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Band Situation

jb83

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
342
I've been in a cover band for the last year and a half. We have been doing well by most measures, progressing to better and better paying gigs and getting great responses from crowds. We have only been gigging 2-3 times per month, so it's just a side thing that has been putting a little extra money in my pocket. Here's my situation: I'm the lead guitar player, and by all accounts, my playing is some of the best of any of the cover bands in our metro area (not a major city, haha). However, I still have not been able to loosen up on stage as much as I would like - I'm a natural introvert. Thankfully, our front-man is extremely charismatic (when I mentioned that we get a great response, he is 90% of what generates that). He IS the band, as I've said, and he could do this and be successful with any group of people. But by this point, I was hoping that I would have gained enough confidence to at least be loose and natural on stage - while I know it's not as bad as I see it, I feel like I must be sticking out like a sore thumb compared to the other guys in the band. At this point, due to the anxiety I feel on stage, most of the shows are completely draining for me - and frankly I view them as more negative than positive experiences. But then there are those shows that feel more free and natural, and I end up enjoying myself and being thankful that I didn't quit the band. I feel like I want to hold out for a little longer to see if I'm able to get more comfortable up there on a regular basis, because if I quit, there's no going back. Are any of you in this situation, or were you at some point? How did you deal with it?
 

Sam Karnatz

Member
Messages
673
If band chemistry is good, just work on your 'comfort' issues. Not likely that performance anxiety will be cured with a bunch a different dudes. I wouldn't suggest alcohol or drugs (from personal experience), but you might try meditating before shows: Find a quiet place to relax for a few minutes, picture yourself in control and having fun. And once you're on stage, act 'as if' you're all that. Good times might just sneak up on ya. Luck.
 

guitarz1972

Member
Messages
4,775
It takes a lot of time, practice and experience to get comfortable on-stage. I think it's a skill-set, not much different than the mechanical process of learning to play the songs.

Try envisioning yourself on-stage, and seeing yourself in your mind as the audience sees you. Make an effort to interact with the crowd; smiling, being a bit theatrical with your playing ("guitar moves," etc.). The more you can immerse yourself into the music and the moment, the more comfortable you'll get, and it'll gradually get easier.

Don't give up, and have fun with it! Good luck.
 

wire-n-wood

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,639
Yes, I've been through a very similar period. To be straight, I'd have to say that my nervousness did not last that long.

I personally found that confidence can be built. Practice it, just like you'd practice any other necessary part of the performance. Some great performers are naturally self-conceited. So their problem is to avoid being complete ar$eholes. Whereas some of us are naturally self-defacing, and so our challenge is to step up and back ourselves.

I tell myself that I play well. I remind myself of the times that I've slaughtered it out there - in a good way. I play well, I know my stuff, I'm gonna do a great job, and I'm gonna enjoy it. So I practice thinking like that and telling myself that good stuff. But it has to be based on reality. I'm not telling myself that I'm the best around, because I'm not. But I tell myself I'm excellent for my cover-band scene. This genuinely helps me to approach each gig with a decent amount of swagger, and to enjoy it.

Other tips:
I write the set list. No solos in the first few songs, while I loosen up.
Practice my mindset for when there are the inevitable mistakes. They will happen, so I prepare myself to take them in my stride. I grin at the bass player and keep on rockin'.
Visualize myself totally relaxed, enjoying the performance and being musically expressive.

I really hope you stick with it and work through this. I can tell you that - at one time I thought that I could never reproduce any decent music in front of a crowd because I felt so inhibited and tense. Now I know that my best moments on guitar have been in front of crowds in the magic of the moment that I can't even reproduce in the privacy of my own home. So I found that nerves passed. I got over it, and now I don't feel nervous at gigs.
 

Floyd Eye

Senior Member
Messages
13,838
I always loosen up a bit after a couple beers. No one wants to be hammered on stage though so know your tolerance and limit yourself. I usually have 2 beers before we go on and then alternate a bottle of water with a beer for the rest of the night.
 

Crowder

Dang Twangler
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
19,079
I agree with the others. Don't give up yet. Come up with a couple of little mental games or crutches that you can use to your advantage.

Maybe get some clothes that are just a little out of your comfort zone, almost like a costume you put on that makes you feel a bit different than normal and remind you that you're performing. A hat can do it, or maybe some boots.

Find something that's always on stage with you and use it as a touchstone, a place where you can turn your attention if you start to get in your own head too much. As long as it isn't your guitar! Maybe a background singer's mic or the bass player's headstock.

