You CAN play any instrument you fancy, but the hard part is not comparing yourself with others, feeling isolated and then giving up. Ruth Miller of unglamorous music believes that beginners should experience the absolute joy of playing music in a band now, not after 3 years of practising.
If you’re starting long after you have left the education system, it’s harder to follow the conventional route of lessons, grades, music school, in which case you’re never going to be THE BEST. But that’s not really the point. Playing an instrument with others in a band as a beginner is such an awesome experience that it’s worth trying just so you can see how it feels.
Unglamorous music is a very specific approach, aimed at women – but applicable to anyone lacking in confidence and experience of playing. Some of the principles are:
- Choose an instrument that appeals and fits in with others
- Find helpful people to lend you stuff and support unconditionally
- Form a duo or band with other beginners straightaway
- Explore very simple rhythms and sounds
- Write your own words about your life
- Sing great tunes and backing vocals
- Play your song in a confident, cool, challenging way
- Get encouragement and applause from friends
- Start performing to audiences as soon as possible
You’ll notice that a lot of the principles are about getting encouragement. This is the key. It’s what stops you doubting and giving up. Those early audiences for simple, authentic, inexperienced playing made garage rock, punk, grunge, riot grrrl music happen. Your supporters online and in real life need to be open-minded, generous, artistic people who will lend you a guitar and praise your efforts unconditionally. You do not need a virtuoso bass player showing you how to do it properly, or anyone who criticises or gives ‘helpful feedback’. They mean well, but ultimately it will kill your art.
If you’re a woman, it is particularly powerful to play with other beginner women or anybody who truly wants to help you try your own thing. Sadly, the music tutor scene and many YouTube tutorials are often about people showing off and making you feel inadequate and slow. That’s why so many people have a guitar they no longer play – they felt that they didn’t SUCCEED at it.
The unglamorous music project isn’t part of high culture music or the beauty/fashion-led youth music industry … nor is it some funded community thing aiming to cheer people up in a village hall for 6 weeks. Unglamorous is every bit as raw, challenging, genre-busting as The Slits were in the late 1970s. Except it’s now 2023 and women don’t need to be young, skinny, white, attractive, living in London and dating members of The Clash in order to voice their thoughts through music.
Follow this blog to get tips on how to get going, wherever you are in the world. In Leicester, UK, there’s an unglam scene with eight all-women bands, plenty of gigs and a forthcoming album.