Electric Guitar

Newcastle Guitar Lessons

In the spirit of the late Don Andrews, Angelo does not want to make you a clone of himself—he wants you to be all you can be as an artist.

Performance Anxiety or Stage Fright

One of the biggest fears many people have can be when they have to stand up in front of an audience and say or do something. I have many students who come to me in a lesson and are unable to play what they were able to do perfectly at home. At first they think that I don’t believe them and that I suspect that they have not practiced. I know that they have been practicing and they were doing it fine at home, but something happened when they came in for the lesson that made their heart beat a bit faster, their hand start to sweat, and start to shake. This phenomenon is performance anxiety, commonly known as stage fright.

If this happens to you, you’re not alone. Some of the best performers in the world have suffered with stage fright, including Luciano Pavarotti, Arthur Rubinstein and Barbra Streisand just to name a few (http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Barbra-Streisands-Stage-Fright-Video).

I recall a time when I had more than a three hour repertoire of complex guitar pieces and started performing Capricio Arabe by Francisco Tarrega at a benefit concert. I had just got a brand new AER amplifier and was thinking to myself while I was playing “I can’t believe how good the guitar sounds through that amp!” Then it happened, I had a complete mental blank and had to stop the piece and apolgise. I then immediately played something completely different: A Chet Atkins arrangement of Windy and Warm and blitzed it. Since that time, I get a little nervous every time I have to get up in front of an audience.

So what can you do about it? Well there is no simple answer to it. Here are a few tips.

• Build confidence. You get this by performing in front of an encouraging audience. We have been meeting at Neil’s place for more than 10 years on a Tuesday night and listen to one another and encourage one another. Be an encourager. Also, an encouraging open mike night like the one Ken Daniels has at Shenanigans in Maitland every second Thursday is a God send. Avoid discouraging audiences. My family have said how they enjoy hearing me play again after not playing for so long. The truth of the matter is they have heard me at my best, when I practice more than three hours a day, and when they say “It sounded like that string might have been a little out of tune” or “You really seem to be struggling with that song” or “You used to be really good at that song” really cuts deep into me and stops me from wanting to play in front of them. They probably didn’t know (they will now though) so you can’t blame them – they were probably trying to help me play better.
• Learn to recognise signs in your body that you are entering an adrenaline hit spot. Relax and refocus.
• Learn how to slow down and get control of your body. During a performance at a Chinese Harvest Moon festival, my guitar support started to slip in the middle of the performance. It was a real struggle trying to keep the performance going, but it took concentration.

• Become resilient and learn to recover from your mistakes. Learn some entry points where you can jump back in if you have a blank. If again at the video and you will see I have a mental block at the 2:34 mark, but I just jumped straight to a part that I knew I could jump to.
• Be determined to overcome the stage fright. If you can’t, just enjoy playing for yourself and the confidence to play for a friend may come.
• Chill out. Part of the problem is that your brain is calculating odds on whether you are going to nail your performance or whether you are going to fall flat on your face. If you are with encouraging people, the penalty of failure is not as bad, so you won’t become as anxious and probably perform better.

I have found one of the biggest things for me is to love the music and to love playing for myself. Performing in front of other people gives a buzz. It is like the guitar string, if it is too slack it will sound flat; if it is too tight it may snap. Learn to balance the excitement and nerves of a performance and use that to really make it passionate.

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