Overcoming Stage Fright

Overcoming Stage Fright

July 11, 2019 8 Comments

Have you ever been in the recording studio and you can’t get that riff down? How about being on stage and messing up that important solo even though you NAILED it in rehearsal? What you’ve experienced goes by many names but is most commonly referred to as “stage fright.”

All musicians can and will experience some form of this during their careers. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and can very easily be worked on. But don’t expect to instantly get rid of your stage fright. It will take time for you to become more comfortable on stage. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to gain confidence in front of an audience.

Deep Breath Before the Plunge

Ever have someone tell you to “take a deep breath” when you’re stressed or nervous? I’m sure you have. The funny thing about this trick is how effective it is. In that moment it becomes just you and your instrument. You quickly forget about the audience and focus on the music. After all, the music is the most important part of the performance. But that also means you need to know exactly what you’re supposed play. Which means you must practice!

Practice Makes Confidence

How can they tell us we have to practice? Well, we’ve all heard every excuse under the sun as to why many musicians don’t practice: practice is boring, practice isn’t creative enough for them, or even that they can’t find the time. Maybe the REAL problem is that you’re practicing the wrong way.

Practice doesn’t have to be sitting in a chair running scales to a metronome for three hours. Steve Vai used to practice in front of a mirror as a way of training his hands to play more elegantly and we can do something similar.
It can help many of you to treat practice sessions like an actor treats a dress rehearsal. For live shows, play the entire set list straight through and get into the music. For recording sessions, practice to a metronome and be very critical of how well you perform each part. By putting yourself into the proper head space before the “real deal” can help minimize nerves and allow for better performances when it counts.

But there’s one last thing that is possibly the BEST medicine for curing stage fright...

Just Do It

Nike really has the right idea, there is no better teacher in life than experience. Don’t spend your entire career playing for each other in the rehearsal space. Go book a few small shows and play for a crowd of strangers! Once you’ve done it a few times it will be second nature to you.

When it comes to getting comfortable in the recording studio it can be a bit harder to gain experience. Recording equipment and studio time can be very expensive. So what should you do? Find fellow musicians who would be willing to record your music or band. After each take, sit back and listen to what you’ve recorded. Find where you can make improvements on your next take and repeat the process until you get the “magic” take. As a general rule, you can give yourself five chances to get things right.

Being put in the spotlight isn’t meant to be the most comfortable place. If it was, EVERYONE would do it. At the end of the day it’s important to remember that anyone can overcome stage fright. All it takes is a few simple tools and some patience. One day people will be asking you how you’re so comfortable on stage! Do you have any techniques for overcoming stage fright? Let us know in the comments below.



8 Responses

Douglas Robinson
Douglas Robinson

May 08, 2020

Even if you don’t experience stage fright as a rule, a particularly important gig can create a little anxiety. I REALLY like to play before the gig to put my head in the right space. I‘ve never had the luxury of a green room in which to warmup before stepping on stage, but playing a couple tunes before driving to the venue can instill a subconscious confidence before that first chord (hell, you know what you’re doing). Even if you aren’t using your “real” setup to warmup and the drummer’s slapping on a box, it makes you feel like you’re just continuing from where you left off when you take the stage. Of course it goes without saying that, if you can’t warmup before playing, it may be a good idea to start your set off with a less than physically demanding tune.

Douglas Robinson
Douglas Robinson

May 11, 2020

Even if you don’t experience stage fright as a rule, a particularly important gig can create a little anxiety. I REALLY like to play before the gig to put my head in the right space. I‘ve never had the luxury of a green room in which to warmup before stepping on stage, but playing a couple tunes before driving to the venue can instill a subconscious confidence before that first chord (hell, you know what you’re doing). Even if you aren’t using your “real” setup to warmup and the drummer’s slapping on a box, it makes you feel like you’re just continuing from where you left off when you take the stage. Of course it goes without saying that, if you can’t warmup before playing, it may be a good idea to start your set off with a less than physically demanding tune.

Rick Chaisse
Rick Chaisse

July 17, 2019

Also, don’t look at any one in the audience for more than a glance. ( no matter how attractive they are). It will distract you from what you’re doing.

Kirk Smith
Kirk Smith

July 17, 2019

10,000 hours, guys. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers.” Some people pooh-pooh it, but I believe that his assertion that by the time you have 10,000 hours of solid practice into practically any endeavor it becomes like breathing. Do you fear your next breath? No, you just do it. You don’t even do it, it just happens. Watch some videos of the Beatles playing at Shea Stadium or someplace in the sixties. How do they start a song like “All My Loving”—-with no lead in at all—-amidst total total pandemonium? Well, on the 1,183rd try, it just happens. You have to own it.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Michael Bacon
Michael Bacon

July 17, 2019

Can’t relate. Never had stage fright. But practice is the best cure. If you are confident in your performance in practice you’ll be confident on stage. Practice in front of your Mom, which should be harder than playing in front of strangers. Playing on stage and screwing up is educational. If you can pull out of mistake and keep playing you are ahead of game. If you keep stopping and fall apart every time find another line of work or hobby. I’ve seen pros that keep doing that and they never get out of the rut. Consequently they never make it even though they have talent. The booing devastates them.

gerry saddler
gerry saddler

July 17, 2019

Yes….practice till you can’t get it wrong.

John Cleghorn
John Cleghorn

July 17, 2019

Audiences want to see you succeed. They want to see you give it to them. They want to like you. Be kind and give sincere praise to everyone. Play to your strengths. Stay in the pocket. The rarest skill in music is songwriting. There are lots of good players but very few songwriters. Give them solid songs that they cannot critique. Cover bands have the most to fear.

Bob
Bob

July 17, 2019

I used to pick someone out in the audience that seemed to be enjoying the music, and play for them. Then you’re not focusing on the whole crowd

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