You get to hear a lot about how to conquer stage fright as a public speaker. Not as much gets written about singing in public, though. A musician’s entire job, after all, is on stage. How can one be anxious about one’s very job?
Yet, even experienced musicians often go through incapacitating performance fear each time they prepare to go up on stage. The fear can take away from their own enjoyment of their art and it can make a performance less natural-sounding than it has to be. Here are a few tips to help you overcome the anxiety that you feel ahead of going up on stage to deliver a musical performance.
To begin, try to understand what exactly happens to your body
The performance anxiety that musicians feel is actually three separate effects blended together to cause one sickening feeling. To begin, the body reacts physically in response to the need for a great performance. You feel the effects of the adrenaline – a knotted stomach, a dry mouth and a high heart rate.
What the mind does through all this doesn’t help. When you feel nervous, the voice in your head becomes hypercritical of your weaknesses and obsesses on everything that can go wrong. The mind can also trouble you by obsessively thinking about things that irrelevant to the job at hand. You emotions heap the uneasiness on, too. You feel fear and self-pity.
It’s important to acknowledge each one of these occurrences one by one. This kind of self-awareness can help you overcome the issues.
Understand that you are in good company
Music performance anxiety can severely undermine your confidence in yourself. You can feel incompetent for not being in command doing your own job. A musician’s job, though, is unlike most others. It involves putting out an excellent performance in front of hundreds of strangers. You could read about what top performers that you admire feel in these situations. To learn that Barbra Streisand suffers from great performance anxiety, for instance, could give you a real boost.
Don’t set yourself up for very high goals
You might normally think that judging yourself by unforgiving standards could help you turn in great results. While setting personal standards can put you on a path to overall improvement in the long term, it can paralyze you with fear in the short term.
The only way to fight the paralysis that unrealistic goals bring is to loosen up those standards. Simply aim for a performance where you are able to enjoy yourself. If you rehearse well, your performance should simply come together.
When you rehearse, your performance becomes second nature and there’s nothing you can do to ruin it: your nervous system will simply take over when you get up on stage. Some musicians try to rehearse in front of listeners to better get used to the environment on stage. If you can’t do this, you could instead rehearse with stage lights and with recorded crowd sounds.
Virtual rehearsals are of considerable value, too. Sit by yourself and put yourself on stage mentally to sing through your lines as carefully and as thoroughly as you would if you were really in performance.