The real key is let yourself go with the music and remember why you're doing the gig. You love music and playing guitar. Relax and it'll show.
 

tiktok

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
23,497
I was playing for about five years before I started enjoying myself. But that was playing once, maybe twice a month, and I was in my early twenties. I was also not terribly skilled. Then I got into a situation where I was playing a couple of sets a night, 3-5 nights a week. Not only was I playing out a lot more, there was nowhere near the time to ruminate upon any perceived failings of the previous gig--the next one was no more than 48 hours away.
 

wire-n-wood

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,639
I was playing for about five years before I started enjoying myself. But that was playing once, maybe twice a month, and I was in my early twenties. I was also not terribly skilled. Then I got into a situation where I was playing a couple of sets a night, 3-5 nights a week. Not only was I playing out a lot more, there was nowhere near the time to ruminate upon any perceived failings of the previous gig--the next one was no more than 48 hours away.
This is a good point. When our band was taken on by an agent, the agent thought we needed a bit of experience to tighten up (which was true). So he booked us 8 low paid gigs in a month (just about $350 per gig). By the end of the month, we were a band, and I was ready to be the guitar player. Things that had previously made me nervous became 'routine' to me.

Since then, we've never played that much in a single month. And also never again for such a low fee. But it was a great investment to get us rolling.
 

DrumBob

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
18,755
Music is supposed to be a fun thing to do. Playing music for others and being accepted for it is one of the best feelings on earth. You should be feeling great about your situation, and I think what this all boils down to is you have nagging doubts about your abilities. You don't have to develop a lot of fancy stage moves; as you've said, the lead singer is the center of attention. So, be the strong silent guy who doesn't say much, stands still and doesn't dance around the stage, but commands attention by his sheer musicianship. That could be your natural stage persona. Let the other guys play rock star. John Entwistle always stood still when he played with The Who, while the other three put on the show. He was the Ox, the silent one, who just stood up and played great.

I could understand if you had no chops and the band was lame in all respects, but that's not the case here. People like your band.

I think inside you know you're good and you deserve to be up there playing. I do think it would be wise to sit quietly and chill before the gig, if possible. Sometimes that's hard to do in a noisy bar, so go outside; sit in your car and focus on the how much fun this gig will be, how much you'll enjoy it, and what a great feeling it is to see people having a good time listening to the band. It sounds like you're beating yourself up a bit. Put those thoughts out of your mind.

I'm not a fan of drinking on the gig, but if you need a beer to loosen up, go ahead. Nobody knows your tolerance for alcohol but you, and I'm sure you know that getting plastered on the gig is not good. Think positive thoughts and in time, these feelings you have will be history.
 

Yer Blues

Member
Messages
8,959
I still get nervous. A lot of people get nervous. It got a lot easier for me once I just accepted the fact that I'll always be nervous..... that and basically surviving everything that could go wrong actually going wrong and still getting up to do it again. Of course, you can learn from this mistakes you can actually control (i.e. don't get hammered), but some thing's you just can't control.

Honestly, I don't like to sit quietly before a gig.... Ideally, I like to play a few hours at home before to get loose just jamming on my favorite music. I'm responsible for setting up most of the PA, so that keeps me busy up until about 10 minutes before start time so I don't have a lot of time to sit around and think. Thinking is good, but for me in this situation it's bad... haha. When I play I just get in to the fun of guitar playing so I'm not really worried about a lot of the external stuff.
 

stimpson

Member
Messages
1,871
when i was an actor, i would get extremely nervous. remembering lines, leading dance numbers, singing duets, etc. i would have trouble sleeping the week before a big performance. imagining the crowd in their underwear sounds weird but for me it helped. when the lights go on and the curtain opens, it is time to show off. the audience is there to have a good time and they want to see you do well

to a lesser degree i always felt the same about playing guitar onstage. the audience is there to be entertained. they want to get their drink on and see someone playing a rippin solo. maybe a couple guys in the crowd will be scrutinizing your guitar playing... but really... to hell with those guys. have a beer and enjoy yourself
 

amstrtatnut

Member
Messages
13,217
I dont generally get nervous, but for some reason, I have trouble smiling on stage.

I ought to work on that more....

