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HolyEvil

Posts: 1240
Joined: Nov. 6 2008
From: Sydney, Australia

Nervous when playing for others 

Hey guys, I have a question, I'm usually nervous when I have to play in front of others. especially if I feel that I'm being critiqued.

Yesterday night, I have my guitar lesson, and for the past 2 weeks, I have been practicing this little solea section that my teacher showed me. some days I can play 100%. other days I play about 80% perfect. but yesterday when I was showing him, I was playing maybe 40%, bum notes, timing/compass was off, rushing thru sections n stuff.

For my lessons, my smart gf has given me a suggestion, to record me playing the pieces n show it to him on my iphone if nerves get to me in my next lesson and I clamp up.

But how do you guys make yourselves not nervous when you play in front of others?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 5 2009 12:56:21
 
Arash

Posts: 4495
Joined: Aug. 9 2006
From: Iran (living in Germany)

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

We had a similar thread in the forum of Jasons website and he recommended to drink 2 beers before playing in front of others

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 5 2009 12:59:36
 
Ailsa

Posts: 2277
Joined: Apr. 17 2007
From: South East England

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to Arash

quote:

ORIGINAL: Arash

We had a similar thread in the forum of Jasons website and he recommended to drink 2 beers before playing in front of others

I couldn't do that - one glass of wine and I'm completely fumble fingers.

I don't have an answer to the problem, but I sympathise because the same happens to me. Playing in front of a teacher, friends, people I'll never see again in my life, even in front of a microphone - all have an effect. It has got a little better with practise, so I'm hoping over time it will get easier.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 5 2009 13:14:31
 
alex_lord

 

Posts: 64
Joined: Dec. 2 2006
From: Vancouver, B.C., Canada

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to Ailsa

The microphone is particularly interesting. I am finding it extremely helpful to record myself on a regular basis. Not only does this give me a better idea of what I actually sound like, but it really goes along way in reducing stage fright. It may be a good idea to even record yourself for a few minutes each time you practice. Just make sure you listen to it after

Another thing I've found helpful is playing outside. Take your guitar to the park and play something with people around.

Finally, I think that no matter how hard you work at it, you will never be as comfortable playing for other people as you do when you are by yourself. So, just acknowledge this and try to get proficient enough with your material to be able to play it at 100% *all* the time. This way you will be able to pull off a consistent 80% in front of people, and that might just be good enough.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 5 2009 13:51:12
 
kozz

Posts: 1766
Joined: Feb. 26 2009
From: Eindhoven NL

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

Had the same problem, some breathing and stretching exercises will help.

Prehaps you can have a look at this book: "The Healthy Guitarist" by Virginia Azagra Ruenda.
It's about posture, injuries, how to exercise, relaxation etc. An overall view towards the guitarist.
I read it when I was suffering a hernia from incorrect posture, but a whole new world opend when reading it.

Or perhaps a joint, than atleast you think it's good
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 5 2009 14:02:31
 
HolyEvil

Posts: 1240
Joined: Nov. 6 2008
From: Sydney, Australia

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

beer won't do, too much toilet time involved post drink. haha

I've tried filming myself playin, and that didn't give me as much stress, because I think i know that I can repeat and repeat and repeat as much as I want. I like listening to myself to correct my sound and see where it doesn't flow. The park idea I really like. I'll give that a go. And would you suggest just only playing pieces that you are proficient in at the park or could we include finger excercises etc..

after a joint, i might think i'm gerardo nunez!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 5 2009 14:22:40
 
alex_lord

 

Posts: 64
Joined: Dec. 2 2006
From: Vancouver, B.C., Canada

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

quote:

ORIGINAL: HolyEvil

And would you suggest just only playing pieces that you are proficient in at the park or could we include finger excercises etc..



You can do both, but I think the major benefit is that you feel like you are playing for an audience, even if no one is listening. So, playing actual music is more consistent with that mind-set.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 5 2009 14:29:22
 
Doitsujin

Posts: 5078
Joined: Apr. 10 2005
 

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

I remember in past sometimes in summer I was always playing outside in parks or somewhere in the city at mor or less quiet places together with a girlfriend who is dancer. Me also had the problem in past to become extremely nervous when playing for others...
In the city many people stopped by when seeing us practicing together.. She weared a full dancing outfit, dress and shoes.. So it was an eyecatcher. (And she looked as now very good). So, most of the comments we got were "ole!!" or some nice smile and thumb up. Some asked us for our contact email for hiering us for a small gig somewhere. We had 0% negative feedback. Nobody said anything bad like "what the **** is that?" or thats too loud here go away or whatever.
That made me able to playin front of anybody without beeing nervous. It was my cure!
I want to know how the feedback would have been without a hot lady.... Ok one time in a park some unemployed people with bulldogs ot very angry when I forbid them to play on my guitar..And they chased me through the park... hahha.. That was shocking...
So if you try my tip, dont play in parks... and you need a good looking woman.

Another nice happening is. At the university where I work, sometimes a classic guitar student or hobby player occurs in a cafeteria and plays classic pieces. He sits in the middle of the crowd and noone tells him to stop. I spoke with some coworkers who saw him and all said that its nice and makes a good atmosphere in the cafeteria. I think a buleria would be not a good choose to play there but more tranquillo pieces would be nice.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 6 2009 1:11:37
 
MarcChrys

 

Posts: 121
Joined: Jan. 11 2009
From: England (West Yorkshire/Lancashire)

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

I'm sure many forum members can empathise with you! Playing 1-to-1 and recording are perhaps the most anxiety-provoking scenarios - perhaps more so than playing to larger more anonymous crowds without the pressure of getting it 'just right'. When the nerves strike I usually revert to sloppier less sophisticated techniques - e.g. using my thumb more rather than fingering arpeggios - and tripping up on techniques requiring precision - e.g. stumbling mid-sequence in picado runs.

My advice is to target and reduce the anxiety -

a) try to become less self-conscious - e.g. try deep breathing before hand, get into a more trance-like focused inner world - become just you and the guitar.

b) self-talk: tell yourself you've played thousands of times before and that you're a great player!

c) Cut out the performance-added 'extras' that contribute to you playing less smoothly than when you play on your own - e.g. don't rush, don't strive for extra volume.

d) visualise yourself as an accomplished player - e.g. just the way you arch your right hand can conjure up an image of Paco and make you feel like a 'real' flamenco guitarist.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 6 2009 2:19:12
 
Jan Willem

 

Posts: 274
Joined: Feb. 21 2007
From: Belgium Halle

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

I've played in a band for many years. It's not flamenco but in the beginning I had the same problem. Nervous, but once the performance started it was gone.

So everytime we did a little soundcheck in the beginning and we made sure we played something easy but "kick ass". Mistakes were allowed cause it was only a soundcheck, nobody was really paying attention. And it was a great way to feel at ease.

So my advice is, start with a very short piece and make absolutely sure you lose all your nervous feelings in that one short warm up piece.

Ps. warming up beforehand is of course a must. I don't know backstage or 5 min for the test.

But know that if you want to performe a piece you have to be able to play it 120%. Cause you lose a lot of "ability" when performing due to nerves, different lighting and setup etc...

JW

JW
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 6 2009 5:14:54
 
ChiyoDad

Posts: 151
Joined: Jun. 30 2007
From: San Francisco Bay Area

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

One old stage trick is to eat a couple of bananas. They supposedly contain beta-blockers which reduce performance anxiety.

http://www.ethanwiner.com/BetaBlox.html

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 6 2009 9:33:54
 
sig

 

Posts: 296
Joined: Nov. 7 2007
From: Wisconsin

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

Great question! I used to struggle with the same issue and still do occasionally however I read an article that said think of your playing as a "gift" to others. Most people watching you can't do what you can and probably wouldn't know if you made a mistake anyway. Many of them actually wish they could be doing what your doing and either can't or don't have the skill.
Another mind trick I use is stay in the moment and don't try to show off. When your at home practicing you don't make many mistakes because its just you and no pressure however when you get an audience you think to yourself, hey I have to be perfect and really show these people that i'm a virtuoso and guess what? You will screw up because your putting undue pressure on your self to be perfect. Remember that no one is perfect, even Paco or Vincente, they have bad days as well and so will you just do your best; you know you can because you do it at home all the time.
A couple of other suggestions, first off, I agree with the others who said record yourself and make sure you really are playing the piece correctly. Another thing is to practice with a Metronome. If you are forced to stay in compas with the 'nome clicking away you will be surprised at how much it helps develop your concentration which in turn helps you stay in the moment.
I found that accompanying dance classes has helped me tons with any stage fright. I was leaving a class about a month ago and someone who was listening in stopped me in the hall afterwards and complimented me on my playing!! I couldn't believe they were talking to me!! I actually didn't think I sounded that good but to their untrained or perhaps deaf ear it must have been ok :)
So I guess my advice, like others have said is, get as much time playing for family and friends, try to find a dance class that you could sit in on and remember, "Change the mindset from impressing others to giving to others"
Sig--
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 6 2009 9:35:10
 
duende

Posts: 3053
Joined: Dec. 15 2003
From: Sweden

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to Doitsujin

quote:

Nobody said anything bad like "what the **** is that?"



