This was a letter recieved in response to the RCGS Canada Day performance at the Lieutenant Governor’s Garden Party.
Performing guitar is an art unto its own. It takes practice to develop and it’s a wonderful experience to undertake. There is a distinct difference in a live performance for a few friends, compared to a group of strangers to a large audience. It takes practice to build up your confidence to be able to perform to each level. I was very happy to hear that the master guitarist Andres Segovia would get stage fright. Mind you, it was for different reasons, but the feelings are still the same. It’s very reassuring to know that we could shaking in the same shoes so to speak, mind you, on vastly different stages, but none the less, the feelings could be somewhat shared. If he was nervous, then it’s ok for anyone else to be the same.
For a live performance, it is a onetime event. You prepare for the moment, practice your work, then you exist for a brief moment in the music. When you are done, you can relive the experience in your memory for better or worse, you can get feedback from friends and audience members, but the time and music have slipped on. Any mistakes made, if they were noticed, have been brushed aside quickly to be forgotten. This is the one big advantage and rush with a live performance, it is a once in a life experience that will never repeat itself again. No matter how many times you play the same series of pieces, none will ever be the same. I find this to be a comforting thought, you always have a second chance with a live performance, and there is always room for improvement.
Live recording on the other hand is a much different experience that requires a different mindset. First, there is no immediate audience for your performance. Worse still, you will generally be the first to observe your work, possibly the hardest critic for your performance. The hardest thing I find with recording my performance is that it is always there. Every buzz, every fret squeak. All the glitches are there in the cold light for everyone to see, rewind and view again. The challenge then is to make a recording that is perfect, free from all mistakes, clean from beginning to end. Elliot Fisk speaks in an interview about how people become accustomed to perfect recordings and expect the same for live performances. Striving for the perfect recording then brings on a new stress to further inhibit the freedom of playing in front of a camera or microphone, further sabotaging the goal for a perfect recording.
In my early studies for classical guitar I was told to make sure to have a large mirror in my practice area so that I could review my form. This was great advice. Now we can go one step further with the added technology of inexpensive camera phones, digital recorders and web cams. Another tool in the practice room is a diary, keeping a log of your work, goals and any issues. Combining the diary with a recording of your practice will not only serve as the practice mirror, but it will help you to sit back and review your playing and technique. This will also build a comfort level of playing for the camera and help cultivate your performance, not the perfect performance, but a real performance.
More and more teachers are turning to video recording their students during their classes. With recording media being inexpensive, this is an added bonus for the student. This helps the student to review what was covered in their class, as well as focus on technical areas more effectively. It also gives them something more tangible to show for the cost of their lesson, and a memento of their progress. We are allowed to video our kids piano lessons. My work schedule keeps me from attending their classes, and this helps connect me to their lessons. I find there is nothing more exciting and inspiring than watching a music lesson. At 8va Classical Guitar Studio, I will work with students utilizing video recordings to further enhance their lessons, and hopefully it will help to overcome the fear of the lens and the stigma of the perfect performance.