Your Peak Experiences as a Musician

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by PauFerro, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Years ago, I was reading about a researcher, I think it was Maslow, who interviewed a lot of famous people who transcended the average person. One thing they had in common were many "peak experiences". He described these as experiences where they felt a spiritual (NOT drug-induced) high after they had achieved or experienced something. People like Ghandi and Mother Teresa were part of his sample. I think he said these experiences accompanied what he calls "self-actualization".

    So, what are your peak experiences as a musician? Where you felt one with everything, that you were in the right place, that you had someone hit a natural high as a result of your activities as a musician?

    I have a few of them right now that really stand out.

    1. My first gig with top-players in town. They all had music degrees and decades of experience. I had loaded up all my stuff and was driving the car home after the gig. I had somehow hit on something that I would likely be doing for the rest of my life. The words "I'm a semi-pro musician now" kept flooding my brain all the way home.

    2. When I wrote 15 songs for a club owner. I had to switch between a piccolo for melodies, and my electric for supportive bass when others were soloing. I was using second call musicians because the pay was low. We played the original first couple songs and the crowd clapped and hooted and hollered as much as they do when I play with the top-of-scene guys. After we played our first set, one of the guys, one of these non-musician types who listen to EVERYTHING, walked up to me and said. "I see a pattern, all the best bands have a really strong bass player."

    3. I was at a music festival with my first band, a classic and smooth jazz quartet. We were playing Tequila Moon by Jesse J. I looked out over the crowd, and it was like I didn't see them. What I saw were the trees and the beautiful landscape. I knew the song by heart so I wasn't even thinking about my playing and the whole band flowed. It was amazing to be admist such beauty making music without even thinking about it.

    4. My first song I wrote when I was 17. It was called Sunday Afternoon, and featured three part harmony between a trombone, a trumpet, and a sax player. I gave them the sheet music, and after they played it, it sounded the same as I envisioned it when I composed it on my guitar, with all the instruments simply in my head. I felt, as one musician described it "God-like". Something about creating something and bringing it to life the way you envisioned it is way cool.

    5. We were doing a tune called Europa by Santana. It was missing something, so I bought a Dunlop Bass Chorus. I used it with a fretless I had built many years previously. When I played it with the band I sounded like Abe Laboriel in the Lion King tune "He LIves in YOu". A tune where his soaring fretless tone had captivated and eluded me for years.

    So, what are your peak experiences as a musician?
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  2. Qlanq


    Jul 9, 2007
    Cool thread. Thanks for sharing.
    I have a few:
    First time playing the Marquee club in London. Jumped on stage, played for 45 minutes, came off stage realizing that I had sweat like a pig and the gig seemed to last 10 seconds.
    Giving advice to a guy I met at a hotel I worked at on how to make good use of practice time. This guy:
    Realizing that I could play any Rush song up to 1976. That was a big deal.
    Realizing I could learn to play songs I detested to listen to but loved to play.
    Allright Now can still suck the the big one though. Enough there.
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  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I've played for 3 presidents, and heads of state of numerous countries.

    I performed at the National Jazz and Heritage Museum in New Orleans with Ellis Marsalis.

    I played with Roy Hargrove, Toni Tenille and Wayne Newton (not at the same time)

    I recorded with Gordon Goodwin

    I managed to make a living playing music for over 30 years, which is still amazing to me.
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  4. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Opening for Rod Stewart in front of 20,000 fans. March 1999. Played for many national events with numerous heads of state and VIPs (when I played in police/military pipe bands).

    As a bassist: being shut down by Gen Petraeus at ISAF HQ Biergarten in Kabul, April 2011. Then playing to a packed house later that day at the Duck and Cover Pub, US Embassy Kabul. Surreal.

    Any gig, large or small, where the dancefloor is packed! I live for those nights!
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  5. twinjet

    twinjet Powered by GE90s; fueled with coffee. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    That's really awesome. I played at my state governor's inaugural ball several years ago. But presidential, that's neat.

    Neat. I got to play with drummer Jason Marsalis, though he was playing vibes.

    Neat, which tunes? I played Goodwin charts in high school.

    To answer the OP, getting hired for a studio job at 17 was my "peak". A dream come true, actually. I thought, what could be cooler? Most other bass players my age weren't gigging and getting session work. They were thrashing in their garages! I won't lie, I felt pretty cool. I didn't let it get to my head, rest assured.

    The customer initially was discovered by Ellen DeGeneress and later went on to place 4th on America's Got Talent. Six years later, I'm still bragging about that job.

    Playing for a 17-piece big band brought me several fun gigs, including an inaugural ball for the governor of Alaska in 2012. We occupied a large, decorated ballroom in a convention hall and swung the new administrative family in. It was spectacular.
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  6. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    What I consider to be my "peak experiences" have come from automotive related stuff..... our builds being featured in national magazines, TV coverage, being voted "best engineered Sportsman car" at an IHRA national event, numerous trophies and a few world championships, etc.... It's what flows thru my veins.

