performance ability is not the same as your playing
ability. One will always lag behind the other and the
bad news is that you will almost never play as well
on stage as you do in the practice room. The good
news is that as your playing (practice room) ability
increases, your stage
performance will increase proportionally. Not every
performance will be great. Strive not for perfection
every time, but for consistency. Strive for constant
goodness and occasional greatness to maintain and
improve your average performance.
audience doesn't know whether you're at an easy or
difficult place in the music (unless you project your
discomfort), and they don't care. They're just there
to enjoy the music, so let them enjoy it. Don't
project your insecurities onto your listeners, they
don't want them, just enjoy yourself and focus on the
music. Keep your concentration close enough to
technical matters that you can play the piece, but
focus mainly on the musical result you want to
convey. Be an artist, not an athlete. An impressive
technique is only the means to achieving a musical
end, so d on't compete against others or compare
yourself to them except to stimulate your own desire
to improve. The real competition is against yourself.
Work to improve your technical prowess only as a
means of achieving greater expressivity.
trying to create something, not impress someone. Take
pride in what you do and use constructive criticisms
that friends give you, but ignore the destructive
criticisms that come from people unsure of themselves
or who simply don't like or what you do. If you can
free yourself from being concerned about other's
unrealistic expectations, you can enjoy where you are
in your playing now, and move toward the future.
There are people waiting in line to put you down,
don't join them!
you start, play the piece all the way to the end
without stopping. Don't make false starts, don't stop
the piece and start it again. When you make a
mistake, keep going, if you stop and correct the
mistake, you've now made two mistakes. Always be
looking forward. What's past is past. Even if the
whole thing falls apart, finish it solidly and let
the last note ring for its full value. Nothing's more
unappealing to an audience than someone who, at the
end of the piece, scowls, groans, and bemoans his
fate. Problems you didn't foresee may become clear to
you when you run the piece as a whole so make an
honest evaluation and go back and work on problem
areas and especially on the connections between
various sections you've worked on individually.
that perfection is not possible. Don't drop your
standards, but accept that you're human and mistakes
will happen. Avoid the common error of providing the
audience with a running commentary of your mistakes.
"oops... sorry about that... let me try that
again... sorry..." and the like are not good
examples of communicating with the audience. When you
make a mistake, keep quiet about it. you're almost
always the only one who notices. If you have a memory
block so severe that you can't continue with the next
note, skip to the next phrase or section that you
remember clearly. If you can't do that, go back to
the beginning of the section you're on or back to the
beginning of the piece. When all else fails, go on to
your next piece.
the audience as friends, not enemies. Your listeners
just want to hear your music, and want you to play it
well. Consequently, they're supporting your efforts,
not trying to undermine them. People who come just to
hear you make mistakes should be pitied, since
they're completely missing the music. Most people
think that everything sounds great in the practice
room, and then when they get on stage, everything
sounds like a mistake. You have to turn this
completely around. In the practice room, you must be
hypercritical of what you're hearing, because you
have the opportunity to change it. Once you're on
stage, there's no time to fix anything, so you have
to accept it as it is and focus on the positive, on
what sounds good.
Get in tune and stay that way, there's
no excuse these days for being out of tune. You can
pick up an electronic tuner for peanuts. If your
guitar doesn't stay in tune, or is out when you play
up the neck, chances are you need new strings. If
it's out of tune with new strings, then have the
Pay as much attention to what you don't
play as to what you do. In other words, let the music
breathe, let it be an exercise in contrast. The holes
you leave make what you do play sound better. Even if
you don't hear it at the time, your audience will.
The great players we know and love wouldn't be
household names if they over-played. They'd be
sitting at home wondering why the big break hadn't
arrived for them.
Avoid too much alcohol when playing, as
it makes you look stupid, and avoid any other drugs
that incapacitate you. After the gig, well that's
Know what you're playing. Never play
anything without knowing its context and how it fits
into the tune. Know what key you're in, what chord is
being played and it's role within that key and which
notes you're playing in the context of that chord.
This becomes automatic after a while. It's hard work
at first, but stick at it until it does become
automatic. Playing away without knowing what you're
doing will get you nowhere fast.
Play within your own limitations. We're
all made differently. Some of us have long quick
fingers, some of us are getting old and stiff.
There's nothing worse than listening to someone
trying to play beyond their capability. Much better
to make beautiful music with one or two notes than to
go for twenty and muff them all. Lucky for all of us,
playing guitar was never a contest.
Let the song rule. Guitarists often
think they're indispensable. So do drummers and bass
players and keyboardists, not to mention the singer.
The fact is, the piece of music is boss. Let it be