Nita Strauss Names the Most Important Thing About Playing Guitar, Explains What YouTube and TikTok Players are Missing Out on

Recently, Alice Cooper and Demi Lovato guitarist Nita Strauss sat down with the Guitar Player magazine to share the most important tips for today’s guitarists. Among the six points that she made was one that she referred to as “the most important thing.” And it just proves how honest and simple (in the best way possible, that is) her approach to music really is. She offered:

“I’ll let you in on a little secret: The most important thing about playing a show is to have fun. Always.

In fact, it’s also her mother who supports her in this, with Nita adding:

“My mother texts me before every show I do, even if I’m just doing one song somewhere, and a lot of times she’ll write, ‘Remember the most important thing.’ It’s really sweet.

She continued:

“There’s a lot of work that goes into performing. You’ve put in hours of dedicated practice. You’ve learned the songs and you’re ready for the show. But when you hit the stage, it shouldn’t feel like work.

“Don’t ruin the moment by stressing out. Relax, shake your shoulders out, take a deep breath, trust your muscle memory, and have a great time.

NITA STRAUSS - The Wolf You Feed ft. Alissa White-Gluz (Official Music Video)

And Nita does make a solid point. After all, she takes us back to our favorite memories and the best shows that we ever attended. Dig through your memory and you’ll realize that the musicians at the best concerts you’ve experienced were relaxed and living the moment. She concluded on this point by adding:

“Think back to the best shows you’ve ever seen. The performers probably looked like they were having a blast – because they were.”

Going into other important issues that she covered, Nita also pointed out how important it is for one to experience performing live. Now, when we say “live,” we’re not thinking about live streaming through various social media platforms. It’s actually about performing in front of an audience in person.

NITA STRAUSS - Dead Inside (ft. David Draiman of Disturbed)

Sure, YouTube and TikTok and Instagram are great in their own way, but nothing can really replace this experience. Nita offered:

“With YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok ruling the music world, it’s tempting to think that you can create your art from the comfort of your home. But if your ultimate goal is to be a live performer, then you need to get some onstage experience as early as you can.”

“It can be daunting at first, but I think you just have to jump in – you’ll see that the water is fine. There are plenty of opportunities to play in front of people – a lot of clubs have open-mic nights, so you can just show up with your guitar and play.

Nita Strauss in Nashville, TN at The Basement East. 1/19/22 Full Show

“Or you might consider joining a cover band or getting with a local group that’s gigging. However you do it, you’ll see that playing live improves your playing quickly.

“For my first show, I was in a brand-new group in L.A., and it was a pay-to-play battle of the bands gig. We only sold three tickets, so my dad, who was a touring musician, bought seven tickets so we could play.

“I had already competed in sports, so I was pretty comfortable being in front of people. I realize that’s not the case for everybody, but get out there. You’ll mess up – we’ll get to that later – but that’s okay. Just do it!”

While we’re at the topic, Nita also reflected on one thing that lesser experienced guitar players might not process that well most of the time — the fact that shit happens. Sooner or later, something will get wrong. But guess what? It’s okay. As she explains:

“Let’s face it: There is no perfect show. No matter what, something will invariably go wrong. Your cable breaks, you bust a string, you take a wrong step and slip. Or maybe your singer dances around, steps on your tuner pedal and mutes your guitar.”

“Shit happens. This stuff used to drive me crazy, and then I realized, ‘Nita, tomorrow’s another day. Get over it.’”

There’s only one way to deal with this and it’s to keep on going, as she explains. Nita continued:

“The only good way to react to onstage accidents is by correcting the situation smoothly, like a pro. Move on and don’t make a scene. It’s better if your audience says, ‘Man, she slipped and kept right on going,’ instead of ‘Oh, my god. She fell down and they had to stop the show. It ruined everything.’”

“Recover gracefully, and never let ’em see you sweat. And chances are, unless you draw attention to something, people in the audience won’t really know that you played a note wrong, or whatever.”

NITA STRAUSS - Pandemonium (Official Video)

Of course, even someone of Nita’s caliber isn’t immune to this. But it always turns out for the best if you just keep on going at it. She concluded by saying:

“That’s happened to me so many times. I’ll come offstage and think that I did something wrong, and everybody will come up to me: ‘That was the best show ever!’”

Speaking of giving advice to young guitar players, in another recent interview, Nita looked back on some of the bad advice that she’s gotten over the years. In particular, it was the issue of hypersexualization of women who perform in rock and metal bands and how it affected the way people treated her. She said:

“Early in my career, I got a lot of really bad advice. I had so many people telling me what I needed to do in order to be successful in this industry… people saying: ‘You need to show more skin’ [and] ‘If you have a boyfriend, you can’t say that you’re dating anybody because you need to appear available’, all this kind of stuff.”

Demi Lovato - SUBSTANCE (Live On Jimmy Kimmel Live! / 2022)

She continued:

“I started really dressing down. I dyed my hair darker … to stand out less. I’d wear a men’s large t-shirt onstage and baggy cargo shorts and started touring with heavier bands.”

“[But] I kept getting pulled back and forth through this dichotomy of ‘No, you have to be the sex symbol.’“

Demi Lovato “Cool For The Summer" (Live from Springfield Illinois 08-13-2022)

She also added how allowing herself to be what she is ultimately helped her the most. Nita said:

“Once I just started embracing who I actually am as a person, that’s when great opportunities and great successes started coming to me. [… So] stop trying to fit into what other people tell you you should be, and just be who you are.”

Photo: Sven Mandel (Alice Cooper – 2017217191342 2017-08-05 Wacken – Sven – 1D X MK II – 1562 – AK8I2190)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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