Episode 92: Leverage your Guitar to Get Great Gigs!

Aug 23, 2023


Why do some people get great gigs and others can’t get a feature at an open mic?

In this episode, we argue that your guitar playing is in fact the gateway to consistent and better paying gigs.

Picture this  : You’re a songwriting guitarist who can play solo or accompany a singer, are playing covers and originals that keep audiences energized and paying attention.

Why? Because your guitar playing is truly capturing the vibe of the songs and moving the set list along. Plus, people you don’t know are coming to your shows AND you’re getting hired on a consistent basis and are the go-to person for their yearly great paying opportunities.

That’s what Brian Belonzi has done. He was able to  lessen hours at his day job and start taking on more consistent and better paying gigs, all due to using his guitar and song knowledge to present professionally.

Brian's not just a live performer - he's also an accomplished songwriter, having written music for both artists and sync placements on TV shows like CBS's "Young Sheldon" and HULU's "Cruel Summer." And as a guitar coach at SFG, Brian specializes in the Songwriting for Guitar methods. He's passionate about sharing his knowledge with aspiring musicians and helping you improve your guitar skills

Tune into this week’s episode and get inspired to leverage your own skills to write better songs and perform better live.

You can sign up here for a session with Brian to up your guitar game!


Read the transcript below..


Mike Meiers 0:09
What I want to dive into because you are so good at live gigging, because you know, I've coached you but when you started talking about live gigging, I realized there was very little, I understood, other than being in a band context, but the idea of being a solo acoustic performer, booking your own gigs, weekly negotiating fees, having contracts, having all that stuff lined up, I know very little. I know nothing. Because going through, I'm like, How are you doing this? And like, how do you how do you find these? Because we lived in the same city? And I was like, Is it different? Like what's happened? What am I missing?

Brian Belonzi 0:50
Yeah, it's crazy that we were in each other's backyards, and we didn't know each other until you moved to Nashville. So there we go. It's definitely an art form. I would say as far as booking these gigs. I will say that what has changed though, is the climate for solo artists. And Duo's, and even three piece bands with with some percussion, maybe very light drumming, the opportunity for those acts has grown tremendously in the Pittsburgh area. Just with wineries and breweries and small venues that it's unfortunate for bands, then the venue's me seem to be few and far between these days, at least for bands to make money.

Mike Meiers 1:43
Yeah. It just seems like there's, it's a different facet of live performing, like they're both live perform. But there's, I guess, like, there's benefits to having a duo, a solo person or like, a small three piece because people can still eat hold conversations. They're being entertained. Where if you have a, it's like, right, rolling up with like, two half stocks, and they're setting up, it's like, oh, no, that's not really appealing.

Brian Belonzi 2:10
I could, we wouldn't have enough time for me to list the benefits of being a solo artist, solo performer. Over being a band performer. I mean, one is not showing up hours and hours prior to the gig to set up your gear and do soundcheck and God bless all the drummers out there that have to do that. You are sometimes background music though, I do a lot of private events and country club gigs and things like that, where you're not going to get that attention from the audience. Like you might say, you know, a bar gig, which I do a lot of those too, but it's Yeah, but but the these country club gigs, these private events, these corporate events, they just want someone there for the cocktail hour Happy Hour kind of thing. They call it background music. But it's lucrative.

Mike Meiers 3:01
I was gonna say it's like ambience, it's just like, it's like they want that experience. But how did you how did you stumble into this was it just let you have this happen?

Brian Belonzi 3:12
I've been performing live since I was 15. And you may or may not I'm older than yours. You may or may not know of my one of my first live performances was at a place in Oakland called the electric banana field. And this goes way, way back. I wasn't old enough to be there. I still to this day, my parents the fact that they let me perform there. And I went on accompany with some of the older guys in the band at 15 years old. It was it was a crazy place. But that was one of my first ones. And I've been performing live ever since I was in bands through high school and into college. And well after college, it was always about being in a band. I never did anything solo. I never wanted to sing. I remember being the only guy in our four piece band in high school that could sing somewhat sing. And so it was like, well, you're it. So yeah, and I never want I said no, listen, I'm a guitar player. I want to play lead guitar. I have my Eddie Van Halen, cherry red Kramer with my PV amp that weighed more than a house. And I was like, that's what I want to do. And so I never really I never saw myself as a performer, a singer. But I never from there, I never looked back. And but I was in bands all the way up through my early, thoroughly 30s. And then my brother and I, who's very talented guy sings plays guitar. He and I had a duo for many years. And so that's when I started. I think that would have been around the time where I started to see the opportunities to not only be in the band because he was actually in the band I was in as well. But we started to branch off and do some acoustic stuff. And it's like I kind of dig this. This is great. Like because it's it's laid back. It's mellow. You can I mean it's more about the vocals and then in the dynamics of the guitar ours. So, really enjoyed that. We did that for a number of years. And, you know, he's he's still in bands, and I tried to smack him upside the head every now and say, Dude, what are you doing, but he loves that and that's all good. But we had to part ways to save the Brotherhood. You know, it was one of those things where just he I could tell his passions were still to sing lead and play guitar for band and, and so I didn't have enough material though, because we as a duo, he did a lot of the lead singing, so I didn't have the songs. I knew how to play parts of the songs. I knew how to sing backup vocals to some of the songs. So it took me I had to make a decision. I was like, do I want to keep doing this? What do I want to do? And I kind of buckled down. And I was like, Well, you could sit down and learn all these cliche cover songs that got you're just so sick of playing, but it's like, but I so I did. I learned some of those. But I also like, I also want to be the guy that people are like, wow, I would never have expected to hear that song. Yeah, cover of that song or, and then holding true to my art. I wanted to play my own music, my original music. So there are certain venues that lend lend themselves to playing your music. And then, you know, on a Saturday afternoon in the strip, nobody's listening to my mic here. Listen to this latest song I'm putting together you know, give me your thoughts.

