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Old 09-18-2013, 03:05 AM   #1
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My first unaccompanied live performance in 10 days... HELP!!

Well I never would have guessed what my first post on the community would be about but here goes. I have been playing the steel string acoustic guitar for exactly a year this month. I'm self taught with gigabytes of lessons in my hardrive. I have covered a lot of jazz theory (mainly elements harmony and improvisation) and I can even sight read quavers (with reasonable rhythms) at an average of 70 bpm. I play the instrument as much as I can, averaging about 7 hrs practice per day, so my technique is improving well and I would say I'm proud of my progress over 12 months. I even formed a band with some very talented individuals a few months ago where I'm a major contributor in the song-writing (with lyrics being the exception). We've performed as a group a couple of times for about 30-50 people on average.

So now that you know a little bit to care I'll tell you more. I never use a flatpick, I'm either straight up playing classically, with the theatrical positioning of the guitar (which every lesson pretty much "insisted" I did) or I'm playing acoustic blues or many of my arrangements with C. Atkins thumb pick. This is what I do all the time. I've been training myself to be an unaccompanied guitarist in future and my hard-work will be rewarded in a few days as I auditioned and secured a spot to perform for an expected audience of 10 000 people at a concert on the 27th. I'll be the only solo guitarist there with the rest either doing poetry, rap, singing with a hired band or backing tracks.

There was an unplugged open rehearsal last night and I messed up and almost blew my chance to show my talent to the world. When my time to perform came I practically blew every song with different degrees of screwing up. This are tunes that have been in my repertoire for a good 6 months and I can play them standing in one foot with a giant dog threatening to bite. Thing is I've been that decent only mostly playing for myself or impressing some 2-5 friends. So when I had to play unaccompanied last night I panicked and everything went down hill. I was unamplified and I use light strings so for one I tried to play harder to bring out more volume. Secondly I felt like the chair I got was cold (literally so) to the point I couldn't distinguish whether I was shaking out of fear or the reduced temperature. This are the things I try to blame to make myself feel better but the truth is I got scared. I felt like everyone was staring at me (which they obviously have to). It didn't feel at all like my 12 months long comfort zone. I was very tense, I missed strings a lot and i lose time when that happens. I messed the tunes up to the point the coordinator said "if that's what you have to offer I'm surprised you got this far. That tells me if I keep screwing up the next few rehearsals (one again today) I might lose my spot. But the thing is that will really kill my morale as a dreaming guitarist, and I also know that as bad as that sounds, messing up in front of 10 000 folks in a videorised stage performance might do worse for me as a person, the thought itself gives me goosebumps.

Now, most of you guys have done this before, multiple times for that matter. How do you deal with facing the stage. Its terrifying with all the eyes on you, without the bass player to share the attention. The guitar is very technical and once the muscles start tensing up, even for 5 seconds the damage is mostly irreparable. At least if I was simultaneously singing I'd have a voice to hide behind but everyone will be so focused on every pluck of a string, I really can't mess this up. In one of Pete Huttlinger practice lessons he talks about relaxing and avoiding tensing up at all costs, but I feel like I need more, like a 2 month lesson on live performance telling me how to pretend I'm just in my room and the people aren't actually there.

Well I kept on rambling and my intended 5 lines became a novel, I apologise for that and I thank you for reading. Please throw in your 2 cents, I'll be grateful for everything you can share. Thanks in advance.

Last edited by @guidance7 : 09-18-2013 at 03:09 AM. Reason: Links not allowed
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Old 09-18-2013, 06:08 AM   #2
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I have never been in that situation before but by just reading how you felt I can give you an answer in one word.........Xanax.
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Old 09-18-2013, 07:42 AM   #3
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Forget the audience... play it for yourself and love it. They will get the vibe.

But the most imprtant thing is... you made your mistakes and kept going and finished.
Step 1 completed.
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Old 09-18-2013, 06:33 PM   #4
It was sarcasm...
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Originally Posted by indianriver
I have never been in that situation before but by just reading how you felt I can give you an answer in one word.........Xanax.

It's true though, helps with the nerves a lot. I'm more of a "few beers and a rip" kinda guy, but Xanax works too I suppose.

Just don't overdo it, or you'll forget what you where playing :p
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Old 09-19-2013, 10:01 AM   #5
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Thanks for the quick replies guys, very grateful. The rehearsal last night went really well, I kicked a** and everybody loved it to the point they were still humming the tune an hour later. Now, after looking up what Xanax is I'm glad I did that well without it and I hope I never have to. What I did was to take my time on the stage, I think I spent about a minute or two before I started playing and I made sure I was as calm as possible before even tapping my foot. Hope to maintain the standard and be more than ready next week friday. Thanks again ladies and gents!

Last edited by @guidance7 : 09-19-2013 at 10:07 AM.
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Old 09-19-2013, 03:54 PM   #6
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Good deal, the xanax remark was more of a joke but for people who have chronic anxiety it is a helpful hand. Got to hand it to you, the largest audience I have played for is the dog. Best audience for me though right now, he doesn't make a sound when I butcher a strum or a chord and never walks out of a performance.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:15 PM   #7
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good to hear things went well. when i first started playing for audiences, i dealt with my nervousness by not wearing my glasses, so i couldn't clearly see anyone in the audience - and it actually helped *lol*
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I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!

Last edited by patticake : 09-19-2013 at 06:16 PM.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:38 PM   #8
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i've had to do a few speeches lately and i helped me immensely to have a friend in the front row. i just concentrated on him and i was fine after the initial butterflies. i've done a couple of open mics but don't find any pressure with them. thats just friends out having a good time.
a concert setting would probably have me downing a whole bottle of Xanax !!
need more gear and a lot more talent(courtesytuxs)
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Old 09-20-2013, 10:59 AM   #9
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Beer. Just a couple to chill you out. Works for me.
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Old 09-20-2013, 04:29 PM   #10
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Almost everyone has some anxiety when they first start playing publicly. I can remember some of my first gigs (as much as I would like to forget), missed chords, dropped licks, and the list goes on.

As time goes on, you get more comfortable on stage, and probably most importantly, you don't let the mistakes get to you.

It sounds like you are already well on your way with a second performance that you walked away totally pumped. Be careful... It's addicting

Best of luck!
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Old 09-24-2013, 09:45 PM   #11
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