arts & music social media & technology

What “Unplugged” Means to a Musician

by Briana — September 17, 2014

unplugged by Bill Selak

As much as I would love to take a challenge to unplug from social media, my current job (freelance musician!) doesn’t allow me to do that. I get lots of gigs via social media these days. I don’t know how it is in NYC and LA, but in Nashville, lots of people scout for talent using Facebook and Twitter. As a professional musician, it’s so important to be constantly plugged in to social media and email that it really is a 24/7 job. Gig opportunities come at all times of day, and if you don’t respond within an hour or so, a lot of times they have already found someone else.

In musician lingo, “unplugged” often refers to whether acoustic players use a mic or a pickup. By “acoustic” I mean anything that doesn’t come with a pickup installed – violins, mandolins, banjos, et cetera. This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a huge debate in the music community. Some people, particularly classical players, think that adding a pickup to an acoustic instrument tarnishes its value. And sometimes, they’re right! But often, it’s just a matter of personal preference. It would be a HUGE hassle for me to have to mic my violin rather than just plug it into an amp for road gigs. If I played in a symphony, this would be a huge no-no. But I don’t, so I’d be crazy not to have a pickup on my violin!

This is on my mind because I’m getting some work done on my mandolin and decided just today to get a pickup mounted on it while it’s in the shop. I’ll be way more likely to actually play it if I dive in and get the pickup – I’ll worry later about what other people might think. Of course, mandolin has never had a huge classical following, so the potential blowback is much less than it is from getting a violin amplified.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: sometimes it’s the personal benefits far outweigh the potential raised eyebrows and whispered behind-the-back comments. Sometimes we just have to do things to make ourselves happy! (As long as it’s nothing that harms others.) What have you done to make yourself happy lately?

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