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Getting Over Stage Fright

Whether you're a beginner who hasn't yet performed onstage, a professional who hasn't performed in a while, or you're a musician who generally struggles with anxiety, here are a few things to do that will help boost your confidence to perform music onstage.

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At some point in most people's lives, we will feel anxious about performing onstage. A good thing to remember is the fact that this is a normal feeling to have. As humans, we have a natural tendency to fear the unknown, and for some of us, the fear of failing.

Having said that, as musicians, we enjoy playing our musical instruments; learning a piece of music gives us a great sense of achievement, so why wouldn't we want to showcase the work we've done? And what about our audience? They've come to hear us because they both enjoy listening to music and wish to support us as musicians.


So, how do we get to the point where we're simply open to the idea of getting onstage? Well, as anxious people, we tend to be quite critical of how we sound.

To overcome this, try recording your music practice sessions. I've mentioned in previous blogs the usefulness of recording ourselves since it's a good reminder of progress to go back and listen to old music recordings. By listening back to these recordings, we become accustomed to how we sound when we play. This is useful because while we perform we are too busy concentrating on reading the music to sit back and listen to the quality of our sound.

Be open to the idea of sharing your music practice recordings with others. It could be family members or close friends who have taken an interest in your playing. By receiving feedback from them, you'll realise that your playing is not as bad as you believe.


If one of the reasons why you're apprehensive about playing music onstage is due to the large audiences performances can bring, then try holding small concerts at home. You've spent all this time learning that one piece of music, surely your family members would like to sit and hear the finished product. Even if it only takes a few minutes to play through the song, having people purposely listen to you, especially those close to you, can be a great way of getting over that anxiety. Their supportive nature will also mean that if they wish to give critical feedback to you, it'll be given positively, and they're only saying it because they want you to do well and play to the best of your ability, which they know you can do, even if you don't.

For those small performances where you play well, having your family tell you how well you played is a great reinforcement, since our self-critical nature will stop us from realising how well we played. The hardest thing to take from this though is the ability to let go of that criticism and to happily take the compliments. Don't be afraid, doing so doesn't suddenly mean you're arrogant, it means you've done well and should be happy with your musical performance.

Don't forget that you can also combine this with the recording aspect and record the home concert performance as well. This will help with the mindful aspects of how we overcome stage fright, which is perhaps the most important part to understand.


By doing these two things mentioned above, you've probably noticed your nerves shake and your adrenaline levels increase. It's good to get a sense of how these will affect you and, while they will happen to a greater extent in front of more people, allow you to determine how to counter them.

For myself, when calming my nerves before going onstage, I remind myself of a few things. The first is that I play for enjoyment and wish to show others that enjoyment and the hard work I've put into this. The second is that these people have come because they like listening to live music, not because they want to see me fail. The third is that, even if I make a mistake, as long as I keep a straight face and make nothing of it, the audience won't know, since they don't have access to the music score.

When it comes to adrenaline, the important thing to remember is that, regardless of how well you play and how good your sense of timing and rhythm is, you will inevitably speed up throughout the song, increasing the risk of making mistakes. When listening back to those music practice recordings, make a note of the tempo you finish at and compare it to the starting tempo. For me, I tend to speed up by about 10 to 15 bpm. If I purposely start 15 bpm slower than the default tempo, I find that by the end of the song I'm at that default tempo and haven't made any speed-related mistakes.


By making use of both the physical and mental points I've mentioned here, you should start to feel a little more confident with your ability to perform music onstage. Be patient with yourself; remember that this isn't something that will change overnight, but by doing these things regularly, you'll begin to feel better about the idea.

Have any techniques you use for performance anxiety? Let me know, I'd love to hear what works for you.


If you are looking for clarinet lessons or a saxophone teacher near you, I offer face-to-face music lessons in Wells, UK and online music lessons to anyone worldwide. Feel free to get in touch!


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