5 Critical Tips For Dealing With Your Musician Friends

Musicians are an interesting group of people. We are not as crazy as many seem to think but, we are, without a doubt, at least a little crazy. It’s considered a pre-requisite before even picking up an instrument. I can certainly understand why non-musicians find it so difficult to navigate our oddities. Watching us work can be similar to watching the strange rituals of animals in the wild, and we can be just as perplexing. I have had a number of non-musical friends come to me at odds with how to understand the world of musicians. In my best attempt to study these creatures in their natural habitat, I want to offer you outsiders a little insight into our bizarre world. After much observation and analysis, I compiled a short list of the top pieces of advice I can offer when dealing with musicians:

5. We have a hard time focusing on one thing for long periods of time.

Get used to it. I’m thoroughly convinced that a musician trying too hard to concentrate coined the phrase: “Oh! Something shiny!” Musicians do tend to be smart, but we have minds that run in a million directions at once. Those who have spent time working with children seem most adept at dealing with a musician’s attention span. If we aren’t medicated, be prepared to have many ADHD-esque experiences with us (which is not always a bad thing). Life will always be exciting albeit a bit exhausting at times. Just try to think of this as an endearing quirk that adds to our charm. Everything will be fine. I promise.

Wait…what was I talking about again?

4. Please do not touch our gear without asking.

And for the love of all that is holy, please learn how to properly wind up cables if you insist on helping us pack up! Don’t get me wrong, we appreciate you wanting to help, but we are a little compulsive with our gear and how it is handled. Here’s why: musical gear is very expensive and is often purchased after much thought and consideration given to what exact sound we want to achieve. We are sensitive when people don’t respect that and think that just because a guitar looks bad-ass and inviting, that that means they’re allowed to play their own version of guitar hero with a $2,000 vintage Telecaster. Newsflash: this is not a fun game for us to watch and we will not be impressed by your thorough air guitar training that you assume has prepared you for that moment. Furthermore, all cables (guitar cables, mic cables, etc) require a really specific way of being wound in order to preserve their longevity and usability. If you do not know the “over-under” technique, please drop that cable right now and proceed to your nearest sound tech or trained musician for further instruction.

3. Don’t expect us to have money.

This will not be new information to most of you, but I feel the need to really drive this point home. While not every musician is broke, the penniless-artist-stereotype does come from somewhere. Music is an extremely difficult pursuit and one that demands total commitment and unwavering drive. Both of these qualities come at a cost, however, which means neglecting seemingly more practical pursuits such as demanding office jobs that would otherwise tear time and attention away from the musical work at hand. Please be gentle and try not to penalize our shallow pockets. We are not lazy or inept; we simply made a choice to sacrifice certain luxuries, like a consistent paycheck, in pursuit of our musical aspirations. We are sincerely sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you or anyone else. We will make it up to you by dedicating our next album to you. Maybe. If we can afford to produce that album.

2. If you’re going to hang out with a musician, never be somewhere early.

It’s a nice idea in theory and appreciated by the average human. However, musicians are a special breed and are almost always late going anywhere. If you arrive somewhere early, we will inevitably be 15 minutes late. And we are sensitive artists and will feel bad that we made you wait. We might even get emotional and write a song about it to let out our feelings of angst. So, unless you want to live with the fact that you are responsible for a most likely poorly-written song about the painful repercussions of tardiness, I highly recommend you plan on taking your time when meeting up with any musician.

1. Never, ever, under any circumstances, request “Free Bird.”

There is always that one drunk guy in the back of the bar that thinks it’s funny to request this song. But, here’s some sage advice to “that guy”: it’s only funny to you because you’re drunk and can’t think of something more inventive to yell so, just say “no” to that little drunk voice in your head telling you to do it. It is the most cliche move in the book, it’s been done a million times before, and very few people actually think it’s clever. I highly suggest you think before you act and refrain from embarrassing yourself. And I can, with every confidence, say “thank you” on behalf of every working musician. While we are at it, please consider “Stairway to Heaven” as off-limits as well.

These are just a few pointers on how to begin to understand the peculiar and baffling inner-workings of the musician’s world. Musicians possess a certain amount of contradictions and frustrations that follow us around everywhere. We can be the life of the party one minute and then a total eye sore the next. I have learned to accept our quirkiness and own that these are my people, for better or worse. I urge you to heed my advice if you are considering dating a musician, supporting a family member pursuing music, or just trying to better understand a musician friend of yours. This is a basic starting point for jumping into a musician’s psyche. Enter at your own risk.

Featured Image by Flickr user Nerdcoresteve

2 Comments

  1. Lauren S

    February 3, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Requesting “Free Bird” is so tempting though sometimes! Lol, love this article!

  2. John Watts

    February 4, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    uh — what’s wrong with Stairway to Heaven?? OK, then I’ll request Proud Mary, LOL! Rock ON!!!

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