How COVID-19 is Affecting Guitarists
Well, this is a guitar website after all…
We’re all musicians, we’re all in this together; even if it doesn’t always seem that way in heated political discussions on social media. (I’m guilty, I know)
Things have changed A LOT. The 2nd week of March 2020, I was finishing up a typical 5-gig week. On that following Monday, everything was cancelled. Everything on my calendar gone, literally overnight. I’m not alone. If anything I may be one of the lucky ones thanks to readers like you.
I have quit all of my musical side-projects. It was a tough decision and certainly not permanent, but I think it was the right thing to do for me right now. I have an elderly Mother-in-Law and I want to be responsible with her health concerns as well as those around me.
I’m still doing a few gigs, outdoor only, with my acoustic duo, Acoustic Inferno. (pic left). We’re also doing some Live Streams on our Facebook Page, which are a lot of fun. Things are different, but we are adapting.
We. Wear. Masks.
Yes, a controversial subject right now (I have no idea why).
What’s the big deal?
That being said, I didn’t want to make this article about me. Last week when I sent out an email to my readers and a few of my favorite guitarists, the response was overwhelming. I’m sorry for those I did not include, or who missed the deadline.
I decided to cut most of my story out and include these instead. I think it’s interesting how things are changing for amateur and professional guitarists alike. I especially admire those guitarists and musicians who are able to adapt.
Here are their stories in the order that I received them.
“When the coronavirus just started to hit in my area (Canton, Ohio) and things really started to shut down, I had just started recording a new album of guitar music that had been planning on doing for sometime. I didn’t have too many gigs booked during that time because I wanted to really concentrate on the recording.
I recorded most of the album in March, April, and May. Now I am finishing a few edits and starting to do the mixing. I should have it released in early September which I am really looking forward to.”
“I was teaching at the Music Farm in Canton Ohio which I really enjoyed. Once the virus hit, I moved my teaching to online and that has been working out really well. I enjoy that I can teach someone who lives anywhere.
I have not played any gigs since it hit and I am not really in any hurry to do any live stuff until things settle down and the virus is contained. I am using this period to record, teach and work on new music.
I look forward to when this whole nightmare ends and all the music can start to be heard again everywhere. It has been so tough on all the musicians, nightclubs, and restaurants to make a go of it during this pandemic. I really feel for everyone who has been sick or who has lost their life also. These are sad times at the moment, but I know it will get better over time.”
“Being in lockdown in New Zealand for 6 weeks finally gave me the time to
practice on the guitar for at least an hour each day. Once in that routine
I was able to make great progress in learning scales and the fretboard.
So being restricted by Government decree was not all that bad!”
Nev – Email Subscriber
The pandemic has given me more time at first to practice, but as time has gone on I find myself struggling to get back into a schedule. I am not a gigging musician. I am trying to build my repertoire up so I can start playing out.
So to answer your question; no, the pandemic has not affected my playing that much.”
Wayne – Email Subscriber
“The COVID-19 pandemic basically shut my band down. We played our last gig around the middle of February. Typically we work twice a month. Every venue we regularly play at is shut down. We had bookings into August that got cancelled. Only one of our regular club customers has re-opened and frankly, the band is split down the middle as to whether we want to open up and play out right now. They’ve offered us some gig nights and we turned them down.
I have used the time to practice a LOT and experiment with a lot of things. My wife and I have rehearsed a duet acoustic thing; I spend time with a looper making demos; I have a handful of practice routines (I don’t have to tell you that the Internet is jammed with people selling guitar study methods. I found yours to be one of the most useful.) I learn new tunes.
The result of all this is that during the lockdown I have grown as a musician and expanded my palette considerably. I also had a moment of clarity where I realized that frankly, I don’t miss playing gigs.
I am blessed to be retired and I am not dependent on my income from playing music (thank God!). I really feel for my friends who are, because this has been rough on all working musicians.
Danny – Guitarist, Email Subscriber
“I’m a technical support person so I spend most of my working hours on the telephone or remotely connect to customer computers. I have been working from home since March 18th.