    Musically, I've played a crap load of shows in small to medium sized rooms to packed crowds that were full of energy, and it's a blast when it's that good of a night. I've also played shows for the bartender, soundman and the lone drunk collapsed over the end of the bar.

    I guess the peak was when I played a gig at a soccer stadium in front of 2500 people..... although I believe that 2499 of them were there to meet & greet with some really famous soccer players that I had never heard of. :D
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  7. ThudThudThud


    Jun 4, 2010
    Very cool. It reminds me somewhat of being in a band in the late 80s. We were just chatting on a break, and someone started comparing largest crowds each member had played to. The numbers were not huge, but we were all proud of our accomplishments. Then it got to the sax player, "Live, or on TV?"
    Okay....we'll bite. "Live!"
    "About 90,000" he said, quite causally.
    We all looked at each other. We were just a young start-up club band.

    He was also a bassoon player in the band of the Irish Guards. He was in the band during half time at the FA Cup final at Wembley stadium.
    (for my non-British brethren, that's the equivalent of the Superbowl for English soccer).
    That's a crowd.

    Odd chap, couldn't get anything right at rehearsals. Kept forgetting parts. Nearly fired him....
    Then at our first gig he stole the show. Note perfect. Had the looks, had the chops, had the audience in the palm of his hand.
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  8. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Had another peak experience yesterday. I've been grooming some players that are not top of scene, but they are so cooperative, innovative, and have such great people skills, I keep calling them. As a result of their attitude, I've gone into a whole whack of new areas in music I never would have done with the top-of-scene players. I have written a ton of songs, and the piano player has written three that we like. They were the group on which I tried the 1/4 size upright on NYEve/2016, started fronting the band on piccolo bass, and started conscious practicing of tension and release.


    1. The piccolo bass, with a new mixer and chorus effect was amazing. Full as ever with great reviews from the band.

    2. I bought an Alesis Micron vintage effects synthesizer. The keyboard player, without complaint, agreed to use it for left hand bass on the "Jaco in a Box" bass setting. Awesome!!! She used it on about 10 songs when I had to move off the supportive bass chair, often switching from one instrument to the next on different songs. When I play the melody or solo on piccolo bass, her left hand work on the Alesis has just the right, sparse amount of bass underneath the band to keep the full sound spectrum together.

    The combination of the chorused piccolo bass, and bass synthesizer created a sound that I really liked. When I was soloing, it was a peak experience. Felt like my spirit left my body (kind of )during one of our more smooth/fusion songs . Been fiddling with different settings and tones for the longest time and its always been a compromise. To see if come to life was awesome... We now have a sound that meets expectations.

    3. I had a goal to play a full set of jazz standards on upright. Worked my tail off for the last couple weeks since I was on vacation. Muscle pain, arm and shoulder muscle pain ensued, and then subsided as muscles strengthened -- but the practice strengthened the muscles very well. I looked up an 75 minutes had gone by -- about 1.25 sets -- before the drummer suggested we take a break. I still had stamina to do more songs, but it would have been songs I had not prepared and I was afraid of intonation problems, so I didn't push it.

    4. At one point, I was going to bail on upright in the middle of the set and do one song on electric I hadn't rehearsed yet. I had accidentally put it in the set list. The drummer kind of jokingly, but also a bit sternly (I said he has good people skills), said the goal was to do a full set on upright, so I had to stick with it to reach the goal. So I did...I thought that was great bandmateship -- to push me that way. That was my goal -- to play a full set on upright -- not his -- but he pushed me anyway to be a better musician.

    5. On my first night with the upright 12/31/2016, I did passably. We were struggling with quite a few things that night -- many administrative involving the crowd, a new set of speakers -- and I put the endpin of the bass too high, and the band told me my intonation was off. But the band was still very encouraging. This time they told me they didn't hear any intonation problems at all.

    6. I've made it a personal priority to get the band doing tension and release. Rather than let it develop on its own speed, I've been trying to get them to practice it in rehearsal. We've been taking turns "leading" in that respect. Over a chosen set of changes, we point to the next person in round-robin style to lead the band to higher levels of tension and release.

    Anyway, the drummer bought a more responsive jazz kit, and is taking lessons with a former drummer of one of the world's best fusion bands of the 70's online. There were a few times he managed to make the tension and release happen. It was based on a few standard rhythmic licks that I have been doing in rehearsal. This is so when he hears them, he knows to get a bit louder and to support them with his own rhythms.

    I made a point of looking back at him with a nod and a smile to encourage it the few times it happened.

