A friend is a "major bass baritone" in opera. 300+ major roles to leads in performances at the Met in NYC alone, has sung the big Wagner roles up through Wotan, all 4 villains in Hoffman, even Czech and Russian language leads, all over the world. When Domingo realized my friend hadn't done a Flying Dutchman, he cancelled an already announced and staffed opera scheduled for the next season at Washington's National Opera to stage a Dutchman for him.
He's sung with Domingo, Pavarotti, Netrebko, Ramey, Morris, Calleja, so many. What is it like to stand in major house and sing leads against legends?
First, it's a job. Cracked me up with that one, but in reality ... he's right. You train not just to sing, but to perform. Which means first that you are so comfortable with the material and your instrument that you can perform it with a cold, which changes your sound (to a singer) even more than to others.
Second, you better know why you're doing it. If you don't know why you're out there you probably shouldn't be. Which leads to ...
Third ... everyone gets from butterflies to sick before it starts. Once you get going, you need to let The Job take over. And enjoy the Hell out of being there. It's a special thing to have enough talent and skill to perform musically. It's a gift.
Most everyone listening to you, at any level of performance, wishes they could do what you're doing. So the greatest gift you can give the audience is to ENJOY that role. Let them enjoy the music through you. Through watching you enjoy performing the music. And they'll be with every note, no matter what that note is.
Be afraid and or disgusted with your performance, no matter how good, and the audience will not be with you.
And so often, when you just get into the job and yet are critical of your performance, everyone else thinks you're on fire.
The Big Concept? Learn to enjoy and be driven by The Job. Everything else falls in place.
He gave me this advice when I was training for local amateur classical and musical theater vocal competitions. You drive a couple hours, figure out parking, check in, meet your coach, find an AWFUL rehearsal room, warm up. Wait an hour. Hear all the verbal sniping of the other singers & coaches.
Go into The Room. Listen to the 2-3 singers before you. Go on stage when called, sing your three pieces in a room you've never sung in before, where your voice sounds weird and the room fights you.
SELL the performance. Smile to the judges when done and walk out disgusted, terrified, and/or embarrassed.
Yea ... um, what was that about loving The Job?
You survive ... and are better next time. Life goes on. And I learned to love those events.
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02-21-2018, 02:58 AM #51
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02-21-2018 02:58 AM # ADS
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02-21-2018, 03:27 PM #52
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- Oct 2015
Some performers use medication for stage fright. It doesn't sound like you're having enough trouble to warrant medication, but I thought I'd mention it.
I also have dealt with, and continue to deal with, not playing as well on a gig as at home.
Here are a few things that I try to do to minimize the impact of nervousness.
When I'm the leader:
1. Hire sidemen with whom I feel relaxed. Some people make me more nervous than others.
2. Set up carefully, so that we can hear each other well.
3. Don't play too loud.
4. Start with a couple of easy tunes. This helps acclimate to the sound of the room with a chance to tweak things while not playing anything demanding.
5. Keep the level of complexity manageable. So, the charts, if any, should be well engraved and not filled with sloppy pencilled-in changes. I point to soloists rather than write out a list of solo order (which would require people to look a the chart and another document at the same time. I don't call tunes that anybody is likely to have difficulty playing.
When I'm a sideman:
Much harder because I can't control who's playing, the setup, the volume, the tune choice etc.
1. I try to play simply. For example, there might be a section that I'd play in 16th notes at home. But, I'll play 8ths on the gig. 8ths played correctly will sound better than 16th notes flubbed.
2. I try to set up where I can hear the pianist clearly and, if possible, see his hands. Also I need to hear the bassist clearly and some drums, but not too loud. I've never had the thought, "I wish I could hear the horns better".
3. I use musician's earplugs. I don't use them for this reason, but they help avoid my hearing getting overwhelmed by volume, to the point where everything becomes a dull roar.
4. I play in a lot of reading situations, often reading things for the first time. The reading is often too difficult for me. So, when there's a long stretch of syncopated hits, each one a new chord, I've learned to lay out, or maybe play single notes, while counting the bars so I can come back in in the right place. When I started doing that, I got less nervous.
And finally, the more familiar the situation, the better.
And, then there are things a sideman simply can't control - tune choice, which tunes to solo on, volume, setup, etc etc, all of which can be more or less nervewracking.
02-21-2018, 03:57 PM #53
02-21-2018, 05:45 PM #54
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- Oct 2015
My regular horn band has a book with about 140 charts. In addition, on just about every gig, the leader will hand out a brand new chart. We get a few minutes to look over it (mostly to identify the roadmap). Then he counts it off and we (and the audience) hear it for the first time.
I sub in a situation where the leader has an enormous library of charts. I've subbed several times and never played anything twice. The number is called, you find the chart and may have 30 seconds to look at it. Then you're playing it. Maybe the regular guy has seen something twice, but, if you want to have a shot at the chair, you'd better be able to read it the first time.