Mike Meiers 6:25
And I think for people they're like the strip. So Brian, it's just like, for just for just the context of Pittsburgh, there's an area within Pittsburgh, the Strip District is kind of like it's a market. It's kind of like where you find a whole lot of produce varieties. There's, there's different restaurants it's it's a huge thing on a Saturday for people to say, go down a strip, right, I have to coin

Brian Belonzi 6:51
a big open, huge thing. Yeah, yeah, it's no it's not. I was offered one time with a band to play onstage at a strip club. If my parents watched this, they'll say what, what now it never happened. Or happened. Mom never happened. But just one of those things where that yeah, that was the strip. We good thing you clarified with

Mike Meiers 7:10
that. Yeah, just just really quick, but it and it is a really rad place. And I can understand on a Saturday, they don't want to hear original music, they just want people to be entertained while they shop. Because the whole idea. This is a form of service. And that's what I'm just now kind of getting, just as we're talking about this, I think the difference when you're in a band, and you have your original material, you're like, This is us, it's our art, and this and we want you to listen to this. People that have you in bars, restaurants, they, they want you to entertain the customer so that they stay longer, buy more things, and make the restaurant money. So you are providing a service so that that restaurant, then can make more money.

Brian Belonzi 7:56
That's it. Yeah, that's it. That's it, then it's not as often anymore, but I do every now and then you have a bar owner, a venue owners, how many people you're gonna bring, like, oh, no, listen, I mean, it's one of those things where I'm playing an hour from where I live. And it's like, I don't have this fan base up there. It's kind of when if it's most, most of the places that that book me get live music regularly. They've built that up people know, there's live music there certain nights of the week, that kind of thing. Now, the idea is to get them to come back when you're there. So that that's key and you know, online, promotions and things like that, but But yeah, that's what you're there for, you're there to provide a service to entertain. And if you can get them all singing along and they're having fun, and they're staying, and they're ordering another round. That's, you're you're winning.

Mike Meiers 8:49
Now, when you started to do this, did you realize there were certain songs that resonated more with certain crowds that like, at first or is it just sometimes like, even if you have a set and you're getting a feel of the and you're like, oh, shit, and like, I'm gonna pull this one out instead?

Brian Belonzi 9:05
Yeah, I do not. And I absolutely want to preface this by saying I don't have anything against anybody that uses a setlist or an iPad, to read their chords or read their their lyrics. I mean, I do see that a lot. One of the things that I kind of set out to do was if I can't sell it, kind of as my own song and my own, I don't, I don't play it. I'd rather I'd rather jack up one of the lines of lyrics and just laugh it off and keep moving. It's human and it's it's, you're when you're when you're reading from something or you're, you're like well, I know that the crowds really into it right now and I was gonna go into this ballot next that's what my setlist says. But no, I don't use one I wanted to present read, though the audience. So I play and here's the you know, I probably know I don't know maybe how Certain 50 Plus songs well enough to, just to play them. I don't know, I don't know where, where they're stored out up there, but I gotta be running out of room. But it's one of those things where I don't there are certain ones I don't play for a long period of time. And then it's like, if you've got sort of a, you got a crowd that's in the country, which is not, not everywhere. You'll it's like, Okay, let's keep buying out a few more country songs. They're there. Sometimes you play a country song, and you could hear a pin drop and everybody's, and so you're like, okay, they they're more of the classic rock Adult Contemporary. Yeah, yeah. So you just you have to really read the audience, I, there's very few songs that I probably play. Back to Back. There's a couple I can think of that I connect because I'm Capo in a certain position, and it works, things like that. But for the most part, it's all feel it's all just reading the room.

Mike Meiers 10:51
Now to me. 150 songs. So let's go off with that. How do you because the one thing that I love, and we've talked about this is it's dynamic control of your guitar, and having the capability of making each song feel like the song, right? You're not playing at one level all the way through like 150 songs. They're all Django, Django, Django. Here's the next one. Django Django. Here's the next one Django like, right, right. How do you you know, what is your take? Especially when dissecting a song and realizing like, oh, I also still have to make this engaging. Like, I gotta do this, like, because it's just me. And my guitar?

