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How to Play in a music ensemble in 2022

After a long delay (get off my case, Flore, I’ve been busy!), I am very excited to share my *highly* anticipated review of Play. Chatting to some of Play’s beta testers a few weeks ago, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about.

What follows is my honest opinion of the platform: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As some of you might know, I am not the most musically gifted individual. I had previously thought that the Circle of Fifths was a song that had been cut from the Lion King and that a cappella was another word for virgin (check out my college a cappella groups and you’ll see what I mean). Suffice to say, I don’t have any knowledge of musical instruments buried deep inside of me – guess I am just a pretty face…

Not *just* a pretty face, I can sing!

That said, I’m a firm believer that anybody can sing, especially if they’ve had a few glasses of champagne (courtesy of a very generous work trip – thanks Jellynote). As a gay man raised on early 2000s pop, I’m spoiled for choice when it comes to song selection: Someone Like You, Bad Romance, Roar are all favourites of mine. Although I can’t help but wish for some more classic Disney… I eventually decide to try my hand at the Zutons’ powerhouse classic, Valerie. Admittedly, there are some high belts in the song, but I tell myself that, with a little sass, I can pull it off, too.

Check out one of our favorite Plays on Someone Like You

Quite a few of Play’s Beta testers have already tried their hand at the song. Molly Diblin gives a stellar vocal performance, Dana Wenzel offers up a violin part that soars, Juan Pérez completes the tune with the iconic clarinet part, and Leandro Ferreira’s bass part is the sultry and sexy cherry on top.

It’s incredible to see Molly’s solo become an ensemble piece, with each person adding their sound to the mix.

Throwing my own voice into the mix is a daunting challenge. But I feel the spirit of Amy Winehouse within me. And, of course, Flore’s threats that I will be fired if I don’t. 

Step 1: Wear headphones

Before you can record your Play, you have to ensure your equipment is working properly. This doesn’t mean recording yourself in a studio – far from it. You can, in theory, use a run-of-the-mill smartphone. That said, I did come into difficulty accessing it on my phone, which is, admittedly, seven years old and rarely up to the task of running software. Anyway, this meant I had to use Play on my laptop, which meant finding appropriate headphones. Unfortunately, I’m one of three people still living in 2008, meaning I don’t have air pods. All this to say, for my fellow technophobes, it’s not yet the easiest platform in the world to use. Though I have just been told that the team is currently working on making Play fully functional on mobile phones! So I guess I’ll have to check back in a few weeks to see their progress.

I got a laptop and some headphones, I’m ready to Play!

Step 2: Test your delay

Next step: test your delay. This means clapping along to a beat. I was genuinely touched when I was told my clapping accuracy was ‘perfect’ – the first compliment I have received in ten years. Achieving this means that you’ll be in sync with any other musicians who want to join your Play. 

Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to start practising. Or, in my case, record a version of the song, realise you’re completely out of time and tune, have a breakdown, and then begin practising. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day…!

Step 3: Practice… a bit and Record

I spent about 20 minutes practising, not just the music but also my performance. Remember, this is a video and you don’t want to be doing weird facial expressions that distract from your performance. I was then ready for the real thing. All you have to do is press record and go for it. It went smoothly, enough. I’ll admit….I’m hardly the most camera-friendly, but I’d say the finished product wasn’t half bad.  After recording your Play, write a cute little message inviting others to join you, and that’s that:

Step 4: If you don’t like it, delete and start again

What I enjoy most about Play is how easy it is to delete and start again. I feel confident in the knowledge that, if one too many vodka shots the night before encourage me to record the world’s worst version of Taylor Swift’s Shake it Out, I can easily delete it the next day if the hangxiety gets too much for me. 

I’ve invested my soul in this Play, please watch it

Step 5: Wait and see your Play grow

The process of performing the song is a lot of fun, but I’m not sure I would record another Play if it weren’t for the collaborative aspect. I don’t particularly enjoy singing to myself in an empty room, but the prospect of being able to form my own, online band is super exciting. As I write this, my Play has already been joined by the one and only Leandro Ferreira and the ever-talented Niki Yaghmaee, who gives us two Plays for the price of one… In two days, it’s gone from a solo to an ensemble. Who knows…maybe we can form the virtual equivalent of the Beatles…Shotgun John Lennon (Oh, wait…)

Within a couple of days, I had a band made of musicians from across the world!

Step 6: Join others’ Plays

I also joined the ensemble Play of Valerie, the one started by vocalist Molly. It’s the same process as before, except, as you record, you’ll hear the Play that you are joining, which should allow you to keep in sync. I’d recommend playing it on a medium volume to keep you in time, but not distract you. Once you’re done, you’ll get the opportunity to preview your Play. It’s worth remembering you’ll sound a lot better than this when it’s finished, but it should give you an idea of what the finished product will be like! Once it’s processed, you can share it to your heart’s content…or until your friends and family block you on social media!

You can watch my Play by clicking this link, why not add yourself to it and complete the band?

Are you ready to Play?


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About author
William Ridd is a writer based in London. After a messy divorce from the clarinet, William decided that playing music wasn’t for him, but he continues to appreciate it and likes writing about it.
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