I'm the regular guy in a long standing big band which plays once or twice a month. I've been there about a year, which makes me the new guy. This band does repeat tunes, so I have had a chance to figure some out.
In every case, every now and then, on a chart you've never seen, it's suddenly your turn to solo. Sometimes, it's a blues. In one case it was My Favorite Things, moving from 3/4 to 5/4, with an occasional 2 beat measure. So, you have to force yourself not to sing a melody you know, while keeping track of the time changes. I had to solo first on that chart, in rehearsal. Not just a train wreck, but the train vaporized. But, yes, I was expected to do it. After hearing it a few times, the time signature changes made more sense and soloing was possible. Other times it can be very odd harmony, with multiple alterations in the chord symbols in a font size you only see on loan documents. The horn players do this without changing the bored expression on their faces. The guitar player (me) not so much.
02-21-2018, 05:53 PM #55
Man thats it! LOL..same boat for me to a degree. Horn players are a sleep playing these tunes and soloing over them with ease, mainly because they have played them a hundred times..im the new guy too. The band leader is 95!!. he has 50 years on me, everyone else in their 70's 80's etc..im the youngest by far. lol
02-21-2018, 06:43 PM #56
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- Nov 2009
Record everything and listen what happened later at home.
02-22-2018, 01:16 AM #57
I have never suffered stage fright or any kind of anxiety or nervousness. I think I know why; I'll explain in the event it might help anyone.
In brief; to me it's not about me, it's all about the guitar. There are two aspects of this; one is that I don't feel like I play the guitar - to me it feels like it has learned to play itself, and two, I don't imagine people coming so as to watch and listen to me - I imagine them having come to see and hear the guitar.
My guitar has over ten thousand hours of stage performance and countless hours of practice time during which it has learned a lot - it has learned and knows how songs go and how to play even unfamiliar songs which it has never encountered. I know this because I was there with it the whole time. My guitar has accumulated a high level of confidence such that practicing, rehearsing, and performing all feel like it is doing the playing and I'm just hanging on to it, listening to it very much like the audience would hear it.
On stage, I don't seek to find a place in the light where the audience can see me best; I find the place in the light where they can best see my guitar. I feel they have come for music, not me. When someone is complimentary I just smile and say something like, "It is a very nice and special guitar".
My presence is not so people can think anything of crediting me; my desire is that people think my guitar is the most beautiful instrument they have ever seen and heard, because it's all about the guitar and the music, not me. My guitar is an ambassador of music; I'm just there managing its logistics, scheduling, travel, maintenance, etc.
I don't know if this perspective will work if one attempts to deliberately adopt it; for me has felt this way from the beginning. The emergent immunity to stage fright was a surprise the first time I played out."Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."
02-22-2018, 11:16 AM #58
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- Mar 2010
02-22-2018, 11:41 AM #59
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- Nov 2009
That was new
04-02-2018, 09:32 AM #60
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- May 2012
I would deny being an advanced jazz player. But after 40 years of performing I have developed a guitar tone that I really like, and that most people seem to enjoy. Whenever I perform, I think, "Wow, that sounds great!" I mean, I really like the way I sound. This helps a lot with nervousness, because I objectively know that my jazz harmonic sense is somewhat simplistic.
Also, a groovin' tempo helps. Having played for dozens of years in R&B barroom bands for dancers, I feel confident in this musical element. Most audiences like to tap their feet.
If you really like your own sound, you will show it, and that will translate into low nervousness and maximum possible audience enjoyment.
04-05-2018, 04:36 PM #61
I used to get really bad stage fright. I wouldn't be overtly nervous - that is, I wouldn't THINK I was nervous - but my hands would shake to the point where playing was difficult. I would generally have one beer before I went on. That would calm the shaking down enough so that I could play. Once I was through the first song, I'd generally be OK.
Here's one for you: My first big solo performance was in high school. Like a poster upthread, I was doing Mood For A Day by Steve Howe. I was also playing with a group. This was also the first time I'd ever tried pot (I blame my bandmantes). I got so paranoid, I felt like I had a big neon sign saying "STONED" pointing at my head. I don't really remember playing. I just got out there and got through it, but I got a LOT of complements on my performance the next day so I guess I did OK.
Lately it's not so much of a problem. Maybe if it were a big showcase kind of thing I'd be nervous, but a restaurant gig or the like makes me slightly more alert than normal, and that usually evaporates halfway through the first tune.
I had a bandmate offer me a Xanax before a gig once. I said, "No thanks, I'd like to be awake for the set.""I'm opposed to picketing, but I don't know to show it." --Mitch Hedberg
04-06-2018, 11:32 AM #62
If you can manage a solo Jazz guitar gig, you can already handle anxiety pretty well. Having gear that I really know,and that won't give me trouble at the gig is important to me, as is having a few minutes to chill before playing. No need to take the ego on stage with you,it best serves you at practice only. I think how someone plays in front of an audience is the real mirror, and it helps immensely on figuring out what works and what not yet.