In this series of posts we explore musicality: what it means to be “musical”.

I once dated a guy who announced a few months into our relationship that he couldn’t understand why I loved going to concerts.  I understood the severity of the situation when I heard the following:

“Can’t you can just put on the CD and look at a poster instead? It’s the same thing.”


This happened over ten years ago, and I’m still bamboozled that someone could think such a thing, and I’m not alone: a 2015 research study showed that listeners prefer listening to live music more than recorded music.

So this begs the question: where did I find that dude, under a rock? Why are we willing to travel, use our time, and spend our money to hear our favorite musicians, even when we might be sitting in the nosebleeds instead of the birds-eye seats?

Sure, there are a few musicians whose live performances sound just like – or even better than – their studio sessions, proving they’re legitimately awesome at what they do (and, of course, there are some who don’t). For better or worse, the energy and excitement of live performance simply cannot be captured on any recording – not on a live album, not on a DVD, not online.

It only takes a single attendance at any kind of concert, comedy show, talent show, or evening of live theater for the concertgoer to have an understanding of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a performance. Now, as a musician who desires to grow in musicality, it’s time to consider taking the stage yourself— even if you have Streisand-like case of stage fright.

What live performance is… and what it isn’t

Simply stated, performing live music entails singing or playing your instrument in front of someone else. Live performance is performing for an audience without delay, so it’s not a recording of you posted to YouTube. It has to be in real time.

Live music changes with each performance – and not just in volume. Part of musicality is knowing how to improvise and how to deal with small errors and mistakes (they’re going to happen), and explore nuances of interpretation. You develop those skills through live performance.

We don’t become musicians thinking it’s going to be a fast ticket to fame or because we find it thrilling to sit and practice the same few bars of a tune over and over until we get it right.

Each new live performance – even of the same song – has the potential to generate fresh, exciting, and new experiences for both the audience and the performer.

As much as possible, the audience member should experience the music directly in performance…  and that can happen only when musicians perform live. You experience music in its truest form – in the moment the musician creates it.

There’s a hectic, enjoyable buzz of energy surrounding a live performance – it is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Performing music live requires that you work through – or in spite of – those emotions and learn to feed off that energy. That’s something that will never happen when you’re home alone practicing.

Why performing live is important

We don’t become musicians thinking it’s going to be a fast ticket to fame or because we find it thrilling to sit and practice the same few bars of a tune over and over until we get it right – that brings the satisfaction of achievement, but not a passionate thrill.

We make music because we enjoy it. We use it as a doorway to another reality; we use it as a form of expression.  At its core, music is a form of communication intended for an audience to hear and requires sharing.

In addition, performing live creates the best opportunity to learn how to read an audience, channel nerves, navigate mistakes, and learn what you’re bringing to the musical table.

How to find live performance opportunities

Whether you are a novice, a budding solo artist, or part of a band, there are plenty of places in your area where you can begin to play live:

  • Attend a local open mic night and add your name to the performer’s list
  • Learn a favorite hymn for your house of worship
  • Give a recital (alone or with other musical friends and family)
  • Offer to host a Christmas carol sing-along and provide the accompaniment (or bust out a few fun solo pieces)
  • Invite a friend to come over just to listen to you play
  • Ask the bar band if you can sit in for a set
  • Call a senior center or nursing home and volunteer to perform for their residents
  • Check with a local restaurant and ask if they’d like to have a live musician on a weeknight during dinner hour
  • Learn a few children’s songs and play for your child’s story time group or preschool class.

Once you become more comfortable sharing your talent with others, you’ll be open to more live performance opportunities, thus creating a connection with a larger community of music lovers.

How Musical U can help

Although there is no better way to learn to perform live than to simply start doing it, there is plenty you can do to help you prepare, increase your odds of success, and squash the self-doubt and nervous jitters than can otherwise cause problems.

Inside Musical U you’ll find a whole area devoted to planning – one of the most essential parts of a successful live music performance. Improve your ability to set clear goals, construct a plan to reach them, and follow through consistently, and you dramatically boost your chances of performing in a way you can be proud of. This goes for the long-term, as you develop your performing skills show after show, and on the small scale as you plan and prepare for each show in turn.

The majority of musical performances feature a group of musicians collaborating live, and even a solo act must learn to interact and respond to their audience. To feel confident in musical collaboration requires you to truly understand the music you’re playing – not just robotically read notes from a page. This means that other musicality skills like jamming, talking music, having good rhythm and singing in tune can all help you with your live performance.

Even when you’ve got the chops and you’ve planned carefully, there’s no question that performing live takes confidence. At Musical U you’ll find a dedicated Get Confident module which helps you build up your musical confidence one step at a time, plus a community of friendly and supportive musicians spanning all countries, instruments, and genres. Together we are ready, willing and able to share that journey with you, as you transform from nervous never-performed-before dreamer to stage-ready audience-dazzling musical star.

Musicality Means… Performing Live

You’ve worked hard to develop your music. The process has taught you so much about yourself and what you have inside to give. So now it’s time to bust out of the practice room and share the treasures you’ve discovered with others.

There’s nothing more thrilling than the energy that flows when you open up that connection with your audience. And like your passion for music, you can learn to master and direct that powerful force. Whether you’re almost ready for the stage, or just starting to learn about how to get there, Musical U is here to help you with your next step.