Stage fright can be a huge hurdle for musicians to move past and get to performing. I myself struggled with nervousness and anxiety before gigs and performances for many years, and it really made learning, progressing and ENJOYING playing music a struggle.
So how do we get over it?
Well, there are a few ways to tackle this issue. Here are a few of the tips I’ve found the most helpful for getting past stage fright and onto a satisfying musical life!
1) Understand Your Anxiety
So your first step in combating your anxiety should be learning to UNDERSTAND it. Anxiety is primarily a physiological response. That means you feel it in your BODY, and a lot of the time that can influence your thoughts, behaviour and moods without you even realizing it.
How do you get around this? Easy! Go for a run or walk outside, hit the gym, even do a few jumping jacks if you need to. Anything to get your body back and feeling good will help your head feel better too!
2) Remember To Breathe
I probably don’t need to tell you this, but breathing is a rather big deal. We’ve all been doing it since literally day one, but when we get nervous, often it’s one of the first things we forget to do! By shifting your breathing rate and pattern, you are stimulating something called your body’s parasympathetic response system. Think of it as the opposite of your body’s fight or flight response: that thing that causes your body to freak out and go into fight or flight mode.
So the parasympathetic system calms you down and keeps your body from getting all hyped up on adrenaline. So go ahead, take a deep breath in right now. Feels pretty good, and you can do it anytime!
3) Change How You Perceive Discomfort
Ok, so this one requires a little bit of thinking to really develop for yourself, but it really works. The hard truth is that you’ll NEVER remove nervousness or anxiety entirely from your life. Instead, you can change how you perceive and respond to it.
Rather than treating anxiety as something you need to shrink away from, instead treat it as something to PUSH forward into. This is a secret trick that TONS of great performers use: actually learning to use their stage fright to help them play better. If you can learn how to keep yourself grounded and practice your breathing techniques, you can ride that wave of adrenaline that you normally perceive as crippling anxiety and instead turn it into a sort of superpower, giving your playing focus and energy.
4) Be Prepared
This one should be pretty obvious, but it really helps take the edge off any overthinking before a big gig. Simply be prepared! That means having all of your music prepared to the point where you can confidently play without any mistakes.
Of course, being prepared means more than just having all of your songs nailed. It also means knowing everything you need to know to feel comfortable playing. That means if you’re playing at an event, find out where you should be playing and what you need to bring. There’s nothing more stressful than showing up to a gig and realizing there’s missing gear, or you don’t know where to set up and who’s in charge of the event.
5) Everyone In The Audience Is Your Friend
Now, I don't know where this weird phenomenon of fearing the judgment of the audience comes from. Maybe American Idol and all those reality TV shows mocking bad singing back in the day? Either way, it doesn't matter, because that kind of thinking is ridiculous. Getting up on stage and showing people who you are is one of the most admirable things a person can do. Just know that you're up there because you're brave enough to be, and 99.9% of people in the audience are going to respect that bravery.
So those are some of the tips that I’ve used to get through my own stage fright. Playing music doesn’t have to be scary! Sharing music can be a fun way to show the world who you really are, so get out there, find some places to play... And show people what you’ve got!