Dealing with Stage Fright

25 03 2010

Stage fright can be brutal. You have your routine down perfectly, you’re pumped and ready to go, and then two minutes before you go on you feel like your heart is going to explode out of your chest, your palms get sweaty, and you suddenly have the terrifying thought that you might very well forget everything you’ve practiced. You start over-thinking, over-analyzing, worrying, believing you’re going to make a huge mistake, and focusing on worst case scenarios.

The important thing to remember is that stage fright is all in your head.

Everyone gets a bit jittery before a show, even famous performers. Musicians will tell you that pre-show nerves are actually important: they give you energy and get you motivated to give an awesome performance. But not if you let them get the best of you, like this poor little guy!

Some things that may help with stage fright:

  • Be prepared. Going onstage knowing you’ve got your act together is the biggest confidence-booster you can give yourself.
  • Think positive. Since stage fright is all in your head, it makes sense to start there in order to fix the problem. Visualize yourself playing a successful show: The audience is dancing, smiling, having a great time. Repeat positive affirmations like “This is going to be a lot of fun,” or “This show is going to be great.” (You probably want to do this silently…people seem to associate repeating yourself with a bit of mental unbalance)
  • Remember: No one really cares. Think about why you’re so nervous. Is this performance going to change anyone’s life? Probably not; in fact, if you pay attention to the audience while you’re playing, you’ll often notice that they’re not really paying that much attention to you.
  • Have a drink. Having a leisurely beer before going onstage can relax you, but don’t push it. If you get wasted and fall off the stage or decide to confess your undying love for Dungeons and Dragons to 200 people, don’t blame it on me. (And of course, drink responsibly.)
  • If you’re having a panic attack, unfocus your eyes. It really works! This video shows you how to do it.
  • Laugh. Seriously! One of the best ways to calm down is to laugh. Whether you’re with your friends/bandmates backstage telling dirty jokes or sitting by yourself in the green room, make yourself laugh, and laugh as hard as you can for a few minutes. You might feel stupid doing it, but it relaxes you instantly.

It also helps some people to say a prayer/mantra before they go onstage, to have a lucky charm (Use the Schwartz!), to breathe deeply, or even to imagine the audience naked (this can backfire if you have a vivid imagination and get distracted easily).

Above all, remember: Music is about having fun. No one really cares if you mess up, and all you’re doing is providing (usually heavily intoxicated) people with somethin’ to groove to. Enjoy it!