[Expert Music Advice] 10 Key Ways to Overcome Stage Fright
by Jessica Brandon
Many top name music artists seem natural extroverts and supernatural performers, but major stage fright is more common than you may think. Icon star Barbara Streisand is one of those performers. After panicking during a 1967 performance in Central Park, Barbra Streisand avoiding live performances for decades, according to ABC News.
“I couldn’t come out of it… It was shocking to me to forget the words,” she said. So, I didn’t have any sense of humor about it… I didn’t sing and charge people for 27 years because of that night… I was like, ‘God, I don’t know. What if I forget the words again?'”
Here are some key tips for you to overcome stage fright:
- Choose Music that is comfortable to you
If you want to gain on-stage security, it’s crucial that you learn easy yet high-quality music. By working with multiple easy titles, you can repeatedly go through the steps of mastering and performing a composition, refining your process with each new piece. Later on, you can apply your new abilities to more complex repertoire. For now, start with one short piece that you can master in 1-3 days. Take away the power of fear through practicing your music.
- Think Positively add Prepare yourself mentally.
Visualization is a mental exercise used by the best of athletes and can be applied to any performance-based activity.
As simple as this tip sounds, it works. When you become nervous before a performance, remind yourself of the talent you possess. Reflect on memories that make you happy, including previous performances. Imagine an excited audience ready to applaud your skills and remind yourself that they aren’t there to count the number of mistakes you make. By taking comfort in positive thoughts, you’ll gain confidence to aid you on stage.
Also, don’t dwell on your mistakes! It’s one thing to focus on everything that is going right, but all too often performers allow wayward negative thoughts and needless worries to plague their mind and performance. If you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it. Your frustration may cause you to make more errors, leading to greater stress. Also, while on stage, don’t preoccupy yourself with outside stresses. If something in your life is pressing, try to take care of it prior to the performance.
- Learn To Breathe Better
To feel calmer you may even need to “learn” to breathe properly – from your diaphragm. You might think you already know everything there is to know about breathing, but maybe not. Simply search online for “breathing exercises” to get a slew of different techniques.
- Think Physically
Playing piano, guitar or any instrument is a physical thing. Besides, you’ll always feel less stressed if you physically warm-up. That can be hand-exercises or more general body-relaxation techniques. As above, yoga and/or meditation can help control your breathing. Ginger and peppermint tea are both widely-believed to soothe a nervous stomach. Or simply chew some gum or suck on a mint – “rumination” can help calm your nerves.
- Don’t Play In Isolation
It’s easy to “navel-gaze” when playing live, especially if you are not the frontman/frontwoman, and you are already scared. But you may conquer initial stage nerves by simply acknowledging your audience. If they clap, salute their applause. Make eye contact. If someone shouts, you can always call back to them… politely, of course. It will help you feel calmer when you realize your gig is a communal experience. Sulking scared in a corner, even with perfect licks, will only increase your fear. And, you shouldn’t need reminding, interact with your bandmates as well. You’re in this together.
As with 3, interaction with your audience will help calm initial stage fright. You have the guts that most of your audience doesn’t, remember? I’ve seen many a solo artist (no names!) completely mess-up a song due to fear, and then say, “Sorry about that, I’ll start again.” Do they get booed? Rarely… They often get applause for their honesty.
- Practice Performing
As soon as you have an easy piece securely learned, practice performing it – perhaps at home. Ideally, video-record each performance trial and evaluate your accuracy, expressiveness and mental focus as well as how you felt. Then, use your observations to plan your upcoming practice sessions.
I would recommend working in music sections, practice deeply and deliberately. Combine imaging and executing, direct your mental focus, manage repetition, solve technical problems, and choose a tempo that enables you to execute with ease.
- Feel Ahead
As you play or sing one gesture, sense the sound and execution of the subsequent one.
Such feeling ahead is essential to fluency in practice and on stage.
- Embrace Your Anxiety
It’s quite normal to have fear when stepping onstage. Remind yourself: this is normal. Play one or two songs well, and your fear will likely dissolve.
- Tape Yourself
Another way to prepare for a performance is to video tape or audio tape yourself. Aside from being a great practice tool and one of the best ways to judge your progress, the act of taping might make you nervous enough to realize what areas of technique might fail in a performance: Do you lose your grip on your guitar pick? Do you lose the ability to play altissimo? Once you have identified problem areas, try to find solutions or devote extra time to them in practice.
After mastering one easy selection, tackle another, and then another so that you acquire a repertoire of accessible, appealing titles.
With an ample amount of easy music under your command, schedule practice performances in front of friends, at open mic events, and so on, using each performance experience to grow your skills and confidence.
For more information on the 15th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: https://www.inacoustic.com