By: Kathy Unruh
Getting ready for any type of guitar performance can be a little
scary at first, but if you are well prepared, you will find the
experience much easier to handle. Whether you're playing with a
band, or by yourself; are a seasoned performer, or a rookie;
there are several things you can do to make the most of your
performance. First and foremost, realize that you are not the
first one on the block to ever feel jittery about playing your
guitar in public. It's a common experience among musicians, and
being a little nervous can even work in your favor.
There is always a mysterious struggle that goes on inside me
when I'm about to give a performance. I think it's something
akin to the Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde phenomenon. Two voices
bantering for my attention, the good guy and the bad guy. Mr.
Hyde tells me that I must be out of my mind. What makes me think
I'm good enough to get up on a stage and play my guitar before
an audience? Who do I think I am anyway? On the other hand, Dr.
Jekyl tells me that I've worked hard practicing my guitar and
know the material well. It will be fun to share what I've got
with others so they can enjoy hearing it too. Be brave, live
life to the fullest and go for it!
Because I am basically a shy person, it would be much easier for
me not to play my guitar in public. But there is a
certain drive, almost a need I have, to express myself through
music; especially with regard to playing my own material. Yes,
there is a certain risk involved; it's called being vulnerable.
Anything could happen... A string could break (been there), you
might forget the words or chords to the song (been there), you
might make a mistake and have to start over (been there too).
But no matter what happens, the world will go on and you will
discover that people are very supportive and encouraging
overall. I'm always amazed when I get positive feedback over a
performance that I thought was absolutely awful. It provides me
with more incentive to continue on.
So how can you make the most of your guitar performance? Below
I've put together several suggestions for you to consider. They
are in no particular order of importance. Some may be relevant
to you at certain times and irrelevant at others. Just take what
you need and ignore the rest.
1. Develop a repertoire (song list) of approximately ten to
twelve songs and memorize them.
2. Make sure you select songs with different tempos and rhythms
for your performance in order to create and sustain interest
from your audience.
3. Pick songs with varying degrees of difficulty, but don't
overestimate yourself. Be realistic about your own ability. You
want to pick songs that you enjoy and are able to play well on
your guitar when no one is watching. If you find that you are
constantly making mistakes in a particular song, give yourself
more time to get it down before actually performing it in
4. Practice playing with distractions. You will be amazed at how
beneficial this can be. I remember playing at an outdoor concert
once where the band that was to follow mine was warming up right
behind us! Tamborines and all. One of the bandmembers actually
started asking me questions about my guitar performance and
wanted to know how I learned to play like that! It was very
weird, but all I could do was ignore her. After that experience
and a few others like it, I began practicing my repertoire with
the T.V. and radio turned up pretty loud to mimic such
5. Start your performance off with something that you find easy
to play on the guitar and graduate to the more difficult pieces
later. This will help you to warm up your fingers and get
comfortable with being on stage. I usually like to start with a
strong, upbeat song in order to gain the attention of the
audience and rid my stomach of butterflys.
6. Get a good night's sleep the night before your performance if
at all possible. That will help keep you fresh and alert and
also reduce your level of anxiety.
7. Avoid drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.
8. Have all your clothes, equipment, contact information and
directions ready the night before.
9. Always have extra strings, pics and guitar batteries, etc. in
your gig bag.
10. Relax, take a deep breath and try to enjoy yourself. After
all, it's just another part of the learning process and
tomorrow's a brand new day!
About the author:
Kathy Unruh is a singer/songwriter and webmaster of ABC
Learn Guitar. She has been writing songs and providing
guitar lessons to students of all ages for over 20 years. For
free guitar lessons, plus tips and resources on songwriting,
recording and creating a music career, please visit: