Getting Over Stage Fright

Whether you're a beginner who hasn't yet performed on-stage, 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 which will help boost your confidence to perform on-stage.

PERFORMANCE ANXIETY


At some point in most people's lives, we will feel anxious about performing on-stage. 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 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.


RECORDINGS


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


In order to overcome this, try recording your 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 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 really sit back and listen to the quality of our sound.


Be open to the idea of sharing your 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 definitely not as bad as you believe.


MINI CONCERTS


If one of the reasons why you're apprehensive about playing on-stage is due to the large audiences performances can bring, then why not 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 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 in a positive way, 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 really 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 performance.


Don't forget that you can also combine this with the recording aspect and record the mini 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.


IT'S A STATE OF MIND


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 nerves before going on-stage, 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 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.


PUT IT TOGETHER AND WHAT HAVE YOU GOT


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 on-stage. 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, and what better time to work on it than during a lockdown.


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


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© 2020 Ed Brown