Brian Belonzi 11:32
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Um, you know, it's, I listened to what many of the songs I do, everybody's heard a million times. So yeah, so as far as cover songs, you just know how they go. And there's that but, but when you're doing um, you're doing a, let's say, a, you know, a rock song, let's I'll just come up with one like, like a three doors down song that people that's always a good band to cover, they got a lot of hits. So it's like, when you do one, though, when they go into the verses. I mean, that's very, it's the guitars really laid back and they're picked out and things. But then, as you're building into that chorus, you're dynamically you got to, you know, you start to maybe you're not picking anymore, you're stuck to strum or palm mute, and you're kind of tapping on the guitar. Playing it's it's kind of hard to describe, but it's like a almost like you're there's that build and they know something's Yeah, changing. So you Yeah, you definitely have to, I listen to certain songs if I don't know them that well, or if it's something rather new. I have to I listen to them. It's kind of like our active listening that we do to references. I will listen to a song just ad nauseam and just to where it's just really starts to become second nature, but it's usually one I like. That's one thing. I don't set out to learn something I really don't like. I mean, you're Yes, I can play Margaritaville. But I will tell you, I don't play that song unless it is requested at a well paying sort of older crowd. I'm just not You're not going to hear that in my set every Saturday or every Friday, you know, no,

Mike Meiers 13:12
you know, here's an interesting factoid. So Madeline, who's one of our coaches, she loves Jimmy Buffett. Oh, that's okay. She is She is a huge, because she told me this. And I was like, Really, I was like, Jimmy Buffett. She was like, I'm a huge parent head. And I'm like, parent, and she was like, that's what the calm parent has. And I was like, no, they don't. They looked up and I was like, they do.

Brian Belonzi 13:38
I went to one buffet show. Yeah, that star like, you know, out in Pittsburgh, and once 20 years ago, once was enough. You got to give the guy accolades. I mean, great performer. He's built something like, you can't even compare. Like, they built something. They built this following this. And it's more about the party for him than anything else. I mean,

Mike Meiers 14:04
he has his own. There are three areas of retirement community that are called Margaritaville, because when I was here, we were talking about and we just googled and then it was like, there's one Hilton Head. There's one in Pensacola and there's another one, I believe, just like my I don't know, many artists that have their own retirement resort community. Right, right. But that's an interesting point. Like, if you're going to sell something, you have to also be into it. Because if it's just you, in a band, sometimes you can hide behind when you're not crazy about like a song that you're doing. Sure, they're taking it. But if it's just you and your guitar, you have to sell it. And if you're not crazy about it, people can tell.

Brian Belonzi 14:51
Yeah, yeah, they can tell. And, yeah, you definitely yeah, you have to, I mean, don't get me wrong. There's still there are songs that I do and I'm thinking wow, If I had $1 for every time I played this song in my lifetime, it Yeah, but but they still it's a song that works. And so you just find that spot to throw it in and but um, but yeah, I, I hope that I'm appearing to have a good time because I usually am. I mean there's there's a there's no doubt you're doing three four nights a week sometimes. Yeah, yeah, there's nights you just kind of like I mean, it's, but it's, but I do remind myself this I mean, what else I mean I'm playing my guitar and performing for people and it's it is lucrative, I mean there's snow. That's one thing that you know if I would ever talk with anybody about getting into the live game it, it does take a little time you want to build to build up those kinds of gigs. You You've got to get out there and be seen. And then the referrals I don't I rarely very, very rarely do I knock on a door anymore? Or pick up the phone. Yeah, very rarely. It's by I'm doing about 120 shows a year. And they are they are all 98% of them are booked ahead there from prior performances or from referrals. Or, Hey, I saw you play here. So I mean, I'm blessed that I mean, amazing. I'm not saying it's gonna happen right away, but you definitely have to. But here's the thing, don't. There's so many people that do go out and play for nothing, or I know it's about loving your art and everything else. But yeah, but they really do hurt our, I guess industry as far as a local before it because we all talk and we all you know, Pittsburgh is a big, small, small, big city. So it's like, you know, you run into people when you so it does. You know, it does hurt. Yeah, the rest of us when you go out playing for? Because you don't, you've never played before, but you still have to, there should be sort of this minimum. That's a whole other.

Mike Meiers 16:57
And I'm curious about that. Because I feel like to get to where you are, you know, especially with referrals and knowing like, I think we were talking yesterday, and you were like, oh, yeah, there was this, you know, played this corporate gig and like, it was great. And I played last year, and I didn't have to say anything the gig again. And she was like, Well, if I don't see you, I'll see it. You know, here next year, it was just like, just like that, again, you've locked in that corporate gig to play without an all you had to do was just jump but do well. Because you've been able to play, play efficiently with your dog, like communicate Sure, ah, you know, hundreds of different songs with your guitar, keep it engage, keep energy, do what's required. I feel someone that's not, you know, why guitar skills are very valuable is because in that sort of scenario, if you're not that good, you're you can't really do that. It's going to be it's going to be it's gonna be kind of cringe.

Brian Belonzi 18:02
Yeah. And these these owners are these people that book they rely on the one of the biggest things is their staff. They rely on their staff, they face their staff sees all these different acts coming through for different reasons. And they they do give a lot of feedback. I've come to find that's, that's a big thing. And then, like you said, selling it to the audience in the crowd that's there. If you're not if you're not an amazing vocalist, I mean, and your voice is the instrument and, you know, your chords are. It's almost like you really have to, you'd have to really overcompensate, I don't I can't name too many of those offhand. So it will show if you are not at a level of playing that's, you don't have to be you know, elite, but you've got to be able to communicate it and sell rhythmically You have written strong Oh, yeah. Right. You better be strong written, at least Yeah.

Mike Meiers 19:02
Right. So it's like those are the end like to be able to control dynamically your guitar. So the things that you're talking about, like, Oh, that feels like a verse that feels like a chorus and not like, that feels like one strum pattern. And you know, it's just like ding, ding, ding, ding, all the way straight through.

