Embarrassing - playing in front of others

Anyone else practice hours on end only to come up empty handed in front of other people? This has happened twice already and it’s pretty discouraging/embarrassing. It’s especially embarrassing when you tell people how much work you’ve been putting into the guitar.

I jam for hours on my own learning songs and riffs. I start to feel really confident and as if I am really making progress. I sit down in front of someone else and I either go blank or I can barely put anything together. It’s so bad its almost funny.

My dad has been playing for years and we talk on the phone pretty frequently. Leading up to Thanksgiving I kept telling how much better I’ve been getting. I sat down with him to play and it was as if I had just picked up a guitar.

I’ve been playing everyday for 30 minutes to an hour for the past year. I’ve been playing on and off for years but this past year I wanted to really stay regimented and make some significant strides.

Anyone have any practice routine suggestions that can change this? Is this just one of those things that gets better with time? I was so annoyed with the situation that I didn’t pick up my guitar to play since early last week.


Start simple.

2, 3 chord campfire songs.

Work up from there


I get that once a week when I sat in front of my teacher :joy:

1 Like

Have a bit of the same when I’m trying to make a video when I’m playing. It’s like I practice, then at a moment i think ok, now it’s time to make a video of it, and then I’m making mistake after mistake :laughing:
But it’ll be better, today I was practicing improvisation on solos when my teacher plays guitar, but for the firstly time, there was a third player. A lady on the drums. The first minutes where really awkward for me, like to affraid to making mistakes. After a few minutes, I was playing more secure, thought whatever if I make a mistake, I’m here to making fun and to learn.
I think that we’re a lot with the same problem, I think the main problem is that we’re thinking about what can go wrong, instead of just having fun, like we do when playing alone.
I think it’ll be better with time.

Hi there Jesse :grin:
It is normal to feel this, first of all, please dont compare you with other guitar players. That leads you to nowhere.

As rob said. Start out with easy songs and keep things simple. 1 year is nothing. It is a lifelong journey and there is always things to work on and get better at…
take a step back and focus on the things you have learned and keep at it…

And again. Do not compare youreself with others!!!


I struggle with this as well. The 2-3 chord campfire song suggestion is a good one. My daughter wanted to hear me play so I started with Horse With No Name. It’s hard to mess that up. :stuck_out_tongue:

That helped me relax and I was able to play a couple other songs then.

The suggestion to recite yourself in video is also a good one. I do it regularly for another course and it’s amazing how I forget how to play when the red light is blinking. Just like everything you improve with practice. So perhaps offer to play for everyone.

1 Like

Got to agree with everyone else here. This is the same for everyone, you, me, Justin - we all lose some of our talent when the pressure is on. What you and I call pressure is different from what Justin calls pressure, but it’s the same principle.
As others have said, keep it simple. I’ve been playing years, but if you thrust a guitar into my hands at a party and said ‘play something’, then I’d probably sing Knocking on Heavens door - easy open chords. Once that’s out of the way you will probably relax a bit and gain a bit more confidence.
As with everything, the more you do it the easier it becomes - try and play in front of people in a ‘low risk’ environment whenever you can.

1 Like

Same happened to me this Thanksgiving. I’m just finishing Grade 3 (been following Justin’s course for ~3.5 years), and was starting to feel confident with my playing. I even brought my guitar along to jam with a 30+ year player friend who would be there. Even with my own guitar, it seemed like I couldn’t do the simplest things without screwing up. I had this problem even when practicing in a private room at my friends house with no one listening. So, it wasn’t performance anxiety, at least not in the traditional sense.

I think the only practice item that can fix this is to go and play your guitar in different places than your practice space to get used to playing in varied environments.


Jesse, do you video yourself playing? If not, try it and once you’ve got used to the all-seeing eye of the camera watching you, then you can get to the point of submitting AVOYPs for the rest of us to comment on, and when you’ve done that a few times performing directly in front of people shouldn’t be an issue :grinning:

1 Like

Nope. No videos. I just work on mastering all the practice modules. I try to break up my hour of practice into different segments the best I can to ensure I’m not just playing the same things. I also play along to backing tracks. I really try to commit fully to all of the lessons.

I hate to say it but I think Justin’s app with all the songs/backing tracks might be setting me back. That or they are making me feel like I’m a better player than I actually am. It’s real easy when the rythm and chords are laid out on my iPad. You take that away and it’s a whole other ballgame. Unfortunately it’s just too fun to get sucked into all of the songs. Maybe I need to spend more time on just learning songs and trying to play along outside of the app.

