So you want to play guitar in front of others.
Perhaps you dream about being that one person at the party who sparks the place into an all-night sing along. Perhaps you dream of rushing to the love of your life and serenading them into your arms. Maybe you even dream of playing to sold out crowds at Glasto.
The picture in your mind is clear, but for whatever reason, you can’t seem to get over the fear of playing in front of others.
You’re dealing with performance anxiety. The first step to conquering it is to make sure you have solid foundations.
Build a bank of easy songs and get rehearsing. Then, start practicing like you want to play – find ways to play in front of people. Go out of your way to get out of your comfort zone frequently. By putting yourself out there over and over again you’ll stop focussing on yourself and learn to become immersed in the moment.
How to get over your fear of playing guitar in front of others
While there’s no magic solution to tackle the fear of playing guitar in front of others there are positive steps you can take to drastically reduce it.
1. Start with some easy songs
Put together a list of easy to play songs that both you and your audience will know. No need to go for the big guns here, stick to songs with simple chords and progressions. These will act as a foundation and help you build confidence in your level of playing. Additionally, they can be a great fallback for when you draw a blank on what to play next. The next time you’re listening to a song on YouTube or Spotify, use Guitar Scout to quickly find the guitar tab and start learning straight away.
Here’s a playlist of great, easy to sing-along songs to help you get started:
2. Practice, practice, practice
Practice so there’s no way you can get it wrong. Practice in every imaginable way and incorporate it into your every day. Always make sure you set aside some practice time. Practice guitar lessons with a guitar teacher to improve your playing. Practice standing. Practice while dancing and rocking out. Practice until it’s so deeply ingrained in your muscle memory that you don’t need to think about playing anymore. Practice while listening to other music. You can find lyrics and play along to the song on any guitar tab using Guitar Scout.
3. Rehearse in front of family and friends
We perform better in similar conditions to what we practice. Play for your family and friends at any chance you get. Record your songs while you practice so that you can imitate the pressure that an audience places upon you. Watch your videos to see where you can improve. Share your videos online and with friends. Even pro players do tiny, unannounced shows to warm up before they go on tour. Being on stage is different from playing in your bedroom. Start small, do it as often as you can and it will get easier. Knowing what to play on guitar in front of others is made easier by keeping track of all the songs and lyrics in your repertoire using Guitar Scout.
4. Get over mistakes
Develop a healthy attitude towards screwing-up. Just smile, keep going, and never ever apologize. Your audience is not your guitar teacher, chances are they won’t have noticed, and if they did, then use it as an opportunity to connect with them. A knowing smile will add to your authenticity. Or, if it’s a wrong note and you’re feeling particularly bold just slide your way out of it and people will think you’re channeling some deep inner blues torment.
All guitar players make mistakes. Have fun with it.
5. Frequently get out of your comfort zone
Overcoming performance anxiety isn’t restricted only to guitar playing. All types of performer can experience stage fright. Go sing karaoke with strangers. Take a public speaking course. Start acting. Put yourself out there over and over until you’re comfortable playing in front of others.
When we step outside our comfort zones we learn to accept risk and become more confident in unknown situations. Eventually, you’ll stop focussing on yourself and start putting your attention onto those around you. This will have far reaching consequences for your approach to life beyond just being a guitar player.
6. Create action rules for yourself
Simply stating a desire to “play in front of people” is unhelpful. It is no more than the expression of a desire. It is empty. Instead, you need to figure out what makes you act.
Create rules for yourself that will force you to act in particular circumstances. For example, say “Any time I see a guitar at a friends house, I will ask if I can play them a song”. Write these rules down. Act on them.
7. Create commitments to play guitar in front of others
Like action rules, create scheduled commitments. Commit to a date that you will play a song for someone. Book yourself into your local open mic night The pressure of committing will encourage you to practice. Without committing to specific circumstances playing guitar in front of others will remain just a possibility and will likely continue to be postponed.
8. Be in the moment
Being in your head about how anxious you are, how you imagine things are going to turn out, how you appear to others, is going to keep you stuck. These things are all uncontrollable.
Instead, concentrate and focus on your playing, enjoy your playing, immerse yourself in it. Simply do it, don’t think about doing it. Feel the excitement of the music and be in that moment totally. Let it connect you with your audience. Don’t be afraid to affect and be affected by the music or your audience.
9. Lose your ego
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Don’t try to be something you’re not. People appreciate authenticity. Lighten up and be relaxed. Accept that you are imperfect. Don’t play to impress, play to have fun!
Remember, if you’re having a good time, so will your audience.
10. Get out there and start playing
Once you’re confident enough start booking gigs. Play at your local bar, get a band together, and before you know it you’ll be getting on Encore getting paid to play in front of others.
At some point all guitar players will struggle with performance anxiety and the fear of performing in front of others. Developing personal autonomy and responsibility is the only way to move forward. Make a conscious effort to practice, rehearse, and frequently push yourself out of your comfort zone. Commit to creating rules for yourself that means every day you will force yourself to live and act like the guitarist you want to become.
Learning to play guitar in front of others is hard, so make things easier for yourself with the ultimate guitar assistant Guitar Scout. It automatically helps you find lyrics, tabs and videos for the songs you want to learn online, and keeps track of what you’ve learned so far. Make trying Guitar Scout your first commitment to becoming a better guitar player.