A case of the nerves is part of any playing out experience. As well it should be because in my opinion it forces you into your A-game. Going into any performance, regardless if it’s in front of a dozen people or thousands with an oh-well-I-don’t-care attitude is not only disingenuous to an audience but is also a recipe for disaster. If you do mess up (and you will, sooner or later) that nervousness that you should have dealt with before the performance instantly comes to the forefront – probably WORSE than it would have been before you started playing. Then bad, bad things will most likely happen. I can tell you that without a doubt, my worst performances over many years have come when I went into them totally relaxed or worse yet, distracted.
So all I’m saying is – channel that anxiety! Start by understanding two basic facts. First, you will screw up at some point. Everyone does. But also know that 99% of the people out there have no idea what a B7 is supposed to sound like. However, always remember that the one common bond the listener and player have is rhythm. No matter what, DON’T STOP! Keep playing unless you have absolutely no idea what is happening next. If that happens, smile and apologize and start over. But avoid that if at all possible. Most audiences are much more forgiving than you may give them credit for. Perhaps now more than ever with the popularity of karaoke and the…. ahem…. quality of performances that are sometimes seen in that venue!
Performing is an integral part of anyone’s overall musical experience. It’s all well and good to spend hours and hours practicing in the comfort of your home but putting it out there for others to hear will always bring you to another level and at the very least show you what does or doesn’t work. Be prepared to be surprised by that – there have been many, many times when particular songs I’ve played have gotten a much better reaction than I expected. And the inverse has happened too. Tunes that I worked hard on and were quite proud of elicited lukewarm response at best. Both of these extremes were valuable learning experiences.
After my student went on about his almost overwhelming nervousness I asked him: so, did you finish the set? Yes, he said. And was it fun? I asked. He grinned.
“Yeah, it sure was!” he said.
Peace & good music,