Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF
by Jamie Andreas
here for Stage Fright part 1
It Works, and Why It Works
Okay so now that we have this stage fright thing
more properly defined as what it really is, that is, People Fright,
we are in a position to get some where with it. But first, a caution.
Many (perhaps most) people, including professional performers,
never slay this dragon. They may learn to live with being in it's
presence, and learn to perform even though they must do it while
their knees are wobbling! But they never actually get to the essence
of the matter, so that the dragon is slain, (or perhaps, more
accurately, transformed). The reason they don't do this, is because
the matter goes too deep, too deep into the person themselves,
and it is deeper than they are willing to go.
Andres Segovia, for instance, who is the most famous
classical guitarist of the 20th century, and undeniably one of
it's greatest musical performers, was, throughout his very long
performing career of some 70 years, plagued with incredible stage
fright, often shaking visibly before going on stage, and having
the beginnings of concerts seriously impaired because of it. He
is one example of many world famous performers who NEVER got to
the root of it, and never overcame it.
Segovia did do something however, which to me is
ridiculous and deluding. He did what I call "making a virtue out
of a vice", something people commonly do when they don't want
to or can't change a weakness. They start to "re-shape" their
thinking about it and turn it into something that makes them look
good! Segovia told himself (and others) that suffering from stage
fright was a sign of talent, and not feeling stage fright was
a sign of not having talent! While it may be true that artists
tend to be highly sensitive individuals who are more prone to
certain "imbalances" in their make-up, it certainly doesn't mean
that that same sensitivity/talent MUST lead to the undeniably
unpleasant (to say the least) effects of stage fright.
Interestingly enough, Segovia would, during the
course of the concert, overcome the feelings and start to enjoy
playing for the audience, as many players do. He would say, "before
a concert, I want to cancel it. After I am done playing, I want
to start again". This was certainly a good thing, but why have
to repeat the endless cycle of agony each time a concert comes
I have told you this story about Segovia, because
I want you to realize the enormity of this problem of stage fright.
I consider coming to understand ourselves in the context of how
we feel about walking out on stage, or any kind of playing for
other people, to be an ongoing, life long process, that is in
many ways as rewarding and interesting as being a musician itself.
And also understand that I am not talking about a certain kind
of "excitement" we may naturally feel at the prospect and the
experience of performing on our instrument for other people. Even
by it's very rarity, it carries a certain kind of excitement to
it. I am talking about the absolutely debilitating effects, you
know, like hearing about how John Lennon would throw up before
a concert! I am talking about the "scared to death" kind of feelings.
I am talking about things that makes us play worse, not better.
Before we talk about "why" we are so afraid of sharing
our artistic selves with other people, and why we are so afraid
of other people in so many areas of life, let's talk about "how"
we are afraid of other people. Let's start real simple, with common
experiences everyone has, but I don't think everyone notices,
or appreciates what is really going on when they are happening.
How Of Stage Fright
Think of it this way. When you are sitting on a
public seat somewhere in a public place, maybe a bus, or a park
bench, and someone sits next to you, why do you tense different
parts of your body as they get closer to you? Why do you make
an (ineffective) attempt to "withdraw" from that other person?
Everyone does, you know.
Imagine you are walking down the street, all by
yourself, and you are lost in thought, or the scenery perhaps.
Why is it, if someone begins to approach you, walking in the opposite
direction, you not only tense different parts of your body as
they approach, but you will notice, if you pay attention, that
even your awareness of your own self, your own body, changes.
You will, for instance, become very aware of your face, as the
person approaches. You will also notice it is not a pleasant feeling.
Observe yourself in this situation. You will notice yourself doing
these things. If you were walking down the street by yourself,
and then saw up ahead that you had to walk past a group of strangers,
you would really start to react, or rather "contract". You would
tense your body, and "harden" your "body armor" for the experience
of walking past them. I caught myself doing something very interesting
a while ago. I noticed that whenever I walked into a public place,
a store for instance, I would (unconsciously) anticipate and prepare
for encountering the people there by tensing and or biting on
my lower lip, very slightly, but still tensing. I had probably
been doing this my whole life and never noticed. I experimented
with not doing it (you have the power to experiment once you observe
it, not before). I found a very interesting thing. I found that
I felt somehow "unprotected" to walk into a group of people without
tensing and biting my lower lip!
I could only conclude that the reason I was doing
this WAS to protect myself. In my case, knowing my own neurosis
so well, I believe it comes from a childhood of being told to
shut up, and being punished for speaking my mind. So I would do
what is meant by the common phrase people use when they want to
say something but are afraid to for some reason, I would "bite
my lip". Most of us have some similar hidden obstacles. This is
an example of what I mean when I say you must go deep to make
real headway with this situation. It is through a long process
of such experimentation and observation that I began to notice
changes in ALL my dealings with people, including the experience
of walking out on stage in front of hundreds of them.
We have all learned to do these things so completely
and automatically that we don't even notice them. In fact, it's
like when you are in a room, and there is a background noise going
on for a long time, but you didn't notice it until it stopped!
Then you are struck by the "quiet:" that replaces it, but before
that, you just included the sound in your awareness as a natural
part of the "background".
That is how these inner reactions we perform in
our contact with other people are. They are so natural we don't
notice them. But you must realize that becoming aware of yourself
in this way IS the beginning of actually being able to change
this "stage fright" thing we are talking about, that so many people
are never able to change. When you do begin to notice these things,
notice how fear of other people operates in your daily life in
the simplest affairs (being in the supermarket, waiting on line,
etc.) it will be a new sensitivity. It will grow over time. You
will realize that the reason you experience fear of people on
the stage, is because you have fear of people ALL the time.
But exposing such a vulnerable part of yourself
as the part that strives for artistic expression, and requires
special abilities, special TALENTS (my god, what if I don't have
any!), now that is pushing it. Our fear of other people comes
bursting out of our seams by then!
In all the above mentioned situations, you will
also notice, as your sensitivity increases, that the feelings
occurring are not pleasant, not in the body, or the mind, just
like stage fright. It is not a pleasant feeling because what you
are really doing in all these situations is, in fact, trying to
avoid the other person. You are trying to avoid the fact that
the other person is there, that they exist. You are doing this
by "hardening" yourself, and shutting down your awareness by withdrawing
your attention from what is around you, focusing it into your
own body, thoughts and feelings. This is what the word "self-conscious"
means. You are being conscious only of yourself, not others and
your relationship to them.
You see, when you step out onto a stage, or even
just go to play for some friends, you are simply demonstrating
the same fear, except that it is now too big too hide! Normally,
we do hide it. It's easy, since everyone else is hiding their
fear in the same ways, and hardening themselves against us. They
are just as afraid of us as we are of them, as we go about our
day to day routines meeting people in the usual situations, as
in the examples above.
Why Of Stage Fright
Knowing HOW we do the People Fright thing is actually
more important then knowing WHY we do it. You can endlessly contemplate
the WHY and still never change it. But by working with the how,
you will discover the WHY anyway, and notice it changes by itself,
over time. But as far as the reason for all the protecting, all
the fear of other people, the root of it is simply the inability,
the refusal, to love and accept ourselves as we are, with all
our "faults" and imperfections. We do it to ourselves, and then
we go around being afraid everyone else is going to do it too.
We condemn ourselves for the mistakes we make as players, we compare
ourselves to those "great and perfect players who everyone loves
and accepts", the ones we want to be like. Then we reject ourselves
for NOT being so great and perfect.
Also, it can be a vicious cycle, because often guitarists
DO have many imperfections in their playing ability, and the guitar
is an incredibly difficult instrument by it's nature, anyway.
So being a guitarist, especially a soloist, can be risky business.
On top of that, the teaching systems that have been developed
over the years are always incomplete, and largely ineffective
for many students. Don't forget that compared to piano and violin,
the guitar is a newcomer. Add to all that the guitar being a solo
instrument, and guitarists being a bit "quirky" by nature (my
opinion), and you have all the ingredients for a lifetime of mal-adjustment!
But it is our duty to always be trying to find the
paths of growth, and work to improve ourselves, no matter what
stage of development we are at. Without being engaged in that
process, and yet still displaying ourselves before other people
while being conscious of our stagnant faults, is to invite the
paralyzing effects of performance anxiety as a permanent companion
The greatest players are always working on improving
themselves. They are always aware of the things that can be improved,
new territory that can be explored. But we all must understand
that performing is a matter of offering what you have at the moment,
to other people.
So, on a practical level, one of the most potent
ways to begin to loosen the grip of stage fright is to couple
an acceptance of ourselves at the moment, with the process of
on-going development. These conditions themselves provide a sturdy
foundation for the wobbly knees of the anxiety stricken performer.
here for Stage Fright part 3
Copyright 2000 by Jamie Andreas.
All Rights Reserved.
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Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF