Beyond Guitar

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Performance Anxiety, a.k.a. STAGE FRIGHT!

  All performers get nervous. Its only human.


  Conquering stage fright is possible. It just takes time and practice. Performance anxiety does NOT go away by itself, in fact it gets worse over time if you ignore it.


  Have you ever stepped off stage and said to yourself "that was the worst I've ever played that song"? Join the club. We've all said that to ourselves at some point in our lives. But some of us don't say that anymore. 


  Before we dive deeply into what causes performance anxiety and how to eliminate it, let's start by defining a few key words. Understanding these concepts will greatly improve your efforts to become a star performer:


  1. Panic Moment - the instant you realize that something unintended just happened. It could be a note you played that is not in the song, or a note you meant to play but missed. Wrong notes and missed notes can lead to a sudden burst a adrenaline, making our hands sweat, our heart race, and our body shake. 


  2. Effortless Playing -music that seems to flow out of your body from muscle memory, using no concious thought from your brain. Some players describe this as watching themselves play.


  3. Wrong Note - a note that is out of key. Or, in other words, a sour sounding note. Notice that we are not considering an unintentional note that sounds good a 'wrong note'. A professional player may hit several unintentional notes during a solo, but if the notes sound good, she will just take it in stride and continue on.


  4. Performance Anxiety - seconds before walking out onto the stage, you suddenly realize that you do not know some of the song, or you do not feel confident that you will do well. Pro players know that they will succeed even before they walk out on stage.


  First, let's discuss expectations. If your goal is to play the song perfectly, then you will encounter a panic moment when you play your first wrong note. This is a very unrealistic goal, because no one is perfect. With perfection as your goal, you will always walk away from every performance feeling as though you failed to achive your goal. One of these experiences can be disheartening. Many of these type of experiences consecutively can make you want to quit.


  If your goal is to have fun, you will walk off stage feeling as though you achived your goal, regardless of how you judged the perfection of the musical performace.




  1. Start simple. Choose a very simple piece, like Ode to Joy. Show up at your local open mic night and play that piece. Then do it again. Then again. Many students expect a perfect performance the FIRST time they ever play a piece in public. Its more realistic to get that perfect performance on your TENTH public performance of the song.


  2. Go to a jam session. Play with other ameteur players. These situations are rarely un-nerving. The atmosphere is generally supportive, and chances are, you will NOT be the worst player there.


  3. Video tape yourself playing, and post it on YouTube. You don't have to use your real name, and you can disable comments so that the peanut gallery can't "flame" you (some people just make fun of every song they hear, regardless of its quality, because they secretly wish they had the courage to learn guitar like you do, but were too pathetic to even get started).


  4. Set a goal to HAVE FUN and PLAY WITH PASSION! Smile during all the wrong notes at your next performance. When you walk off the stage, ask yourself if you've achived your goal. Remember, the audience loves watching a performer who GETS INTO the music, not a cry baby who sits on stage and pouts.


  I hope you find this helpful....