5 Ways To Ensure A Good Recital Performance

-Brandon Marsolo

  • Choose the right song.

When giving a performance, you will want to choose songs or pieces that are of the right difficulty level. Something that showcases your talent and what you have been working on, but something that is within your current ability to perform. There is nothing wrong with practicing and trying to learn songs that are a bit of a reach for your current skill level, but those belong in the practice room, not on the stage.


  • Be prepared.

Stage fright tends to be a direct byproduct of unpreparedness. Those feelings of “What if I mess up?”, and “What if I can’t hear myself?”, and all the other self-doubt that can come with performing can be mitigated with preparation. Kobe Bryant(R.I.P.) used to say that his unwavering confidence in himself came from knowing that he was as prepared as absolutely possible for each game. Increase your confidence by preparing properly: Practice your piece sufficiently. Warm up on the day of the performance. Before the recital starts, go walk around the stage for a minute and get comfortable up there. Ask a teacher or a more seasoned performer any questions you might have about how the recital is going to happen. The fewer surprises during your recital, the better.


  • Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself.

People come to your recitals for one reason: to support you. There is no need to stress out about being perfect, looking perfect, impressing anyone, or any other extra pressure that you might put on yourself. The audience is on your side. They want you to succeed and they want you to enjoy yourself. The vast majority of the world has never gotten on a stage and performed for people, so simply showing up is an accomplishment in itself. 


  • Own the stage.

This one took me a long time. I always viewed recitals as these very traditional demonstrations that needed to be serious and intense. You walk out, you take a bow, you play your piece, you take another bow, you walk off. Unless you’re auditioning for the ASO or something, I would highly recommend a looser approach to performing. When you take the stage, take a minute to get your bearings. Look around the audience and make eye contact. Adjust a chair or stand if you have to. Something like cracking a quick joke to the crowd can instantly set the room at ease and make for a more relaxed performance. Don’t take yourself too seriously!


  • Have fun and be yourself.

I don’t know how many hundreds of times I have played music on a stage for people, but I know that the gigs that last in my memory are not the ones where I gave a flawless performance, but the ones where I enjoyed myself and made a connection with the audience. When you learn to set aside the external pressures and just go up and be you, you tap into what it really means to be a musician. After all, if it’s not fun, why would we do it in the first place?

Winter Recitals Past and Future

The Winter Recital is always a big day for Guitar Shed. It marks the end of the year and a chance for our students to showcase what they have been working on before we take our Winter Break. Since the recital is typically close to the holidays, relatives are often in from out of town and everyone is flush with the holiday spirit. Our first Winter Recital was back in 2015 at Red Light Cafe. At that time, Guitar Shed had 3 teachers and just a handful of students. In the years since then, we have been hosted by new venues, like City Winery and Eddie’s Attic, added over a dozen stellar teachers to the Shed family, and seen hundreds of incredible student performances. The end of the year always brings with it a chance to look back on the year and recognize growth, as well as to look forward to a fresh start with new goals in the coming year. 

While this year’s Winter Recital will be a little different than those of years past, we hope that all of those same sentiments of family, joy, growth, and optimism for the future will be present as we broadcast our students’ virtual performances. We look forward to another great recital and another great year ahead! 

The Importance Of Active Listening

How can you become a better musician besides spending hours and hours practicing? Practicing is definitely the most important part of improving your skills as a musician, but there are other ways to grow and progress besides playing your scales and working on songs. Listening to music, and a wide variety of it, is incredibly important in becoming a more well-rounded and knowledgeable musician. I try to listen to an album every day. Sometimes it’s on in the background while I cook dinner, or go for a walk, but whenever I have the time I prefer active listening. To listen actively is to focus completely on the music with the purpose of further understanding it. There are different levels of listening and, like playing your instrument, it requires practice. So how do you actively listen? What are you listening for?

If this is new to you, listen for different instruments. Is there guitar in the song? What about drums? Do you hear harmony in the vocals? As you get more advanced, listen for the basic structure. What is the meter? Is there a chorus that repeats multiple throughout the song? Most pop songs have a bridge, a one-time section that provides contrast to the verses and choruses. Eventually, you can start listening for chord progressions and compositional techniques. In what mode is the melody? Does the song use tall chords(commonly referred to as “jazz chords”) or regular triads? Are there any key changes?

As you begin to listen actively, you notice similarities and differences between different songs and genres. This simple practice can change the way you listen to music and allow you to appreciate your favorite artists on a different level.        

, , , Fall Student Showcase – 10/18
Announcing our Fall Virtual Student Showcase!
10/18 – 6 pm – deadline to submit 10/14

All performances will be broadcast on our Facebook Page. Below are some guidelines for submitting your performance.

-Please keep videos under 2 minutes
-Have your teacher send you an accompaniment track to play along with if necessary
-Dress up, play outside, set up a mini-concert hall, play with family members, get creative, and have fun with it!
-Make sure the video is well lit and the performer is clearly visible in the frame
-Upload your video to YouTube (if you are unable to upload the video to YouTube send us the file and we’ll upload it)
-Join the watch party and share it with friends and family

Uploading your video to YouTube
1) Under Audience – click “No, it’s not made for kids” (this makes it possible to add the video to our playlist)
2) Visibility – click unlisted
3) Email the link to [email protected]

Greetings Guitar Shedders,
We are continuing to offer only virtual lessons for the time being. However, we have some exciting news about our Teen and Tween bands! Our bands will resume in person rehearsals on Saturday mornings starting 9/12. If you are interested in joining our Teen or Tween bands (ages 10-17) led by Sean and Nichelle please let us know. Priority will be given to former band members and below are the safety measures we will be putting in place. 

