Performing fingerstyle guitar on stage can be nerve-racking.
Something you have played perfectly at home suddenly “falls apart” when you try to get on stage and do it in front of people.
For my first few years touring, my hands would shake on stage too, so don’t worry – it’s normal.
I’m going to show you how to solve this problem.
Recently, I got an email from Sam, a guitarist and blog subscriber:
I play pretty good when alone. Once in front of others I fall apart. That keeps me from doing what I’d love to do and that is play for people. So that tells me I haven’t graduated to level 4.
Any advice on how to break through to the next level?
He was referring to my “4 levels of learning” video and figures he’s trapped at level 3,
not getting to level 4.
Here are the 4 levels of learning:
- “Unconscious Incompetence” – you don’t know what you don’t know.
- “Conscious Incompetence” – you become aware of what you don’t know
- “Conscious Competence” – you can play the piece in your practice room very well but you need to consciously guide it.
- “Unconscious Competence” – the piece plays itself, you no longer need to control it. Your hands know where to go, all by themselves.
When you perform, you get a whole NEW set of distractions like…
- The monitor / live sound isn’t right
- Your fingers feel sticky
- You are suddenly anxious about the trouble spots
- You don’t feel as warmed up as you’d like
- Your brain is experiencing new anxieties, making it hard to concentrate calmly
Which is why you need your “subconcious” mind to play the piece for you 🙂
The way to achieve this is through REPETITION. As you repeat playing a piece, it drives it down into your subconcious mind – so you no loner have to “think” in order to play it.
Here’s How & Why Repetition In Your Practice Works:
When you practice, you are actually re-wiring your brain.
There was a study done with piano players as test subjects. Half of them were told to practice a set routine for 2 hours, and the rest were told to “improvise” for 2 hours.
After several practice sessions over a few weeks, they then took brain scans to monitor the brain activity and growth of the 2 groups of piano players.
Guess what? The players who did the more disciplined, repetitive practice showed brand new “connections” and rewired their brains.
The ones who simply noodled, explored and “made things up” with no routine did not show any growth or development.
How Can You Use this Info?
Even if you think you know a piece, practice it again and again. That’s the only way you will successfully rewire your brain.
That’s why I still practice my entire concert set even though I have played the pieces on stage for 7 years.
When I am jetlagged, hungry have a funky PA system, and thinking about my mom back home – the music STILL has to happen, i.e. it has to “play itself.”
That goal of “fingerstyle guitar autopilot” is secured through repetition in my practice routine.
My advice? Repeat, repeat, repeat even if you think you don’t need it.
And yes, I still practice “Billie Jean”, “Superstition” and all my “hits”, all the time.