Thursday, August 1, 2013

10 Tips To Get Over Your Stage Fright

Even the most seasoned performers can get stage fright, so it's not something a newbie should be ashamed of. Some people are just naturally comfortable with performing no matter how many people. The rest of us have to get used to it. Maybe your friends and family keep asking you to play or sing for them. Perhaps your music teacher has you lined up to perform with some of their other students. For whatever reason, you have a performance coming up, and you're getting worried. Give some of these tips a try and beat your stage fright before it beats you.

 photo ID-100131566_zpsf116e35b.jpg Rehearse Until You Just "Know" It
One of the easiest ways to get rid of fear of performing is to know the music "like the back of your hand." So if you know you have a performance coming up, make sure you are rehearsing what you will be playing until it is as easy as clapping your hands. You won't feel as nervous because you won't view the music as being difficult in any way. The more you practice, the more you reinforce your familiarity with the music and the motions.

Rehearse What's Really Important
Sometimes you might be on a tight schedule or may just not have enough time to dedicate to rehearsing your performance music to such a "perfect" degree. Instead of worrying about it, break down the music into the different aspects of what you need to rehearse and work on the most critical parts first. Maybe you're playing as part of a group but have a point in one song where you will be performing by yourself. Obviously that piece will carry more weight in your decision. What if you have a song that you sound great on except for a few notes that are outside your vocal range? Hold off on that piece until you can sing those notes as comfortably as the rest.

Be Realistic In Your Expectations
One of the worst things any performer can do is let their imagination run wild about how a performance will turn out. When you daydream about how amazing it will be then you set yourself up for a much harsher failure should something go wrong. Plus, if you are overly optimistic about a performance you may not feel it as necessary to rehearse so much. What happens if you are well rehearsed and feel like you will have a great night with hundreds of new fans but end up playing to only a handful of people? You will be disappointed and feel bad about the night even if your performance was fantastic.

The opposite holds true as well. If you envision a night of disaster, then you will already be setting yourself up to be distracted worrying about mistakes. So what will happen is you start making mistakes since you are focused on whether or not you will make mistakes, instead of focusing on actually putting on a performance. Basically it's a "quicksand" effect. You will be so worked up expecting disaster that once you make a mistake you will just sink faster.

Practice And Prepare Mentally
Practicing your music until you are well versed is a big part of preparation, but being mentally ready is just as important. Even if you know the material, you have to "know" that you know it. You need to be confident in your abilities beforehand. An easy way to do this is to imagine you are at the performance when you are practicing. Envision the crowd in front of you as you rehearse. Work your way through the music you will be performing as though you are on stage right then.

Perform For Your Pets Or Yourself First
Some people find the idea of performing in front of others to be more horrifying that the worst horror movies. It is scary because of the expectation of being judged. Well if you have pets then you already have an audience that won't judge you (because they want you to keep feeding them). Perform for your pets so you can get use to having eyes watching you. If you want to make it more interesting (or don't have pets you can subject to auditory abuse) you can try performing for yourself. While you can do this in front of a mirror, using a camera to video your performance is better. Not only can you observe yourself afterwards to notice more mistakes and inefficiencies, but you will also feel added pressure since you are making a recording of your performance. Just make sure you delete the video afterwards if you don't want it being seen by anyone else.

Perform At An Open Mic Night
If you have a long performance ahead of you, then sometimes an easy way to get over your fear is to play just one song at an open mic. Get through just one song and see how the crowd responds. Go around and ask other performers there for their opinions. Generally most performers will be more careful in any criticism they give than non-performers. While I didn't personally use open mic nights to build my confidence, I did perform a lot in front of other equally or more capable musicians. Doing this and getting compliments and useful criticisms really eased my worries. After all, musicians tend to notice the mistakes of other musicians more readily than non-musicians will.

Keep Your Mind Off It The Day Of
Generally, the more you worry about something the more your worry builds up. On the day of your performance, try not to think too much about it. If you must think about it, then keep your mind off of the actual performance aspect and focus more on other elements such as equipment needs and such.

Arrive Early, Set Up Early, and Just Relax

Being rushed is never a good thing. Even if you are the kind of person who works well under pressure, putting yourself under that pressure is stressful and not the best thing for you. If you can make it happen, then arrive at the event early and allow yourself plenty of time to get set up. If any issues arise during set up, then at least you've allowed more time to take care of them. Once you are ready to go, give yourself a chance to relax and clear your head. Get rid of any thoughts of making mistakes. Just take it easy and keep your mind clear of any negative thoughts about your performance.

Be In The Moment, Not In The Audience
Once you hit that stage to start your performance, make sure that's where your thoughts are. This goes back to the preparing mentally aspect. If your thoughts are about what is happening in the audience instead of what is happening on stage then you're bound to make some mistakes. Focus first on your performance until you are absolutely comfortable with performing live. Then you can pay more attention to what is going on beyond the lights. Another aspect to focus on is quieting your "inner talking" during the performance. This is when you start speaking to yourself inside your head saying things like "oh no that was a major screw up" or "great now I just ruined that song." It's doing this that not only takes your focus away from your motions of performing but also starts to build your worry and stress. Keep yourself aware of this happening and tell yourself to shut it!

Start The Show With Ease

Never start with your more difficult songs. Always start off easy so you can allow more time to warm up and get comfortable. Starting right off with something difficult just adds more unnecessary anxiety to your performance.

James Higgins is a songwriting coach, performing guitarist and music teacher with 14 years of experience. Check out his blog Unveil Music to get the inside scoop on being an independent musician or book an online lesson with James.

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