Brian Belonzi 19:18
I just thought of something funny. I'll tell you where were the real dynamic challenges. I won't mention the venue, but it's where they put you when they put you near where the the greeter is, the hosts whatever they call when you're coming into the place, and you're right there, and people are trying to talk and they almost look annoyed that you're there. Anyway, anyway, Pittsburgh friends, they'll know exactly what I'm talking about. But it's like one of those things where I actually soften the whole eye back off just to not piss them off anymore. Let them do their thing. It's not It's only that kind of venue, but you want to talk about controlling your dynamics.

Mike Meiers 20:00
But I mean, that's also to being. And that's probably what is also made your gigs, you know, lucrative and recurring is because what you're describing to is like another level, which I didn't think like I didn't think about that the idea that the staff is probably communicating because they're constantly having to go around, and they're trying to get tips and if people are annoyed because they're like, Oh, like this, oh, they do. They talk, they're good. But if they're like, Oh, it was engaging, the crowd was great. The more drinks that was fun, it was awesome. Of course, they're gonna be like, they're great. And you being aware spatially to like, Hey, this is where people are coming in. This is their first experience of the restaurant. And if I'm like, you know, no, right? Just like screaming, it's just gonna be like, Oh, but if you it's your, there's so many nuances to this, that you have to be aware of. But if you are on top of being good at what you do, to me, this is invite and it's, as you said, like, this is where it's just reoccurring. Yes. reoccurring. Yeah,

Brian Belonzi 21:06
it is another thing. I mean, we talked about this, as well, just within co writing everything else. Be somebody good to work with to be somebody, be nice, be be polite, be get, you know, answer their emails, or their calls brain as promptly as you can. And just and just be easy to work with. Kind of like we talked about, you know, submitting songs to Bruce. It's like, do they have to do a bunch of work with the song or is it just ready to go plug and play? Yeah, it's, you know, you need to be flexible. I think sometimes you'll go to a venue played umpteen times. And they're like, Yeah, we can't put you in that corner. Sounds like the putting baby in the corner. You can't put them in a quarter tonight, because we got something going on over there. So it's like, we need to put you over here. And he's like, Oh, well, you know, that's not where I usually play as much. That's my spot. And you've got to be flexible. It's pretty rare. But but you got to be flexible. To work with the venue to in this city. It doesn't matter if it's a if it's a Wednesday night or Thursday night gig. And during the penguins season, you're not starting till that game's over. I mean, especially a hockey playoffs they usually canceled typically. But But I do know there's some venues that yeah, I'm slated to start at like eight or nine. But know if that goes into overtime. They don't. They're like, I don't care. We'll pay you. You may only play an hour. But yeah, you can't play while the games on so you gotta you got to be flexible.

Mike Meiers 22:40
I think the idea that you're just say, reiterating this, and I think this is one of the biggest things is just like, be nice. Yeah. Because I think people would rather deal. You know, if I got into this, you know, I'm not the greatest singer. It's like, yeah, I can hold down my guitar, but it's like, my strength I can leverage is just like, being polite. Being nice. Being prompt. Yeah. Being a pain. And if they go like, hey, we have to put you here. Oh, it's no problem. Absolutely. Whatever. Yeah, that's totally fine. You know, the idea that I would be like, I prefer that spot. Right. It's like, you know, you're not gonna get asked again, because they're gonna be like, that's not the pain they want to deal with. Right? And it just sounds like you've got to hone not only your technical ability, in understanding the songs, performing the songs, but you hone in your, you know, your people skills, your, your selling skills, because you have to, they have to, it has to be on you're selling yourself, you have to sell it to the audience. So it's just like, you have to be very accommodating.

Brian Belonzi 23:49
Yeah, like, I'm just thinking about the other night, the event I did. She, the woman that hostess every year, she's been doing it for years. I mean, I'm only one facet of what she's got going on that night. Yeah. So it's, you know, so it's like, if I'm a pain in her ass, as far as, you know, when I sit down there, it's like, well, the musicians here, you know, make way it's like, no, they, you need to be as easy to work with because they've got caterers, they've got, yeah, all these different and then the same goes with just even your local bars. It's like, I mean, you know, it's a little more, your little, it's a little more in tune with it with the owner or the bar manager, because it's the kind of place it is, but they they're worried about sales, alcohol sales, food sales, the staff the bartenders didn't show up the call it off. I mean, they don't want to your one facet of their day or their night. They've got

Mike Meiers 24:41
10 other problems. You don't want to be one of them. That's just like, that's the end. It's just you want to think of them as like when your name comes up, like it's so easy to work with. Like we just get so and so. And to me, if somebody's listening to this, and they're like, Wow, I'm in Pittsburgh, like should I move because I'm just like, I want to me what It's interesting you described and I feel I see this in lots of cities, especially further, you know, throughout you know, even where I live, there's certain aspects to Nashville that are like, you know, if we're talking Broadway that's, that's completely different. But what's interesting, the further south you go in Nashville, where it's like, yeah, the breweries that have popped up, whether it be the wineries that are there, and there's some form of live music that's happening that are just cover songs. I remember I went to a Mexican restaurant. And there was just a guy that was he had his gig and he was gigging and it was no country songs whatsoever. They were just classic rock songs. And I was like, okay, yeah, we got and I think, there, it's everywhere. But to me the things that you're mentioning, you can't just be like, you know, I'm not that bad. No, you have to be, you know, you have to know your instrument. You have to know those songs, you have to sell it. Well, you have to be engaged and you have to be aware of, you know, where you're going, what their things are, what they have to work with. You don't want to be a problem you want to be very understanding and not just the pain in the ass