Initially I found it difficult as there were so many interruptions from my wife and kids. I eventually settled into a rhythm of working from home. Then, I brought my guitar and music stand into the home office. I have to admit that it was a genius move on my part!
I am a beginner guitarist and struggled to find, or make, the time to practice guitar. Since my guitar now sits within my reach, I find myself practicing chord changes or strumming songs, during the times when I am not actively on the phones or when I am watching a computer.
I went from struggling with keeping a strum going while just changing chords to actually being able to play a couple of songs. I am now working on trying to sing while I play. I’ve found that I can sing some songs and that it depends on the rhythm of the song and my strumming as to whether I can sing as I play.
I don’t have a song memorized but I have 4, maybe 5, that I can pretty much play from beginning to end, with 1 and I’m really close to being able to sing all of song #2. I am scheduled to go back into the office on July 13th, so I’m a little bummed about that and I don’t think they will let me bring in my guitar!!”
Brian – Guitarist, Email Subscriber
“During the quarantine, my lesson studio moved to online Zoom lessons. As a full time instructor, I was initially skeptical of the format, however, I quickly realized that (while everything has positives, negatives, and compromises), I am equally effective in the virtual realm as I am in person. Many of my students decided to give the virtual lessons a try, and actually seem to enjoy the format.
I’m grateful to have such a dedicated and loyal group of students! Additionally, I’ve devoted more energy to expanding my visibility as an artist and instructor, through weekly YouTube lesson uploads, building a website, and posting to various social media platforms.
“While this period has been trying (to say the least), I feel that it has provided the motivation to strive for more in my career, rather than being satisfied with the status quo.”
Pro Guitarist & Teacher – Chris Peters
Local Orlando Guitarist – Greg Hayworth
“It’s been nearly 4 months since I’ve played a paying gig. It’s definitely the most bizarre period in my career to say the least. I’ve made my living playing music exclusively since 1990, so in 30 years, being without a steady gig is certainly uncharted territory for me.
During this down time, I found myself at first in sort of a drifting state… going into the office/home studio and plugging in a guitar with no plan, jamming a little, then back to the couch and watching tv. To be honest, I was enjoying not having to go to work and plow through the same 50 songs I tend to gravitate to because I know they work and the crowd would be happy.
It was refreshing to ‘reset’, for lack of a better term. Then the itch to play started to creep back in. My wife, Connie, and I started to live stream from our back porch twice a week, and that helped to feel a sense of normalcy.
[Author’s Note: Their Live-Streams are really great, click the image below to get on their Facebook]
“Also during this time, I wrote a score for a short film that is premiering in numerous Independent film festivals in the fall. That was a great artistic release in the sense that it gave me almost total artistic freedom, yet I still had some sort of structure in terms of a deadline and critiques from the filmmakers.
The biggest musical improvement for me has been widening my solo performance abilities. In the past, my go-to was an electric guitar and backing tracks. I have always felt most comfortable having a full band sound behind me while I sing and play. These last few months have enabled me to become much more comfortable with an acoustic, a looper pedal, and a vocal harmonizer.
I feel like I’ll have more to offer a client when it’s finally safe to go back to work!
Let me add that; widening my solo performance has also included incorporating a new mindset when it comes to material and ways to approach it musically that I might not have thought of in the past.
“This shutdown is having a negative effect on my guitar playing. As a beginner intermediate guitarist, not having one on one lessons has not been good for me. I have tried Skype lessons and it just did not work for me.I look forward to when I can sit one on one with my actual guitar instructor. During this time, I have used some online courses to further knowledge and playing… some are better than others.Thank you for all you do, I enjoy your emails and books. Take care and stay safe.”
Ware – Guitarist, Email Subscriber
COVID-19 Resources for Musicians
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Craig Smith is a professional Guitarist, Teacher, and Writer living in Sanford, Florida. Craig has taught guitar lessons, performed 200+ gigs per year for nearly 30 years, and published 4 guitar instructional books. When he’s not gigging or writing, you may find him by the pool with his wife Celeste, 4 Chihuahuas, and a drink. 🎸