersome really fast and can be a deal breaker. The pianist you use should be comfortable with a portable electronic keyboard that could run on batteries if need be. Keep your gear as simple and trouble free as possible.

Playing for worthy causes and charities (schools, churches, hospitals) is a really good thing to do. Perhaps you or a family member have a special interest in, say, an environmental group, the local city council, an assisted living center, or even the local chapter of an international organization such as the Red Cross or Cancer Society. Find out when the group meets, and offer to play for a few minutes before or after their meeting for free. It would be best if you truly felt passionate about their mission. Who knows, you might eventually become one of the faces of the organization. If that happens then all of their promotional power helps promote you too. Even though this might sound too self-serving, keep in mind that you will be helping the organization you believe in.

Encourage your fans to attend your performance when you go to a new venue. Give thought to places where nobody normally plays gigs. Don’t worry about making any money but about creating a buzz and growing your fan base. Consider weird places that will get people talking. Don’t get arrested, although that might accelerate the buzz about you. Tradeshows, harvest festivals, arts and crafts fairs, or even just outside your local Home Depot could all be good; just get permission first. Another idea is to contact your school alumni organizations. Tell them what you’re doing with your music. When alumni get together to relive the glory years, you can provide a bit of entertainment as well as publicize any other shows you may be doing. If nothing else they often have websites and or newsletters and might be willing to promote your appearances.

Do you know anyone who owns or manages, for example, a small coffee shop. Ask permission to play they there, say for an hour, on a slow night. You could bring your own crowd of people creating a win-win situation. If it gains traction, you could then bring in occasional guest artists and slowly expand and create a really cool music venue that hadn’t existed before.

The bottom line is that it takes a little imagination and creativity, along with having a tough enough skin to deal with rejection. Some of you have probably gone this route and found some success. We’d love to hear your stories so please write to us at saw player news and share your experiences.”

Saw Player News, Spring 2011

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Rowena Southard, your blog hostess, is a musical saw enthusiast who lives in California. She loves all kinds of music and has a special fondness for unusual instruments.