Brian Belonzi 26:08
and and sometimes you're gonna get double booked. Sometimes you're going to it, there's just it's an Outdoor Show, and it's not rain or shine. I mean, there's because they're like, Listen, I'm not gonna have you tonight, nobody's gonna sit outside and I'm not gonna sell any alcohol. I'm not gonna sell a food. So it's, it sucks. Yeah. But it's one of those things where that's part of that flexibility. But as far as Yeah, I mean, you do need to, you do need to have command of your instrument. And if you don't, let's just you know, I've got a lot of friends and Duo's, and we were just talking about this yesterday, I think, you know, it's that who not how kind of thing were you be the best guitar player you can be but but pair up with a vocalist, male or female or vice versa. And it's one of those things where equally as easy as it is in this area right now for solo, the duo's are doing very, very well, too. But I think a lot of this stuff is probably applies in any city. Yeah, you need to still have your chops as I used to say, I don't say that anymore. But you still have to be able to, you know, know your instrument. I don't care if you play piano, guitar, banjo, I mean, you, you better be able to communicate with that. Yeah. And then and then all of these other little facets, be easy to work with and flexibility. That all applies anywhere, I

Mike Meiers 27:35
think. Now, if someone is like, let's say they're mid level guitar, they're not bad. But when you were mentioning, like, You got to have solid rhythm, you have to have solid things to work on. They're like, Oh, what I do, you know, what is some of your best recommendations to for someone that's looking to better their rhythm so that they can start communicating? Like, you know, dynamics of the song. And this could also flow into their own craft as well. Not just like, the cover aspect, but like, as they're doing that they realize, oh, this can actually flood into my personal songs.

Brian Belonzi 28:09
Sure. Oh, no, no doubt. You know, we always we talked about, and I'm certainly guilty of it. You definitely want to practice with the metronome. We talk about all the time. I catch myself practicing not to like nope, let's throw that on. Let's just see how this feels. Because that matters when you're playing live. Because it's noticeable when people are like speeding up. So it's like a bat, if it's like a drummer, that's not really all that great. And they're speeding up and slowing down. And, and it's just the song went from a you know, 120 BPM to, you know, 280 back and forth, back and forth. Yeah. But, you know, that's one of the things that with the coaching that I some of the people that I've met, through selling for guitar and that I've that I've worked with, that's that's where they are there. But they know one strong pattern or they know one. Yeah. And so it's

Mike Meiers 29:06
it's me that you're saying there's got to be versatility on there. There has to be

Brian Belonzi 29:10
Yeah, you know, you before you will bore the audience, you're probably in a boring yourself, because

Mike Meiers 29:18
when you see people in a live like it, maybe you see them, you catch a side of someone, and you're immediately like, they're using the same pattern. Yeah, like the next one is again, oh, my lord. Yeah.

Brian Belonzi 29:30
It's, there are local acts that we will go to see on nighttime offer. And not typically we don't know, we know the ones that we like. Yeah. And if we can catch them, we do. But we'll, we'll be somewhere sometimes. And you'll just hear some and I think, I don't know where the last song ended and where the next song began. Because it's like, yeah, it's the same strumming pattern. It's the same, and then you know, not all about vocal, but if you're strumming the same way, and you're singing everything the same way with the same tail on the end of every word, like, just, yeah, one sets of body, we're good. That just, it's, um, you know, yeah, I'm, I'm you and I like we would be over I don't wanna say critical, but we were gonna listen to that, like we listen to songs we're listening to, well beyond just the lyrics and the words. And the melody, I mean, we're listening to, oh, there's my left ear, I've got this going, I hear this, and I hear that. So we're going to be a little more in tune with it, where your general guide drinking Miller Lite probably isn't really,

Mike Meiers 30:35
but just noticed that like, I'm not crazy about it, he can't put put it to words. And meanwhile, we're like, oh, it's because they're not doing this. And they're not doing that. The kind of the triggers for an audience to because most audiences, you know, if we're trying to describe song structure, they're not going to be like, oh, a bridge is this data does. They're just gonna be like, the chorus apart. I sing along

Brian Belonzi 30:58
that I know. About the best. Yeah,

Mike Meiers 31:01
exactly. It's like, that's the goal of this is the guide. So that the, you know, the average layperson who doesn't understand it understands it, and just and we can communicate it well, that it does connect, because if you're not making that connection, it seems like that's, oh, you probably won't be playing here again.

Brian Belonzi 31:21
Right? Right. It's an even if you're even if your background music, if your bad background music, or if you insist on being louder than you should, and it's not that good. And now it's loud. It's just, it's a bad combination. And the thing is, again, I'm speaking from Pittsburgh, that's where I play, but it's one of those things where these, I would imagine that most venue owners and managers are similar, where they're just gonna be like, yeah, that just wasn't good. Last time. They're gonna they're gonna remember, you might get a couple shots to play, but, you know, they're listening to the feedback, too.

