View Full Version : Live playing vs. living room playing

08-30-2002, 01:50 PM
I'm looking for some views. I've played guitar for 17 years. I have been in and out bands, some good and not so good. But here is the thing I really struggle with. I can sit in my living and play my tail off. Scales and soloing flow easy. But when I hit the stage its a different story. I usually fall back to something comfortable. Its very irritating. I know I'm 10 times times the guitar player than what I show on stage. I have read "The Inner Game of Music" and its helped some. Any body else have the situation. Ideas?? Thoughts??

08-30-2002, 02:22 PM
Hi there,
and welcome @ ibreathe.
Hey, thatīs one thing I thought about a lot.
Itīs actually a very common thing youīre decribing one there. Mick Goodrick one said something like "Youīre playing is already altered as soon as only ONE person is watching".
And I noticed that. When I sit at home, working on something, I really go ahead and try some challenging stuff or things I never tried before. But live, I used to go the safe way and went with what I felt most comfortable with. No experimentation.

I think the secret is to go out there and feel comfortable, kinda like you feel in your living room. For some of us, it takes years of playing live to feel that comfortable on stage. For others it is just a thing of approach and attitude.
When I played my first shows, I was intimidated by people watching me, listening to me. So I stood there, hunched over my guitar, trying to play all the parts as accurate as possible. I was kinda making a wall around me, focussing on playing the stuff right. I guess the entertainment level of that for the people was about ZERO.

I didnīt enjoy myself at all, and hardly took a chance ( I never even played leads... it was as if I was trying to get through the gig as fast as possible, as if it was a burden... so I did the complete opposite of what I meant to do ).

What did help me ? Good question... I buld up my self confidence. I once took a long break from playing live, and sat home, working on my chops. After a while I actually was eager to be back on stage. Cuz all of a sudden I missed what I didnīt like at first... the excitement of pressure and feel of a live-show.
I also went out a lot and jammed in clubs, sat in with some artists. These are situations where youīre not really prepared, but at the same time, you have a bit more freedom... you mess up and kinda have an excuse, like "Hey, I was just sitting in, it was not prepared etc.".

These days, after a lot of concerts, I love going on stage. I enjoy that like crazy, even when there are some nerve-wrecking circumstances.
And I feed back from that excitement of people watching you. When I go on stage, I kinda change my preferences. Instead of trying to play every little note as accurate as possible ( I save that approach for practising sessions ) I go out and try to enjoy being up there, thereby hopefully making the people in the crowd enjoy the show too.
I move a lot, try to make contact with the people in the crowd. When it comes to playing, I donīt mind taking a chance.
Like, at the show with perpetuum overdose in Hannover in June... it was interesting, cuz I had never played with the band, just filled in for their guitarist. But I had prepared myself and thought "Ok, I tried to prepare as much as possible, canīt do anything else, so letīs enjoy it". In the final song, I had a short solo at the very end, and since I was in "stage mood", really kinda zoning out, enjoying myself, I actually started doing stuff in that solo that I hadnīt tried in quite a while... 8 finger tapping.
Well, I forgot that it was only like 8 bars of soloing, so the end of the solo was played over the outro chords, which I was supposed to play too, but you know what ? I didnßt care, cuz it was fun and exciting right there...

Wow, quite an essay here, huh ?
Well, another example... I am a big fan of Eric Johnson, I love his music. I saw him play live with G3, and during his part of the show, he didnīt look to me as if he was really enjoying himself. He was looking down at the fretboard the whole time, really kinda separating himself, not very out-going. He played great of course, but... when Vai came on stage, it was the complete opposite.. he was so flamboyant and out-going. He played great, and when he made a mistake, he didnīt really care I think... and the audience did neither ( despite the "musicians police" with their arms crossed in the first row, but they always care anyway ). Vai considers himself ( being modest ) a very sloppy live-player, but I think he at the same time is one of the best showmen and entertainers among all the instrumental guitarists... and I think that is very important.
So anyway, I try to enjoy every bit of playing live, and I try to connect to that live-energy... of course I am trying to play good and stuff, but these days, I also like to take chances, cuz I think people notice, and if you mess up a tiny bit, I think it is ok.

