The Nervous Guitar Player...

Courtesy of Guitar World... 

Playing guitar brings us the greatest joy on Earth. Sometimes, however, we can become overwhelmed trying to convey our happiness to an audience. Sometimes, we get too nervous.

The Problem:
It happens to all of us at one point or another, and at the time it feels like there’s nothing we can do about it. Allow me to set the scene.

You’re practicing in your bedroom, having one of those sessions where everything you play sounds great. You’re pulling out licks you wouldn’t normally even attempt, and they’re just flowing out of your fingers in beautiful pandemonium.

You punctuate a particularly devastating lick with a screaming bend, attracting another member of your household toward the din. Your door opens slowly, and they walk in. “What’re you up to?” they ask rhetorically. You respond under your breath, “Oh, um… just practicing.”

“Cool! Play me something!”

The request from your new audience initiates an unexpected chain reaction inside you. Your mouth dries up and your stomach gets tight. A cold dew of perspiration begins to form around your brow as you move your hands to the guitar, racking your brain for what to play. You were just playing amazing licks… where did all that magic go? You’re trying to muster up something special, but all that’s coming out of your guitar is complete garbage.

Your hands are completely locked up. It’s as if you’ve never even held a guitar. Your heart begins to pound and you’ve now entered a full-on sweat. Your spectator is starting to regret their visit and this pathetic display of music they’re being subjected to.

After a minute of completely wrong notes and awkward excuses, your audience mutters a half-hearted “That sounds good… but, I gotta go now,” as they slither out the door.

No sooner does the door close than all your nerves depart. You sit alone in awe as your guitar playing ability returns in spades. Unfortunately for you, your friend has already made up their mind, and there’s nothing you can do.

The Solution:
The way around this horrible experience, is to literally practice playing for others - in front of others. Set up a few simple at home play through's of a popular rock or folk song. 

Maybe just to start, only play for your cat or your dog! Ask your Mom or Dad to listen to a piece too. Then, invite a small audience, maybe one friend, maybe a couple of people from your extended family. Later, ask a few more people and be sure that your friends realize this is just a fun public practice. Once you get into doing this, you'll find out that your friends are mostly supportive, and it will do wonders for your playing.

Another important thing to have ready is a song! If you have nothing to play you've got a big problem! Have a few tunes ready for playing, and make sure it's a few songs that everyone knows. 

Pick a couple of legendary tunes and memorize them. Maybe have the beginning of "Stairway to Heaven." Or, perhaps a fun well-known Beatles number like "Here Comes the Sun." Whatever songs you pick, be sure that you know them like the back of your hand.

So, the solution is obviously practice. If you know how it feels to perform in front of a few people and you have a couple of pieces ready to go, this experience will be a whole lot smoother.

One more thing, you have to realize that if people don't know how to play a guitar, (or any instrument), anything you do will look and sound pretty amazing. The only other point is to expect some type of feedback. And, you need to be prepared for odd ideas from anyone who doesn't play. The uninitiated simply do not understand what's going on, yet many people still feel the need to "critique." And, you'll just have to take those "ideas" they spew forth with a grain of salt.


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