Are You Afraid To Play Guitar In Front Of Other People

You've worked so hard on learning the guitar. But when it's time to show off your skills, you freeze up. You're suddenly nervous and the anxiety stops you from playing like yourself. All that work for nothing. It doesn't have to be that way...

Ultimate Guitar

Be honest. Are you afraid to play in front of other people?

You're not alone. Lot's of guitar players, young and old, lock themselves up in the bedroom because they feel insecure about their playing. They get anxious when it's time to show off what they've been practicing so hard on for weeks. And the anxiety shuts them down COLD.

I personally know what it's like to feel insecure about yourself. For me it used to be looks. But it doesn't matter what area it is, it's not a good feeling.

Listen, it's going to be hard to give you a quick fix for that (there ain't one). But I'll tell you something that may help.

A long time ago, when I was in high school, I was very unsure of myself. I looked to everyone else to make decisions and tried my best to just fit in. And it was a losing strategy. The insecurity never went away, while the situation only got worse.

You see, while everyone else was taking on the challenges of life (and growing because of it), I was still stuck in my shell. I tried to play things safe so that I would never have to "fail", never have to look bad, never have to face criticism.

But that never works. Not if you want a fulfilling life. You HAVE TO fail sometimes in life. That's how you get anywhere. That's how you allow BIG things to happen. BY NOT HOLDING BACK. (read this until you get it)

Think of it this way. You have three basic choices in life:

1. Succeed by doing the difficult and failing a lot (fail less if you don't hold back)

2. Settle for less, and rationalize it (most common choice)

3. Look for shortcuts (buying effects to cover up shitty playing, choosing crime, violence, get rich quick, etc)

The only real choice is number 1. Number 2 will leave you with a life full of regrets, and number 3 is not worth it because any success you get usually doesn't last long.

So that leaves choice number 1: Doing the difficult.

Learning the guitar is difficult. That's why people are impressed when you can play it.

Putting yourself on the line by expressing yourself on guitar is difficult. That's why people respect you when you can do it 100%, even if they don't like your stuff.

Not giving a shit what other people think is difficult. That's why Lady Gaga (and before her Madonna) is a huge star right now. She doesn't care about fitting in or being criticized.

You see, it comes down to HOW BAD do you want to become the guitarist you know you can be? Are you willing to put aside your ego and look stupid sometimes?

Because I guarantee you WILL. Not always, but occassionally. And there's no way around it. You will screw stuff up SOME of the time getting to where you wanna get. Success is NEVER smooth. Don't believe for a second you can get what you want without some pain along the way. Real life doesn't work that way.

Unfortunately, I found that out the hard way. By choosing number 2, settling for less than who I could become and pretending it was okay, I never let myself play guitar with absolute freedom. To play the way I wanted, no matter who was watching.

One day I realized what I am telling you now:


And that's the honest truth. Yes, it's a tired old cliche, and yes, you've probably heard it a million times. And hell, maybe right now it even sounds like a load of crap to you.

That's cool.

But if you take an honest look at the people who get what they want in life, it's dead on accurate.

And ask yourself this question: Are you DOING it? Are you still listening to what people say instead of ignoring 99% of the chit-chat and going for yours anyway? In life and with your music?

Few people are. Most are still letting the mere possibility of being judged STOP them from letting go with their playing. Stop them from creating the art they are capable of.

But thing is, people will love you one day, and hate you the next. It's always changing based on the smallest of things. Things you really can't control it. Someone could have just broken up with her boyfriend and she will say your music sucks. That's just how it is.

I mean, think about it. Even the biggest baddest motherf--kers who ever picked up the guitar like Hendrix, Yngwie, SRV, or [insert your favorite guitar player]... Even THOSE DUDES get criticized constantly.

Are you telling me you'll somehow escape being judged when the "Guitar Gods" ALL receive a ton of negative criticism?

Exactly. We both know that's impossible. There's always SOMEONE who won't like you. And it's usually the people who are most jealous of you, seriously. That's life.

Are you really going to let your self-confidence be controlled by something as fickle as other people's opinions? To have your confidence fluctuate up and down like a roller coaster?