Thatīs my attitude, and it helped to adjust my attitude that way, and to play out a lot...
Does this make sense ?

08-30-2002, 02:35 PM
Thanks Eric.

On another note, I try to read all your aricles on iBreathe, and I enjoy them very much. Thanks for helping this weekend warrior!

08-30-2002, 02:42 PM
Hi there...

Thanks a lot for your comments. Iīm glad you like my articles.

Tomorrow, I am gonna play a show with Perpetuum Overdose again... maybe, based on this thread, Iīll kinda watch myself a bit ( regarding my preparations and attitude during the show ) and post a review and some observations on Sunday or Monday.

Warm regards

08-30-2002, 02:52 PM
Here is an example of what I am talking about. This is a soundfile from the show in Hannover with P.O.
I had a short solo-spot prior to the third song. As usual, I was PUMPED; really moving a lot and playing more agressive or... I dunno... expressive than i.e. while practising.
The solo is not really perfect, has a few sloppy notes, but I think the live-vibe is obvious, thatīs what was important
Click HERE (http://www.guitarsummit2002.de/negation.mp3) to hear it

08-30-2002, 03:00 PM
You are a human and being such you have an adrenal gland. The function of this is to release adrenline in a 'fight or flight response'. When you go on stage, you are under a bit of pressure and stress, even if you are comfortable up there. Your body's reaction is to release adrenaline, this is 'Gods Speed', this makes you think quickly and move quickly but your fine motor control is affected. The best thing you can do is play in front of people to get your self used to this feeling, after a while you can use the adrenaline to your advantage. What I usually find that suffers is Vibratto, when I am 'jacked' I get that squirrely fast wimpy vibratto. In the old days I would drink a beer and burn one to take the edge off, this has negative side effects ( increasing slop, or paranoia which increases adrenaline). If you find your self getting 'jacked' breath deeply a few times and try to get in control.
Inevitably you will play sloppier live, but live is good for inspiration due to the energy of the audience and the adrenaline rush. The trick is to practice enough that your level of live slop is below the threshold of most of your audience's tolerance level. Unless your audience is a bunch of guitar players this is really not that hard to do. Enjoy the few precious moments you are live on stage and leave room in your repetoire for improvisation. That way you can take advantage of those inspired moments. I also suggest recording every live performance, that way when the muse comes you catch it on tape.

Work out open ended solos with your band with little signature licks or riffs to get everybody back on track. The band it self needs some breathing room, as well, so be flexible about the structure of at least some of your tunes so everyone can stretch out. This last suggestion will do more for your attitude and level of stress than anything.

You want to play an unique show every time you play live, other wise why not just buy the cd? Part of the live experiance is watching the band taking chances and seeing them land on their feet. (or at least a quick recovery)

08-30-2002, 03:11 PM

I completely agree.
Interesting observations regarding adrenaline... I observed similar things. Same goes for the vibrato-thing... I tend to use a different one live. Also, I use a lot of pinch harmonics in the rhythm guitar-parts ( Zakk Wylde-style ), and although everyone likes that, I sometimes think I use those a bit TOO much...

About the sloppiness...
You know about all the workshops going on at tradeshows like the NAMM and the "Musikmesse" ? Like, at all the bigger booths they have guys playing, presenting some guitar, amp, effect or whatever.
I occasionally am one of those, playing tradeshow-workshops, and I know how tiring that can be... playing several times a day within the 5 or 7 days such a tradeshow lasts, playing in front of pretty much 99% guitarists...
After a while you feel really exhausted, and you play different, too... going more for the secure way, and you lose that adrenaline rush... thatīs at least what happens to me, and I know that quite a few of my colleagues there feel the same.

