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Songwriting Guides > Performing > Why perform your own songs?
Songwriting Guides
Why perform your own songs?

There's usually one good reason why you should perform your own songs - nobody else will. Famously, the only reason why Reg Dwight (later Elton John) decided to start performing the songs that he and Bernie Taupin were writing was because they couldn't get any other artists interested.

It may be also that the songs you are writing can only be sung by yourself. Many singers have a unique writing and singing style, though that hasn't stopped people covering their songs once they are famous. (For instance you wouldn't think that The Future Heads would cover Hounds Of Love!)

It tests your mettle. It makes you a better band. It forces you to be good or those people will eat you up.
Mike Mills, REM

Another good reason for performing your own songs is if you have a good voice. However, a great singing voice isn't necessary to sing your own songs. No one thought Dylan had a great voice - what he had was an unusual voice, a sound that is memorable and instantly recognisable. This is often more important than having a perfectly trained voice.

Performing means you get a chance to try out your material in front of a live audience and gauge their reaction. How many times has something you have tried in your bedroom and thought was fantastic suddenly hit a muted reaction at the local open mic night? Finding out why your music and songs haven't excited a live audience is a big step towards improving your songwriting. It may be that in a set one or two songs get a great reaction, and none of the others do. What's different?

When you can see the whites of your audience's eyes, you really get to find out the strengths of your music. Which tunes increase the queue at the bar and which fill the floor up? You'll be able to tell within a few bars whether that tune that sounded so great in the rehearsal room is what your punters want to hear.

"There's no better way to get feedback than to stand in front of a group of people who aren't your mates and play your songs." Simon De Winter - A&R Gut Records

Catherine BellCatherine Bell, Director Rights, Chrysalis Music Ltd
It my be nerve-wracking but, "Honing your art by playing live is really important."
Listen to Catherine Audio help
"In the studio it's very pipe and slippers. If something goes wrong, it's like 'do it again.' Playing live, the moment is gone and you're on to something else. It's much more immediate." Laura Burton - Freelance Live Sound Engineer (London Garage, LA2 and tours)

Performing builds your confidence. It's good for getting out there in the music business itself, and even if you only want to write for others and have a limited performing experience, it's valuable for you to know what other artists go through when they perform.

Send us your views or read other peoples'
Send us your comments on: Why perform?

Anna Chambers Glasgow
Hi there I am a songwriter and I think performing your own song is an exhilirating experience but also nervewracking.Recently my co-writer and I played a set of our own songs at Celtic Connections and it was a great way of discovering what songs an audience really enjoy and appreciate.In the recording studio it is a totally different experience and you feel safe,in a place where you can re-do songs and go over mistakes.In order to get our songs heard we are going to continue picking up gigs gaining more experience and perhaps picking up a few contacts on the way.

Roli Hope Odeka-----Milan Italy
Good Morning, Performing your composition is the only way to transmitting the emotion had the moment the music was written. I am a complete Artiste that never studied music or writings nor paintings.I am an African born in Nigeria, but could feel and make use of what sensation that I feel without waiting first to be perfect and later learning from the mistakes.My music includes Classic,opera and world music.A few showcases here in Italy has landed me with an Award recently in Rome.I would conclude that music is the feelings that all have and it is enough to write it and show it to the world.I am new to this world,but now taking lessons for my voice,not only for singing but also for speaking because I need a brush up here. Thank you.

Earlsdon Jack, Coventry
What you realise fairly quickly from playing LIVE as opposed to in your bedroom, is that the audience want ENTERTAINMENT, rather than ART. There is (apparently) a good living to be had for good pub bands to go around the clubs playing covers, whereas pure artists tend to starve in their garrets waiting to be famous. Basically, punters out for a beer on a Saturday night want to hear songs they know and like, not necessarily be challenged by intellectual singer-songwriters with their latest alternative offering. I'm not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, I just think this is the way the world is, and, like it or not, you have to work within that. It's no accident that bands like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles started out as covers bands playing the circuits, and then gradually started dropping their own material in amongst the covers. Gradually, their own songs became well known, and the rest is history. Obviously, you need to be able to PLAY your chosen instrument to a relatively high standard - although that is do-able with a couple of years' practice (even teenage boy and girl bands manage to do that) before embarking out in front of an audience.

Ian Ondine / Wakefield
Yes performing is important but make sure you're damn good before you attempt to play live & if your'e playing to one man & his dog at the Aigburth Arms imagine you're at the 100 club, it's your time up there.

mark keyton martigne ferchaud france
Performing is everything. It tests you, it tests the songs and you progress even if you dont feel as though you are. Good nights, bad nights they both help you and perhaps busking is the best way to start. Although starting the first song is the hardest bit.

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