Im a little nervous for tonight, as Im finally playing the best room in our tiny rural town.
 

kiki_90291

Member
Messages
4,306
If you are a true introvert (look up the definition - it's not what you think, but the fact that you are drained by performances is a sign that you probably are), some of this will never go away. It's integral to your personality. That doesn't mean you can't be successful, though - lots of performers are introverts. But you need to find a way to channel that nervous energy into your performance (the suggestions for playing a lot more gigs in a short period of time will help immensely with this).

You will also need to develop some coping skills. For some introverts in a performance situation, they self-medicate (ever wonder why so many artist have drug problems? I'm guessing a lot of them are introverts). A healthier approach would be meditation (as suggested above) and other ways of calming yourself (google "introvert performance" or more ideas).

The key is recognizing that you're an introvert and embracing it - understand that after a performance you need quiet and downtime, not a party. Being an introvert doesn't mean that you can't be a performer - it just means you burn energy when you perform (extroverts generate more energy). So make sure your tank is full and embrace the fact that your introversion is a big part of why and how you play the way you do.
 

RLD

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,186
When I see other acts it's interesting how many guitar players/bass players just stand in one spot and look at their hand.
You don't have to do a lot to look like you're enjoying what you're doing...and the crowd will sense it.
Move from side to side...on the beat preferably.
Look at the audience...smile.
Acknowledge the other players on stage by looking at them and smiling.
I have a wireless. It frees me up to move around...and I do.
It really doesn't take much.
 

Bankston

Member
Messages
16,356
You're not alone.

A lot of musicians are introverts, myself included. My wife is also introverted and suffers a ton of anxiety on stage. It helps to adopt a persona. Just one example: Garth Brooks (and I'm NOT referring to Chris Gaines, haha). Garth's stage persona is "GB." It helps him get into the head space he needs to become a dynamic performer.

Basically, you just need to follow Stone Cold Steve Austin's advice. Start with your natural personality and turn the volume up to 10.

It also may help to have a shot or a beer before you go on stage to loosen up, if you're so inclined.
 
Messages
5,357
Although I have been a working musician for over thirty five years I have never had a real desire to entertain. I do it to play my instrument and get paid to do something that I work hard to be good at. But I am comfortable being the guitar player in a band that is playing music for an audience or bar patrons. And I generally have a pretty good time.

I consider my time spent with a band as just a part of my musical world. I practice and study a lot and have a huge record collection. The only times i listen to the music that I play with working cover bands are when I am learning it and when I am on the job. On the drive to the cover band gig I usually listen to music that gets me excited about music- hip hop, Sonny Sharrock, Marc Ribot, Albert Ayler.

I reckon I am more introverted than extroverted. But I am not extremely introverted. However, I don't really like "people" very much.
 

Brutus

Member
Messages
3,555
In a band sense, your stationary posture will frame your front man that much better. Let the audience focus on him. You do what comes natural to you. That may change as time goes on. Just go with it and find your comfort level. Whatever helps you play your best.
 

BMX

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,709
Before you go on stage think "Wow, it must be so fun to watch our band play!" A little cockiness helps.
 

scr@tchy

Member
Messages
3,973
Likely already said, practice it. Get up in your house and start going through your set, start practicing getting loose. I was in the same boat, I was mad that I felt I was wasting what should be great moments in my life because I couldn't fit performing into my love of playing music. So I started practicing something new I wasn't good at, just like when I picked up the guitar. I decided that firstly i was going to find out how I could have a good time for myself, and then build on that to include the audience.

I started out by just learning a few different ways I could get my body to visually display the groove while I was playing. I practiced that until it was comfortable and when I turned around to look, I was having sweaty fun. Then I started doing it at every rehearsal - crucial step. Rehearsals became more fun and eventually I was dancing. Wasn't too long before I had a natural base to work with and expand on, but the key was practice.
 

mikebat

Member
Messages
11,561
Two things save me. Practice and mental crutches as stated above.

I make a project in my DAW with each song back to back with a small interval between each. I practice with my stage rig, so I get pedal/channel changes down to a T. I rehearse the entire set at least once a day. When we rehearse or perform, I am always in control and know my parts, and usually those of others better than anyone else. So...live, when I never hit a 100% performance, even a 80% performance is more than respectable.

As for the mental crutches....the practice helps. I think in my mind, "no one can play these songs any better than me, even at 80%". Play with confidence, communicate with your band mates and at least appear to have fun on stage. Know it, feel the groove. Your body will do what it does, groove in time.

Even if you fall short, you will be fine!
 






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