Performance is the answer to resolving the internal battle that some classical guitarists experience. The more one performs, the less unrealistic expectations creep in. Moreover, the less one performs, the more the mind becomes filled with unrealistic views and fantasy. It’s very easy to get caught up in fantasy when one is not performing. The fantasy starts with the program: the individual decides to put together a giant program on paper. However, this program is all in their mind and never happens. It’s the fantasy program in their bubble world and the individual gets discouraged because they can’t fulfill their endeavor. Why does this happen?
1) Fear Of Performing. The fear of really performing can hold the aspiring guitarist back. One may have sincere thoughts and desires about performing, but when confronted with reality and the opportunity to perform in front of a real audience, they become frightened. They are worried about becoming nervous, making mistakes and what other people think. Eventually the individual becomes so frustrated, they stop practicing. Performance, which is the goal, is lost.
2) Comparing Ourselves To Others. A sure way to defeat ourselves is by saying (A)“Am I better than him/her?” Or “that person plays the Chaconne, so I must play it too.” In this true to life scenario, the guitarist cares whether someone is better and will let that interfere with his/her own playing. Yet how well another person plays has nothing to do with anyone else. The gifted player is just bringing out their best- and we can only get as good as we will become. In other words, we can only bring out what we are capable of doing and nothing more. That is why there is NEVER any competition. If someone happens to be a better player, then we can ask questions and learn from that person. But in the end, we will only become as good as our potential allows us. We can only be ourselves. Therefore, thinking there is competition is ridiculous. We all have something interesting to offer as guitarists and we make our own dreams come true by acting on positive thoughts.
B) Switching from piece to piece: The individual who switches pieces all the time starts to feel a void. They feel they are not playing the pieces that the “really good players” play. In other words they feel that if they don’t play the most difficult piece they are not good enough. They set a pattern of not completing pieces. They abandon pieces they have not yet completed, in order to start a new piece that they heard or think is better. They jump around from one piece to the next- only to find they are all too difficult. Difficult because it is either above the individual’s technique and they haven’t accepted that fact, or they just haven’t focused long enough on the piece to make it work. In their confused mind, they still think playing the piece the “better player” performed will make them better as a player and also feel better about themselves. They will perform it at that recital- the one that is located in their bubble world- the recital that never comes. Stick to realistic pieces that you can play and stay focused on them. It is unrealistic to think you can play every guitar piece at once.
3) Wanting To Play Huge Programs.In my opinion huge programs, the “traditional” two hour recital with a break in between is nonsense. Not everyone is capable of playing two hour programs and actually, few people want to hear a two hour recital. It’s too long! And most people want to be entertained to a point then go home. Another reason the “traditional” two hour recital is not good is because its very time consuming and shifts the individual away from technique and musical ideas. I have seen many guitar recitals where the program started out strong then got progressively worse. This was because the performer took on too much and did not have enough time to work on each piece. Or their technique couldn’t handle it because they had little time to practice technique. My philosophy is, keep your technique high and the program small. It is better to play a few pieces extremely well rather than twenty really bad. I suggest a recital that lasts no more than an hour. Then your playing doesn’t suffer and performances will be a lot more enjoyable for you and everyone in the audience. There is no longer the burden of having to play a giant recital, and goals become more within reach- more realistic.
4) The Closet Musician. The closet musician thinks that they have to have a full recital program ready before they can perform. But the professional knows that performance must be frequent in order to become great. The closet musician rarely performs while the professional always performs. The professional will get out there and perform one or two solo pieces, they do chamber music, they are a part of other performer’s programs. While the closet musician is still in the bedroom, “preparing” for the huge recital that will never come. Be rational and get out of the room! Set small goals and play one or two pieces- you don’t have to have a full recital program to perform. When you get to the point that playing in front of people is comfortable, then try out a thirty minute performance. That is realistic and a plan for success. The guitarist who begins to perform will move further away from unrealistic expectations and the void will go away. You do not have to play an entire recital to perform. Play one piece if that’s all you have so far. Play half a piece if that’s all you have. In other words perform. Do this without comparing yourself to others. You can only be the best you can be- and that’s all you can do. Play pieces that are not above you technique and stay focused on those pieces. Skipping from piece to piece will only confuse you. You do not have to play every piece you hear and furthermore, you can’t play every piece at once. It doesn’t mean you are not good just because you are not playing the most difficult pieces- that time will come. Playing the music and staying focused on a piece that is on you level will give you great satisfaction; and performing it even more. Keeping recitals smaller in length will also bring more satisfaction, because with less pieces, you could focus on the music more; and you audiences will not get bored. Above all, remember performing is the ultimate goal that will make you feel happy.
Frank Fortino is a New York classical guitarist and was born and raised in the Bronx. He started guitar lessons at the age of five and soon learned how to play songs and read music. At age 18, he studied with Ana Maria Rosado, who helped him gain a strong technique. The following year, Mr. Fortino entered the Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Nicholas Goluses. There he learned more about technique, musicality, repertoire and performance. Mr. Fortino has also studied under Ben Verdery, William Anderson, James Lorusso and David Starobin. Mr. Fortino is an avid performer of the Spanish, 19th and 20th century repertoire. You may contact Mr. Fortino at firstname.lastname@example.org