1 Like

It’s a gut punch for sure but i suppose it’s all a part of it. I think I need to get away from playing a long with Justin;s songs on his app. It’s super fun but I think it’s comparable to riding on training wheels forever. Maybe doing it old school by just printing out the song and playing by ear will get me further and help me build my confidence in playing.


Yes. That playalong app is really good when you start out, but do not stick to it too long.
Break away from that and try to play songs without it.
Youre better off trying to play along original recordings without that app.
I experienced the same as you describes, and you will come to a point were it is really difficult to play anything without the help from the app…

1 Like

One more thing.

For next year, my 30+ year player friend and I agreed to work on two things that we will play together next Thanksgiving:

  1. Wish You Were Here (chords, vocal melody & solos): We can take turns playing rhythm while the other either solos or plays the vocal melody.

  2. Pick a chord progression or song and perform the “A Capo for Two” lesson. One person plays the chords in open position while the other plyer plays the same chords further up the neck using a capo.

This way, the “what should we play” question is answered and I have a year to practice and prepare.

Here’s a link to the "A Capo for Two lesson: https://www.justinguitar.com/guitar-lessons/a-capo-for-two-jamming-for-beginners-bg-1505


Exactly what I was going to say when I read your post. Go for it. :smiley:

1 Like

I often wonder if in person lessons would benefit me more. Sounds like the results are the same but in addition to the awkwardness of not making much progress you also get a hole in your pocket haha!

There’s an old saying; “Steal a man’s wallet and he’s poor for a day; teach him to play a musical instrument and he’s poor for the rest of his life”


Sounds like a excellent why having some jam buddies is a good idea. I can myself getting to that same point. The time will come when I feel the need to bite the bullet and get a musically minded friend or two who play over for a jam and whiskey evening…


Hi Jesse,

This happened to me as well last week (Thanksgiving in the US). I took my guitar to a vacation get-away my wife an I usually do for our anniversary. My mother was with us for the holiday and of course, I was asked to ‘show your new play skills’. I froze. In front of people that could care less if I was horrible. why??
After a few plunks of nothing special, I decided that I should at least attempt something that I could easily play at home without any trouble. I found the recording I play with and started it up. After a couple bars of sweating, I started to just listen to the song I knew and let external stuff be forgotten. About the 4th bar, I joined in and was able to play with the song without much error.

I chose a song I knew I could play. I used enough backing volume that if I goofed a little, which I did when mom stated to ask me questions while playing! I messed up a bar or two and just started grunting answers instead of having a conversation. She got the idea. I was in the zone most of the song and was pretty well on time because I was ignoring external pressures. You need to just focus on the song and let the stuff you know flow. hard to do compared to say, but this is what I was doing.
Be sure to select something you can do in private almost automatically and it will start to flow as you get into it. DO NOT worry about a rough start or you won’t get into the song like you do in private. Generally, loved ones are not harsh judges and it is easy to play in front of them and these folks are good people to get your feet wet with.

For practice holding on to riffs or rhythm sequences, my wife will often come in to talk to me. I try to to keep playing and have explained to her that I need to practice talking while playing. She understands the need and is more than happy to test my skills (yeah, that is a little sarcasm - at least she in’t irritated with me playing thru our conversations now!). It does also give some experience for when you find the spotlight on you at unexpected times.


To me, playing for another person is a skill that has to be acquired through practice, just like the intro to Wish You Were Here or anything else on guitar.

Personally, I would never tell someone I’ve been getting really better at guitar and then plan to demonstrate that. Too much pressure, too much build-up.

My strategy is different: let’s say I have a few people over for dinner. At some point, as we’re sitting around afterwards, I’ll pick up my acoustic and start noodling while everyone is conversing. Maybe I’ll try to play something that is recognizable (e.g. Norwegian Wood) and see if anybody notices, that sort of thing. Someone might say, “hey, pretty good” or whatever. This might lead to singing a song or two, either on your own or in a sing-along. And if you screw up, no big deal. The stakes are very low.

That’s how I ease in to playing in front of people. (I have only ever done this with family members and a small number of close friends).


You. I mean that at this level you might need to develop the skill to analyse your learning…there’s no right or wrong here, you just try to read your experience and make hypothesis of where the roots of the problem are so that you can start working on the aspects that prevent you to do well when you’re with other people. As others said you should record yourself, it’s crucial to rewatch and self-assess and it’ll allow you to build some self-confidence watching your self nailing the different aspects of playing, and outline those that need work will help you to set your practice routine. Your experience is widely relatable, but if I, the less confident learner and player in this world overcome it, you can make it as well.