A Tale Of Two Guitar Players

Gas Hed

Member
Messages
1,306
Hoping to get insight from you folks on this dilemma I have. When I play alone I really feel the music and it shows up in my fingers and well, you know, tone is in the fingers. When I play in front of people I am the complete opposite. I feel stiff, I make some technical errors, I can't improv and make it sound better than hot cross buns. I can't disconnect my brain for some reason. I suppose it is fear of making mistakes in front of others, performance anxiety, whatever you want to call it. I really want that guitar player that I am in the basement when nobody is around to shine in front of people. Trying to figure out how to get there. Wondering if anybody else struggles with this? Any insight on how to break free?

For what it's worth, I'm willing to put myself out there (here) for critique...I'm the guitar player on the right with the black electrics and acoustic:

 
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jbd3

Please Don't Sell Me Any More Gear
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,004
I sympathize with your dilemma, and I’m not sure if it’s one you can practice your way out of—it seems like more of a fundamental mindset issue. I‘d be curious to hear how others approach this.
 

msquared

Digital Sheen
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
1,633
Whenever I have this issue, it's generally a case of not being used to that monitoring situation. I can make it sound great when I'm practicing alone and band rehearsals are similarly easy but at a venue the monitoring situation is never as good as what I'm used to. If I'm in the middle of playing it's hard to recognize that I'm hearing way too much drums or bass. That stuff always messes with me if I'm not on the lookout for it.

It's worth mentioning that although your body language bears out what you're saying, your playing does sound good and it's clear that there are multiple people in the crowd who are into what your band is doing.
 

Muzbomb

Member
Messages
245
Practice, practice, practice

If you want to be better playing for others, play for others more

^ This ^

Keep finding reasons / opportunities to play in front of people. It might help reduce the adrenaline release you [are] probably experiencing and its subsequent impact on your fine motor skills.

On a gig:
Make sure your pre gig prep is good and stage gear is reliable.
Make sure your on stage monitoring is as good as it can be.
Find some relaxation techniques that work for you and make sure you use them before taking to the stage - square breathing is a good one.

If you don't already - practise at home standing up - the change from playing sitting to standing is significant and can make you feel uncomfortable just in itself.

Some gig's are always going to be easier than others. If you can learn to forgive yourself for errors and laugh them off it can help.

If you can negotiate a set list that allows you an early win to ease in to the gig with stuff that isn't too technical it can help you relax for the rest of the show.
 
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tvegas99

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
1,825
one of the reasons I have to gig constantly is because when I don't... I get self conscious and nervous, I have terrible stage fright and I feel like the worlds worst guitarist, it used to kill me and throw me into great bouts of depression

playing in front of people is as important as playing with other players

play in front of people as much as you can, even if that means friends/family or just sitting outside your house... or busking??? or parties???

ultimately you have to not care about making a mistake and more importantly have the confidence to quickly fix anything that might be a mistake

lastly, play that f**king mistake 2 or 3 times and make it become part of your story... embrace that f**king mistake
 

Fretsalot

Member
Messages
1,910
OP,

I could have wrote what you wrote - sounded alot like myself. If I don't play in front of people for quite some time, I have to start from scratch being comfortable and calming my nerves.

A couple things that help me are remembering to breath, smile, and embrace your first mistake. I'm paraphrasing but I've seen other people write they relax more after the first mistake. So don't sweat it, take pride in your recovery from it, and tell yourself 'perfect' already went out the window so relax, enjoy and have fun. I think people (audience) tune more into if you are having fun than if you played perfect.

Also, I smile when I'm nervous on stage which works to my benefit. I've found that I sometimes play/practice at home going back & forth between a forced frown and a forced smile to remind me of the difference. Not gonna lie, there is something psychological, I find, that makes it a bit easier to play when I'm smiling.

Lastly, if you are like me - you might be in your head. I purposely try to look up, look at people, and focus on people who look like they are having a good time. People who are smiling and/or dancing are my touchstones, as it were, on stage. A dancer and/or smile'r goes a long way with helping me relax more.

