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Thread: Problems looking at audience while playing

  1. #1
    Registered User Revenant's Avatar
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    Problems looking at audience while playing

    I just need to know: Is there anybody else than me who have problems looking at the audience while playing a gig?

    I kind of just look at the fretboard and stuff when I play...
    I'm pretty new to playing gigs, so perhaps it is something that may come with time?
    The Young Apprentice

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    When playing a gig you are there to entertain. Best way to do that is to play well - so look when you need to, but, also interact with the audiance. If every one in the band is smiling, singing, in general having a good time so will the audiance.

    Just be aware of this and you will start interacting with the audiance more, i.e. don't fake it just let it happen.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-03-2007 at 05:59 PM.

  3. #3
    Registered User Obivion's Avatar
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    If you're fronting, look at the audience, if not it doesn't matter. The music is more important than a visual spectacle.

    However, if you want to, focus on a spot above the audience. The crowd thinks you're looking at them, but you're looking at the wall behind them. But of course, it depends what type of music you're playing. Sometimes it's more fun to fun around like an idiot!

    Of course if you're into metal, you could always hide behind your hair .
    No one sings the blues quite like Yngwie!

  4. #4
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    Over the past couple of years I have played in front of groups of people ranging from 5 to about 50. None of these have been paying gigs, mostly open mics or in front of family/friends. For some reason, the smaller the group of people, the harder it is for me to look people in the eye. However, I will usually find one or two people who will make me feel at ease and I will focus on them, you know them, they are the ones who are really into what you are doing. The open mics have been the easiest for me, I don't know 95% of the people and the stage lights tend to obscure their faces, so I just look at the tops of their heads or at some random thing in the background. I do think it is important to give your audience a chance to be part of what you are doing. Occasionally, during a song there may be a place for you to interject a question for the audience to chime in on. I do a song by John Prine called "Spanish Pipe Dream", the chours is "Blow up your TV, throw away your paper, go to the country, build you a home, plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try to find Jesus, on your own". This is repeated a few times during the song and there is a rest just before it. So on the second one, I ask the audience "What did she say to do?". That get's them to sing along. If you can get them to sing with you, it's all gravy from there. It will put you at ease and the audience gets more comfortable too. Sometimes I think we/I worry too much about the technicall stuff, yes, I want to do the song right, but if I mess up, oh well, just keep going. When you are concentrating so hard to do it right, you tend to forget about why you are there. You are there to entertain, to give your audience a piece of yourself, if you think about it, they have to give of themselves back to you. They will forgive more if they like you, so just be yourself. There have been many times when I felt I didn't play well and could not get anyone to agree with me. That's because if the noticed the screw up, they forgave it, the worst thing you can do after a performance is to counter a compliment with "Thanks, but I could have done better". Just accept the compliment and say "Thanks".

  5. #5
    Registered User Revenant's Avatar
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    You summed it up pretty good, ekkg.

    I also find that the larger the audience, the easier eye contact is. I think we all know that somebody who just looks down while playing isn't as motivating to the audience as someone who smiles, moves with the music and interacts with the audience through eye contact. That's why I asked this question.
    The Young Apprentice

  6. #6
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    Your "problem" (if you can call it that) is most likely rooted in one of the two following things:

    1. You have never worked (or not worked enough) on playing without looking at your hands on the guitar.

    2. For one reason or another, you're not comfortable enough on stage to truly relax and let loose.

    #1 is probably the easiest to deal with. Try playing with your eyes closed. Try play in the dark. To play without seeing anything at all is very hard, even when you are playing material you are totally familiar with. When you feel you can do this pretty good, try playing with open eyes in a lit room... but don't look at your guitar. When I practice something, I always try to learn it so well at such a high level that chances are that I have at least 10% to go on over any live situation I will ever be in. This is one of these things. Looking at your fretboard every once in a while is not a sin, but by practicing not looking on the fretboard at all, you'll be a little ahead of what you "need" to be able to do.

    However, you say you are new to gigs, so I suspect #2 is what holds you back. When I started playing live, I used to get really nervous. For me, it disappeared over time. For my former band mates, it didn't. While I was preparing for a gig by warming up my voice and fingers, they started drinking. Having a beer before a show is, but drinking as a way to cover up nerves aren't.

    Why did my nerves disappear, but not theirs? I think that there are a few reasons for it:

    1: Once again, preparing. I learned my material. I practiced playing it without looking on the fretboard. I also practiced playing it in front of a mirror. Laugh all you want, but this both gave me the opportunity to see how it looked when my fingers was going, and also what I looked like when I played it.

    2: I had an optimistic attitude about it all. I looked forward to going on stage, and really lay it all down to the crowd. They didn't seem to enjoy playing live nearly as much. They pretty much just went on so they could get off again.

    3: This one is sort of related to the point above. I loved playing for people. If they loved anything about playing music, it was playing for themselves, or rehearsing.

    4: I think I must take some of the blame myself as well. I've always thought of a concert as both a visual and an auditive experience, and I always wanted us to be one head taller than the rest of the local bands when it came to stage shows. They tried to hold me down, because since they didn't want to be on stage in the first place, they surely didn't want to come on feeling like a bunch of clowns. I did some things without planning ahead with them, without trying to find a common ground we could work in. After one show, the bassist called it quits. He had had enough. We disbanded, and the other guys formed a new band. Lesson learned.

