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IanD

Performing Live, Nerves and Forever Young

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I have found that I sometimes get so nervous when playing in front of others that it's debilitating. I forget the lyrics, sing in the wrong key, my hands shake and can't find the correct strings and I often just look terrified. I'm determined, though, to keep at it and have been working hard over the last couple of years convinced that it'll get easier with more practice and experience.

I was very fortunate to attend the Guitar Gathering in Nashville in June this year and my good online friend @gotto and I put our names down to perform the Bob Dylan song 'Forever Young' as a duet. It was a great experience, and one I'll never forget, but my nerves did appear as I stepped up on stage and I struggled - sorry Greg!

However... my fabulous singing teacher gave me an opportunity to perform at her Summer Concert one month later and I decided to have another go at the same song, sadly this time without Greg. I put in loads of preparation and rehearsal time, made my own backing track so I wouldn't feel quite so exposed, and my teacher, Heather, and her colleague, Laura-Jane, kindly offered to provide backing vocals. 

There were over 200 (friendly) people in the audience, but fortunately I couldn't see them because of the stage lighting 😆. Anyway, I was very pleased with how it went. Could it be better - yes; were the guitar chords and strumming about as simple as they come - yes; did I go slightly out of sync with the drum beat at one point - yes. However, I think this is genuinely the first time I have performed live without making any errors with lyrics or chords. I enjoyed every minute of it!

If anyone out there would enjoy performing live, to any kind of audience, but puts it off because of nerves or lack of confidence - I say just go for it. Somebody recently said "nobody ever died of embarrassment". Everyone has to start somewhere and is bound to improve with practice.

Ian

 

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Yo do us proud and you're in good company. It's said that Kris Kristopherson was so nervous before every live performance he upchucked before he went on. Lotsa luck. 

 

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Ian, seems your reaction to performing is perfectly normal. Keep up the good work.

My personal hero, Glenn Hall (Chicago Blackhawks goalie) played 502 consecutive games in net without a mask and threw up before every game.

Henk

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Congrats on performing live!! That is not an easy task. I get that way in front of the camera playing for my YouTube channel. It takes time and lots of practice in front of the camera/people. You'll get there!!

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Ian!  Great job!  I noticed that you did EVEN BETTER the second verse when you were playing guitar and really busting it out!

There can be so many distractions when performing live (our own errors, insufficient monitoring, and even errors by bandmates can be even more distracting because I think "what the heck was that" and then have a break in concentration).  I sing 3 songs in my band's sets (to give our lead singer a break) so I can relate.

Also, you looked as cool as a cucumber.  You might have been nervous on the inside, but you certainly didn't show it.

Cheers!

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34 minutes ago, CapM said:

There can be so many distractions when performing live (our own errors, insufficient monitoring, and even errors by bandmates can be even more distracting because I think "what the heck was that" and then have a break in concentration). 

Thanks Cap! Yes, I've noticed how the smallest, unexpected things can cause a distraction and then everything seems to go to pieces in that nervy environment. As part of my prep this time I deliberately tried to simulate as much as I could - I had my wife try to distract me or put me off, I practiced with and without a mic and amplification, I had the guitar too loud and too quiet and the same with the backing track and mic. I'd recommend to anyone thinking of playing out to get as much experience as possible and try to simulate a real word (non-ideal) environment in practice.

Ian

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1 hour ago, CapM said:

Ian!  Great job!  I noticed that you did EVEN BETTER the second verse when you were playing guitar and really busting it out!

There can be so many distractions when performing live (our own errors, insufficient monitoring, and even errors by bandmates can be even more distracting because I think "what the heck was that" and then have a break in concentration).  I sing 3 songs in my band's sets (to give our lead singer a break) so I can relate.

Also, you looked as cool as a cucumber.  You might have been nervous on the inside, but you certainly didn't show it.

Cheers!

Great job Ian! I noticed this too, when you were playing guitar you really settled into the song; you voice became steadier and on pitch, and the feeling came through too. Perhaps playing while singing felt more comforting,  I've only played on stage once in a pick up situaton with a good band, and led a 12 bar blues with a singer... I was a bit shaky at the start, but I too settled in a bit after a verse or two.. Don't know if I'd have the voice to sing as well, but I see you have a singing coach so thats a great step too. Keep it up!  Regards; Neil

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59 minutes ago, NeilES335 said:

Great job Ian! I noticed this too, when you were playing guitar you really settled into the song; you voice became steadier and on pitch, and the feeling came through too. Perhaps playing while singing felt more comforting,  I've only played on stage once in a pick up situaton with a good band, and led a 12 bar blues with a singer... I was a bit shaky at the start, but I too settled in a bit after a verse or two.. Don't know if I'd have the voice to sing as well, but I see you have a singing coach so thats a great step too. Keep it up!  Regards; Neil

Thanks Neil,

Singing and playing at the same time are definitely harder than separately, but I do like to hide behind the guitar 😁

Ian

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One little trick I used  on this one occassion was this... there were 2 other guitars strumming open chords, so instead of copying them, I used barre chords, and "arpegiated" the chords, for a different sound. My acoustic electric was plugged in direct to the PA. I gather it was effective because after I was asked what and how was I playing that... 

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Such a wonderful performance , mate. As I told you before, I would have loved to be in the audience watching it live. I 'd give a standing ovation! So nice to see you emerge as a performing  artist and I hope to see more. Very professional and you looked as cool as I knew you would. Kudos Ian.

Greg

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Wow Ian, that is amazing. Your hard work and practice has really paid off. Well done!

I find it hard enough playing and singing while recording to my laptop!

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overall very good.  using the backing track to lead in before playing was a good choice and the ladies helping in the background as well.

Neil talked about sometimes not playing the same chords as the 'other musicians' (in this case your backing track) in a lot of cases that might be true. also depends on the circumstances.

I play second rhythm in church. I many times (most times) I play the exact chords as the lead for the reason he plays a 12 string that's very bright and my cedar acoustic is very warm and mellow so I think I balance of the sound, besides adding sound reinforcement.

as Neil says to arpeggiate it or finger pick it.. but that's at another playing level; as I found out when I directed the choir back in June. on songs I would normally finger pick.. I needed to be rock solid for the singers and the keyboard, and finger picking took too much concentration with my singing, the choir singing and the keyboardist doing her thing, you're hearing all these combined as you play.. Need someone to "bring it home"

that's where 'simple' strumming and singing come in.. brings it home. 

 

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Ian- Great job. Since I was at the gathering and watched your performance live and then watching this video. You have made some great strides and improved tremendously.  I too noticed the confidence as you progressed through the song. Your voice became stronger, stayed in pitch and in tempo. Great job Ian. Keep up the good work. So good to see you progress and not let the bumps in the road pull you back.

I experienced the same nerves and trouble singing, playing and staying in tempo and loosing my place in the song while playing at the Gathering in one of the group classes. These were songs I had played hundreds of times and the only difference was, I had always played at home in the office or den and maybe my wife was the only audience. With an audience in the class, my leg started jumping, wrist started its own tempo and rhythm, and my voice found octaves i did not know I could hit. Amazing what a little pressure will do for you. I am trying to get to a place where I record myself and I have started to ask a couple people who play guitars, if they would like to practice together once a week.  Trying to find a way to progress!

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Great performance, Ian. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with us.

Wim.

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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!!!  Ian,way to go.  I create a movie in my mind that acts out the lyrics and put myself in a bubble so that I can concentrate on the emotional parts of the song.  The more you do this, the more comfortable you will feel.  Even the best singers/players get lost on their lyrics, they just have learned to not let the rest of us know because they can recover on the fly (ex repeat a verse, change a word, humm, etc)🤣.  Have fun and keep it up. Love that you don't have the lyrics in front of you, that's helps you connect with the audience better (my opinion).

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Pat L said:

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!!!  Ian,way to go.  I create a movie in my mind that acts out the lyrics and put myself in a bubble so that I can concentrate on the emotional parts of the song.  The more you do this, the more comfortable you will feel.  Even the best singers/players get lost on their lyrics, they just have learned to not let the rest of us know because they can recover on the fly (ex repeat a verse, change a word, humm, etc)🤣.  Have fun and keep it up. Love that you don't have the lyrics in front of you, that's helps you connect with the audience better (my opinion).

This is a terrific observation, Pat. I believe the connection of the singer to the song as well as the audience is of great importance to one's comfort level in performance and to engaging with the those listening and those performing alongside the singer. I am far, far, from the "best", but "recovering on the fly" is definitely something I have to do on occasion, and I even have the lyrics in front of me. Age has challenged my ability to remember lyrics as well as my younger days sadly, but it has not dampened my pleasure at playing music and sharing with others at this late stage of my life. Keep it up Ian, and keep sharing.

Greg

Edited by gotto
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Really enjoyed it.. good for you!! 

 

 

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"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!!!" Wow, @Pat L , what an exhilarating thought! 👍

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Yes Pat! May I add that growth begins when we leave our comfort zone as well.

Ian, great job. It's almost as if a different person is singing when you bring it on! One thing that came to mind is something I've noticed over the years. We've all heard about our "inner child." Well, what helps to me on stage (for whatever reason) is when my "inner hot dog" comes out. It's the feeling of cutting up, joking around and most of all letting go into the flow.

Related to the "inner hot dog" is a tip my West African drumming instructor gave us. He said while soloing to play to somebody. That can be a person in the audience or what works great with the lights is playing to/with a fellow performer. I'm sure somebody has mentioned this stuff, but I haven't found it so far.

Rock on!

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@Popeye You did look a little nervous when you performed at the gathering, but you did great and everybody enjoyed your performance. I have experienced all of the things that you did and am convinced that the way to overcome it is to get out there and do it regularly. Thanks for the nice comments.

Ian

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@Pat L, @pkotof Thanks for the great tips. I have decided to go and do my first ever Open Mic, a set of three songs, on Friday this week and all this encouragement is really helping.

I saw something on LinkedIn this morning, relating to athletes, but equally valid here: "Anyone has the ability to give up, not everyone finds the strength to keep going". We should all keep going!

Ian

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Good luck on the open mic! You will do great. Hope someone is capturing the moment for you.

Greg

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On 8/9/2019 at 11:03 AM, CapM said:

 

There can be so many distractions when performing live (our own errors, insufficient monitoring, and even errors by bandmates can be even more distracting because I think "what the heck was that" and then have a break in concentration).  I sing 3 songs in my band's sets (to give our lead singer a break) so I can relate.

Also, you looked as cool as a cucumber.  You might have been nervous on the inside, but you certainly didn't show it.

Cheers!

Ditto on the great job.

I suffer with the same anxieties you express and have also been victim to all the gotcha's CapM relates.  With 3 sets of material there are some songs where I'm just trying to hang on and get through. When the monitor mix is wrong, or you land on the wrong beat or there is a squeaker note and you don't know if it was you or the other guy all pile on to the anxiety level.  However, I've also lead myself into a flub with over confidence when you start showing off or thinking about the next song or something besides the task at hand and suddenly you're flubbing up.   

We'll be doing our 3rd show with only 2 new songs in the set list but I am more anxious about this show that ever for some reason.  I'm planning to run the sets every night I'm home between now and the show and focus on  my problem areas in hopes of getting myself in a better place.  It seems I always forget about this part right after the show...until the next show.

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@Six Stringthanks!

it’s so helpful to hear that many people experience the exact same things, I thought I was a freak 😆.

Good luck with the show!

Ian

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On 8/27/2019 at 11:32 AM, Six String said:

...or there is a squeaker note and you don't know if it was you or the other guy...

I hate that!  Of course, usually it's the other guy.  hehe 

I'm going to run my own monitor from now on so I can be sure to hear my vocal and guitar better.

I've now moved from rhythm to lead for our band.  The bad thing is that I now know both parts for every song!  So when the other guitarist doesn't play something that is expected in the rhythm part, it is very distracting.

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