For Musicians: How to Overcome Stage Fright or Performance Anxiety

 

Are you practicing for an audition to a music school or for that orchestra you’ve been wanting for years? Or are you practicing for a band competition?

But as the day of your performance comes near, you can’t help but remember how you failed in your last performance because you were just overpowered by your anxiety and nervousness on stage. Then you are starting to feel the anxiety and nervousness again. That upcoming performance is your “big day” and you can never fail again. How will you deal with this?

Based on my own experience and from the pieces of advice I got from music teachers and professionals, here are the top 3 ways of how to overcome stage fright or performance anxiety:

Practice.

Be 200% prepared.There is nothing that can replace practice. It helps you to be better with your music playing each day because there is no such thing as a musician who plays well without practicing well. In practicing, it is essential to know how to practice right. That means to use your practice time efficiently.

Let me tell you what a wrong way of practicing is. It is merely playing with your mind wandering or without focus. You practice without a goal in mind. You keep on repeating passages without understanding how to deal with your mistakes and how to make that musical phrase beautiful. With you practicing this way, you also practice on repeating your mistakes and making it permanent. Because practice really doesn’t make something perfect, but the truth is, practice makes permanence.

What is the role of practicing well in overcoming performance anxiety? When you prepare for an upcoming performance, make sure that you mastered what you are going to play not only by a 100%, but by 200%. This is because when you come up on stage, there are many internal and external factors that can affect your performance like lights on stage, atmosphere, and especially anxiety and nervousness because of the audience looking at you. By mastering your piece by 200%, it can assure you that your mind and body know what to do on stage no matter what happen. “Mind block” can be prevented. Also, practicing well and doing a 200% mastery of your playing will boost your confidence. With this, you will start to stop thinking of thoughts that boost your nervousness and anxiety like “What if I fail?” and “I am not confident with this music passage, I’m sure I will fail in this part.”

Another important thing is to realize that practice doesn’t stop in your secluded practice room. You have to go outside and find people who will watch and listen to your performance. “Road testing” a music piece is the best way to practice when you already mastered that piece you are going to play. Exposing your playing to other people will make you less nervous on stage. In other words, you need to practice being “on stage” or being “on the spotlight.” Another method of doing this is to take a video of yourself playing that music piece. In this way, you will be conscious in what you are doing and you will also be able to practice “being on the spotlight.” Also, your video recording will serve as a guide on which parts you need to make improvements on. Because most of the time, what you hear when you are playing and what you hear in your performance in the video recording is different. In the video recording, you will most likely be to realize and pinpoint some flaws you need to work on.

Focus at the moment. Get over with your past mistakes.

So let’s imagine that now is your “big day.” You are already in the backstage and the thoughts of fear, nervousness, and anxiety keep on flowing throughout your head. Take a deep breath and focus for that moment – entering the stage and delivering the best performance you can. Do not allow any unnecessary thought in your mind. Forgive yourself and get over with the past mistakes or failures you had in your previous performances. Just focus on this moment and give the best of you. Focus on every single note you play. Focus on how to play the notes beautifully as if your instrument sings. Focus on how to make the audience happy.

Control.

In doing the methods suggested above, you should also realize that you cannot completely get rid of stage fright and performance anxiety no matter what method you use. There is always a little nervousness and anxiety in you every time you will perform on stage. The game changer here is how to use and manage this nervousness and anxiety you feel. You need a perfect control on what you should think and how will you act. You need to learn how to control what you feel and turn it into courage to give the best performance you can. That little nervousness will help you stay alert and think of the only things you need to do on stage. That is to play every note beautifully. When you are nervous, there is this thing called as “adrenaline rush.” It is vital to use this to your advantage. Instead of going to the flow of your adrenaline rush, stay focused. Use this “adrenaline rush” to manage your whole being while performing. Use it and turn it into a great desire to passionately give an excellent playing that is better than your last performance.