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Tips for Musicians: 13 Ways to Combat Stage Fright

In an interview with Connie Chung, Andrea Bocelli was asked,

“When you perform on stage, are you nervous?”

Bocelli responded, “Oh, it’s difficult to explain how much. I have big,
big stage fright.”

Even the most famous musicians like Elton John and Andrea Bocelli still experience performance anxiety up to this day. I hope that fact made you feel better. Almost everyone experiences it to a certain degree. The important thing is knowing how to handle it. Handling stage fright requires knowledge, skill, and specific techniques. If your stage fright is getting in the way of your performance, you have to shake hands with it and learn to live with it because stage fright is always there. The only solution is to train yourself to handle it gracefully.

Here are some tips on how you can handle stage fright:

Quickly “get used” to the space. The moment you step up the stage, get a feel of the space around you- the size of the venue, the number of people attending the show, people’s activities- and connect it to where you are standing and what your goals are for that night. If it is your first time,  ask the manager if they allow you to rehearse in the venue so you’ll get used to the performance space.

Before you play a single note, SMILE.  introduce yourself to the audience. Establish eye contact with a few friendly faces in the crowd while smiling.

Look for a spot. Fix your eye on one spot and sing and talk to it all through the night. This technique is called spotting. This will give you that confident stare. You don’t have to focus it on one person or they might assume you’re attracted to him/her. Just use that imaginary spot as a guide when you’re talking to the audience.  Treat the spot as your friend.

There’s no such thing as “overpreparing.” Some performers do not want to rehearse over and over and over again in fear of making their performance stale. That shouldn’t be a worry because every performance is different. Different people watch you, the venue is smaller/bigger, the crowd is wilder, there’s an interference, and so on.

Which moment do you find most difficult? Deal with it. Identify the precise moments in a performance that you find difficult and focus on working out some specific techniques to overcome them. Once you’re confident that you’re close to perfecting it, you’d be less anxious.

Create a stage character. To some, it helps if they pretend that they’re actors playing a role while they’re on stage. It could help to “forget yourself and be someone else.” Who says you should “be yourself” while performing onstage? Wear a top hat if it helps you get in the mood of the character you’re trying to portray, or put on some weird make-up if this makes you feel kick-ass. For some girls, killer heels can do the trick.

Relaxed Tone. Try to use a warm, relaxed tone when you speak. One stutter or dead air could ruin your confidence. If you’re not gifted in the public speaking department, just work on developing a relaxed manner of speaking.

Laugh at Yourself. You’re a musician, not a public speaker. Forgive yourself if you blurt out an awkward, totally wrong, totally stupid statement. Just laugh it off. Don’t take your stage talk so seriously. If you missed a note, just laugh it off and say something funny. They’ll forgive you for it.

Inhale, Exhale. If you’re the lead singer, put a lot of attention to your breathing. If you get too tensed, just do 3 series of deep breathing to ease your tension. It could affect your performance if you won’t.

Have a performance mantra. If you’re really so jittery, it could help if you have a performance mantra that you recite while you’re going up the stage or setting your instruments. This will remind you of why you’re here and could hopefully reduce your anxiety.

Start out strong: Does your piece open with a “hook”? The all-important opening must establish a certain mood and tone that listeners find compelling. Get their attention for the first 10 seconds and you’re doing the right thing.

Mind Tricks. There are so many performance tricks that seem silly but actually work. You can find one that’s perfect for you, for sure. One example is imagining the audience in their underwear. Silly alright but it has worked for so many people.

If all else fails, there’s therapy.  If these techniques don’t work, you may consider visiting a hypnotherapist or psychotherapist, who are trained to deal with mental blockages.

Audiences tend to be very forgiving of nerves and a few missed notes. However, you have to play with
complete passion and dedication.  But of course, you have to master your craft. You can’t keep making missed notes because people are not likely to forgive you the third time. While you’re trying to achieve perfection in your craft, make sure you also hone your stage fright combatting skills.

The Guardian

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