Well, this year, at the "Musikmesse", I watched a showcase by Andy Timmons. And guess what ? I was blown away how much fun he had up there. It was the 4th day, so he must have played... I dunno... 10 or 12 showcases already, but he still was wailing, obviously putting a lot of feel and heart into it ( especially when he played "Cry For You", his killer-ballad ). I just loved that. He was playing great too, and when it sounded a little bit sloppy ( hardly ever did, heīs an awesome player ), no one cared cuz it was just a great performance and heartfelt, too.
I appreciated that more as if he would have been sitting on a stool, with the guitar up to his chin, playing great stuff, but getting across a vibe as if he was practising...

08-30-2002, 06:42 PM
Agree completely with the having fun on stage part and the taking chances here and there. In our band, we go up there and have fun first. If it's not fun, why bother?

Even for a cover band like ours, the audience is there to listen to some music and be entertained. We don't play all the songs exactly like the records. We feel that if they want to hear these songs done exactly like the record, then why are they here? We entertain as well. Move around, make faces, put on a show. When you go see your favorite band live, do you want to see them just stand there and play or give you something to watch at the same time?

Yes, we hit some bum notes here and there or somebody will cop a brain fade if they're really enjoying themselves but most people walk away thinking, "Cool band. You can't help but get into it because they're into it."

Yes, you will always have the "musician police" there (cool term) but they are actually few and far between. We look at it this way, if they are so freakin' good that they can stand there and pick you apart, then why aren't they up on stage somewhere playing?

Who cares what they think! Enjoy yourself!

08-30-2002, 07:05 PM
Yeah well... the musician-police...

Usually located in two spots... at the mixing desk cuz "it sounds best there" or right in front of the stage, in front of th eguitarist, arms crossed, head slightly tilted. When they REALLY get into the mood, they start tapping with one foot ( SHOWTIME )

And you canīt win... if you play very good and make no mistake, "youīre a show-off", if you make mistakes "they can do it better", if you play fast "you lack feeling", if you play slow "youīve got no chops".
If you move around a lot, youīre a poser, if you stand in one place and focus on playing, youīre "no entertainer".
If you play something that sounds like someone else, you are a "copycat", if you play something unique, youīre weird.
If you have a lot of effects, big setup, you are "hiding a lack of playing technique", if you have just a guitar straight into the amp, you "sound boring, only one sound all night long"

And youīre right, the only possible thing to tell them is "Whereīs your gig going to be tonight ?" Because usually, they have none till 2027... when they climb up on that little backyard stage and get fried by their buddies from the music-police. Of course, if they suck, itīs the fault of
a) The sound engineer
b) The drummer
c) the gear
d) the crowd
e) the monitors
f) ...

Gotta love `em

The Bash
08-30-2002, 11:32 PM
Amen James and Eric
Let’s see having long blond hair and moving around on stage a lot I’ve hear the Poser word quite a few times. Fact is I can’t really play if I don’t move. I don’t think about it just how I express myself. I did sum gig with a hotel lounge band once and the owner actually asked the band leader, “If I really had to do that.” I said really have to do what, I had no idea what he was talking about. If entertaining people means I'm a poser then I'm proud to be a poser :)
And ya can’t please everybody. At one time round here there was like to circles. To a lot of the blues type players I was a shredder to the shredders I was a throw back. Now it’s the grunge thing If you play a solo your self indulgent. I’ve heard guys tell me they don’t play solos cause they suck, solos suck there songs are so darn good they don’t need em.
Sorry but I can’t see anyone capable of soloing going this is no fun. I don’t sweep pick not cause it sucks but cause I really can’t do it well enough or make it musical enough to be of any use for me.

08-30-2002, 11:48 PM
Hey Bash,

I hear ya... you know what worked for me ? I just stopped listening to what those people say or think.
I mean, same thing here... long blonde hair, 80s clothes, look at the red Vandenberg I play... I guess Iīm a walking anachronism.
But I stopped worrying. I dress the way I like, play the way I like, and move on stage the way I like.
Itīs not that I donīt try to adjust... Ihave worked with several country artists ( as a "hired gun" )and when I go on stage with them, I sure am not gonna wear leather jeans, an LA Guns-T-Shirt and play a Flying V.
Not that you canīt play that stuff on a Flying V, itīs just that I learned that, when people go to a show, they come not only to hear music but to see a COMPLETE picture, incl. the clothing, instruments and stage show.
I do move a lot on stage, cuz I like it and usually feel like it. And because itīs a LIVE PERFORMANCE. People donīt go there to hear a record-perfect rendition of the songs, played by a band that does not move. The audience can stay home and save their money, just listening to the CDs if they would want that.
But when it comes to my own music, I do what I like, and if people like it... fine, if not... well, too bad.

