You are not alone if you suffer from what we have come to know as stage fright. I do not believe I can recall any accomplished musician saying they are not nervous at all before a performance. Many are actually terrified and get physically sick prior to a concert.
The basis for this is actually a good motivation; we want to be good, we want to be accepted. That is a good thing but being debilitated by stage fright is not. There are some effective ways of dealing with this condition.
What is Stage Fright?
Stage fright, also known as “performance anxiety”, is the fear, phobia or anxiety experienced when an individual is required to perform in front of an audience. Stage fright can be a debilitating obstacle to your best musical performance, but as a singer there are a number of steps you can take to help you manage your nerves.
Practical steps to manage Stage Fright
The most effective way to manage the phenomenon of stage fright is constant performance. For some, this may not be possible or you may just be starting out and you’re struggling at the starting gate, so to speak. If you are just starting out and cannot even imagine performing in front of people yet, find a friendly audience that will accept you no matter what, your family! Perhaps you can pick one to three songs to perform and set it up just like a regular performance.
Have the chairs set out for your family, maybe some refreshments and so forth. It may sound silly, but you will be nervous even though you know they will accept you no matter what you do. When you perform for them try not to talk to them as they were your family, but make it a little “impersonal” if you will. Pretend they are an audience of strangers. If you make a mistake, keep going. This is very good practice. You will always make mistakes in your life as a musician so get used to it.
You need to learn to “roll with it” or even sometimes make something out of it. This can lead also to improvisational opportunities, but we will discuss that in another lesson. Once this little “concert” is over you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Even if you made a mistake or two, you will feel good about what you have done. I guarantee it! Now you need to continue to build on these performances. Do them more often, invite the neighbours but do not get too comfortable either.
Practise, Prepare, Perform
You must continue to stretch yourself. If you have a teacher for your instrument, the chances are good that they hold concerts for the families of their students. Participate in these. It will do you a world of good! Once you are past the first stage of performing and are on to performing for larger groups of strangers, there are some other ways of dealing with stage fright.
Practice, practice, practice. You must know your piece or pieces of music backwards and forwards if you are to be truly prepared. Even if you do not have to memorize the piece you must know it very well. Memorizing is also for another lesson, but suffice it to say you must constantly practice to overcome any technical limitations on your performance, then you can more easily deal with stage fright as a separate issue.
You may have a very real reason to be afraid if you do not know your music! Now the day of the performance I think it is best not to practice very much at all. You can wear yourself out and “peak” too early. If you are a singer like I am for example, you can over-practice and sound perfect two hours prior to performance but be worn out by the time the concert is here. Just rest a lot and go over the music in your mind. Warm up, to be sure, but only that. If you know your music you should be fine.
I like to take a nap before a performance so I can be rested. If I cannot actually sleep, then just laying down for 30 minutes or so seems to help. Now, when you take the stage, remember all of the work you have done, tell yourself, “I am prepared, I can do this!” – you will be amazed at what you can do if you believe in yourself. Be not afraid!
Written by Bill Kernodle
How to overcome performance anxiety
If you’re a singer, musician, public speaker or performer trying to overcome your fear of performing in front of an audience, there are a number of helpful resources on the web that can help.
The following video offers a fantastic insight into the scientific causes of performance anxiety as well as details on the symptoms of stage fright, and some mindful steps you can take to build your self-confidence, reduce anxiety and flourish in front of an audience.
You’ll also find a number of great articles which look deeper into performance anxiety.