Best wishes... your band sounds good, so that is one less thing to worry about :)

Fretsalot/Scott
 
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Gas Hed

Member
Messages
1,306
play in front of people as much as you can, even if that means friends/family or just sitting outside your house... or busking??? or parties???

Also, I smile when I'm nervous on stage which works to my benefit. I've found that I sometimes play/practice at home going back & forth between a forced frown and a forced smile to remind me of the difference. Not gonna lie, there is something psychological, I find, that makes it a bit easier to play when I'm smiling.
Lots of good advice here. These two points are really good and standing when I practice has been a big help. While I agree that nerves are a big factor in my decreased mojo when playing live there is something more to it. I want to get into it, be part of the music. Part of me wonders if being in a cover band prohibits that a bit. Would love to try originals and that is on my bucket list.

How crazy would it be to just walk around the neighborhood on a good day with my guitar and play? I kinda like the idea.
 

ChampReverb

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
13,028
Lots of good advice here. These two points are really good and standing when I practice has been a big help. While I agree that nerves are a big factor in my decreased mojo when playing live there is something more to it. I want to get into it, be part of the music. Part of me wonders if being in a cover band prohibits that a bit. Would love to try originals and that is on my bucket list.

How crazy would it be to just walk around the neighborhood on a good day with my guitar and play? I kinda like the idea.

I’ve been playing in a cover band for about 15 years. Folk rock meets Alt-country with MFF lead vocals. In that band, what I play is very tightly controlled by my choices and by the knowledge that I am trying to closely support those songs in a way that nobody else (the strummers) will do so I am trying to hold down that fort. I do have a sense of humor about making the inevitable live mistakes but I feel a bit hemmed in by the restrictions of the role that I impose on myself to try and add texture, and fills, short/tight solos and rhythmic support. Very nice people. I use a capo a lot to arpeggiate open-string cowboy chords.

I have been playing in another band that does mostly originals (reggae, ska, soul, various shades of rock) and my role there is very different. The drums, bass and rhythm guitar are so very tight and solid that I can just float on top with whatever pops into my head in the moment… and they want me to do that, even though I may play the songs somewhat differently each time. There are certain riffs and arpeggios that I do to reinforce some song sections but beyond that they just want me to freewheel and play something interesting that sounds good. Very nice people too, and I have never once used a capo in this band.

Two very different approaches.

Guess which one is more fun to play in “live”.

-bEn r.
 

Fretsalot

Member
Messages
1,910
I want to get into it, be part of the music. Part of me wonders if being in a cover band prohibits that a bit. Would love to try originals and that is on my bucket list.

Your idea to play standing up is good... and take it one step further... move around while you play. Maybe even... flex... dance... shake your leg... tap your foot occasionally in an exagerrated way... rock back & forth... etc... a bit when you play. Standing statue-still doesn't do me any favors. I find I can channel some nervous energy simply by moving about some, even disguising tension a bit by bending at the knees occasionally in time to the music. No one will confuse me for a punk rocker thrashing about, but I am not entirely an inanimate object either.

I forgot to mention earlier... look at your bandmates and smile at them also. Some of them may be experiencing some of the same tension/nerves and you can collectively relax each other a bit; remind yourself you are all doing this for fun, are brothers-in-arms, and even develop wordless communication on stage that may give way to any sort of tom-foolery. Occasionally, I will turn away from the audience and make a goofy face to one of my bandmates, I think may be in their head, sometimes. Helps keep me out of my head or just for fun. I think people enjoy seeing a band enjoy themselves, it can help them have a good time, and think they are a part of it also.

Fretsalot/Scott
 
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Tag

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
46,945
Hoping to get insight from you folks on this dilemma I have. When I play alone I really feel the music and it shows up in my fingers and well, you know, tone is in the fingers. When I play in front of people I am the complete opposite. I feel stiff, I make some technical errors, I can't improv and make it sound better than hot cross buns. I can't disconnect my brain for some reason. I suppose it is fear of making mistakes in front of others, performance anxiety, whatever you want to call it. I really want that guitar player that I am in the basement when nobody is around to shine in front of people. Trying to figure out how to get there. Wondering if anybody else struggles with this? Any insight on how to break free?

