Live music always puts a smile on my face, and Edinburgh has loads of this heart-warming atmosphere on offer. From pubs to bars and concert venues, there are options to suit any music lover’s taste. Some pubs will be packed like sardines and buzzing with noise, yet everyone will hush at the moment anyone plays a song.
Everyone loves music, and I couldn’t find a better way to unite people.
The live music scene has suffered greatly over the past few years, but it’s making a comeback. Edinburgh fringe festival returns this year, and musicians are making long-awaited returns to stages. Any night of the week, it’s easy to find quality live music. Whether you like folk, indie, or heavy metal, plenty of venues have you covered.
Edinburgh has hundreds of pubs and other venues. Venturing around the city, you won’t struggle to find a bar or pub with a performance underway or a night of the week where you can’t find an open mic night or opportunity to bring your instrument down to play to a crowd. Most venues support music and go out of their way to encourage you to perform.
My favorite venue, Whistelbinkies, is known for its Monday open mic night. You can sign up to play three songs on stage after 9 pm. After 1.30 am, everyone just grabs an instrument and jams. Performing music in front of others can be vulnerability-inducing, but I don’t think you’d be able to find more of a supportive environment to give it a shot. Whistlebinkies’ little community of music lovers keep growing each week.
If you’re after a proper jam night, Tuesday at the Dog House has you covered. Put your name down, get assigned to an instrument, and then play your heart out. If you get as excited about playing music with a group of good music lovers as I do, add this to your calendar.
Stramash has amazing live music every night of the week, but Wednesday night, in particular, they have Gaelic music. Gaelic music describes music that originates in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and it’s a great opportunity to experience different music and dance. Everyone is up and dancing by the end of the night.
The Fringe Festival is a must-see. It is the world’s largest art festival, held over three weeks. It started in 1947 with just eight acts but now features hundreds of stages throughout the city. You’ll find the streets of Edinburgh alive with everything from comedy acts to dance performances and live music.
This unique festival attracts people from all over the world and, trust me, it gets pretty wild. Some venues stay open for performances until 5 am; if you plan it right, you can go from show to show until that time.
I found the best way to experience the festival is to walk around the streets and see what you stumble across. From museums to cafes and marquees set up outside shops, there is a performance almost every metre you walk, so there is much to discover.
There are plenty of musicians busking at the Festival.
Bands like High Fade busked every day of the Fringe. They started with a couple of thousand followers on Instagram but had 30K within just a few weeks of performing. High Fade became so popular that street parties would start up around their performances during Fringe.
Make sure you plan ahead for accommodation. I’ve stayed with CoDE pod hostels each time I’ve traveled to Edinburgh. The former courthouse and jail have been transformed into a luxury hostel in the heart of Edinburgh walking distance from the Fringe Festival.
A hostel is always the best first step to discovering a city, especially solo. From communal living, I found an array of people that love creative work. In CoDE, we had music sessions in the common room and shared artwork and writing pieces. It was a great way to make new friends and expand your knowledge of different creative outlets and ideas.
Growing up in Germany, Anna realized she loved sounds at age six when she first began playing piano. From there, she picked up various instruments and even joined a choir in school, but it became clear that it was not the place to start a music career.
Anna mentioned more than once that moving to Edinburgh to pursue her passions was the best decision she ever made. After couch surfing for a couple of weeks, she contacted CoDE to volunteer, exchanging work for accommodation. Her music kicked off in CoDE Pod Hostels. “If it wasn’t for CoDE, I don’t know if I would have ever played music.”
Anna brought a guitar as soon as she moved in, and within a short time, she joined other musically minded people from all over the world for jams in the hostel. “We were all like a big family, and music brings people together,” she says. “Everyone would join in and encourage each other.”
A friend and role model, Kelly, who she met at CoDE, introduced her to Whitlebinkies, where Anna played her first open mic night, “I was so nervous that I was shaking.” Although it may have been one of the most daunting and confronting experiences, Anna said she couldn’t believe the support from everyone.
Inspired by Edinburgh and the music lovers scene it holds, Anna decided to start a four-year audio engineer and sound production course in Edinburgh. She spoke to a sound engineer at Whistlebinkies, who invited her to shadow him twice a week, and after six months, they employed her.
Recently Anna has earnt the opportunity to work at the Fringe Festival as a sound engineer for various bands and music lovers.
Anna’s story is just one of many stories I’ve heard during my time in Edinburgh. From musicians playing their first open mic night to becoming well-established bands. It seems like Edinburgh is the environment that aspiring musicians need to thrive and feel supported within the music community.
Whether you’re looking to kick start your music career or spice up your night out with some great music, Edinburgh has you covered.
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