The following post comes from TakeLessons teacher Jeremy R. in Hudson, Florida. Jeremy has been a professional performing musician for over 10 years and has taught hundreds of students during that time. Below he shares some of his favorite tips for beginner musicians who are learning to perform.
As a beginner musician, learning to perform a song is a challenging obstacle. After all, you spent countless hours learning modes and chord progressions and now you must take what you have learned and translate it into a successful performance. Below I will share some methods that have worked for me.
Clear your head. Each time I pick up the guitar, I go through the same mental exercise to prepare myself to play. I pick up the guitar, tune, and play a couple warm up exercises. It’s important that your warm up piece is something that you have to really concentrate on and think about to be able to play. It’s perfectly fine to play these pieces verbatim with little or no deviation. In fact, a piece that challenges your abilities that you have worked hard to master is a great candidate for a warm up piece. The point isn’t to play the piece to perfection; rather, the point is to get the other songs out of your mind and focus your thoughts on playing.
Phantom play. If you have ever played at a large venue or in front of an important audience then you’ve undoubtedly had the issue of nerves clouding your head and distracting your focus. Before you play your song for anyone else, play it in your mind. Maybe even just finger your fret board quietly. Again, the point isn’t the perfection of the song – it’s the mechanics of your mind while you play.
Emotional focus. You’ve tuned your guitar, played your warm up exercise and gone through the song in your head. Now you’ve got 4 minutes before you go on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a guitar player play the correct notes in the correct rhythms in the correct key but the performance is as flat as rice paper. I look for the emotion that is communicated by the song and then I think about things in my life that bring out the same emotion. A great example of this is “Crying” by Joe Satriani. This song is so sad it should come with a warning label saying it could cause depression. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the song “Baba O’ Riley” by The Who is an extremely upbeat and energetic piece.
Believe. A great personal friend of mine is a phenomenal song writer and performer. You will often hear my band playing and recording his material for the public. He is an amazing talent but doesn’t share it with anyone. Don’t be afraid to get up and play. It doesn’t matter if you’re the next Celine Dion or William Hung – both have their place in music, and you do too!