Help Playing in front of Others

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Steve Kutzer
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Steve Kutzer » Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:38 pm

I may be repeating someone here, but I suggest recording yourself. You *think* you sound better when nobody is listening, but this could well be an illusion. So, walk into your practice room, take a bow, turn on the recorder and give your best shot at "one and done". Then listen to what you've done critically.

This feedback is essential to the idea of "deliberate practice".
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Karen
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Karen » Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:44 pm

Thanks for this post! I have been taking lessons since September but it isn't getting any easier to play for my teacher. I think I'm relaxed before I start to play something but then it all goes downhill. My thumb sometimes starts to shake so badly, then my fingers won't work ... it is a vicious circle. My teacher is very patient but I have only played well enough for him to see what I am actually doing once so far! As I am mostly just working on technique as I am a raw beginner this makes it very hard to evaluate how I am progressing. Other than taking deep breaths and admitting to my nervousness I haven't come up with any workable solutions yet. I am hoping time will help - I have been taking weekly lessons and I hope someday he will get to see how much I really can play.

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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Thu Jan 12, 2017 9:00 pm

Karen wrote:Thanks for this post! I have been taking lessons since September but it isn't getting any easier to play for my teacher. I think I'm relaxed before I start to play something but then it all goes downhill. My thumb sometimes starts to shake so badly, then my fingers won't work ... it is a vicious circle. My teacher is very patient but I have only played well enough for him to see what I am actually doing once so far! As I am mostly just working on technique as I am a raw beginner this makes it very hard to evaluate how I am progressing. Other than taking deep breaths and admitting to my nervousness I haven't come up with any workable solutions yet. I am hoping time will help - I have been taking weekly lessons and I hope someday he will get to see how much I really can play.

Karen, I recently played in front of someone and my right hand went to complete hell. I just lost all coordination. I never play in front of people and this was worse than I thought it would be. It may be true that one thinks that they're better when playing alone etc. but my experience was far beyond that. I couldn't play pieces that I've played for two years, or even remember some others. I'm about to start with lessons next week. I dread this same thing happening, because I don't see how a teacher would be able to assess my issues when my right hand is flailing. I am thinking of recording myself, partly to get used to it and by extension playing in front of people. But also I want to show my teacher that I can play arpeggios etc. Because I feel like the other person is sort of disbelieving me when I say, 'no. really, I can play this piece!'

I'm already prepping myself by saying, 'lessons aren't about performing; they're about finding out issues, etc.' I may decide that I won't even play anything completely through, but just use some measures of an easy piece to establish what I look like holding a guitar, how my right hand functions, etc. which is all I want from my first lesson.

p.s. Student-teacher relations are always fraught; Plato mentions this--think of transference in psychotherapy. I almost want to work with someone that I don't admire, except for their teaching skill, to try to lessen this effect.
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lagartija
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by lagartija » Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:17 am

Just remember that the teachers you play for were once students themselves. They overcame the difficulties of playing for their teachers. This happens when you finally feel "safe" with your teacher. Eventually, you will be able to play better in front of your teacher...even though it still may not be as well as you can play in your practice room. In general you will always play better there than anywhere else. Jason Vieaux told us in a masterclass that he only gets 80% in performance of what he has in the practice room. (After hearing him in concert, you wish you were a fly on the wall in his practice room...but you would probably lose your grip on the wall and fall to the floor stunned in astonishment!)
With my first teacher, we played a little game...he would pretend to be busy with something at his desk as I would play the week's assignment and that made it easier for me to play. After about six months, he could look at me and I wouldn't fall apart and forget how to play the piece. After two years, he could take his "listening" position and I could still play.
I practiced playing in front of people who were not paying attention to me. Having the eyes staring at me was the hard part. I've been practicing performance at every opportunity I get and over time it has improved. So just keep trying and be patient with yourself.
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Mr Kite » Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:15 pm

I was convinced I had this problem - no doubt in my mind at all, so I started recording more of my practice time to get used to that feeling of being scrutinized. Turns out, I make almost as many mistakes in practice as in lessons - it just doesn't feel that way. The way I see it now, when you are practising it's the things that go right that you focus on and remember, but in any kind of performance situation - even a lesson - it's the things that go wrong. Also, practice counts as a success if you make progress, but it's not too much of an exaggeration to say that performance counts as a failure unless you are perfect. Now that I've had this change of perspective, I feel much better about the whole thing... so I would say record a good few practice sessions before concluding that you suffer from I-can-only-play-in-the-comfort-and-safety-of-my-own-home syndrome.

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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Robert Charles » Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:17 am

I can really identify with hands going to mush when playing for other people. I've been taking weekly lessons for over a year and it was only recently that I began to feel relaxed enough to play confidently in front of my teacher. So frustrating and (for me anyway) so irritating!! I thought I had a piece prepared well only to fall to pieces when I began to play for my teacher. It used to make me so angry, but his advice was always the same. It went something like this:
Firstly, you have nothing to prove. So you make a mistake (or three)? So what? Deal with it, relax and proceed. No big deal.
Secondly, you try to play too fast! Slow down. It's not a race.
Thirdly, it's not about you. It's about the music. People are not listening to you. They're lustening to the mysic. So go on, entertain them!

I guess I am a slow learner, as only now these things are sinking in (sort of).
Three strategies I have used that seemed to help were:
Move my guitar and music stand out of the study and into the living area. This way I have become more used to people (mainly my wife) coming and going while I play.
Going to a park, sitting on a bench and playing softly. Gives me the illusion of public performance.
Trying to lose myself in the music. That way I partly forget about myself and concentrate on what I am creating.

I never would have expected to suffer from performance nerves but I did, badly. I know it is a big obstacle, even for soneone used to speaking to large audiences with no difficulty. There are ways of beating the nerves though. It just rakes time and patience apparently. I will let you know if ai ever beat the nerves completely. So far its a journey.

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joachim33
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by joachim33 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:52 am

Karen wrote:Thanks for this post! I have been taking lessons since September but it isn't getting any easier to play for my teacher. I think I'm relaxed before I start to play something but then it all goes downhill. My thumb sometimes starts to shake so badly, then my fingers won't work ... it is a vicious circle. My teacher is very patient but I have only played well enough for him to see what I am actually doing once so far! As I am mostly just working on technique as I am a raw beginner this makes it very hard to evaluate how I am progressing. Other than taking deep breaths and admitting to my nervousness I haven't come up with any workable solutions yet. I am hoping time will help - I have been taking weekly lessons and I hope someday he will get to see how much I really can play.
I also feel I am underperforming in class. Had three sessions with my tutor so far.

I tend to attribute it to being cold. When I play at home I typically blow 1/2 hour with tuning, scales, simple Appegios and filing nails. Mostly to remind my motoric memory where "things are" (strings, freads, nailends). My tutoring sessions last 1/2 h. Sportsmen/women also warm up properly before performing.

As stated before, recovering and keeping your cool after "mistakes" is required. I know that in certain places of my current piece I do not know how to recover "(almost) on the beat" after a certain mistake.

I think training until "no mistake" is an illusion and does not lead anywhere. Doesn't work in technology either. E.g. Computers are full of error correcting mechanisms.

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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Mr Kite » Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:46 pm

joachim33 wrote:I think training until "no mistake" is an illusion and does not lead anywhere.
I'm thinking along these lines too. There are plenty of posts on here along the lines of "amateurs practise until they get it right, pros practise until they can't get it wrong", and this sometimes goes across as a kind of unquestionable truth, but as with all forums, it's hard to know what people know from their own experience and what is a pithy line they heard somewhere that they thought they'd repeat. I don't have enough experience myself to have a definite view - I am just feeling my way, but I know that people do make mistakes even when they are doing things that they have practised and practised and are extremely good at, as when tennis pros make unforced errors. It also makes sense to me that the more pressure you are under, the more mistakes you will make, and the idea that you can practise a piece until you can no longer make a mistake must put you under a lot of pressure. The situation is only going to get more difficult when - inevitably - you do make a mistake. With this in mind I am trying to cultivate an attitude of "practise conscientiously, but accept that mistakes are a normal part of playing an instrument". That's easier said than done, but the idea that you can't practise until you can no longer make a mistake is definitely helpful.

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Tom Poore
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Tom Poore » Tue Mar 28, 2017 1:40 pm

joachim33 wrote:I think training until "no mistake" is an illusion and does not lead anywhere.
Mr Kite wrote:I'm thinking along these lines too. There are plenty of posts on here along the lines of "amateurs practise until they get it right, pros practise until they can't get it wrong", and this sometimes goes across as a kind of unquestionable truth, but as with all forums, it's hard to know what people know from their own experience and what is a pithy line they heard somewhere that they thought they'd repeat.
I doubt anyone believes it’s possible to always play without mistakes. Concert artists know they’ll make mistakes on stage, and they practice recovering from mistakes as smoothly as possible. But mistake free playing is a goal any serious player must strive for in the practice room. It’s a truism every serious player knows: if I can’t do it in the relaxed solitude of my practice room, then I can’t do it under the pressurized gaze of an audience. Good practicers hold themselves to the highest standard of accuracy in the practice room. That’s clearly implied by the Jason Vieaux quote cited earlier in this discussion. (If Vieaux hits only 80% of what he wants on stage, then imagine how much more accurate he is during practice.)

Mistake free practice is no illusion. Rather, it’s the cornerstone of effective practice. Ignore it at your peril.

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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Mr Kite » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:15 pm

Sure, but I think that post acknowledges that there is a difference between practising until you can no longer make a mistake and practising accurately and mindfully. It's not a question of whether we are serious about minimising mistakes - I'm sure we all are - more of what attitude is most likely to get us there. I don't have your experience Tom, but I don't believe "*I* *WILL* *NOT* *MAKE* *A* *SINGLE* *MISTAKE*" is a very helpful mantra. Generally I think anything that makes practice a battle with the instrument (or the music) is probably unhelpful.

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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by zupfgeiger » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:18 pm

2handband wrote:@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.
Hmmm. If he practices so well that he absolutely commands a piece he doesn't need an instructor anymore. Problem is that you think you play a piece so well that you can present it in a lesson. But a good teacher will find flaws, will suggest alternative fingerings here and there or change the musical phrases you had chosen. These are situations which make amateurs nervous.

My suggestion would be to play in front of others as often as possible. Friends, family, colleagues in your office - every occasion is helpful to over come stagefright.
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by Mr Kite » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:32 pm

Is it me or does 2handband have a tendency to announce that he's about to pIut up a video, then make excuses when it doesn't materialize, then disappear when he runs out of excuses, only to return and repeat once the coast is clear? If so, seems ironic.

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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by lagartija » Tue Mar 28, 2017 6:30 pm

Mr Kite wrote:Sure, but I think that post acknowledges that there is a difference between practising until you can no longer make a mistake and practising accurately and mindfully. It's not a question of whether we are serious about minimising mistakes - I'm sure we all are - more of what attitude is most likely to get us there. I don't have your experience Tom, but I don't believe "*I* *WILL* *NOT* *MAKE* *A* *SINGLE* *MISTAKE*" is a very helpful mantra. Generally I think anything that makes practice a battle with the instrument (or the music) is probably unhelpful.
I don't think anyone is really suggesting that you would tell yourself " I will not make a mistake " in performance or in the practice room just before a performance. What you are doing in the practice room is analyzing *why* you made a mistake and addressing that issue. Basically, not letting yourself get away with making the mistake...or at least finding a way to musically get back on track should that mistake happen in performance. Often it is because something in that place where the mistake happened is unclear to you. The proper preparation would explore that area until everything about it is crystal clear. It is a very very thorough preparation and understanding of the music and how you want it to sound.

And yes, playing in front of your teacher is different than a performance because it is their job to find what you missed. If they find nothing to say, it might be time to look for a new teacher. ;-)
For a performance, the audience just wants to go on a ride with you and your job is to take them there smoothly. If your performance is convincing, they may not notice the flaws that you know are there. Thus, Jason can give us a transcendent ride even if it wasn't everything he had in mind for us. The audience is not looking for the flaws.
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by RectifiedGTRz » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:23 am

I am a visual learner so I memorize pieces through visualizing both the printed music and my left hand positions. Then I practice everything at faster tempos to get my muscle memory working. The idea lies in confidence within yourself and your abilities. Play stuff you really enjoy. Make yourself have a good time and don't think about anyone else. Don't play things too technically demanding for your skill. The more you do it the better you get. And hey, if u make a mistake so what??ive had recitals where I thought I just bombed a section but really no one remembers or even notices if you just go on and not let mistakes take over. I forgot a portion of the Presto section of Bach's Lure Suite in E minor once but by the time I ended the recital an hour later with Torrobas Sonatina no one remembered the Bach.
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Re: Help Playing in front of Others

Post by henders » Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:47 pm

Mr Kite wrote:Is it me or does 2handband have a tendency to announce that he's about to pIut up a video, then make excuses when it doesn't materialize, then disappear when he runs out of excuses, only to return and repeat once the coast is clear? If so, seems ironic.

Yes, it's you.

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