Same goes for playing... just because it is unhip these days to shred, I do not stop working on it, not only because I do in some of my songs. I mean, when I play for a pop act or a coverband, I hardly ever need to play sweeped licks in harmonic minor at 160 bpm... but I donīt stop working on it, because itīs fun to work on that, to develop and to pull it off occasionally.
This is what I discussed with Thorsten Koehne in "Shred Talk!".

I remember, a few years ago... I went to a blues jam in Atlanta. I mean, I come in, torn jeans, black leather jacket, red strat with DiMarzios. The cats on stage look at me like "Oh God, here comes one of THOSE".
They judged my by my outer appearance. They didnīt know or care about the fact that blues had been one of my initial influences... after I got my first electric guitar, I didnīt listen to anything else of play anything else but blues.
So they were kinda surprised when I joined in ( "Key To The Highway" in A ) and played the same kinda blues licks they played.... and I donīt think I sounded too "polished" or "clinical" that night.
Unfortunately I have met a bunch of guys that the development of guitar playing ended in about 1970... which is fine, itīs their opinion, but they should at least accept that some players think differently.
Off my soapbox now... sorry for rambling...

The Bash
08-31-2002, 12:13 AM
Amen once again
And from an entertainment standpoint I myself feel I owe it to those watching.
I mean we had a following people who were always there when we played there town, people who actually traveled many a mile every weekend. They spend there hard earned money on average 3 bucks to get in and a conservative estimate of 3 drinks a night at about 2 bucks a beer. Well that’s 9 bucks and playing a great deal of Hard Rock/Metal our fan based tended to be more late 20’s to early 40’s. Thus the majority were coupled up in sum way. Now ya got 18 bucks. Not to mention a lot have children there’s extra cash for babysitter’s etc. Toss on sum T-shirts, sum gas expense. All that just to hear us play. If not for them I couldn’t do what I do. And they help you deal with the negatives the business crap, the music police…Not that being popular makes you a great player but it means your doing something right, something that obviously moves someone and helps give you the confidence to keep doing it.
Yea the Poser thing kinna be came a sorta in joke with all the bands we were friends with, was kinna my nickname. So yea you can listen to it and get all self conscious but yet Let’s Make Fun of it.
Sincerely, Proud to be a Poser

08-31-2002, 01:17 AM
Hi Bash...

Well, I said "Donīt listen and do whatever you like". I didnīt say you canīt make fun of it *grin*.
Because I do too... Andy ( drummer of the EVB ) have a whole routine about the poser-thing going on... like, we listen to some rock song, he starts "air drumming", doing all these cliche facial expressions ( the mean face, the spitting ) and drummer poses ( pointing with sticks, twirling the sticks etc. ), while I play some air guitar, doing all those 80īs move... so we do amek fun of it.
When it comes to play a show though, I certainly am doing my share of posing... and I mean it =)

PS: Youīre nickname was "Poser", ma I getting that right ? Mine used to be "rockstar"... I guess for the same kinda reasons :)

The Bash
08-31-2002, 09:25 PM
And of course the wide open mouth look
Hey I just noticed nun of our Icons got Hair
what's up with that

Yea my nickname was Poser (maybe it was my intresting way of keeping time :)

Hey gotta run Walmarts gotta sale on Hairspray
waana get there before all the Mega-Holds gone :)

09-01-2002, 03:02 AM
Iīd rather try to score an endorsement with Aquanet... :)

09-10-2002, 10:48 AM

thanks, that was a great story and a good example too. Reminds me of that jamsession with those blues-cats I mentioned before.

Itīs just funny that people immediately judge you by your outer appearance and assume that you are limited to one style of playing or that you canīt do certain things.

I once saw a short special on TV... Kurt Loder was interviewing Satriani for some evening news show, shortly after the release of "Flying In A Blue Dream". So there Joe was, red leather jacket, weird scientist hairdo, and his chrome guitar plus a small combo... and Loder asked him about his influences.
So Satch played some of his own stuff, and then started to play Wes Montgomery-style leadlicks, and also some J.L. Hooker-style boogie. And it sounded great.
I loved that, cuz it was a really good example. Of course, some people who saw it must have been like "Oh, ok, he plays the right notes, but it still is not REAL blues or REAL jazz". But sometimes I think those people canīt accept that even the weird-looking shred-dude can play that music...

For a while, I had a student in Atlanta who wanted to learn how to play blues-guitar and that kinda stuff. He was a big fan of early Clapton ( when EC was in Mayallīs band ), Jeff Beck and those kinda guys.
So, he applied through the phone and when he came to hsi first lesson, he was like "Uuuuhhhh"...
Cuz I was sitting there next to a 5150 halfstack, with a Peavey Wolfgang, and on the wall there were the Vandenbergs etc. The whole 9 yards of "shred-cliche".
And he was surprised when I actually knew how to play some of those Mayall-tunes and taught him stuff like some of the solos from "Truth".
To sum it up: I mainly play instrumental stuff with the EVB, and also currently am playing shows with Perpetuum Overdose, which is like metal. Thatīs where I kinda feel comfortable, I enjoy playing those styles of music.
But that does not mean that I did not spend time listening to and learning from Clapton- or Robert Johnson-albums, and that I did not learn a bunch of Jazz-tunes etc.
Once you get used to the fact that people donīt expect you to play that kinda music, itīs actually funny to watch... :)

Bongo Boy
10-14-2002, 08:42 PM
You guys are really amazing. Hell, all I ever wanted to be able to do on stage was play while wearing a silly hat and sunglasses. That's why I began with congas. :)

10-29-2002, 07:51 AM
hey guys,

i think i have a little more trouble with that than u guys, ive been in a band for 6 months now just with some guys from school, and we're doin pretty good, but at our first gig at a 21st birthday I was so nervous because i also do vocals for the band and i stuffed up a very easy solo, "all torn down" by the living end, but i recovered and the crowd didnt notice but i couldnt stop my hands from shaking!! I did calm down and start to enjoy it but i wasnt quite a hundred percent at all that night! but the crowd loved us, and afterwards we got drunk and it turned out to be a good night, i understand u guys screwing up incredibly hard solos but i screwed up an easy one, that can't be right!

and thats my little story of how i screwed up


10-29-2002, 06:52 PM
Heheh! I hear that Aaron, screwing up the most simple solo in your set is what the first gig is all about... I remeber my first gig and I screwed up the solo in Smells Like Teen Spirit... How EMBARRASSING!!!! The most simple solo in the world bar none, and i screwed it up.... Luckily I just carried on and managed to recover. Only one guy in the audience spotted it... My guitar teacher... (Boy did I get slated in lessons....)

On another note, I managed a more complicated solo in the same set perfectly... (can't remember what it was... something by Oasis I think... I know, i know oasis and nirvana in the same set... what was I thinking!?!?!?)

I doubt that you will have the same problem again. I think it was just first set nerves...

Have a good one....

10-29-2002, 11:41 PM

I hear ya, too...
Sometimes, you mess up on the easiest stuff, which is weird, cuz usually youīd think youīd make a mistake when trying the difficult things.
The toughest part is dealing with it. I talked to Steve Morse about this once, he said that, years ago, heīd get really mad at himself when he made a mistake. And that would screw up his concentration for the rest of the song.
He said that these days, he curses AFTER the song :)

And Gilbert said that when he makes a mistake, he tries not to tense up, smiles over to his bandmates like "Guys, did ya hear what I just played". I guess thatīs a good way to deal with it.