Back in early 2001, I moved from my native country of The Netherlands to England. The reason I moved was because I had accepted a job there, which I was very excited about. I ended up living in a shared house with three other housemates. This turned out to have a grave effect on my job performance.

I ended up spending nearly every evening in the local pub with my housemates. This was at a time when pubs in England closed at 11pm at night. Luckily for us, we were friends with the landlord who allowed us to hang around after closing time. And hanging around meant more beer for everyone, and for me it usually meant playing some tunes on the guitar. They loved it.

I played covers and my own tunes. I played a lot of tunes back then I didnt spend much time practising. I composed a lot of songs, too. The songs I wrote meant a lot to me; I could pour my heart and soul into singing and performing them in front of others.

One night, we were up to our usual late-night antics when one of my housemates (who was probably my biggest fan) remarked,

I really like the covers you play. But when you play your own songs, its different, it sounds even better, you really come to life.

The alcohol in my system probably prevented me from fully comprehending what that meant, but some time later (and I mean, a couple of months) it was perfectly clear. I was able to express myself completely playing my own songs; my own songs meant a lot more to me than the covers did.

I just didnt `feel the covers I played as profoundly as I did my own songs.

How To Captivate your Audience

This brings me to the subject of expression. Ultimately, music allows you to express yourself on a personal level, so that other people can connect to you.

If you want people to enjoy listening to you, you must make sure that you can fully express yourself through the songs you play. Playing a song that doesnt really mean that much to you, is like trying to have a conversation with someone where you are reading from a script. Its hollow; it has no substance.

Now, dont get me wrong, I am not saying that you should compose your own songs and stay away from covers. No, not at all, although it is in general easier to express yourself it the song is your own. I am saying that if you want to truly captivate your audience, you should pick songs that, when you perform them, touch you right in your soul makes you glow from inside. When you play a cover, you should make it your own; whether that means that you alter it, or maybe not at all.

If you dont feel it, dont play it.

Expression is the end, technique is the means

Expression is the end of technique and the beginning of music. You cant fully express yourself if you dont have the skills being able to let your fingers do the playing and hear the song and melody in your head. You cant work on your expression until youve got the song down cold.
Next time you pick a song to play, choose one that makes you really feel it inside when you play it. Practise it until your fingers are able to play it automatically, and then pour your heart and soul into bringing it to life!
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