I still after all this time feel like I've just scratched the surface in terms of getting over being nervous playing in front of people. In college it was such a bad problem for me that I almost gave up on music, and basically therefore on life because of it. I have always been a horrifically shy person and it's very difficult for me to open up and be myself around people I either don't know, or feel I don't have much in common with.
Because playing is such an intimate form of communication and self expression it becomes very difficult for me to be comfortable basically exposing the depths of my soul to a bunch of strangers, or even a bunch of friends (sometimes it's even more awkward and uncomfortable to play in front of people I know -- when it's in front of a bunch of strangers there's kind of this mask of anonymity. They don't know me and I don't know them, and I'll never have to face any of them afterward.)
To this day every time I play some kind of a solo where I'm really being featured (or a tune where I'm being featured) it's kind of like this big scary roller-coaster ride where I just grab hold with both hands, grit my teeth and hang on for dear life. Then the next thing I know it's over and my hands are shaking and my heart's beating a mile a minute. This phenomenon happens more intensely the fewer times I get a "feature." When I do a gig of all my own stuff where I'm featured, it usually happens for the first few tunes, or even the first set, and then eventually I begin to relax a little, and a few times have even felt like some pretty nice things happened musically. But when I have just one or two feature tunes per set or per night or say, just one eight bar solo the entire gig, the roller-coaster factor is multiplied exponentially.
The biggest feeling I come away with is almost like I was cheated out of something. Like it was over so quickly I didn't even get into drive. A friend of mine once said that sometimes when he is alone practicing he feels like he's the "second coming" and then when he gets on the gig it's like "what's this hunk of wood with the wires stretched across it supposed to be for?" So at least I know I'm not the only one that feels that way.
The one thing I can say is when I think of how things used to be I realize I've come a LONG way. Once again, my instincts tell me - "Hey kid, lose the ego - what are you trying to prove and who cares? Play because you love to play and want to share that love with whoever wants to take the effort to take it. There's no use worrying about who won't accept it, or who thinks you're great or who thinks you suck, because in the long run, does any of that really matter?" I can't depend on anyone else for my happiness. It's up to me to make myself happy, and if that means by playing my heart out, then great. And if other people happen to like it, great, if not, who cares, other than the fact that they may be people who could hire me for a gig if they like what they hear. I think the idea is to always be looking for ways to stay focused on "what's really important".
A Voice / Technique / Feel / Spreading Myself Too Thin
Sounds / Getting Nervous / Guitar / Introduction
As I mentioned in the introduction, the essay was written several years ago (during the summer of 1996). Since that time I feel like a lot of my questions and frustrations have begun to resolve themselves, almost without any conscious effort on my part. I don't know if it was the influence of Mick Goodrick, what he had to say, or simply the fact that I wrote out all these thoughts and was able to discuss them with someone who had been more or less down the same road already, but soon after my lesson with him I felt like I began to see things a lot more clearly, and really DID stop worrying so much about "when will I find my own voice" or "am I talented/good enough to even be trying to do this music/jazz thing?" When I go back and read the things I wrote I find that the answers to most of the questions I was asking fall somewhere in the middle of the possibilities I speculated about, and that again, time and patience seem to have a way of making everything fall imperceptibly into focus.