Mike Meiers 32:00
But yeah, the sales aren't that good. People aren't that crazy. The staff was like, they were okay. They were kind of a

Brian Belonzi 32:07
that's a that's another very good point, though. Yeah. I, you know, many times, many, many, many times you play place, and you're like, Wow, this place usually packed play place last Friday, that I play often. That usually is standing remote. I mean, the line at the bar is packed. Every table was full. Last Friday, not not typical. It was a little. And so you're gonna have nights where it's maybe not as good. And, but, but but I don't fear the owners not having me back, though. You know, so yeah, it's like, you know, you'll you'll have that one guy every now and then. Well, I mean, you didn't really bring anybody, but for the most part, you have enough good nights, and you do what you do well enough. Yeah, they want you back. So you can see those nights you got, you've got wiggle room, you know, if you don't have such a great crowd, they're not basing it on that one night. They're not basing it on a couple bad nights a year. It's

Mike Meiers 33:09
yeah. But what's interesting is like, if you if you back it up with just like still being like, solid rock still being good. And like, cool. There's a couple people here, but I'm still going to do it as if the room was like, packed so that they still have a great time. Yeah, that to me is also that's interesting, because I think this is where the technical side where it's just, you still gotta be good, because then when there's less, it's more notice. So it's just like more.

Brian Belonzi 33:37
More. It is. And another thing is to, and I have to remind myself of this sometimes, too. You never know who's listening. Never know who's in the audience for the most. I mean, you know who those that guy's at that table, he may be CEO of a company are or has some influence on who they booked for their company, party in the summertime. And you don't know who that is. But if you're looking like you're just don't want to be there and you're not you're not doing well, even though it's a small room or a sparse room, you very, very quick story when the best stories I heard all year, and I never heard the story before rusted root from Pittsburgh, one of them. They played a festival many, many, many years ago, and there was nobody, they tell the story, the guy said, but I mean, nobody there nobody there. And Sheryl Crow was out walking her dog at this festival, and she heard them. And the next thing you know, they're opening on one of her tours. Like she loved the fact that they look like they're having so much fun. And yeah, I like their music. That's not a genre I've ever been super into. But it's one of the things where I can identify I can appreciate that story. Because they were like, well, we can go out there and look pissed because nobody showed up or we can play often and who would have ever thought of somewhere in New York and she was walking her dog. That's pretty extreme circumstance. Your story, but it's like, you don't know who's listening to you. But I

Mike Meiers 35:03
this is the other question I get how did you get into the corporate game because it's one thing doing, you know, restaurant and starting to know that area to me then the next level, that's a whole

Brian Belonzi 35:11
other it's a whole other level,

Mike Meiers 35:13
that's a whole other level to another level. It's

Brian Belonzi 35:15
a whole other level. monetarily. It's ideally, I mean, that's those of us that do this a lot. We definitely always say, you know, we love a lot of our venue owners and bar owners, there's ones we would probably still do, but if we could do corporate and private events all year long, I mean, that's where it's at. So I think it happened many years ago, but just I was playing a place. One of the first ones I remember anyway, it was it was in north of Pittsburgh, a pretty nice place. It was like, a wine bar kind of places guy. Similar. Why just said this guy that owned a small company, small business, you know, maybe 100 employees or something like that. Hire me out for their for like a company function. And then I mean, that's, that's one of the earliest ones I can remember. But it it does seem to then ripple effect. So that somebody that function, I'll tell you, where it really happens. Is it neighborhood parties in these home these these plans with multi multimillion dollar homes? Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, they had, it's funny is we have to have always to,

Mike Meiers 36:20
they're always searching for like the big stage in the spotlight. But what you're describing right here is like, that's not where the money is. That's where your ego might be. But right here, this is where the money is. Right? It is.

Brian Belonzi 36:32
And many of them will, both your ego and your money. They do because some of them that I mean, people are having a great time. Yeah, they feed you they unlimited this, that and the next thing and they Oh, yeah, it's those can be I mean, those are where it's at if Yeah, but that took time to get to get those. It took some time. But it did seem to start to happen. pretty rapidly, like in year two and three. Because then you've got some referrals, you can say, someone says, Hey, do you do corporate gigs? And you're like, Yeah, I did this thing for for PNC Bank, or what? I did this? Yeah. You just drop a couple names. And then like, oh, well, awesome. Yeah. Being why Mellon had you. I mean, you're probably

Mike Meiers 37:16
then you're good. You're already there, then you're in. Right. Yeah. Wow. And to me, yeah, that's just, it's another tear. And it's another level of people that are doing it, where suddenly the pool gets a little smaller. It ain't necessarily big.

Brian Belonzi 37:32
Right? Yeah, it definitely gets a little smaller in that. I mean, there's a lot, there's still quite a few that I know the doing. But not as many. And that's where to, as a band. Now, weddings are still great for bands. I mean, they're still wedding bands. And but, you know, the budget may not be there, for a full band. For these people, even though they they're spending big money, but there's that, you know, they may have all the money in the world, but they're still thinking about it as well, like, Okay, well, I'm gonna budget so much for music, what's like, okay, you know, I can't, I don't want to put out four grand for a band.

Mike Meiers 38:13
But well,

Brian Belonzi 38:14
but but I'll put out, you know, that for one guy, you know, and it's like, for one person for a night. Yeah, that's a solid night where you gonna make, but it's like there. But so that's where being a solo or duo. But again, knowing your instrument and crafting this, so that you can perform it those and get their recurring type of gigs.

