My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

Hi everyone - I picked up the tin whistle a few months ago and I’m loving it. I’d really appreciate some tips and pointers about beginning to perform and deal with nerves though.

To give you some background, a couple of months ago I’d learned a passable rendition of Roisin Dubh and went to perform in front of 50 or so people. I’ve played piano for over a decade, have experience speaking to big crowds, and put in a lot of practice leading up to the performance, but it was a disaster! I played into a microphone set up for a singer (so I tried playing horizontally into it), overblew, squawked repeatedly and blanked - something I’ve never done before.

I’m thinking of giving it another go in about a month to prove to myself I can do it and to share how fun it is to play tin whistle. But I won’t unless I’m confident it’s not going to be de ja vu! Could you please share some tips to help me?

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

I’m not an experienced tin whistle player, but i’m pretty good with microphones. You need someone experienced working the sound board that knows acoustics. That would make a huge difference.

Always do sound checks! It’s best to know before a performance if there’s too much pick-up, too much reverb, too much low-end/high-end, etc.

Learning a sound board isn’t hard, it’s like looking at keys on the piano. Everything is just repeated several times. Then you could do it yourself and learn along the way.

Microphone types are pretty important too, depending on the kind of performance you’re doing.

Sorry to hear you had a terrible time your first performance, I hope this helps! You’re a champ for giving it another try!

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

Very well done you for having a go.

IMHO!!! In general…..
Performance is like concrete, it takes time to set, and if it hasn’t set properly it will crack under pressure.
Short term practice doesn’t help, if you still need to practice the item in the week or days before the performance, it will almost certainly break up in public.

If possible, before playing in public, test where you’re at by playing to a few people, family or friends, who are sitting there looking at you. Ideal if they are musicians. That’ll tell you where you’ve got to, and whether what you’ve learned is strong enough yet. When doing that play for long enough, say, three times through the tune because sometimes the first time is ok, then things go wrong the second or third time as you start to think about what you’re doing.

You’ll be fine, this time was just too soon.

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

Sounds like the mic issue distracted you. Horizontal? How’d you do that?

Two things to learn:
1) Be comfortable with your setup before you start. That’s what lover is saying, too. But even if you can’t do a full soundcheck, you should be able to deal with something that’s wrong. If the mic is wrong, fix it before you play, or ask for some help. Just to make sure your sound is OK, you can blow a few notes, then ask the audience: “How’s the sound, OK?” You might also find it’s too loud or soft - then you can ask the sound person to fox it. Engaging the audience is OK, and can be fun. Smile when you say it and they’ll smile back. You might even say: “How’s the sound, OK? Too loud, too soft? Flat? Sharp?” and by then they’ll be laughing – as long as you can smile and not look frightened.

2) Learn how to handle distractions while you’re playing. They happen all the time. Learn to file it away, let it pass, and get back to enjoying the music you’re playing. You can deal with it later, if you have to.

I think you benefitted from your experience, by the way, by wanting to go back and do it again. Maybe joke with yourself a little, saying “…and if I go back and screw it up again, then I’ll just go back a third time, or a fourth time…” That might lighten your mood.

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Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

Play in a session. Soon all those fears will go. Also, I would get to really know the instrument first before I started playing in front of crowds.

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

I have played the silver orchestral flute for a long time. I have ultimate confidence. Irish music, on the other hand, intimidates me. I get too excited for my own good. As a result, I make very stupid mistakes. I sweat and thus lose my embouchure position and my fingers don’t properly cover the holes. The only cure is to play things for my wife. Hers is the only opinion that matters to me, so if I can get through something I’ve prepared past her, I’m good to go. The other thing I do is to make sure I can play something in my sleep. I can’t just prepare something new and then go out and perform it. When I practice, I will play something new, run down old favorites, go back to the new tune and repeat that cycle until I play the new tune with as little thought and trepidation as I do with the old favorites.

None of this solves the problem, but it does make the situation better. For me, that has to be enough.

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Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

I’m puzzled by the ‘horizontal’ position, unless you mean with the foot of the whistle pointing straight at the mike. The best place for the mike is at the fipple. If you take a nice slow air, a mike, an amp with a touch of reverb, take your time, move back from the microphone if need be for the high (i.e. louder) notes, and lose yourself in the sound, it’s magic.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfo8-jmh_Xc

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Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

There is a big difference between playing to please yourself and playing to please others.
This music is all about the truckly how. That hasn’t a thing to do with what other people think of your music. If you are thinking about what other people think about your music then you aren’t thinking about your music and you will miss the truckly how of it. Your music won’t be as good as when you are focusing on the music rather than on what people think of you.