For what it's worth, I'm willing to put myself out there (here) for critique...I'm the guitar player on the right with the black electrics and acoustic:



Loud volumes and those types of songs do not lend themselves to improvisation. I can improvise fairly well up to medium volumes when I can hear everything clearly. At those stage volumes I have to rely on finger patterns and I suck. I played in metal bands for years and had to rely on worked out solos or playing a million miles an hour because good improvisation is impossible at those volumes imo.

Psychologically....NEVER play to impress other people. Play what you hear and that makes YOU feel good. Do that and you have 50% of stage fright beat. The other 50% is just playing live a lot. It actually gets boring after while and you will not even care if you make a mistake, and then you rarely do.
 

Shelldigger

Member
Messages
393
Familiarity with what makes you uncomfortable, is what makes you more comfortable. Stick with it, keep at it, the smooth nerves and carefree attitude will come.

Guys I'm playing with, we are all relaxed and having fun. If one of us flubs, we joke about it during the song. Last time out I brain farted on the first lyric line for the second verse, had to wait for it to come back around. While we were waiting for what seemed a musical eternity, my bass player, with a big grin, held up a finger indicating my first flub. We all just smile, and let it go. It's their turn next time.

We're all human. Mistakes happen. None of them are world ending. You keep at it, you will learn to relax. I know exactly what your are going through. Many on this forum do too. It's all about putting in enough time that you no longer fear it.

That doesn't mean I could care less, I'm a stickler for getting it right. One missed note in a 100 note solo ticks me off personally, I hate mistakes, I work to eliminate them as much as possible, but when they happen, you got to let it be like water off a ducks back.

Fretting about it, (no pun intended, but I'll take it,) only causes the tension in you to build up, which when you feel that uptight, you're likely to make even more mistakes.

R-E-L-A-X. It will be fine. Trust me. Just put the time in, you will get there. It does take some time, and experience, to get from there, to somewhere close to here.

All that said, do I still get a little nervous before a gig? Yes. Does it worry me? No. Once we settle in and the music flows, it's all about having fun. Biggest problem I have, is when it starts sounding so damn good, everyone hitting on all cylinders, got a beautiful groove going, it's easy to get distracted hearing your own music. It sounds so darn good! Then next thing you know, you are behind the beat or forget your place in the song. We call it, "the song starts playing you." That's the one that really sneaks up on you. But you gotta get through it.

If I had a wisdom to pass on...It's never about you really, it's about the music.

What Fretsalot Scott, post #11, said, is really a lot like how I am when playing. I move. I stalk around. I get into it, even at practice. Loosen up and be a part of it. Being a stump on the stage is a sure sign you aren't having the sort of fun you should be. Or, you are on such a cramped stage you can't turn your head without running into a bandmate. ;)
 

VintagePlayerStrat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,513
Hoping to get insight from you folks on this dilemma I have. When I play alone I really feel the music and it shows up in my fingers and well, you know, tone is in the fingers. When I play in front of people I am the complete opposite. I feel stiff, I make some technical errors, I can't improv and make it sound better than hot cross buns. I can't disconnect my brain for some reason. I suppose it is fear of making mistakes in front of others, performance anxiety, whatever you want to call it. I really want that guitar player that I am in the basement when nobody is around to shine in front of people. Trying to figure out how to get there. Wondering if anybody else struggles with this? Any insight on how to break free?

For what it's worth, I'm willing to put myself out there (here) for critique...I'm the guitar player on the right with the black electrics and acoustic:



Before you start to play, take a moment to look at the audience and reflect on the gift you're about to give them and just how lucky you are to be on that stage. Smile broadly, then play some good music.

And ENJOY playing it. You have blood running through your veins, you're in a working band and you play a mean Santana solo. Very few people on this earth can say that, so count your blessings and have a blast doing it.
 

Average Joe

Member
Messages
12,559
Some of it is realizing your own lack of importance. Took me forever to figure out how infinitely small even my greatest **** up was to the audience, or the world at large. Used to beat myself up over them in the worst possible way, or even the prospect of mistakes happening. I think there is freedom in realizing just how little I matter in the scheme of things, and by extension how little my mistakes matter to anyone but me. And that freedom make me ease up, relax, and therefore make fewer mistakes.

Another metal challenge is to step back from the playing while youre doing it. There is a sort of active non-involvement that is very helpful on stage. Basically, instead of wanting to control the music, instead of imposing my wants on it, let go. Ease up. Let my ears and my fingers do their thing, and observe/correct as necessary. Turns out my ears and fingers can find their way just fine, sometimes even better, if I let them do their thing, rather than actively trying to be in control all the time.

ANd of course, practice makes perfect.
 

ErichA

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,348
...and maybe remember, when you start feeling your nerves a bit, that that adrenaline is flowing because of your excitement to play.
(It’s not actually fear.)
That knowledge that you’re excited to play music for others will help deter your brain from deciding (incorrectly) it’s due to fear.

You are excited to play for others, and you’ve practiced this.
You’re ready!
Be excited, it’s what you want to do!
 

MikeMcK

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
7,341
I used to deal with the same thing (and to this day, always play better at home than on a gig), but in my case there was a head-slapping "duh" involved.

Back when Tomo Fujita was a regular here, he gave some practice advice and one of the first points was that a lot of people sat down to practice, then played standing up and wondered why it felt like they never practiced at all. Duh... that was me.

I also followed the sage old advice to always practice with a clean tone... if you can play it with a clean tone you can play it with dirt, yadda yadda. Small problem, it was completely untrue at least in my case. With a pure clean tone, I'd get away with overlapping notes when going from string to string; with dirt it sounded like a complete mess.

Finally, I've probably gigged longer than a lot of TGP has been alive, but if playing in public is new, the best advice I've heard people get is the "gym theory". Everyone who's new to a gym feels self-conscious. The "gym theory" is that there's a reason an entire wall at a gym is made of mirrors. It's because, just like at a jam, everyone there is too concerned with what they're doing to pay much attention to anyone else. Of course you have to listen, but you already know that you feel like your clams are so monumental that you don't care about anyone else's. They don't really care about yours, and probably don't even notice them.
 

stevel

Member
Messages
15,924
Hoping to get insight from you folks on this dilemma I have. When I play alone I really feel the music and it shows up in my fingers and well, you know, tone is in the fingers. When I play in front of people I am the complete opposite. I feel stiff, I make some technical errors, I can't improv and make it sound better than hot cross buns.
1. Being too hard on yourself. What I hear is absolutely fine. I'd be more worried about the singer's pitchiness :). However, the singer is NOT worried about it and carries on, and that's what you need to do.

2. I make technical errors all the time. Everyone does. At least, everyone in the kinds of bands you and I are in :) That might be what separates us from the pros, but whether that's true or not the pro thing is learning to deal with it. Oops. Move on.

3. I agree with the others - experience thing. You just have to do it more until your comfort level is better. I'll be honest, I don't ever really get nervous when I play, but whenever we play a new venue I'm more easily distracted by the sights and sounds and just kind of knowing where I am in the space and hearing myself. Looks like you're wearing in-ear monitors no? There's a certain disconnect there, and if you're loud enough in them there's going to be a lot of nuances coming through that would ordinarily be unnoticeable if you were just using your ears in the room. Protect your hearing, but honestly if you could play without in-ears and at a reasonable volume it would probably help you feel more connected to what you're doing and not zoom in on every little detail you can probably hear now. Looks like your drummer is playing with Jamstix so that should be keeping the volume down!

Good band, good playing, good set list. Don't be too hard on yourself. Might be just you being too critical, you hearing too much in you in-ears, or a combination of both.

And you WILL make mistakes.

Just keep doing it - you'll get more confident and comfortable the more you do it.
 




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