Mike Meiers 38:40
I love that. Because to me, that is, again, it still comes back, like these are all amazing. But it still comes back to you being a solid player, like understanding your instrument and understanding. You know, how to keep it engaging, how to keep it, you know, to move throughout the song show the dynamic show the structure of the shore, all of that while at the same time seeing and engaging with the audience. So it's like, you have to know that instrument so that your focus can be with that audience and not like, oh, wait a minute, come into B minor seven. Right.

Brian Belonzi 39:20
That's what we were talking about the other day, and that, that once I do, I still find myself glancing down. Because it's in the chord progression and that song, it's a tricky one to go grab. But it makes all the difference. But But yes, 99% of time you want to be able to be reading the room and yeah, and not thinking about what you're doing on the neck of the guitar.

Mike Meiers 39:43
Because like understanding and mastering your instrument more means you're more engaged. If you're more engaged, that means then you're going to connect more you can or you make more money and you get Rick, so it's like it has that ripple effect because it matters. Yeah, it does matter. Yeah. And what I love and that's why we have you as a coach, and if anyone's listening into this and is like, well, you know, I want to, I want to start mastering my instrument because the sounds like I'm gigging right now. And it's not to where it needs to be. It's not where it needs to be. It's very clunky. I know, it is, like, you know, I'm not necessarily getting asked if anything, people seems like rushing me off the stage, quickly after I'm done, and the next one comes in, or it's just like, I just want to feel, I think, understanding your instrument feeling confident, is that's the key is just because the feeling of it is confidence. It's like I can't describe where it's just, you know, when you sometimes take it for granted, but understanding your instrument well, that you could play. And you can do all those things, those nuances, but you're not overthinking it, you're because you have developed that you've you spent time with your instrument.

Brian Belonzi 40:51
And that's, you know, that's not going to, for most people, it's not gonna happen overnight. But it's it's not as it doesn't, it doesn't have to be this years and years, either. I mean, if you're already playing and you're already performing, then you're already you know, you're on your way, it's just have to take a look at what some areas that could be improved. And that's where, like, from the coaching standpoint, it seems like most of the I've worked with this point, they definitely are wanting there is that live performance, facet to it or element to where they are, they are doing it, or they want to do it. Or they're doing open mics. And they want to know, so, so that's why I love being able to bring the tables to talk about the live gigging as well. Yep. And, and using using the guitar to do so. You know, some people they say, Oh, I'm not gonna lie. I mean, there's Am I playing every song that I do? note for note, technically, exactly how that artists did it or that? I? Most of them are. But I do know this. No, I don't think when I start a song that turn heads, oh, and I like to my point is is like, you, you, you can get to where you know your instant where you're like, okay, yeah, I know, that's what he's doing, technically. But there are ways to play that chord a little differently. There's, there's things like that. But you But that takes time. And you have to

Mike Meiers 42:24
what you're describing there is like there's it's like two sides of the pendulum. There's one where people are like, super slotted and just all over. And then there's the other side where they're crippled to make a move, because they're like, is it exactly how they breathed when they? Right? Like, that's not the important question. Neither of those are where you want to be. You want to be right in the center where it's like, you're solid. But you have that leeway, as you said to also do it your own way, especially

Brian Belonzi 42:50
if you're if you are solo and you are singing, because we all know there are there are certain picking patterns and things that that the lead singer of the band, let's say that did the song. He's just singing, and the other guys play in this intricate picking pattern. Yeah. Okay. So what's a good blend between the two? Something that is going to be recognizable that, that this? is, you know, close? Yeah, but it may not be because it's sometimes challenging to sing over. And it. There's there's certain songs that take a lot more work than others. So yeah, you can find that happy medium, and I'm not trying I'm not saying cheat. I'm saying it's just like you're, but you're but you know it well. And no one even notices that you're not?

Mike Meiers 43:36
Well, I think what you're trying to say is like you think it matters, and you think people are like, you know, in the audience are like, I can't believe he didn't do the exact same pattern that in the song. We are never coming here again. Yeah, what's gonna happen is, they're just gonna be like, Oh, I like this. This was good. There. They just, it's the experience. And that's what you're trying to enhance with your songs because you're acting of service to enhance the experience of the restaurant, the meal, where they're at that they enjoy it, that it was great that it was fun. And to me, the value of what you're giving in these coaching sessions to people are, you can't you can scour YouTube for hints. But you will spend years going down the rabbit hole, right? Trying to figure out and piece together as you can't. You eventually need to rely on someone to help you. And there's a difference between someone that's down the street. That's like, cool. I went to school for guitar. That's awesome. Where are you playing right now? Well, you know, how much money do you make with your guitar? Well, you know, if you need to be going to someone that's like actively doing it is doing the thing that's a little further ahead. That can give you that guidance along the way.

Brian Belonzi 44:49
And if you're if you're an artist listening to this and you're getting in front of audiences is the name of the game. If so, believe it do play some original material, I just pick and choose where in the set or when I do it. So that it makes sense because if no one's paying attention, or if it's not the right atmosphere, it's you're not, you're not really getting, accomplishing what you what you hope to accomplish as a, they'll start following you. They're they're jumping online to check out your original music and so

Mike Meiers 45:23
that's a good, that's a good point.

Brian Belonzi 45:25
If you're an artist, I mean, it's a

Mike Meiers 45:27
bridge to your you essentially, right? So it's like you're finding them in a space where it's just like, oh, they know this song. They like it. They also like you, and you're inviting them into your world. So there's not only an opportunity to make money, but also an opportunity to start getting followers people that enjoy how you sing, and they're probably going to love your music.

