I played in rock bands, big bands, Latin bands and what were then called club date or casual bands for weddings and other parties. Those early gigs provided the foundation of what I was to become: a working musician. Musical experience is gained through performance, advice and dirty looks, and each element is an education in itself.
In those early days my particular problem was overplaying leading one pianist to say. "Hey KId, you play great but where's the beat"! It took me a little while to figure out that this was not a compliment but a rebuke. I was dedicated more to my chops than I was to the music being played.
That was a powerful lesson. Some years later that same pianist heard me backing a cabaret singer and was pleased not only at my performance but that I had taken his advice to heart.
Younger players, no matter what they play, tend to be instrument specific. If you play drums you tend to listen to what the drummer is playing rather than the band or the music. Musical selfishness is a part of all of us when we are young but it's live experience that turns that selfishness into selflessness.
Gaining experience today is a lot tougher than when I was young. There are less places to play and older musicians are less inclined to provide "on the job training", but that is no excuse for not trying.
Resumes and a web presence are important, but performing live is still the best way to be educated and heard. As always, all of you are invited to share your thoughts and stories. Join the conversation!