I can't remember when or where I first heard the phrase

"It's good enough for live music"

but I've heard it a lot over the years.

Sometimes it was said in celebration, "Yay, we've gotten things sounding good enough to play for an audience."

Sometimes it was said in resignation, "It's not great, it's not good, but it's good enough."

Sometimes, said after a song, set, or gig, it meant, "That was rough, but hey, we're not cutting an album here."

Interestingly, when said on a Bose stage it was usually about the performance, not the sound.

Have you said or heard this lately? What did it mean to you?


Original Post

Kind of like "Close enough for Gov't work" (which I work for, so I can attest).

Seriously, though, there is an aspect of truth to it. There are MANY aspects of live music performance that don't need to be up to the quality level of recorded performance simply because the audience would never notice. Things like noise floor, mix clarity, stereo positioning, etc. For example, when choosing wire sizes for speakers based on damping factor, the recommended damping factor to achieve is 50 for studio recording applications, but only 20 for live performance. Or the fact that crowd and environment noises mask a lot of high end content such that the clarity of an outstanding mix might be completely masked (or just not matter much). Noise floor and dirty connections are affected similarly (masked), like the recent Firefighter's funeral that I ran sound for recently. I decided to do an impromptu video for the family so sent a board mix to the video mixer, turned on our cameras and did a simple 2 camera video from the sound board (remotely controlling the video mixer changes from the sound PC). Turns out the podium mic had a very noticeable warbley hiss to it, but I didn't hear any of it live (even though it was Funeral-quiet).

All that to say you can have what sounds like a really great mix live, but if you were multitracking it for later release, you could very well have a lot of work to do in order to make it sound good enough for release (i.e. most every live album you've ever heard was overdubbed in the studio). The flip side of that is, don't kill yourself trying to make it sound perfect live, and don't worry about every little thing that doesn't sound exactly like you think it should. Concentrate on your performance as most people won't notice what you're stressing about...unless you overstress about it and it affects your performance


I've been playing out and about - steady - for 40 years. I never had aspirations of being a professional, full-time musician, but I always pretended that every gig - from the 30-person yard party, to opening for a national touring act at an outdoor arena - was like playing at Carnegie Hall! The audience deserves my absolute best each and every gig. As such, I obsess over my sound (also my set lists, lighting, stage set up, and what I wear). You can ask the guys I have played with. I ALWAYS say, "Look professional. Act professional. Be professional. I think this attitude and attention to detail (and sound) has led to me working as steady as I want. My advice...Don't settle. Make you sound the best you possibly can with the gear you have! (That's why I now use Bose gear!)

@ST I haven't heard that one before. When I perform for people, I try very hard to sound my best - the best that I can be. So while I'm not obsessive, I do work hard to ensure that my setup looks neat/professional and I also do my best when playing/singing. That's why I am a Bose user - setup is easy and the sound is really pleasing. The rest is up to me - to do my very best whether I'm busking for 0 to 20 people or singing in front of 100 people to entertain them.

I've been playing live on and off for 50+ years. Never at the several nights a week level but a couple of times a month. Everything from open mic nights to small festivals. I always want the audience to like what I/we do but dislike playing 'audience pleasers' all the time. If I'm getting well paid (and it has to be very well paid) to entertain an audience I'll compromise and play all the cheesy <***> but otherwise I'm there as much to entertain me and the band as the audience. However, I'll always give it 110% and do my best (as the sound guy) to make it sound great. With my sound guy hat on*, Iive sound/performance is always a compromise as you only have control over your gear and not the room (or, often, the artist if you are the sound guy) but I've still always tried to give the best the gear (and the artist) can deliver.

* I've done live sound for others for nearly as long as I've been playing and professionally for the last 15 years before I retired a couple of years ago.

Last edited by Bose Pro Community Admin

After 60 years on stages of all sizes, I've decided that playing the absolute best I'm capable of on any particular day = "good enough for live music".

For instance, after today's 5 hour gig, the generous donations from our fans and strangers and the glow we felt after playing the absolute best we were capable of playing today told us that we were certainly "good enough for live music".

Playing through the 2 Bose S1 Pros didn't hurt...clean, clean, clean.

Interesting subject ST. 

I really don't recall this coming up in conversation although I'm sure it has at some point over the years. Personally though I think it a lot. I rarely have what I would call a perfect performance, much less a perfect set. I know that if I don't hit a perfect high note or get confused and play a wrong chord, or get tired and play less than clean, my mistakes are over in a second and while some critics may remember and fault me forever, most of my audience will either let it slide or not even notice.

On the other hand I've never made a recording I haven't redone or wouldn't redo given the chance. It's like rereading this post. I will try to catch all misspelled words and grammatical errors and make it as readable as possible before I hit the post button, and if I notice something amiss later, I will edit it then.

A mistake on stage is a moment in time, a mistake in the "record" is forever.

