Do you remember the first time you played your guitar in front of other people? When I first started guitar lessons, I didn’t even want my husband to hear me play in our own home. Call me the Guitar Bandit. I hid out and I was bad.
Then Melissa, who was my very first teacher and the reason I ever even thought I could learn to play guitar, announced we were going to do something called a “song share” where we found a song and worked on it and then presented it to our classmates. The horror! I was going to have to “turn myself in” and show myself to others.
I felt nervous, excited, anticipation and fear all at the same time. I can’t remember what songs I considered and the process of trying out all different songs (which is an awesome process for all guitar players to go through) but I ended up playing, “The House on Pooh Corner” by Kenny Loggins and it had a Bm. Bm is a challenging chord, especially for a beginner, so you can imagine how painful it was for me to perform it. Well, it was not great, but I loved the feeling I got from being afraid of doing something but doing it anyway. I wanted more. So that lead to some local open mikes. But I still felt the same concoction of feelings. I thought those feelings of nervousness would go away. If you are a beginner at playing in front of others, do you feel scared and excited? Or maybe you have been playing in front of others for a while. Do you still get nervous? Well, we are not alone.
Recently Adele talked about this on the Today Show interview and she acknowledged how nervous she felt just before taking the stage at Radio City Music Hall. So even very accomplished musicians have some of the same feelings we may experience at a song share. Let’s call it what it is. Stage fright. Other famous performers who had intense stage fright include Elvis Presley, Carol Burnett, Barbara Streisand. Carmine Gallo, a contributing editor for Forbes explained it this way. People ask themselves, Why do I still have stage fright? Here’s the answer. You have stage fright because you’re supposed to. We are hardwired to crave acceptance among our social groups. If our primitive ancestors were banished from the tribe, they wouldn’t have made it on their own and they might have become a lion’s lunch.
Well, Red Robyn Guitar provides a safe place to practice your skill of playing in front of each other. No need to worry about being banished or being eaten alive. Most guitar players want the skill of playing in front of other people, or we risk spending our time in a dark, dank basement crooning all alone. For many, music can be more fun and enlivening if we share it with others. But logically we know those things. But our palms still sweat, and our heart still races, and our voice may crack. So, what can you do to make playing in front of others a more enjoyable experience?
Practice: We can practice all we can for Song Share/Open Mike but many times, Song Share/Open Mike is the practice. We are practicing playing in front of others. We only get good at it by playing in front of others. But, do your best to be as competent as you can. We have all had moments when we knew we were prepared, and it showed. And we have all had moments when we just had to get through. The later can really cause intense anxiety.
Redirect the stress: Redirect the energy causing those symptoms by changing its focus. The best way to change the direction of the energy is by exercise. Do some of your usual exercise before you perform. You can do this fast one before going on stage: rub your hands together very fast, pass on all of your nervousness and energy in the movement, and then shake your hands very fast.
Breath: In the grip of fear our breathing is shallow and from the top of the lungs. And sometimes we hold our breath without realizing that’s what we’re doing. So, notice your breath. Chances are it isn’t the calming breath we need. So, take even, slow and lengthy breaths through your nose, moving the breath lower into our lungs or our belly. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Repeat.
Pick a song that isn’t too hard at first. The other all presentation and you’re feeling about it and the feeling you give your listeners is most important. It doesn’t have to be “Blackbird”. Find a song you like. We do better when we identify or like something.