    I don't know what kind of music you are playing, but one thing you can do is simply to look at clips of musicians you look up to, and see how they behave on stage. You do not want to look like a carbon copy of your biggest hero, but it's allowed to look at his/her general behaviour, and even cop a few moves. Other than that, I think I have mentioned what I have to say over: Prepare well, and work hard both by yourself and with your band or ensemble (if you are playing live with other people) to find a common ground to work in.

    And make sure you are enjoying it all. I believe that is the very best advice anyone can give you.

  7. #7
    The Silent Still Draven Grey's Avatar
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    I'm not sure about large crowds being easier to make eye contact with. I suppose it depends on what size. I usually close my eyes when I sing, and watch my guitar when I'm not. However, I also like to get right in the faces of the people up front. It's very weird when it's only a crowd of 5 to 10. But over 500, it was nearly impossible to make eye contact... especially once you get to multiple thousands - that's a completely different experience!

    It always depended on what style I was playing too. Some styles just call for more crowd interaction than others. I always loved to see bands where it felt like they knew the audience (knew as in could be hanging out in their livingroom after the show).

  8. #8
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    Eye contact is a very tough thing to get used to. It's tough to look into the eyes of those you feel may be judging you. Even after a few years of gigging out in every hole in the wall bar in central pa I still find myself getting really really nervous, but it's never nerves about the material and I think that's going to be your number one goal like it was mentioned in past replies. Learn your material every which way you can. I've seen a lot of bands with great stage presence that can't play to save their lives but they put on a great show and I've seen bands that play perfect but tend to be as exciting as watching paint dry.

    A few things that can help:
    Sport some dark sunglasses. You can look at them without them knowing or you can look away but keep your head straight and they'll think you're looking at them still. Either way sunglasses can help for awhile until your comfortable enough to actually look at them.

    Score some visual effects for your show like lights or a fog machine or something. Pink Floyd is pretty boring cuz they just stand there and play but who cares! They've got a light show that makes you look at anything but the band.

    I think the most help you'll find is in playing more and more shows. Experience helps more than anything if you ask me, so in the meantime you should know this:
    Most folks are gonna think that whether or not you're good, you're still in a band and you're playing live and that's undisputably cool. Some may be jealous, some not so much, but the bottom line is that you're doing what a million and one folks out there want to be doing. You're in a band and you're playing live. Few things in this world kick as much *** as that. Soon enough grasshopper you'll be able to look into the eyes of jealousy and smile

  9. #9
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    Hey,
    A few things:
    What I try to do when I'm stage is try to get my ego involved!
    Ofcourse I don't over do it, but just try not to be shy.
    People have come to see you!
    Just rock out and have fun. If you really have to look at the crow, don't give the impression your scared! Smile

    Just my 2 cents.

  10. #10
    Did I say that out loud ? joeyd929's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revenant
    I just need to know: Is there anybody else than me who have problems looking at the audience while playing a gig?

    I kind of just look at the fretboard and stuff when I play...
    I'm pretty new to playing gigs, so perhaps it is something that may come with time?
    Instead of looking them in the eyes, look direct at the center of their foreheads. From a distance they will think you are looking them in the eyes but you will never actually make eye contact.

    It works for me..worth a shot
    Joey D




  11. #11
    Mucho Loco
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    I use to have that problem as well but now, I just glance out in the crowd from time to time and if I make eye contact with them, I just give them a big smile and start scanning the crowd again.

    I love to try and play as cleanly and perfectly as possible but most people in the audience, they cannot tell if you made a mistake unless its a major trainwreck. I guess what I'm getting at is, the majority of the audience are not interested in how well you play guitar. They just want to have a good time.

  12. #12
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    Best thing to do is to force yourself to overcome it. You shouldn't have to feel indimidated and you'll play better if you're not.

    Whenever I perform, I'm nervous like everyone else, afraid to mess up mostly. But I find that if you make a mistake, I feel like I got it out of the way.

    Have fun with it and the people watching will feed off of that.
    Music Theory - muzikality.com

  13. #13
    Registered User ragasaraswati's Avatar
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    Don't push yourself to prove anything. If a mistake occurs ignore it and continue. Don't take it to seriously and you'll be fine.

  14. #14
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    Best advice I can give is to try and get used to playing in front of people as much as you can, because soon you will feel more comfortable with yourself and your playing live. As you gain confidence, you will start to notice you look at the audience much more, and you will become aware that the audience will respond more to your music as you appear to respond to them, and then of course, the better your gigs become. I sometimes wish that more attention was put in place of interaction with the audience, as I feel its just as important as creating a tight set. I would rather make some mistakes live (and most likely the majority of the audience wont even notice because they probably aint musicians themselves) because of letting loose and having good interaction with the audience, than pull off a perfect performance and have the crowd stood there bored and feeling just as uncomfortable as you are. I dont know if this helps, but maybe considering some of the pointers above will boost your confidence lookin at the audience.

  15. #15
    Registered User zildjidan's Avatar
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    its a tough habit to break...

    I'm a drummer and i've always had the habit of looking down and to the left... its bad for band communication but also making eye contact with the audience forges an emotional connection... and i think thats important.

    I've tried to break it slowly but surely.. mostly working on keeping my head up while rehearsing
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