    Anyway, a great experience yesterday. So many new things and progress made. I think it's part of what makes bands engaging. Some really good feelings from everyone at the end of the gig. .
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
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  9. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    i've been a musician all of my life, have made a living at it, and i have plenty of things to brag about (playing with jazz greats, touring with icons, yada yada), but in terms of the OP's point regarding peak experiences: i have them more or less regularly playing with one of my bands (instrumental jazz) where all seven of us can 'click' at a particular moment, or on a tune, and everyone is elevated to a surprising place of 'unity' and, well...transcendence. trying to make it happen doesn't seem to pay off much, but letting it happen (opening up) is helpful. i get to experience this with these guys regularly, but the experience is still elusive in and of itself. sometimes we'll finish one of those moments (at a gig or a rehearsal) and we'll all be speechless for a after a powerful prayer! at 66 y.o., i'm still amazed and in awe. pretty nice, IMO.
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  10. Pyrat

    Pyrat Supporting Member

    Mike Watt during sound-check telling me how much he dug my was a big deal to me, anyway...
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  11. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Had another one this weekend. It's strange that these experiences are happening in a group of what I call developing players. I play with some of the better players in our town, and although the music itself is good, there aren't the same peaks as I've been getting with this developing group of musicians.

    This time, we hadn't played together in a month, although I had gigs with other groups.

    They were ecstatic to be together again. When everyone greeted everyone there was this sincere pleasure at getting together again, big smiles, warm handshakes and such. I could tell they had been looking forward to it for a while.

    I think it's because many of the principles of exciting "organizations" are present in this group. First, everyone is learning. It's where I've been cutting my teeth on upright, amplification issues. The keyboard player is trying to solo at faster speeds now. The drummer is working on tension and release, and even signed up for lessons with the drummer from Weather Report, online. We also tried out a new player. He plays an electric wind instrument, which fits the culture of creativity and openness. He appears to have a small personality issue that makes him socially awkward, but given the "we don't care who you are as long as you're reliable, creative and developing" he seemed to fit in. He's coming back next month after learning some new songs.

    This is the only group where we write and perform original music, so there is growth and creativity there. For the musicians, they have started getting repeat bookings, which I think is exciting them. I have been experiencing that in other groups for years now, but it's exciting to see these musicians developing into semi-pro players and enjoying themselves. So, although the music is getting better and better, the peak experience came from the teamwork and enthusiasm from the band.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
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  12. Aberdumbie


    Jan 22, 2016
    South Carolina
    One time. July 4th end of a baseball game. We played a thirty minute set prior to the fireworks. For ten years I been saying to club audiences, "Ladies & Gentlemen please rise for the national anthem", and we would launch into a rendition of Dixie. Well, it WAS July 4th. I said that as I had said a thousand times before and 8000 people rose to their feet. Only time in my life I felt my lights going out upstairs. After that gig I was satisfied I had lived my dream. Not a statement all folks are fortunate to be able to say.
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  13. Aberdumbie


    Jan 22, 2016
    South Carolina
    This is totally cool to me. When you perform for heads of state is there a period of background checks and folks checking your gear and such?
  14. sears

    sears Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2005
    ec, md
    Clearly I haven't discovered myself. This "peak experience" sounds like the occult, or something
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification

    I was military, so I'd already had the background checks. Secret Service still goes through gear with a fine toothed comb, though. (Including removing the heads from drums, etc) . For foreign dignitaries, usually just a sweep by dogs.
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  16. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Had a another great experience. Was hired by an event planner to do a corporate event. I had picked up an upright bass back in December and have been playing it tireless on simple jazz tunes. Used it for about 1/2 the 3 hours we played this evening. Found I can now sight read certain songs with it. My motivation to learn upright is at an all time high. Love the feel of it under my fingers!

    The cool part was the management of the hotel spoke to me about doing events there after we played. The event planner was happy with us as well and said she does a lot of events, took our business card. Musicians were happy. We got paid nicely.

    All around good experience, particularly seeing the dollars and repeat bookings rolling in even after starting on upright just a few months ago.
  17. cronker


    Feb 13, 2007
    I went through a wonderful period where my songwriting just seemed to flow- I was writing very interesting and satisfying songs that perhaps weren't mainstream. Think Rush around the Signals album. My band and I had just lost our singer, and while we were auditioning, we just mucked around with our original stuff.
    We were a rock n roll cover band and none of us had ever even thought to talk about the stuff we were practicing in our bedroom.
    Turns out we were all working on really interesting things by ourselves, and during that period without a singer, suddenly all this wonderful music bubbled to the surface!
    I gave my guitarist a skeleton of what my song sounded to me in my head, and within a few minutes he had nailed it.
    He gave me a handwritten chart for one of his songs, with no idea of what the bass or drums might do, and within twenty minutes we had a full song as a band.
    At the time, I was very conscious of trying to sharpen up my theory and I had been reading about "weak" chords and progressions- and I had berated myself for using such structures.
    When I heard my full band play my song, including my "weak" structures, I told myself to ignore what someone else's book told me and listen to the music.