-Temperature checks are required at the door. Please stay home if you are feeling any symptoms.
-All bands will rehearse in our lobby and furniture will be cleared to create more space.
-Our front doors will remain open with the fan on to create air circulation.
-Band members will be spaced apart as much as possible.
-Masks are required for band members and instructors.
-Plexiglass booth for singers.
-Hand washing is required before rehearsals.
-Sanitizing of surfaces between rehearsals.
-No communal instruments (except for drums, amps, and keyboards) or supplies – bring your own cables, drumsticks, picks, etc.
-No parents or family members in the lobby. Please wait in your car or drop off.

All holds on lesson times will be released next week on 9/1. We know several of you are adjusting to a new school/work schedule and will do our best to accommodate any time changes. Several of our teachers have added more flexible teaching hours so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to switch times. Our administrative staff is continuing to answer phone calls and emails Sunday-Friday from 10-7 pm. This is a great time to double up on lessons (twice a week) or extend your lesson to an hour with your teacher’s permission. 

Thank you all for sticking with us through this period of virtual lessons. Our teachers have been meeting each week to share strategies and improve our teaching processes. We have learned a great deal from all of you and I appreciate you letting me observe some of your lessons as well. I am continually impressed with how well our students have adapted to the virtual lesson environment. 

Our virtual recitals, video projects, festivals, and free lessons have been a huge success! We have yet to determine whether our Winter Recital will be virtual and will continue to issue updates the last week of each month. Feel free to reach out with any questions.

Stay healthy and…

Keep Shedding! 

School Update – 7/28

Greetings Guitar Shedders,
We are pausing reopening for in-person lessons. While we had hoped to start taking steps towards reopening in August/September, the events of the past month have forced us to reevaluate. We are still taking things one month at a time and hope to see some significant improvements soon. Until then, we will continue only offering online lessons. 

All holds on lesson times will be released on 9/1. We know several of you are adjusting to a new school/work schedule and will do our best to accommodate any time changes. Several of our teachers have added more flexible teaching hours so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to switch times. Our administrative staff is continuing to answer phone calls and emails Sunday-Friday from 10-7 pm. 

This is a great time to double up on lessons (twice a week) or extend your lesson to an hour with your teacher’s permission. Thank you all for sticking with us through this period of virtual lessons. I’ve heard from multiple teachers that their teaching days are the best day of the week and give them something to look forward to. We hope you are enjoying your lessons as well. Stay healthy and…

Keep Shedding! 

School Update – 6/23

Our hope is to reopen for limited in-person lessons this fall (August/September), but we are taking things one month at a time. Students and teachers will be able to choose their lesson experience (virtual or in-person) when the time comes. For the month of July we will be continuing exclusively with virtual lessons. 

For those of you curious about what in-person lessons will look like, we have been researching and exploring options to ensure the safety and comfort of those who walk through our doors. We will be following guidelines from state health officials and the CDC. In-person lessons may include the following changes.

-face masks required for students and teachers
-plexiglass barrier for front desk-wiping down of materials and instruments after each lesson
-the removal of chocolate kisses (a sad day indeed) after your lesson
-hand-washing required before each lesson-no shared materials (i.e. bring your own drumsticks and tuners, you are still welcome to use our amps and cables) 
-thorough, frequent cleaning of shared spaces-plexiglass barriers in lesson rooms
-limited seating in the lobby

Group lessons prevent more of a challenge and we are currently working on ways to rehearse together safely. We know things won’t return to the way they were, but we are hoping to see you all in person soon when the time is right. Please feel free to share any feedback you may have with us.

We are so grateful for your flexibility, patience, support, and positivity during this unprecedented time. 

Keep Shedding!

, , , , Virtual Tween and Teen Band Projects

During this period of virtual lessons, our Tween and Teen bands have been hard at work collaborating on music video projects. Each band member filmed themselves playing along with the original recording of the song. Sean McMorris coached his bands and worked with them on the arrangement to create a cohesive final product. Chris Case mixed the audio and Craig Newman edited the video. We are very proud of both band’s videos and are thankful for the opportunity to still collaborate musically while we are physically apart.

The Tween Band performed “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac and the Teen Band performed “Ain’t it Fun” by Paramore. Hope you enjoy watching the videos as much as we did making them!

Recital Submission Guidelines – Individual Performers
Bands and Ensemble Submissions

We have missed making music with you and are excited to announce a new collaborative project, “Operation Guitar Shed!” Over the past couple of weeks our teachers have been test driving a video collaboration that will be posted soon on our social media. We recorded audio and video of our individual parts separately to “Don’t Change Horses” by Tower of Power. We dubbed our band “Operation Funk” and had a blast doing it!  

All you need to participate is a pair of headphones. Each participant will record a video of themselves performing the song with headphones on. If you are interested in improving the sound quality of your recording, we recommend purchasing a USB audio interface for your computer. Audio interfaces are in high demand these days and you might have to check with a few different retailers for availability. There are also several more affordable interfaces for phones and tablets

Our teachers will be reaching out soon to coordinate which song each band will submit. Please note, since these videos will be edited together the submission process is different than our recitals. You will each receive an email with a file request from DropBox. You do not need a DropBox account to submit your video and just need to click on the link that you receive. We found this to be the simplest process. Once we have received videos from each band member, we will send them off to be edited and debut them at our Virtual Recitals. 

The deadline to submit all videos is 5/29.

While we can’t perform in the same physical space during this time, we can still make music together and keep our creative juices flowing. Thank you for participating in Operation Guitar Shed!