On May 13 I'll be playing classical guitar pieces on stage for the first time. I've already played in public but not classical music. And I was more self-confident and not alone on stage. So I'm a little bit nervous about that.
Of course, no real big deal I know : it won't be an audition or a conservatoire-like exam, no jury to judge me or seek the wrong note or fingering while I'll be playing. It'll be in a friendly mood, in a nice venue (a grand hotel show hall), and in front of a hundred people. This show is organized by my guitar teacher and some other teachers (individuals and of some music school), in order to present the works by students of theirs. So, they'll be musicians of any age, any instrument and any level. Also, most of people in the audience won't be classical music experts - only the teachers would know the sheet music lines in a way. My teacher told me that perfection isn't the ultimate goal there : no matter if I play a wrong note, I'll just have to keep playing as the audience won't notice. However, I want to play my best, not only technically but also artistically. Another stressing factor to me is that in classical gigs, everyone is listening, big silence and everyone focuses on the performer alone on stage. Pretty scary in a way!...
My set list isn't complete yet, but it would comprise a maximum of 10 pieces. There'll be short pieces I know well, that I should play at first in order to warm up and get confidence. And then I should play longer pieces. For the moment, here are the pieces that are on my list for sure :
- Francisco Tàrrega : Study in E minor, Lagrìma
- Mauro Giuliani : Allegro
- Ernst Gottlieb Baron : Bourrée
- Alfred Cottin : Danse Des Lutins
- Agustìn Barrios Mangoré : El Sueño De La Muñeca
- Heitor Villa-Lobos : Prelude n°1
Villa-Lobos Prelude n°1 is my 'big thing', and would be the final piece. I may also add non-classical pieces, but I'm not sure yet : I have to discuss about it with my teacher. If so, it should be Samba de Uma Nota So (One-note Samba, by Antonio Carlos Jobin) or a country waltz called The Maverick Waltz.
So, do you have any tips for me for this first public gig?
That is a lot to perform for what sounds essentially like a recital! Best of luck to you, of course, and hoping you have the skill level and enough practice to not need it! I have never had to put together that many pieces and so I have no particular advice for you but will be interested to hear how it goes.
Pascal - May 13 doesn't give you much time, but if you can play for others - anyone, anywhere, anytime - you might become more comfortable and lose some of the jitters. Also, when you practice, do it as if you are walking on stage; wear the same clothes you will wear on stage. Go through the motions just the way you will do it on May 13. Enter, bow, quickly check tuning, breath two or three deep breaths. Close your eyes and imagine a hall full of people. Play to them in your mind.
Your teacher is giving you good advice - be prepared as it is the best way to become comfortable with performing, but don't sweat it; enjoy it. In my experience, audiences are never hostile or even critical. They are there for the same reason as you - they love the music. So share it with them; someday you'll be in the audience and they will be on the stage worrying about whether or not they are doing well.
It's all good, my friend!
I leave you with a quote from someone who has done this a time or two:
"Just before I play on stage, I wish I could run away. After the concert, I wish I could start all over again.” – Andres Segovia
Thanks for your support guys! Yes, May 13 is close, but I've been studying these pieces, and studying technique besides (above all right hand dexterity) for several month. But you know, it was quite a surprise when my teacher told me about it on Friday, even if I knew he was preparing somthing of this kind in my back! My teacher knows me very well, about my skills and my artistry (my tastes, my personnality, my fears, my stress, etc). So I trust him : if he waited till last Friday to tell me, I guess there was a reason. I'm very anxious, but I guess it's because I make classical music a big deal whereas it's just... music! My teacher insisted that classical music appeals personnality from the player (just like any other style) and I should get away from technical perfection when playing, and just myself go. That's what people are expecting as you said Michael. I won't be judged, and they will just be glad to see a human not a machine performing.
I am a teacher myself - English teacher - and when I think about it, I find it similar : I'm not the best English speaker, I learnt on my own and not in a university, and eventhough, I can teach. And believe, it's a real performance as teaching a language requires a lot of entertainment! So I guess if I can do that, I should be able to be alone on a tiny stage playing a couple of pieces I've been studying seriously. Maybe it's just stress about novelty that is getting on my mind after all?
I've started playing in parks or on the banks of the Loire for a few months, in order to train playing with people around. I don't busk, just play simply. I may also play some of my pieces in front of friends or colleagues as well, before D-day.
By the way, I've got an anecdote that made me think I did the right thing saying yes to my teacher about this gig. Last Friday, after the guitar lesson, I felt very nervous, questioning myself - I know it's silly! So I went to the park nearby my teacher's place, sat on a bench and started playing. There were lots of mums and kids as it was time round the end of school. I played Villa-Lobos' Prelude n°1 and when I arrived to the beginning of the 2nd theme in E major (which is very birght and romantic), a mother and her little girl (maybe she was 3 or 4, very little), walked past my bench. While I was playing this second theme, the little stopped. I noticed that, didn't stop, played not the best, but whatever : the little girl was stuck before me, her eyes wide open, as captivated you know by the music. Her mom asked her to get back, and she had to repeat twice. For sure, the little girl was amazed by the live guitar sound, and maybe by Villa-Lobos music unconsciously. But I found this momentary attention from this little girl, maybe less than a minute, the best reward, and the best encouragement. Then I knew I made the right decision! ;)
This is a subject that all guitarists (performers) in general feel nervous about.
- I remember as a young child with no inhibitions, the joy I felt when I mastered something new...
I think of the same feeling of joy when, as an older child (an adult) I played my first note, chord and song...
- Often as I visit places (without my guitar) I see a 'charming setting', and think that it would be great to sit and play my guitar there...
- These days, on my way to perform gigs or concerts, as part of my mental preparation, I summon up the feeling those 'charming settings' produced, and I think to myself, 'Wouldn't it be great to play my guitar at the gig venue...'
This has the effect of calming me and keeping me in a positive state of mind.
Then I try to take to the stage my 'childlike joy' (and surprise) of being right there, able to play the guitar...
I performed two concerts this Easter weekend and this psychology worked - I was relaxed and gave of my best!
- Lastly, video your your guitar practice sessions - the benefits of doing this are many!
Enjoy your concert!
Don't forget to breathe.
Thanks all for your advice and support. The show has been postponed to Sunday June 3, so it allows me a little bit more time to work and rehearse my pieces. Besides my solo classical guitar performance, I'll also be playing along with other students, and on my steel-string dreadnought guitar. It'll be for Irish traditionals (such as The Rights Of Man and Morrison's Jig) and also the timeless standard Saint James Infirmary, on wich I'll be playing rhythm and part of lead guitar and singing too! I'm quite confident now, and I'm now more working on focus and concentration more than technique. My phrasing has improved alot, and now staying focus, kinda isolated in my pieces will make me avoid silly mistakes. I've started recording my classical pieces as an exercise first (I'm planning to record them for good soon, in order to upload them online). I've noticed that I also focus too much on technique and 'perfection' so that I actually don't listen to my play. When I started recording, I was surprised by my play, especially on Villa-Lobos' Predlude n°1 which is an intense, emotional piece : I thought to myself 'oh my! is this guy... me???". Actually my play - for ordinary people who don't know the music scores of my pieces - isn't that bad! So I tend to get more confident and it works! If I feel that way, like at home on D-day, I guess I'll be able to give a nice show to my audience - which is my goal. And also, I'm happy to play other tunes such as Saint James Infirmary : then I won't be all alone on stage, and it'll be in styles I feel more comfortable with (I can improvise, get sideways easely if I make mistakes etc). Moreover, Saint James Infirmary is one of the first song I heard when I was a baby, as far as I can remember. It'll be great to me to sing and play this one in public. And, at last, guess what : there'll be an acoustic upright piano (a real piano) to accompany us!!!!! :)))
I'll let you know how it goes on later. Thanks again all!
Here are the latest news of my first classical performance! It'll still be on Sunday June 3, and will take place in a wonderful venue for a first time, which makes me more confident : the bar-restaurant L'Univers, a fine place to go right downtown Tours, near the City Hall. Just have a look at the few following pics :
The show should start around 3.00 PM. On the official program, I'll be playing twice, i.e. 2 pieces which are Prelude n°1 by Heitor Villa-Lobos and El Sueño De La Muñeca by Agustìn Barrios Mangoré. My teacher and I decided that I would play only these 2 classical pieces for a few reasons. First, there are other students of any age and level who'll be presenting one or two pieces for each of them. Second, it'll be my first classical performance in public and it should demand alot physically to me. These 2 pieces are the one I love playing the most, the ones I play my best, and the ones I want to share the most. Playing other pieces, even simpler ones in my repertoire would be risky and useless then. I guess it's better to play a good performance with only 2 major pieces and leave a good memory to the audience. I may also play some tunes on my folk guitar (Irish traditionals and jazz) but not in solo, in a band then.
L'Univers is classy and one of the places to go here in Tours. If it's sunny, the sidewalk tables will be very crowdy, and many more people would come for a drink and the show then, in additions to parents, families, or my friends who will come to support me!
A lot of work upstream this gig for me, but I'm eagerly waiting now. The venue is worth it, and now I want to share my music so much! :)))