Because if you do, you'll never be in control. Other people will have you by the balls and you won't ever know the freedom and peace of mind of being your own boss.

Maybe you haven't realized something yet: Nobody really gives a shit about how much you suck.

It's YOU who gives a shit. Everyone else is too busy thinking about themselves, and they will probably quickly forget any screwups you might have by the next day.

How many concerts have you been to? And from all those concerts, how much do you remember people screwing up tiny things in their playing? Or were you instead too mesmerized by the experience of seeing someone perform his heart out on stage, too distracted by the girl with the huge titties pushing up next to you, too drunk to even notice that the guy missed the D note in his solo by a mile?

Nobody gives a shit. And neither should you.

Do your thing. Play however the hell you want because you want to. Realize that you at least have the balls to tackle something as difficult as the guitar. That you are a bad motherfucker who sticks with things when they get difficult, and then overcomes them.

That's who you are, and you're goddamn proud of it.

And if you screw it up every now and then, well then you get to. Because people who call the shots in their own life can do whatever the f--k they want, as long as they're not disrespecting other people.

And you're not. In fact, you're doing people a FAVOR by playing them music. Music that brightens up their day, and gets them in a good mood. That takes their mind off of their boring or stressful lives. That's giving Tom and Sally a chance to hook up after watching you do your thing on stage.

Remember this: Music is a gift.

And it's VALUABLE. They ought to pay you money and shower you with thank yous, much less criticize you. Realize that you're not doing anyone any favors by holding back your art. Give to the world, and you will see the rewards of doing that.

And you don't have to do stuff overnight. Just make it a goal to bust out of your insecure shell over time.

You see, half of this is about training. Everything from guitar to your personal insecurities, is about habits. If you're used to feeling insecure in the area of your playing, chances are that's not going to change overnight. You have to slowly TRAIN yourself to become more and more comfortable in situations where you get anxious.

Do small things little by little that push you out of your comfort zone. Maybe start by recording your music and sharing it online. Once you get the hang of that, then maybe try a video. After that, then maybe play for your friends. Then maybe at the park. Then maybe at a bar for money...

You get the idea.

That's how I broke out of mine. I just slowly pushed myself to do things I knew would give me some anxiety, but that would make my life better if I did it. Things that would make me grow, but where I also might get criticized, might fail, or might look stupid.

Realize that those are usually the EXACT things you need to being doing, right now. But trust that as long as you know what you want, you will eventually get it.

I know you will. And I have faith because I was there once too many years ago.

I wish you guys the best.


To learn how to get more out of playing guitar including the most powerful practice method every developed called Pit-Stop Practicing, a list of beginner guitar songs, my picks for the best beginner guitar, visit Sign up for a free subcription to No B.S. Guitar that will teach you how to spend less time practicing but get twice the results.