Brian Belonzi 45:50
Yeah, yeah, I think it might have been when I was having a conversation with Rick Barker. He said something effective. You know, it, it? Yeah, your music. One of the first things I know, he always says, and you say it makes a song. It's got to be a good song. I mean, it's got, it's got to be a good song. But then from there, but there's a lot of good songs that are still in people's, they say, What was the saying?

Mike Meiers 46:14
The graveyard of great songs.

Brian Belonzi 46:16
Right? There's there's songs that were never heard by anybody. Yeah. So it's like, but then beyond that, it's you who they are subscribing to, if you will, it's it's you. It's not the song, it's got to be good. But it's beyond that. It's beyond that

Mike Meiers 46:36
the song is just a one time transaction. But like, if you're going to have someone that's going to stay with you in the journey, there has to be something that they're like, really like you. Like, you're really good at what you're like, you know, the reason we brought you on is there's lots of people that I know are great at guitar, but I don't think they're gonna connect well with people. Like they could be great at their craft. But for me, what's the most important thing is? Do you connect well with people? Can you look at what they're doing, understand where they want to go? That you can then take them to where that needs to be. That's ultimately more important than like, it's a plus that you're a great player. I love great players. But I also love great listeners that can see what someone's doing. And no, okay, here's where it needs to go. Yeah, there's not a lot of people that can do that. Well. And I think if someone's listening to this, and they're like, Listen, I've tried less, you know, I've tried it before. Here's what I'd say. You need someone that will ask the right questions that will listen, I'm always surprised when people come, you know, with negative experiences of like, you know, guitars, and I'm like, All right, did they ask you about this? This? This? No, oh, they just gave you a generic template for the entire thing. And a one size fits all never works. And to me, another level of coaching is understanding where your skill level is what you're trying to do, and can we create a plan that's going to be effective to get you there? And we'll have these little gold markers along the way. So that, you know, hey, I'm moving in the right direction. Right, right. It's hard to see on your own

Brian Belonzi 48:20
it. Sure it is. And, you know, working with you on on production last year, and it's like, I'm a student of that every day. I mean, that's, that's something that, but I, I feel like now, just going through the different courses that we've done everything I feel like, I look at guitar much differently now than I did a couple of years, even a couple of years ago. more along the lines of of okay, but what would you do? If for the song? What song The this is this goes more into the writing in the production end of things. Whereas it's like, what's best for the song? What, what are you trying to communicate? We use all these words, but it's like, what what are you trying to accomplish here with the song? Does that guitar I mean, the guitar might be so simple.

Mike Meiers 49:11
That effective, exactly. We're not trying to complicate because we can. That's great. We have that ability, right? Does it need it? Probably not. It just requires this but that's the skill of a great guitarist because they know when to like, I don't need to do this. There's again that level of confidence that if it's two chords, it's two chords, if it's me just going that's what it needs to be in the the writing aspect. And I think that's, that's another thing that you you give really well is because the I think the other thing is the methodology of how I view guitar is why I never brought on anyone because like it never really you know, there's some people that I'm like, you're almost they're not there yet. You get that idea and I think you're just very good at relating. So we're gonna throw this link, where you can book a session with Brian, you can jump in, just kind of chat with him about your goals what you want to do. And to me, that's the most important, what do you want to do? Because if you've been doing guitar for a while, and you haven't thought about this, you haven't asked this question. That's why you're stuck most of the time, because you're not thinking about why are you doing this? You're just caught up in the idea of doing it. With right out taking the time aside, to think of the long term, what's the point? What am I trying to do with this thing?

Brian Belonzi 50:29
Right? That's, and that's, that's what we do in the first session. That's, that's a complimentary session, just jump on, and just talk about what it is, what you've been doing, and what is it that you want to do?

Mike Meiers 50:40
I think that's so huge, because like, if you can get there, and that, that to me, just that understanding of making that person and you know, if you're listening this to, to have that realization of like, oh, that's actually what I want to do. I thought it was this, but now that I'm doing, no, this is what I want to see happen then then you can just Bennis established framework of what needs to happen technically, in terms of IE, the specific practice regime that you can get into place so that you don't have to rush and be like, well, let's go to YouTube. And let's go Palmerton then suddenly, you see 25 videos on it, and be like, well, which ones which this one's from Dale guitar. This one's from Michael gar. This one's from Jim guitar. This one's just the guitar, I don't know, which gets hard. It's so overwhelming. To me to not have that and know that you're going to meet with someone weekly, that has a set plan, and is more importantly, going to hold you accountable to that plan. That's, that's way more important and going to be way more effective in the long run.

Brian Belonzi 51:42
Yeah, yeah. I'd love to see anyone anyone wants to jump on. I'd like to say it's a free first session, and we can you just talk about where you're at and where you might want to go. And, and there's different we've got different platforms and different programs for booking sessions, lengths of time, blocks, blocks of time, that kind of thing, and not to reveal, but we've got some pretty cool things coming up this fall. So there's

Mike Meiers 52:04
some really, really excited yeah, we talked about this yesterday, and I'm super excited with this. And so yeah, we'll find out later, but we're gonna throw the link in the description and book a session with Brian Brian. This is awesome. Thanks for hanging, talking all things Guitar.

Brian Belonzi 52:18
Thanks, man. I love talking to you. I look forward to doing it again.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai