Feeling unprepared to play in public

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by RnBtele, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. RnBtele

    RnBtele TDPRI Member

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    Even though this question is targeted towards those of you who picked up playing at a later age, 20yrs or older, I welcome input from anyone reading this.

    So I’m currently listening to some Canton Spirituals to get my day started and a thought crossed my mind. A couple of months back I had the opportunity to play along with one of my cousins who's, at least in my eyes, is a wonderful guitarist. He was asked to play at our church for the church's anniversary.

    Now one of my goals which is also one of the reasons I picked up the guitar was to be able to one day play at my church whether my or my wife's home church or wherever my wife and I settle on as our new church. Unfortunately, I havent been able to receive actual lessons and instead has had to rely on teaching myself for the time being. I know I probably have plenty of bad habits but I figure that’s an even trade off as long as I’m able to keep the concepts fresh so when I get a chance to actually start lessons I’ll still have the chord knowledge and concepts even if I have to relearn actual techniques. However because I lack ear training I chose to set out the opportunity to play. I feel like I know my capabilities and didn’t want to mess anything up haha. Now if any of you know anything about black gospel, you know you pretty much never know where the song is going to go or what key your going to be in. Also I’m more of a practice first player meaning I would want to actually set down and know exactly how the song is going to go before attempting it (especially my first time playing in public.)

    Now the question I was wanting to ask was have any of you faced the same situation? What did you do? Did you sit out and worked on getting to a level where you felt you were adequate should the chance arise again or did you just jump in feet first not worrying about what mistakes you made or being embarrassed?

    I feel like the younger you are when you start you’re probably less worried about being embarrassed and messing up and instead just want to play just to play. But when you start at a later age you’re more aware of the consequences bad playing can have especially if its your bad playing lol which deters you more from those opportunities.
     
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  2. Sounds Good

    Sounds Good Tele-Holic

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    I just jumped in and played my hands were shaking, and i made a few mistakes to start with, but then after a few song things went better not quite as in practise though.

    But they said i was ok and they never noticed any mistakes so it made me feel alot better. I started at 53 btw, personally i dont think age is a factor that much it is not like a sport, and even a few chords played well can entertain most folks so do not worry to much.
     
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  3. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

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    I play in a praise/worship group, and we are always looking for people to add to the group.
    The way I see it is that most people are able to bring something good to the group, whether it's a
    voice, some level of skill on an instrument, or simple another person's perspective on what we're doing.

    I'd suggest asking musicians in your church about opportunities to play, given your current level of skill and desire/goal to improve. If you're welcomed, good, and if not, seek opportunities with a different (church) group.
    Good luck to you.
     
  4. RnBtele

    RnBtele TDPRI Member

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    Thanks. I guess my habit of over thinking tends to creep into my guitar playing haha. I find myself worrying about how I could actually contribute (what to do when playing with another guitarist and bassist) when I should be more concerned with having fun.
     
  5. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Don't think, just do.
    Have fun. Practice not until you get it right, but until you can't get it wrong. If you're joining others, ask that they don't point to you to spotlight you, but let you play the rhythm part. Most will honour your request. Some will put you on the spot to bolster their own flagging self importance. Own it :)
    Providing you're on time and more or less in tune ( if you miss a chord change, OWN IT! ), everyone will enjoy it. Look as if you're having fun, even if you're bricking it.
     
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  6. Mike SS

    Mike SS Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Don't worry too much. My first "live" performances were with some friends from school who recruited me to do vocals for church related performances. I was around 14 and had never sang in public, but they had heard me singing along with the radio and were impressed. I could also play drums fairly well, and was decent on guitar, but they needed my pipes. Thus began my early performing career.
     
  7. perttime

    perttime Tele-Afflicted

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    Does your church have any opportunities for small low-key events? I got my start playing with others at some church youth evenings, where it was more like campfire stuff: people singing together but it was better with one or two acoustic guitars.
     
  8. RnBtele

    RnBtele TDPRI Member

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    Thanks. That's one of the reasons that I wanted to learn how to play because I felt that there was probably a need for guitarist. Since most of the young folks that sung in the choir or played instruments moved off, my church now only has a bassist and drummer. The choir is pretty small now too composed mostly of young kids and a few adults.
     
  9. supersoldier71

    supersoldier71 Tele-Holic

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    I started playing a decade ago when I was 36, and did so with being able to praise the Lord as one of the primary goals. I am, with the exception of about a 4 month period early on, self taught.

    Playing with others has been a significant learning experience and on some level you have to accept that you won't necessarily be good at it the first time out, but even more important, know that you will get better.

    You have to get comfortable using every, and I mean every possible means to get locked in and stay locked in with the other musicians. Talk to them before, and if possible, during, and certainly after each performance. Look and listen for cues: does the drummer make a face when he's about to play a fill?

    Oh, and to start out, find spots in each song where you can add something. I didn't know how bad I was as a rhythm guitarist until I started playing in church. More about that in a second. I'd never thought of myself as a lead or rhythm guitarist because in informal groups I'd played with before, we'd be tradin' fours and such, and I felt like I could comp competently. So when I first started out, I'd add a fill here or there, but I was also almost paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake. It's only God's music we're talking about. So first, I had to get comfortable with the fact that I WILL make a mistake or two, I'll get over it and keep on rockin'.

    So fills and the occasional guitar intro were what I did, which brings me to another point: your amp settings at home will probably not work on the P&W stage. On Sunday mornings we'll have drums and other percussion, bass, a baby grand, keyboard, brass, woodwinds, strings and a full choir. Whew! That's like several multiples of the maximum number of musicians I'd ever played with at one time. So finding sonic space where I could hear myself was a challenge that took longer than it should've for me to solve. It required a lot more volume than I would've imagined, and some EQ settings that don't sound great outside of a dense mix. Once I could hear myself ALL the TIME, I became more confident.

    Oh, and back to the stuff that you're not good at: nothing brings focus to your practice like the awareness that your weaknesses will be evident for a thousand or so people to hear. Drum tracks or a metronome become good friends if they haven't already. I prefer drum tracks because I can customize them to emphasize different beats in the measure, and practice my rhythm playing to accompany that. Also, we do a fair amount of stuff in 4/4 and 3/4, with which I was very comfortable, but 6/8 and 12/8? No. So I had to figure that out and figure it out to the extent that I wasn't thinking about it while I was playing it. Each has a different feel that becomes apparent and pretty easy to latch onto in a short period.

    TL; DR: Go play and figure it out on the fly!
     
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  10. Flat6Driver

    Flat6Driver Friend of Leo's

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    I have played on and off for more churches than paying gigs. I have never played electric guitar in that format..only been a part of the wall of acoustic guitars.

    We get the music during the week and there is a rehearsal but it's mostly vocals. On Sunday we warm up at 10 for 10:30. The songs sound nothing like the recordings, and we have had some crazy almost trainwrecks. It's a very forgiving format...as we are not the focus.
     
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  11. Random1643

    Random1643 Tele-Afflicted

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    Different approaches will work for different folks. Here's my angle on it.

    I played/sang a lot in various types of bands from early-teens to mid-20s, then I quit completely for 20 years. When I got interested again in my mid-40s I played in an instrumental duo for a while with my daughter until she headed off to college, so then thought I'd play on my own. Playing solo, for me, was a totally different gig than playing in a band, even a duo. I wasn't good at it. I approached a woman who had just opened a café/eatery in a city near our farm and just asked if I could play there for coffee, soup and a sandwich from 9am-1pm every Saturday. I did this for several months eventually getting more comfortable, building competence as a solo player/singer. I understand you're not focused, RnBtele, like I was on solo performance per se but my suggestion would be to create a practice situation that matches your goal of playing in a small group at your church. Maybe that's just joining, practicing with the church band, or maybe for now it's something less direct.

    You have a good, worthy goal. I hope you report back on progress.
     
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  12. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    cool
    I used to over-prepare, which made me feel great beforehand but more neURoTic and less able to go with the flow when it came time to make music. What make me more able to go with the flow was a combination of things:

    1. Ear training. The ability to recognize chord changes. Lay out and listen first. This gives you the before-the-moment confidence.

    2. Learning the fretboard. Knowing where close-neighbor chords are, so you can grab them quickly on the fly or play little melodic fills. This gives gives you in-the-moment confidence. You won't fish around for stuff.

    3. Learning standards. This doesn't mean learning a standard in only one key. Learn the *logic* of a standard, so it won't freak you out when they start playing say in Bb instead of F.

    4. Listening for your place in the mix. People who over-play fundamentally aren't listening. Good ensemble players don't play everything they know and have worked-out beforehand. They contribute a little bit when it looks like it's the right time to fit in, and it doesn't have to be much to be effective.

    I hope that sheds a little light on your situation, which is really common and important. There is stuff to prepare, but there's no substitute for jumping in with what you've got and figuring out from *there* how to contribute more.

    Do it! And let your fellow musicians help build you up. That's what we're all here for, is the way I see it.
     
  13. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Friend of Leo's

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    I'm 56. The first time I played to an audience was back in 76/77 when I was in my teens (playing bass and subsequently drums) - a school "review" and a punk pastiche / mickey-take. In those days, we were all invincible and didn't give a damn - we couldn't really play a note, just a few chords and a lot of volume.

    The band stayed together, learned a few more tunes for a few years, off and on and then that was that. I never played again until last year when my wife bought me some guitar lessons.

    At my age, I have neither the plans nor the desire to play to an audience. However, I suspect that the older you get, the more daunting it becomes - unless you're playing to a bunch of people who are on your "side" and want your music more than they're concerned about the odd bum note.

    As you're playing to a church, I'd sort of expect them to be a forgiving audience but, then again, I'm not a person of faith and have no real idea how "serious" church audiences take the music as part of the overall experience.

    Good luck anyway.
     
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  14. RnBtele

    RnBtele TDPRI Member

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    Well honestly, I'd consider most of our services low key especially at my wife's church. For my church usually just family and close friends. As soon as the choir goes up to sing your only left with probably 15 or so folks in the congregation. My wife's church only has about 10 or 15 members. Supposedly, the numbers fell off really bad with the previous pastor stepping down. With her church, I basically see the entire congregation at the dinner table after church haha. But with both of our churches, no one is really a "singer". I wouldnt even know where to begin with trying to figure out the song key. I even asked my cousin who plays the bass at my church could we pratice together some so I could get a feel for the songs but he told me it probably wouldnt help much since no one in the choir really knows what key theyre in and just sings. So we could practice in one key but come Sunday be in a different key then what was used the Sunday before haha.
     
  15. NJ Deadhead

    NJ Deadhead Tele-Meister

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    Getting out and playing in front of people is a rush like nothing else...you're going to love it!

    I would suggest hitting the open mic circuit in your area to get your feet wet. No pressure, no expectations, no worrying about mistakes in front of an entire congregation. Open mic events are great not just for playing, but for being around a bunch of other supportive musicians to share feedback and ideas with. Bring some friends and have a good time! Once you notice that you are comfortable in front of a crowd, then consider approaching the church group, you'll feel much more prepared and confident that you'll have something to contribute.
     
  16. RnBtele

    RnBtele TDPRI Member

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    Thanks nocaster.

    Confidence is something I feel like I'm definitely lacking. I'm going to have to make sure I work more on what you suggested.
     
  17. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

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    That's not unusual with church groups, RnBtele, we've had young people join and participate for a few years, then depart for higher education or the military. We always look to develop new singers and instrumentalists. Our newest member began playing in services with us this past month, having started learning guitar only last October.
    The music is simple, we play in a limited number of keys, and the worship leader is a skilled accompanist on keyboards.

    Since he's started playing, the major things we've addressed (in a supportive way) have been the slightly different way you must play when (quietly) accompanying a vocalist, and to keep from noodling between songs during rehearsals/practice.
    In other words, stuff that you learn by doing. Again, best of luck to you, it sounds like you're ready to give it a try.
     
  18. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    That is an interesting situation since it isn't very rehearsed. I have only been on stage with the guitar a few times so far, but spent a year doing stand-up and learned a few tricks. Paul Reiser once told me to move the house lights so that I couldn't actually see the audience which is what I did for several sets starting out. It worked really well at reducing the anxiety. My act was never rehearsed, it was always fully sopontaneous after the opening joke, so I often puked before going on...several times. That lasted about 4 shows until I was able to accept the anxiety as a natural thing and let it go. The only thing that reduces that anxiety of the unknown is to do a few shows and make it a known experience. You just have to jump in and do it a few times.

    You don't have the ability to hide in the lights, but if it makes you more comfortable, hide in plain sight. Wide brim hat, sunglasses, or even just position youself behind the other musicians a little might help the first couple of times until you become more comfortable. I was talked into playing on stage with a band at the Grand Ole Opry about a year ago while visiting Nashville. I was terrified, but since I was not really a key part of the band, I was able to move to the back and reduce my volume. If I missed a change, no big deal, I would just pick it back up when it came around. I didn't have much influence on the sound, but it was still a fun experience. The key was that I was able to sort of "hide" in plain view both visually and musically.

    I have meandered all over the place in this, but my over-all point is two things: First, you have to just do it a few times to become comfortable; Two, if you can find a way to "hide" a little on the first couple of events, it might help you relax and enjoy the experience.
     
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  19. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    ok, so what you need to do in my opinion is figure out how the simplest of the gospel songs that people are singing *work*

    like



    this is in C

    the chorus here is I-IV-V, pretty simple (listen to the bass notes!)

    but there's a bridge that goes vi-V-IV-V7/vi, vi-V-IV-V, I ---something like that, so *that's* what you have to internalize

    then it doesn't matter what key people start singing in

    this is the homework you have to do to be able to respond on the fly
     
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  20. RnBtele

    RnBtele TDPRI Member

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    I feel like both our churches (my wife's and I) could really care less how bad someone sounded. My wife often jokes that her church is always off key because almost everyone sings in a different key even when their singing together lol. They're just happy to see people especially young people involved in the church. I guess it's more of my own want to do a good job at it that puts the pressure on myself.
     
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