Reality Check Needed!?

So, I’m about 6 months into quite regular playing at open mics…

The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that I’m getting better with the nerves, as long as I’m playing a familiar song I’m usually good to go.

The format at the moment is pick a song - either one I’ve practiced on before or a new one, get the chord changes down on the guitar - simplifying if needed, in parallel I’ll be learning the vocals (usually in the car in isolation :slightly_smiling_face:), then start to put them together.

This is working well and I find I can perform to a “reasonable” standard within a couple of weeks if I focus the practice.

U2 - Running to stand still; from scratch over a few weeks, kept the strumming simple so maybe lacking a bit of variety and yes, that first A chord went a bit astray…

Eagles - Hotel California; one of those that’s been a practice piece for years so could add a bit of interest to the picking and strumming- but, with such well known songs, it can easily miss with an audience (but they seemed to like this ok)…

So this post isn’t a fish for complements, I actually got one of the punters cross a few weeks ago, I was playing down my performance when I come off and he said something along the lines of “false modesty isn’t a good look”.

But I’m really struggling with imposter syndrome at the moment. I feel like ‘The Emperor in his New Clothes’. Folk are so nice, both on this forum and at the open mics that I am convinced that they wouldn’t just come out and say “Dave you’re crap, mediocre at best” at which point I could try to work at something.

I known I am ok, when at home I practice with headphones, my voice sounds deep at rich and you can instantly adjust pitch if it’s out. When singing and playing live though, I’m not sure it translates. Are the headphones too flattering? Is it because I can’t hear myself as I’m behind the speakers? Is there more of a craft to making your voice carry in a busy pub?

This week there were some really good performances too, the host joked that he would be starting a bonfire for everyone else’s guitars so I guess this is a phenomenon and I know you shouldn’t compare yourself to others but…

On the plus side, I’m slowly being “absorbed” by the regulars with a promise of invites to jam sessions come the spring. I do love playing live and it’s providing great motivation, I am maybe giving myself a tough time at the moment by trying to continually learn new songs to perform as it’s the same folk that attend each time, I should maybe try and polish a few of them?

All feedback welcome #roastme


As someone in the same position, further down the line, “imposter syndrome” is something common and I feel it quite often. However don’t underestimate how good the JG course is or how good you can get doing it. Anyone who DOESN’T play will have no concept of how difficult or how complex things are and therefore as long as the song sounds clean and recognisable on the guitar and the singing is at a good standard they will love it. Those who do play (and understand how difficult it can be) will similarly still appreciate good, clean songs.

The public are generally easy to please.

I have seen people put a lot of effort into increasing the complexity of a song without necessarily getting any different reaction. Feel free to do it from your own perspective but it doesn’t make a big difference (other than for yourself).

Unfortunately yes if you play the same venue all the time you’ll need to keep learning new songs. We do recycle but generally try to mix in 1-2 new with an older one. The plus is that you quickly build a good list of songs and if you go to other venues have them ready to play.

Think how difficult it can get when you start to play sets of 45mins - 1 hour…you need lots of songs…more than it takes to fill that time.

If you can’t hear yourself behind the speakers that’s a shame, rarely do we play where they wont have a monitor so you can hear yourself. I find it very difficult to sing and play without some sort of feedback on what I sound like. Maybe one to suggest to your OM organiser.


@Rossco01 Thanks Jason, I am following what I gleam to be your philosophy of learn many songs and keep the structure simple, I’m not getting hung up or worried about learning solos etc. you are, along with others on here, an inspiration.

I do get the odd patch of being ‘on song’ I recognise this as when the place goes quiet. In myself and when others are performing.

No problem Dave. We are probably at around 40 songs and now have some different issues like we can’t practice everything all the time and some songs we don’t play for along time as we put setlists together which suit the gig. THEN you have to go back and relearn some. We are also just getting to the point where we are ditching some songs! simply because others we do are better and fit more with the list.

I would dearly love to add in more solo work and more complexity but I have historically found that difficult when singing as well. Also a solo works well with a backing track or band but sounds lonely on it’s own! However I am now at the stage where I am consciously trying to learn the solo’s as I learn the songs…I’ll be honest and say that means it’s taking me about 3 times as long as it did previously to learn a song BUT it’s a good next step so I’m doing it! time will tell whether it works.

In terms of the songs you’ve put up they sound great…you’ve got a really good voice and that’ll take you a long way…playing sounds nice and clean. The PA he’s using isn’t the best but hey ho you have to live with what you’re given. People singing along so what more can you ask for! lol . Remember most songs are multi instrumental so whatever you do it’s a compromise. We like to say “We do covers of songs in our own style” lol Hotel California sounds great, easily recognisable and well sung.


Such a tricky thing, having an accurate assessment of your own ability and performances, Dave. I think it is quite a relative thing, especially when out at Open Mics, and you might be inclined to make comparisons that are not helpful.

As you say, people tend to be generous and encouraging. So getting objective feedback can be challenging.

As your punter said, fine lines between humble and staying grounded, not get carried away, without becoming overly self-deprecatory which doesn’t come across well.

I think you play and sing pretty well. The songs I know that you play always sound pretty good. YOU don’t make a lot of obvious mistakes and keep the performance rolling whenever you perhaps make a less obvious mistake.

Can you be better, of course you can. But that is true for anybody, even the pros keep learning. Trick I guess is finding the right people who have the ability to give you useful feedback that is relvant to where you are and can help you improve based on what is realistic, a reasonable improvement step.

Now that is pretty much beyond me, as you are above my play-grade. Perhaps there’ll be musicians at the Open Mic how can give you some specific pointers.

Otherwise, I’d say keep doing what you’re doing. And over time you will progress just through learning and peforming more songs for an audience. Slowly developing more advanced ways to play familiar songs should also help as well as learning more challenging songs.

No reason to think you are ‘crap’ based on my own observations.

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Ok some thoughts from someone who is about a million miles away from being ready to play at an open mic event (I say that for context)…

I had a listen to your Hotel California as it’s the song I’m most familiar with. The immediate thing that is obvious is the general background noise of the pub so my energy would be going into playing songs simple but well over stressing about minor details because realistically no one is listening that closely or even if they are, they’re listening with the background noise from the pub to contend with. Be in rhythm and in tune (which you seem to be) and you’re winning.

As uncomfortable as it might be at first, just learn to accept compliments, a simple thank you is enough. It doesn’t matter if you just strummed through a few chords or if someone else was “better”. Not only can it be taken as false modesty (even if it wasn’t), you’re doing yourself a dis-service, give yourself a pat on the back, someone appreciated your song. I’ve spent too many years as a perfectionist, sucking all joy out of anything that I do (not just guitar playing) and the last couple of years where I’ve learned to give myself a break and be happy about stuff I’ve done has been so much better - and it’s why I’ve been able to resume learning to play a guitar.

Honestly it was good performance. I’ll be very happy if at some point in the future I get to where you are today.


Having played live in a bar setting pre-covid, the key success factors that I encountered was that the bar kept selling drinks and the appetizers kept getting served. The applause helped as well. Get those parts right and the topper is that you get invited back again. That’s your reality check.

My first reaction to your question about whether a reality check is needed is to accept the compliments you are getting and revel in them. You are doing fine. As someone else said it’s har to get objective feedback and I’m not sure how important that really is. Myself, I know when I’m performing I’m too vividly aware of where I need improvement and yet I also know that when I get objective feedback from my biggest fan (my wife), sometimes it cuts to the bone.

Look for whatever it is that keeps the fire burning in you to perform. I love performing for others either informally or on stage and yet the courage it takes to do that sometimes is significant.

Besides expanding your repertoire, I’d also encourage you to try performing standing up. Definitely not mandatory, yet it gives a different stage presence.

I didn’t watch the videos but read the post and found it very interesting. “Reality Check needed?!” The question is such a good one…my answer might be too simple but here it is…if you’re enjoying making music with and for others, they will enjoy it too and I think you’ve experienced this is a happy circle and mutual enjoyment. There’s something magical about this and when one discovers it I think it just makes one grow in many respects. So I think yes, Reality Check is needed…even if I love to play on my own playing for people (only easy stuff for me, eh, not in bars !) gives me joy :blush:

I listened to both those videos all the way through. I have to admit I don’t always do that with videos on here but I was enjoying them both. It sounded like more than one person was singing along with you in the Hotel California one so I think your audience was enjoying it to.

I think you have two different things going on here: you’re learning to play the guitar, and you’re learning to perform to and entertain an audience.

You’re beating yourself up because you think you can be better at the guitar, and better at singing, and maybe that’s something you can enjoy working on. (emphasis on enjoy!)

