Sometimes it feels like everyone in Denver is in a band or working on a musical project to some capacity. If you’ve been itching to start making music but feel overwhelmed about where to start, look no further. Whether you’re just picking up an instrument for the very first time or are a seasoned musician looking to grow your career as an artist, organizations and venues across the state are here to help.
Mastering the Craft
The Music District
If you need to brush up on music theory or want to master the basics, the Music District, located and based in Fort Collins, has it all. The organization offers numerous workshops, meet-ups and events to make music more accessible.
Some of the free opportunities offered by the Music District include a monthly Songwriters Meet-up every 2nd Tuesday. The Songwriters Meet-up works to provide a place and format for songwriters of all levels to share new, original works-in-progress to get constructive and supportive feedback from fellow songwriters. So grab an instrument and join fellow artists in an evening gathering of collaborative critiques and casual mingling.
If you’re more of a producer than a songwriter, The Music District also hosts a Producers Meet-up called Groove Theory, which takes place every 3rd Wednesday of the month. Groove Theory features a masterclass component with Pretty Lights label resident Michal Menert speaking at the upcoming January edition.
The Music District also hosts a Synth Meet-up for synthesizer enthusiasts across the state. The Synth Meet-ups are a bit more sporadic yet deeply informative, and the next one will take place on March 9th. Additionally, to serve those with inquiries about the music industry itself, The Music District puts on a weekly event called Musician’s Help Desk: Office Hours. Like the college format, these office hours are held by industry experts who are there to answer your every question. For more information on specific dates, check out The Music District’s calendar.
Swallow Hill Music
Denver-based music outreach organization Swallow Hill Music offers a variety of weekend workshops and classes throughout the entire year. They also host a wide variety of drop-in jam sessions open to the public, from bluegrass to jazz and much more. For a full list of all the available open jams, click here.
Freq Boutique is the monthly event dedicated exclusively to modular synthesizers. Hosted at Fort Greene Bar, the event serves as a sort of open mic night for synth heads. Module manufacturer WMD provides the stereo sound, while performers explain their set-up and provide a short demo. It’s a great way to learn more about synthesizers and see some sweet gear in action. The next upcoming event is on January 14th, and more information can be found in the Facebook event here.
If lyrics are an issue, sometimes stepping away from music and immersing oneself in a different creative medium can help with inspiration. Working with a set of already-written words to create blackout poetry is just one way to fiddle with lyrics, and what better opportunity to explore this form of lyricism, and other forms of writing and expression, than with ReCreative Denver on January 18? ReCreative Denver is an organization that hosts events exploring more experimental forms of visual art. The event on the 18th is themed around paper, with collage-making, protest sign-making — and of course, blackout poetry.
Colorado Music Collective
A community-based collaborative effort funded by Levitt Pavilion Denver. This collectives objective is to connect local musicians, artists, students and industry professionals through conversation. These monthly meet-ups can be highly informative and might end up getting you the connections you need to kickstart your career. Hosted at Syntax Psychic Opera on the first Tuesday of the month, 6-8 p.m.
Once you have written a few songs, tweaked lyrics and explored all different types of gear, it’s time to start playing live. Open mics are a fantastic opportunity to showcase your material, and luckily Denver is rife with bars, restaurants and venues that provide the space to do just that. Below are several spots that are always looking for fresh, local talent.
Lion’s Lair hosts an open mic every Wednesday at 9 pm and provides a full backing band. Just make sure to show up early to sign-up, and always stay and support other artists performing.
Syntax Physic Opera
The host of a songwriter’s open mic every Tuesday starting at 8 pm that runs until midnight or later. Show up 10 minutes early to sign-up and perform in the cozy, velvet-lined theater and bar. Syntax also hosts a jazz jam every Wednesday at 10 pm following their comedy open mic.
Meadowlark hosts an open mic every Tuesday night. Sign up is at 8:30 pm and music begins at 9 pm. Set-times cannot exceed 15 minutes, so make sure you plan accordingly.
The Corner Beet
A sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly open mic called White Noise and Spoken Word that pairs local musicians with local poets in a night of artistic enrichment. Sign-up is at 6 pm, and the start time is at 6:30. The list will be capped at 27 performers total, so make sure you get there early.
Seventh Circle Music Collective
An independently-run music venue that serves all ages and aims to provide underground artists with the much-needed exposure and space to perform. The venue tends to gravitate closer to punk rock, yet all genres are welcome to perform. Booking a slot is as easy as simply filling out an online form. The venue hosts shows almost every night of the week.
If you’re a DJ and want to practice spinning tracks at a venue that isn’t a house party, there are a couple “open decks” around town as well.
Underground dance music collective Nightcap hosts an open deck at the Squire Lounge every Thursday night. Set times depend on the night, so it doesn’t hurt to check out some of their events beforehand to get a gauge on what kind of set to plan for. More information about the open deck can be found here.
The Black Box
The host of a weekly DJ battle every Tuesday night. DJ battles are a great way to learn about the mixing styles of other local DJs and practice the craft on a powerful sound system. To sign-up, go here.
It’s tough to be an aspiring musician. It can feel scary and vulnerable at the same time, but as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. Luckily, Denver is such a musical city that there are plenty of opportunities to get up on stage and test some material out. So kick off 2019 right and put yourself out there — your big break might be just around the corner.