HAHAA! I was playing with a jazz trio once on the street, sort of tourist entertainment and an old fart walked up to us between a song and asked
-what its this music your playing? Jazz, i said. -Its horrible ****. he said and left.

we had to stop for 20min or so just to be able to stand up again from laughing so hard

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This is hard stuff!
Don't give up...
And don't make it a race.
Enjoy the ray of sunshine that comes with every new step in knowledge.

RON
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 6 2009 11:03:00
 
at_leo_87

Posts: 3055
Joined: Aug. 30 2008
From: Boston, MA, U.S.A

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to alex_lord

quote:

So, just acknowledge this and try to get proficient enough with your material to be able to play it at 100% *all* the time. This way you will be able to pull off a consistent 80% in front of people, and that might just be good enough.


that's a great idea. competence builds confidence.

i posted this in another thread but i'll do it again here because i really think it's golden stuff and it applies to all aspects of life where fear can hinder you.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/12/stevepavlinacom-podcast-008-overcoming-fear/

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/03/stevepavlinacom-podcast-012-building-confidence/
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 6 2009 12:23:41
 
NormanKliman

Posts: 1143
Joined: Sep. 1 2007
 

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

Make sure you've got your sh*t together: Keep your guitar in tune (new strings must be stable), play material that you know you can handle, don't play too long or too harshly, and remember to offer variety (silences within the piece you're playing and a change in dynamics from one piece to another). Don't rush the tempo (it's like talking too fast when nervous).

Make sure you're having fun: This is the big one, because it's all about pleasure you are experiencing and transmitting to the audience. You've got to feel eager to do your job, but if you're dreading it, something's not right. It's usually an illogical fear, and it's up to you to find out what is illogical. Imagine worst-case scenarios (What if I forget what I'm playing? What if the audience starts booing?) and, if they're improbable, write them off. Remember that you're going to play material that you know you can handle. In a number of day-to-day situations, anxiety can be quelled by focusing on feeling (sensations) rather than thought. If you've ever felt nervous before sex, you probably just relaxed and focused on the pleasure factor rather than dwelling on the anxiety. Before each toque, shut out all other stimulii and get the underlying pulse going inside you BEFORE you even touch the strings. Even if you have to do that in an obvious manner in front of everyone, I think the audience is only going to appreciate your effort. You've got to feel playful with the compás, and nobody can do that if they feel threatened.

After squaring away the above points, make sure not to take anyone too seriously: Aside from the fact that there are a lot of screwballs out there, there's always going to be someone who just doesn't "get" an excellent performance (see Duende's post).

I'll close with my three-point strategy for today's guitarists:

1.- You're not Paco de Lucía.
2.- So what?
3.- Paco's not you.

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Be here now.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 7 2009 0:07:48
 
Spencer

Posts: 34
Joined: Mar. 27 2008
From: Bargara Beach, Australia

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to HolyEvil

"Nervous" means that your anxiety centre has been activated. Once this has happened the fight or flight response is triggered, meaning adrenaline and other stress related agents are secreted. Thoughts become focussed on the perceived stressor or threat. Attention to the music and the planning that is required to produce it is lost. Muscles become tensed ready to fight or to flee, and fine motor control goes out the window.

The trigger for the anxiety is not the audience, but the thoughts that are going through your mind about what it means for you to play for an audience. Google for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for a more detailed explanation of CBT.

The "cure" is that you need to get away from the negative thoughts that are going through your mind about the audience and sabotaging your efforts to play.

One way is to consciously work on blocking out any thoughts apart from the music.

In my experience the moment I allow extraneous thoughts to enter my head, I start to make mistakes. If I can stick with the music, and only there, then there are no triggers to anxiety!!

And yes, I am a psychologist!!

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 15 2009 23:12:35
 
Haizum

 

Posts: 43
Joined: Apr. 21 2008
From: York, England

RE: Nervous when playing for others (in reply to Spencer

quote:

Nervous means that your anxiety centre has been activated. Once this has happened the fight or flight response is triggered, meaning adrenaline and other stress related agents are secreted. Thoughts become focussed on the perceived stressor or threat. Attention to the music and the planning that is required to produce it is lost. Muscles become tensed ready to fight or to flee, and fine motor control goes out the window.


Bloody hated the fight or flight adrenaline rush. Used to have it two or three times a day when I did retail security. Only cure I found for it was to pack in the job and get one in an office heh
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 17 2009 12:45:32
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