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.
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