Myths About Live Music Performance Coaching

(or comments sometimes heard about performance coaches)

If I’m coached, then the show isn’t really me; it’s not my authentic self up there. I wanna be the real me.

A good performance coach doesn’t want to change you into something you’re not. Good coaches want to help talented musicians find out who they really are on stage (or who they can be) by giving them more tools to work with; more ideas about how to take what they already do well and do it better. Some people think they’re just giving an “honest” show when they wing it on stage, when in fact very, very few people are good at that kind of improvisation. Instead of coming off as honest, a lot of these shows come off as lazy, slow, and (yawn) lacking focus and energy.

People come to hear us at a bar and have a great time; we already know what we’re doing and don’t need coaching.

That may be true. You may be a fantastic bar band in a place where people go to drink and dance, and maybe even watch you, but what about a big soft-seat venue? Would your show hold up on a large stage with a somewhat sober audience who’ll mostly sit and stare at you for two hours?

Are you a young musician? Do you want to perform for the rest of your life? If so, will you be playing in bars when you’re thirty? Fifty? Seventy? Not that bars are a bad place to play for everyone, but it’s nice to have options. Coaching helps young musicians to expand their skill set so they can perform a wider variety of shows in a wider variety of venues.

We don’t want to look too slick, and please, no choreography!

Performance coaching is not about making you do cutesy dances. I know nothing about choreography. I do know about theatre and acting. There’s something of a relationship between what actors, directors and set designers do, and what musicians, coaches and venue presenters do. My job is not to make you look slick, but rather to make you look more confident, better grounded and solid when you step onto the stage. After a great show an audience ought to leave feeling that the world is not quite the same as it was when they arrived. A great show shakes people up a bit, moves them, even changes them. I believe a great play does the same thing. And that’s why I like to borrow from what I learned in theatre when I coach musicians.

I’m just the side musician – I don’t need coaching ’cause nobody looks at me that much.

And speaking of plays, imagine for a moment you’re at one. Suppose that every time one of the lead actors delivered a longer bit of text the two or three others on stage started to pick wax out of their ears, or removed their jackets and shook them out, or moved their chairs around? Do you think the director would say it doesn’t matter because no one’s looking at them that much?

Side musicians who know what they’re doing on stage are worth their weight in gold.

I’ve seen that Metallica movie — the performance coach really messes with their heads. I don’t want a coach messing with my head.

I’ve seen the movie too. Believe me, Phil Towles didn’t do anything even close to the kind of performance coaching I’m promoting. He behaved like a therapist, which is what the band needed. Big time. (That said, if anyone wants to pay me $40,000 a month like Phil to give them therapy, I’m a quick study.)

I’m not interested in messing with anybody’s head. If I think you need a professional therapist I will tell you so. Nicely. Otherwise I’m all about the nuts and bolts of getting on stage and making a show happen. Period.