Whether it’s your first time playing in front of an audience or your one hundredth, everyone who’s done it has had stage fright before. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to the high stress environment of live performance, but stage fright can be an added stressor regardless.
Here are a few tips on how to shake it.
1. Focus on your true purpose.
It’s surprising how easy it is to focus solely on oneself when experiencing stage fright. The mind thinks about how you’re standing, what your face looks like, or even if your hands look normal. The only thing it doesn’t seem to think about is why you’re on stage in the first place.
By actively forcing your mind to focus on your music, it won’t have the capacity to focus on all the other little details about how you’re looking.
2. Don’t think about what might go wrong.
This piece of advice, like many in this list, is easier said than done. The more you think about things that can go wrong, the more likely something will, specifically with you. So instead of thinking about what could go wrong, focus instead on the moment at hand. Focus on the notes, the instrument in your hands, or the microphone. Focus on the music.
3. Eat healthy beforehand.
Believe it or not, a healthy body does equal a healthy mind. A common mistake for a lot of musicians is to either overdo it on caffeine, sugar, or alcohol before taking the stage. All of these substances do nothing to actually calm the nerves, but instead, they exasperate what is already there.
When you eat a healthy diet, your body will have the balance of chemicals and nutrients that your brain also needs to function. The better your body feels, the calmer you will be.
4. Don’t try to be perfect.
No one is perfect. Musicians who have been playing their entire lives still make the occasional mistake, and that’s okay. It’s part of the live experience, and it also makes live shows unique. If you’re putting on a great performance and are into the experience of playing for the audience, the audience will forgive you. They might even not notice.
Always remind yourself that it is okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to be human.
Playing live in front of an audience is an anxiety-inducing situation even at the best of times, and stage fright is a natural reaction to being put in that position. But if you are passionate about your music, focused on the performance, and okay with yourself, then you’ll realize you have nothing to fear.
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Anthony Mauro is a San Francisco State graduate who splits his time between the Bay Area and San Diego. He spends his free time thinking long hair is cool, playing video games for an online audience, and writing short stories, comic books, and novels.