“You know, there’s an awful lot to be said for this Irish traditional folk music and folklore, because first of all
you have to learn it, and first you must learn the Talk, and then you must learn the Grip, and after that you must learn the Truckly-How. And then you have the whole lot… only just to keep on practising it.

Because Seamus Ennis knows far more about this than even the old Folk Lordy-Lordy themselves. Because Seamus Ennis once met a little Leprashoneen Truckly-How at the bottom of the Garden Doth and up the Garden Path which came up from that, in the Limeretti-Limeretti Hillhockers, before the Earthian Throe, before the Leprashonerian - long before the Argy Fargy - and that was in the Deep Pond Doom before the Emerald Isle was dropped – tchuk tchuk – in the water.“

https://app.box.com/s/agcirjpiqcvq90osh4wq

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

As pipersgrip said, play in sessions before going solo. You will gain a lot of confidence and have the advantage of not playing whenever the tune is getting away from you. I was fortunate to be invited to play with my instructor’s Celtic group at about the same point as you are now. It was scary, frankly, but also gave me a lot of confidence and the drive to practice more. Now, I’m a member of the band and love the experience!

As for the microphone, it should be placed near the blade/fipple. This most certainly points the whistle downward, as it should be. Then just relax and play the tune as if you were in the privacy of your own practice space. Enjoy the music itself and don’t worry about anyone in the room.

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

As to how I managed to play the whistle horizontally - with great difficulty - with the barrel pointed at the mic! I hadn’t known I would be using a mic until midway through the performance or that it should go to the fipple!!

Thanks for your advice an encouragement everyone, brilliant. The Irish sure can tell a tale David Levine!

My take aways are:
1) Know how to play the song like the back of your hand
2) Practice playing in front of people to get feedback - practice dealing with distraction
3) Set up before hand, the mic should be at the fipple, and check it sounds right for the audience
4) Concentrate on enjoying the music and the rest will follow.

I’ll let you know how I go… I have about a month.

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

ah you have left yourself room for improvement, and figured out in what direction that lies, and you will pursue it: my hat’s off to you!

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

I know a distinguished old folk musician. Many years ago now he thought he’d take up the fiddle, as an extra instrument to the guitar and the banjo, which he was highly proficient at. After six weeks of playing on the end of his bed he thought he was getting reasonable at it, and took it out to a folk club. Disaster ! Much like you but without the microphone.
As said above, things need to be set in your mind before you take it out in public. Playing in sessions helps, where it’s less of a performance and more of enjoying the music and reflecting the music between friends.

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

“After six weeks of playing on the end of his bed he thought he was getting reasonable at it, and took it out to a folk club. Disaster !”
He didn’t give the fiddle enough time for it to learn the tunes!

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

Clare, Look at the bright side, at this point you have nowhere to go but up!
You have already been given some good practical advice up above. I find when playing the whistle with a mic that the closer you get, the harder it is to control things. So back away a little when you play. And like gam says, the sound comes out of the fipple, not out of the end of the whistle. And, with an audience of 50 people, as long as they are attentive, a mic may not even be needed–tin whistles can carry very well.
It sounds like you had a case of ‘cascading failures,’ where one problem leads to another and then another, until the wheels fall off.
Definitely give it a try again. We learn by doing, and every mistake is proof that we are trying to grow.
Enjoy! 😉

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

If you play at home seated, play seated for your performance, or stand, whatever you are used to doing. While adjusting the mic to your needs, have some prepared small talk, name, name of tunes, a joke just to cool the nerves. If you are playing more than one piece, play the easiest slowest piece to get in the groove, or just a few bars of an air before you launch into something maybe a little faster. 2 times round of a tune is sufficient if you are unaccompanied. An audience is there to enjoy you, and is not full of critics, don’t worry about minor mistakes, your probably the only person who is noticing. Good Luck.

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

There are several discussions on performance nerves.
https://thesession.org/discussions/search?q=nerves
Just accept that it’s part of human nature, and don’t make too big an issue of it. It will eventually fade as your ability grows, and you seem to be off to a good start, judging by your attitude here. 🙂

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Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

I just wanted to say thanks everyone and to let you know that the performance was a huge success, reportedly the best I’ve ever done and someone wanted me to play the whistle at another event. More importantly, it felt good to play, I really enjoyed it and proved to myself that I could do it 🙂. The people supporting me were fantastic too in giving me lots of practice and teaching me how to work with a mic.

Re: My first performance was a disaster! Help me avoid a repeat?

Good for you 🙂

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