Reader Question: Performance Anxiety, Motivation and Inspiration

 I recently received this message from one of my readers.  She asks a few questions that gets to the heart of playing an instrument.  Here's her message and below that is my response.

Your Thoughts? I have really bad performance anxiety.  What can I do?  Also, how can I stay motivated and inspired?   I've been takin lessons for a year and a half.  Do you have any advice or tips for moving forward?

My Response:  For me, getting up on stage and performing is my opportunity to shine.  After all the time spent practicing alone in my room, it’s finally time to show off what I can do, having developed my skill.  I don’t get in my own way, it’s like “take this bitches, check this out.”  If I were you, I’d embrace this attitude.  This is of course assuming that you’re able to play competently when you’re alone, and getting in front of people throws you off.  If you aren't comfortable playing in front of people because you don’t really understand the music as well as you could and need more practice, then practice until you feel comfortable with it.

As far as staying motivated and inspired goes – what are your goals?  It can be to master a piece of music or pass an audition into music school or a bunch of different things, but without any kind of direction, I can see why you’d feel a lack of motivation.  At some point the “why” of what you’re doing needs to be clear (as in “why am I spending all this time practicing?”).  Maybe your teacher was a good fit for you for a year or so, but he isn’t any longer.  Maybe you have goals now that this person isn’t acknowledging and has his own agenda and isn’t interested in yours.  What do you want?  Having said that, the teacher ostensibly knows more about guitar than you, and can teach you some things that are off your radar, and that can be great in terms of learning new things that you never would have otherwise.  But if it’s at the point where you just don’t care about the curriculum he’s giving you, then I would talk to him and tell him what you’re interested in learning, and ask to focus on that stuff in lessons.  Be aware that what you want to do may not be his specialty, so if you want to learn blues but at heart your teacher is more of a heavy metal guy, then it could be time to switch teachers.   

Copyright 2014  Lance Vallis