Help Playing in front of Others

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Paul Nicholas
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Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Paul Nicholas » Tue Nov 29, 2016 1:22 am

Good Evening!

I have realized that I play much better when no one is listening ...when it's just me having fun or trying to figure something out. I'll practice at home and everything will be great, but as soon as I go to a lesson, I flub everything! This past week, I was struggling and my instructor stepped out to use the restroom. I continued to play while he was gone and when he came back he said he couldn't believe how well I played while he was gone! He said he heard me while he was in the hallway and was impressed! Of course, as soon as he came back in the room, I was flubbing everything again! He joked about leaving the room more often! Any advice for overcoming stress-induced mistakes? I love playing and eventually would really like to share my music with others, but don't want to make a fool of myself either! LOL!

Any Jedi guitar tricks for performing in front of others? Presently, my plan of attack is to simply practice until I know it so well I can't screw it up, but this is a time-consuming and rocky road! LOL!

Thx!

Paul
2017 Yamaha CGS102Aii
2016 Cervantes Hauser Concert (SP/IN)
2016 Yamaha C40
2012 Yamaha Silent Classical Guitar (SLG130NW)
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Jeffrey Armbruster
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Tue Nov 29, 2016 1:42 am

Last week I was practicing and there was a work crew across the street. They've been working for a while and I exchange hellos and a bit more. Anyway, I was completely messing up because of knowing they were there. I'm not even sure that they could hear me. I never play in public; I have bad fantasies about this (things don't go well). I suppose the only cure is to play in anonymous public venues--even Guitar Center--just to get over the shakes.
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2handband
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by 2handband » Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:03 am

@Paul: actually you said it at the end... practice till you know it so well you can't screw it up. That may seem like the long road but really it's the ONLY road. The amateur practices until he gets it right, the professional practices until he can't get it wrong. Even if you're just playing for tips you are working and therefore a professional. So the first step is preparation.

Second step is to carefully choose your music, especially in the early stage when you're still freaked out. This is really just a corollary to the first point but the stuff you choose to play live should be stuff that is WELL within your limitations. If you play within your limitations, most people won't know you have any and here's the thing: your limitations at your first few gigs are worse than you think because nerves are probably going to rob 25% of your abilities.

This honestly applies to ANY working musician, no matter how experienced. Now to be honest I've never had much trouble with stage fright. I was scared as hell going onstage for my first show but it lasted all of like 30 seconds during which I transitioned from "holy crap they're looking at me" to "holy crap this is awesome!". I love playing live, and did almost from the first moment. But even if you're experienced enough that stagefright doesn't hurt your playing you have to think long-term. Let's say for a moment you're on tour, which is where I spent a good chunk of my late 20s and my 30s. You have to play your show five or six nights a week. Those shows are booked in advance, the overhead for every night you're not playing is a small fortune, and you simply cannot afford to cancel gigs. You're going to have to play exhausted, sick, injured, and sometimes all three at once. You need stuff that you can play in that condition. So always choose stuff that is easy for you.

A little pro tip... this may sound like psychobabble but here you go. You need to tell yourself how awesome you are. Yes, this works! Look at Hendrix... he was reputed to be a humble, deferential kind of guy but when his guitar was strapped on he walked into every situation like he was the king of the world. BELIEVING that you kick ass goes a long way towards actually kicking ass.

Finally, play in front of everybody that will let you. Your girlfriend, your kids, your grandma, anybody. Get used to playing for people BEFORE you have a paying audience staring you in the face.

Jeffrey Armbruster
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:52 am

" practice till you know it so well you can't screw it up. " Yeah but stage fright doesn't always care how well you know the piece.

"I was scared as hell going onstage for my first show but it lasted all of like 30 seconds during which I transitioned from "holy crap they're looking at me" to "holy crap this is awesome!". I love playing live, and did almost from the first moment. "

For many people this isn't the case.

There's obviously a psychological dynamic involved in stage fright. Getting to understand what makes up one's own dynamic is a beginning. Working through it would be an end.
Paul Weaver spruce 2014
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Paul Nicholas
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Paul Nicholas » Tue Nov 29, 2016 3:01 am

Thanks for the advice! I think for me it's mainly a confidence thing. I spend most of my professional life in front of folks giving presentations, lecturing, etc. and have never had any issues getting up in front of people until I picked up a guitar. I think it has to do with the expectations I have for myself and not wanting disappoint anyone or be embarrassed or criticized. As for playing professionally, i don;t envision that happening. I'm mainly thinking of recitals, church, family gatherings, small parties... I simply cannot see anyone paying me to play! LOL!

Thanks again! I'll keep practicing and look forward to any additional advice!

Paul
2017 Yamaha CGS102Aii
2016 Cervantes Hauser Concert (SP/IN)
2016 Yamaha C40
2012 Yamaha Silent Classical Guitar (SLG130NW)
2003 Seagull Coastline S6 (Folk Cedar)

Jeffrey Armbruster
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Tue Nov 29, 2016 3:26 am

I predict good thing for you in terms of this issue! Since you routinely give presentations, lectures, etc.
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Steve Langham
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Steve Langham » Tue Nov 29, 2016 3:58 am

Paul Nicholas wrote:Thanks for the advice! I think for me it's mainly a confidence thing. I spend most of my professional life in front of folks giving presentations, lecturing, etc. and have never had any issues getting up in front of people until I picked up a guitar. I think it has to do with the expectations I have for myself and not wanting disappoint anyone or be embarrassed or criticized. As for playing professionally, i don;t envision that happening. I'm mainly thinking of recitals, church, family gatherings, small parties... I simply cannot see anyone paying me to play! LOL!

Thanks again! I'll keep practicing and look forward to any additional advice!

Paul
Hi Paul - I'm very similar in that I play things very well on my own but not so well in front of my teacher which I find very frustrating. I also do presentations to people for work and don't find it a problem. Put a guitar in mind and it's a different proposition!
I recently did a CG grade exam which forced me to confront my 'issue' as I'd have to perform and do the exam in front of an examiner which is even scarier.
As per the comment above, what I found helped was that when we'd have friends over visiting, I'd force myself to play a short piece in front of them. They are obviously a friendly audience so it didn't matter if I stuffed up (which I did early on). I found it also helped me confirm whether I really knew a piece or not. I remember one time when first starting to do this, in front of a really good friend and his wife, I played a piece i thought I knew well and I was very nervous and half way through my mind went blank, completely and utterly blank and I just had to stop. It was the strangest most puzzling thing. I just laughed it off, felt a bit embarrassed but given they were good friends this didn't last long. Then just chatting with them I started playing another piece and because I was then relaxed played it very well. The mind going blank only ever happened once. The other times I might stumble over a certain section and I'd realise that I didn't know this bit as well as I thought so this was good feedback.
For the CG exam, I was nervous but because I did know my material very well, even though at times I could see my RH shaking (!) it all went very well.

So I'd suggest if you have someone over, just explain you'd like to practice performing in front of someone and they are the lucky person. I found after a while I wasn't quite as nervous. Good luck.

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Tom Poore
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Tom Poore » Tue Nov 29, 2016 4:23 am

2handband wrote:Practice till you know it so well you can't screw it up. That may seem like the long road but really it's the ONLY road. The amateur practices until he gets it right, the professional practices until he can't get it wrong.
This is more true than most people realize. Amateurs usually put in neither the time nor the attention to detail that professionals do. Amateurs cut corners and look for a quick fix. Yet they somehow expect to play as well as professionals, and are perplexed when they don’t. Further, professionals are in it for the long haul. They’re serious when young, and it pays off when they reach adulthood. Even then, their commitment becomes deeper and more discerning. It all adds up. Concert artists are better than the rest of us because they’ve paid a price we haven’t.

To answer the original poster’s question, a good start is to get more serious—about everything.

Tom Poore
South Euclid, OH
USA

robert e
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by robert e » Tue Nov 29, 2016 4:45 am

Check out a book called "The Inner Game of Music". It's all about the psychological dynamics of musical performance--dynamics that can sabotage a performance or make a piece more difficult to learn or remember--and it's about understanding what's going on at those times and how to manage these dynamics and even make them work for you. Whether it helps you or not, and I can't imagine that it wouldn't help at least a little (it's already helped me with reading music, and I'm not even halfway through), it's worthwhile simply as an enlightening look at the psychology of musical performance, as the theories and methods presented have all been tested on musicians, pro and amateur. It's based on the work of Tim Gallwey.

Edit: corrected spelling of "Gallwey"
Last edited by robert e on Tue Nov 29, 2016 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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George Crocket
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by George Crocket » Tue Nov 29, 2016 8:00 am

Jeffrey Armbruster wrote:I predict good thing for you in terms of this issue! Since you routinely give presentations, lectures, etc.
I used to get severe performance anxiety in these situations, but as my experience increased the anxiety lessened.

When I took up classical guitar I found that there was no generalisation from the lecturing/presenting to the music playing. So it was back to square one with performance anxiety. For me the answer is to play as often as possible with an audience. It is gradually getting better.

Clearly practising the piece is important, but even being proficient in playing has little influence on performance anxiety. Consider the case of Glenn Gould.
George
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petermc61
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by petermc61 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 9:05 am

Paul

You have got some good advice, but it may well be that you will never play confidently in front of other people. Like you I often present - speaking in front of 500-1000 people at a lunch does not worry me at all. Nerves help me in this case.

I still don't play well for my teacher, so I often send a short recording before the lesson so we can work on the bits he doesn't like. I don't play for anybody else, ever, and doubt I ever will. This doesn't bother me at all as I only play for my pleasure and not to entertain anybody else.

Regards
Peter

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markodarko
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by markodarko » Tue Nov 29, 2016 9:18 am

I'm happy to be a Skype audience if anyone would like to perform in front of a relative stranger. My rates are very affordable. :D
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by bear » Tue Nov 29, 2016 1:51 pm

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chiral3
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by chiral3 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:32 pm

Paul, my personality type is such that I am always a little nervous. I've never gotten past it. I regularly give presentations to boards and large groups, I occasionally teach college courses, and I play in front of people. Even reading a book to my kids class. I always, to a small or large degree, have stage fright. What I've had to do is totally disconnect from it prior to starting. For me it's not about practice. I am usually practiced. It's about not letting my nerves create cognitive fog before I start that trip up my fingers, my sense of rhythm, my narrative. If I start clear my nerves settle and I do fine. If I start rattled I feel like it gets worse. Most people think I am super confident. That's not true. I am a true Myers-Briggs INTJ. I am constantly concerned that I've overlooked something. I am hyper-aware of my surroundings. Verbal / non-verbal queues. All this sensitivity can have a real adverse effect when I need to function in front of people. Since I've never been able to address it I developed this trick where I put my brain on stand-by anywhere from 5 minutes to 60 minutes before. I'd compare it to eating something that you don't want to taste; the way you disconnect your brain from your sense of taste to chew and swallow. Since I do tend to practice and prepare well, once I am out there I can engage my brain without all the stress leading up to it, which is usually what gets me.
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2handband
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by 2handband » Tue Nov 29, 2016 3:05 pm

Of course you could go with the time-honored tradition of musicians everywhere and smoke a bowl before you go on... :mrgreen:

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