As for quality of sound, if I have control I make it as good as I can, If I don't have control I do my part as good as I can. Speaking clearly, singing clearly, it's amazing how much we can control tone by working a mic a little or adjusting our touch on our instrument. I wouldn't want to be on pins and needles all night, but if it's just a song or too I can make anything work.




Thanks, Everybody.

I searched on the web for "Good enough for live music" before starting this topic. To my great surprise, I found nothing matching the circumstances where I had heard the phrase.  Maybe it's a local meme and by local, I mean something heard and repeated by word of mouth (or microphone on stage) just in my part of the world.

A meme, on the other hand, is "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture" (think "lolcats" and smiling dogs). A meme transmits cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, and they change, or mutate, as do genes.

The word meme, coined by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, is a shortening of 'mimeme', from Ancient Greek, meaning "something imitated".

Source: It's a Trope... No Wait, It's a Meme

Maybe that phrase, "good enough for live (music)" is a meme.

I was chatting with a buddy yesterday. He had used the term critical listening last time we spoke and I had done some research.  I found a brief description Critical Listening

Critical listening is a form of listening that if usually not mentioned, since it involves analysis, critical thinking and judgment. Making judgments during listening is often considered as a barrier to understand a person, and there's a lot of truth in that.

However, critical listening occurs when you still want to understand what the other person is saying, but also have some reason or responsibility to evaluate what is being said to you and how it is being said. For example, if there's an upcoming election and you need to decide who to vote for, you probably use some form of critical listening when you watch a televised debate. You listen, AND you evaluate.

While experts on learning and communication almost universally demean the importance and value of critical listening, when it comes to real life, listening critically is used every day.

The key though, is to try to understand the other person FIRST, before one evaluates.

Checking back with him yesterday, I found out he was talking about the art of hearing what most people would miss (in live music) but listening carefully, you would notice in a recording.

Oldghm posted:
✄ - ✂ - ✄ - ✂ - ✄ - ✂ - ✄ - ✂ - ✄

On the other hand I've never made a recording I haven't redone or wouldn't redo given the chance.

I recall recording what I was sure was a terrific acoustic guitar + vocal track. It wasn't until I played it back, I heard a persistent scritch, scritch, scritch. I thought there must have been some mechanical noise in the room, or something wrong with the recording process, or the gear, or something. I set up the gear again and hit record.  Do you know what it was? A rough fingernail dragging across a wound string in just the wrong way.  That performance was good enough for live, but a failure as a recording.

Thinking back, I've heard the phrase most often when a bunch of us on stage have gone out on a limb to play something unplanned or unrehearsed  - maybe it was a request, or maybe it was spontaneous jam. Typically it's said jubilantly.  Sometimes good enough for live can mean, it could only have happened live and it should live on only as a memory of the feeling instead of a recording that won't survive critical listening.


If you ever have the opportunity to tour with a famous group in which you are required to play the same songs every night you learn just how much the audience brings to every performance.  I have had nights when I know I played my very best and got only a warm reception.  Yet, I have played other nights when I felt like a train wreck only to see the audience go crazy.  Couple of lessons here, always be gracious and accept the complements, and never let on that it wasn't your best unless it is so obvious that everyone knows it.  As a musician, when I listen to live music I hear lots of small mistakes but they don't bother me.  There but for the grace of God go I!  Now, when I hear the wrong changes that bugs me.  As an aside, in jazz there is a lot of improvization and sometimes you just push the envelope a little too hard.  When I recorded with Howard Alden there were times when he wiffed a note or did not make it "speak."  But in the same take he did too much incredible, inspired playing to not keep it.  What he played was mind boggling and what he attempled was just bold.  I hope I don't sound too preachy.  I'm just an old guy passing along som observatiions.

Chet posted:

The first versions of the phrase that I remember are:

"Good enough for Country." and "Close enough for Jazz."

I'm thinking "Close enough for Jazz" is "overkill for country". Merle Haggard being an exception.

I'm reminded of a friend, whose guitar playing I admire greatly, who will play jazz chords over a melody while I am singing. It sounds great, except when it doesn't, then it's just another wrong chord.

Rob Wright said, " ...... play the same songs every night you learn just how much the audience brings to every performance.  I have had nights when I know I played my very best and got only a warm reception.  Yet, I have played other nights when I felt like a train wreck only to see the audience go crazy. "

Unfortunately we can't use the audience as a barometer of our performance, they are extremely unreliable. We revel in the adoration when it's there, and condemn the fools when they don't recognize our amazing talent.

I think of myself as a critical listener when it comes to music. Not necessarily in the context of musicianship but more in the context of getting the message across. Sometimes a great story can be ruined by a great musician or a great singer showcasing their ability rather than conveying the message. On the other hand, there are a lot of meaningless lyrics being sung that would be nothing without great music backing them up.


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