101 comments sorted by best / new / date

    no bs johnny
    I wasn't sure I should post this. But I the person who I originally wrote this for encouraged me to put it out there, so I did. I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. Makes it worth the effort. Thanks for the comments guys.
    this is a nice article this used to be me worried that people wouldnt like y music not many pople listen t blues and jazz and instrumentals around here but now im actually playing a small gig tommorrow and hopefully some bigger gigs when schools out couldnt be happier couldnt be happier
    Thanks for this,it describes me to a tee.I can play pretty well but am shy about playing in front of others.I will let go of my inner "rockstar" a little more and share my music.
    I might read this everyday, I need to keep this shit in mind haha.
    no bs johnny
    Thanks again for the comments guys. Really appreciate it. I totally didn't expect that it would hit home for so many of you, but I'm thrilled it did. I'll keep that in mind for the future.
    Probably the best article Ive ever read, man. Thanks for giving us all something to think about and apply.
    Pretty inspirational and the stuff you said doesn't just apply to guitar.
    Thats called "the confort zone" you are talking about. In order to progress you must leave that zone.
    It's nice but honestly it's just the same stuff you get when you google "How to be happier in life". You just put guitar playing into it. I don't see what's so awesome about this article but apparently it was genius. Maybe people here only visit UG or somethin'. The writing in itself is great though.
    pretty inspirational if you believe that you can change yourself, without this hope its just an article about how your life will suck i had sort of neutral mood (quite good for me) before reading this article, now im sad...
    Syphoid wrote: Pretty inspirational and the stuff you said doesn't just apply to guitar.
    I hear you man, I put on a gig this past weekend that wasn't my best. Truth be told, I've been so infatuated with my new bass, that when it came time to play a normal guitar I was way out of practice. I got lucky, the crowds at the place were scarce and everyone there didn't have high expectations. But I'm glad I read this, and sure it's a help to any new musicians that are having that problem. Well said
    i am exactly one of these people. i can play fine when im alone but even if just one person is watching i just get lost an the nervous an hesitation sets in then i screw up. this article is very good im glad you posted it for us kids young or old that have trouble playing in front of people.
    I've saved this to my favourites so i can keep reading it, its really inspirational and helps me alot
    Excellent post. It's right what you say mate, I get the heeby jeeby's when I play in front of anyone, but you have to conquer that fear. Watch my blog for the latest posts, I will have something online for you all to watch By Sunday :
    i just want you to know that this article is more than showing your guitar skills its like life strategy thank you. i needed this. thank you
    Great article. I get locked up terribly when trying to do anything with my guitar when around other people. It is so bad that it happens when I am taking a lesson. Makes me sound and look like I have not bothered to practice.
    Dang, I see you wrote this in 2011. Has it gotten any better? I am the same way. I am an alright intermediatish player, but I cannot play in front of other people, or with other people unless I think absolutely no one is really listening. My brain shuts down--I can't remember lyrics, I can't remember anything. The last time this happened at a bonfire and I was so embarrassed I'm tempted to never put myself out there again. Oh yeah, and it happens in front of my guitar teacher as well. It really, really sucks.
    Just found this and it is the best thing I have read and exactly what I need to hear! I get scared of playing guitar and singing in front of family and friends most my life and this has stopped me achievement my goals but hopefully after seeing this article in just gunna try go for it as I have been holding back far to long with worry! 35 years old for crying out loud! Thank you for this I will try
    This is literally one of the best articles I've ever read in regards to musical self expression. I really needed this. Kudos!
    Im shy to play in front of people. At least I used to be. My goals are to be able to do a good open mic night (bonfire, maybe have a band and just have fun making others have fun). And too early before I was any good, my guitar friend and I decided to just go do an open mic night with our couple of songs we played and go for it. And WE BOMBED! We drank too much before we went on, realized on a stage you cant play in front of each other (side by side) and fell off rhythm..Horrible. But the awesomest thing happened - no body cared..we had a good couple moments, but people tuned us out when we fell off the deep end. The next morning I picked up my guitar to see what happened and it was like I jumped 2 levels overnight with my ability. Its like I confronted an uncomfortable situation and got through it and now Im more comfortable when experimenting or jamming with people.
    GREAT article! One thing that might help a lot is letting the first 20-30 seconds of your first piece be something that sounds nice and that you can play smooth as butter all day, that you can rip out as casually as you scratch your nose. This helps "break the ice," reduce anxiety and get some momentum going. I've never played guitar publicly, but I've done a ton of public speaking (audiences up to 3,000) and apply this same principle to reduce anxiety.
    i really liked it congratulations.I am also really shy to play in front of others.Even to my family.I just practice a song so hard that I can also play it in my mind but when my dad comes in the room to hear me play my hands get really sweatty,my heart beats furiusly and i forget the whole part
    Dorkino Slayer
    My relative invited me to her birthday party and asked me to play some guitar. I came to a conclusion that she might not like anything I will play because our tastes are completely different. After reading this topic and thinking it through one more time, I decided to go and play a song or two that I can accurately perform. After all, I'm sure everybody will be happy.
    I'm feeling some jealously from my family members because i got a guitar 4 months ago and i've put in a hell of an effort and can play alot of songs quite well. I guess they thought i was not going to get it and now they see i am becoming a guitarist it pains them.
    It's weird because I'm better and more relaxed in front of people because I don't think about it at all, I just do it
    Dude I love this article. Thanks a ton for this inspiring article!