Practice in Public

When I was younger I really wanted to play guitar.  Even as a young child, when asked by my parents if I wanted to take music lessons, that was the instrument I enthusiastically requested.  Then they put me into violin…

Later I got my wish in the form of a cherry red Stratocaster.  Weekly music lessons were started and my teacher jumped right in to teaching me Metallica licks.  I would take these home and practice without the amplifier, wanting to get it right first.

Later still, I bought myself a nice little acoustic in Greece while traveling.  One of the guys I was with was already really good and a bunch of us started playing together.  We’d trade off rhythm for lead, but when it was my turn I would usually play very softly, as if only for myself.

Looking back at those years I can see that my approach was all wrong.  I treated it like a solo activity even when in a group.  Scared of hitting a wrong note in public, I didn’t hit any notes at all.

Practice Required

Getting better at any skill requires dedicated practice.  That’s a no-brainer.  And a lot of that practice will be done in private.  But to advance quickly you need to receive feedback.  That’s why it is important to devise ways to practice in public.

Hanging it on the line does three things:

  1. Gets you the quick feedback you need
  2. Forces you to deliver imperfect attempts
  3. Trains you for the spotlight so you don’t choke when put on the spot

This doesn’t mean you should never practice scales in your bedroom again.  The idea is to prepare first, then perform what you’ve learned – no matter the level of development.  If you started playing guitar last week then I want you on stage playing Mary Had a Little Lamb this weekend.

Don’t Fear the Spotlight

Practicing in public is about devising ways to showcase your progress and release your work into the world.  Yet it can be difficult to do.  We fear being put on the spot; being ridiculed for our feeble first attempts.  While there may be some ribbing at first, those same people will quietly respect you for attempting something in public.

With a bit of practice that fear will subside and your skills will continue to grow.  You’ll be getting the quick feedback required to progress and confidence in your skills will soar.  And it doesn’t take much practice before you are far better than everyone around you who doesn’t practice at all, making your skills seem even more impressive by comparison.

If the ultimate goal is to showcase your skills in public then get used to practicing there as well – warts and all.  Progress will come faster and you will develop confidence in your skills.

I think it’s time to dust off that guitar.

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