But I don’t think you should beat yourself up about the performance thing (and I think that’s where the punter was coming from about the false modesty) because you’re doing it really well. You’re choosing good songs that people like, that suit your voice, and you’re finding a way to play them that suits your skills so that you have a good rhythm and the tune is more than just recognisable, it’s willing them to sing along. Playing in a pub as you are, I don’t think you could do better than that.

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:joy: I’m struggling to keep two or three on the go !

Cheers bud

Aye, when I first went down he fetched his own nice Fishburn Acoustic Amp. I think he talked the pub into buying their own kit to (understandably) save his own. I take my own guitar amp now and then for the heavy stuff. Most other performers play acoustic instruments (it’s a bit of a folk scene) so not too much of an issue for most I guess.


There are a few accomplished musicians in among the regulars, I’m working my way in but it takes me a while…

…and the title of this post seems to have garnered the desired response. I had thought a “#roastme” section on here may be an idea but I don’t think it would work so well.

Good to know, thanks David


Cheers Matt, it’s good to know I’m on the right track.

I hear you bud👍


True, thanks Clint.


Oh, I’m certainly enjoying the journey.

Great advice Tony, thanks I think you’re right.

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Absolutely :slightly_smiling_face:. This week’s open mic was a bit busier than usual and so a bit less intimate maybe that has knocked my confidence a bit. They usually have a jam at the end of the session which, I think, is becoming my favourite part.

This is still a good enough motivator for me, but yeah, sharing with others makes it special.


I think you could be right.

I hear you :+1:

Cheers Ross, and everyone else for the feedback it’s most appreciated.

If you ever see me swaggering into your local like Liam Gallagher, you will know where it all started :joy:

Hey Dave, and interpreting your post as “Hey, I know I’m decent, how do I become one of those WOW guys?”

Because you are good, you play well and sing in tune. Way beyond my play, singing, and experience grade. Always a great performance on the community OMs and I’ve watched most of your live OM videos (if not all) and you definitely do well. Although you are not a “wow” performer yet, I think.

So what I would say is from observation, not experience. Because I think about this stuff too. I can’t do any of this yet personally.

Singing is hard. A good singer/songwriter performance can be just 3 chords, but sung with passion and variety. They vary quiet/loud. They change their tone/timbre. Escalate volume, jump octaves. Project their voice and carry emotion with it. I think that makes people captured by the performance. It’s more than the words and the tune, I think.

On the guitar side, have you tried acoustic at a live OM? The different tone and percussive qualities work better as a solo performer I think. I noticed almost all of the outstanding “live” performances I’ve seen (many on YouTube) use acoustic. Must be a reason for that. Maybe they also have more loud/soft variety as well, not sure.

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First of all, hats off to you for getting out there and performing in public.
You’re a decent guitar player and have a pleasant voice to listen to. I’ve always enjoyed your open mics here in the Community.
If you’re feeling a bit insecure in your new imperial garments, re-read all the above advice, take another well-deserved bow and rest assured, you’re on the right track and all is fine.
No need to read any further.
On the other hand, if you are looking for suggestions where you might improve
Your playing and your singing in both the videos is very competent. I’m with Jason in as much as I don’t think adding elaborate guitar or vocal technique will add that much more to the show. I’m a low-hanging fruit guy, and the reason people go to the pub is to have fun and a laugh. The performance area seems to be wedged into an alcove and you’re sitting down behind a mic and music stand. Would it be possible to stand up, maybe without the music stand and engage more with the punters? I don’t know if you cut out any banter between songs, but I think folk like that. What about changing the lyrics in parts of the songs you’re performing, e.g. a chorus of ‘Welcome to the Farmer’s Arms in…’ rather than Hotel California, maybe even asking them to get you a pint? Audiences like to feel they are being engaged with and part of the show, rather than just an observer. Like everything else, it can be daunting at first, but you get better with practice.
Back on track again- Well done for putting yourself out there. I’ll be even happier if I ever reach that stage



There were one or two for sure this Tuesday, maybe a cause of some self doubt.

Yeah, you’re right. I now remember when I first started singing and I thought, ok this is just the same as learning the guitar it’s a skill to learn, I’m not a year in yet so shouldn’t be putting so much expectation on myself.

It’s like learning the guitar parts, once you know the basics, you can get a basic tune going fairly quickly, the refinement gets added slowly over months or years.

Aye OK, thanks JK.

Maybe in the future. The host has a decent Takeamine which I’ve borrowed before, but I find I can get more dynamics and feel with the electric (once it’s a familiar song) and when it’s through an amp. And I do like to be contrary :roll_eyes: