Creation and Appreciation of Culture and the Arts


Live shows are the backbone of the music industry. From Metallica to Madonna and Gaga to Green Day, most of today's icons are as famous for their explosive live performances as they are for their album sales.

Finely-tuned stage shows aren't just for superstars, either. With file sharing growing at an ever-increasing rate, playing live is fast becoming the emerging artist's main source of income, and a skill that any budding musician needs to master. Of course, getting up to play in front of an audience can be a nerve-wracking experience at the best of times, and one that can even become a chore for some musicians. These five tips will help to give your live playing extra punch, and make sure your show stays fun for audience and performer alike.

Get into the music

If you're not absorbed by your playing then the crowd won't be either. Appearing to enjoy yourself onstage – even if you're secretly terrified – gives your audience the cue to enjoy themselves as well. Let yourself get lost in the music: move about, jump around, close your eyes during the tender bits; whatever works for you.

Respond to the crowd

Involving the crowd in your performance is a key part of a successful live set. However, different crowds respond to different actions, so be prepared to think on your feet if you feel you're losing them. For example, if people sneak off to the bar during your between song banter, then cut it down a a minimum for the rest of the set.

Don't fear mistakes

It's impossible to completely avoid onstage mistakes – even the biggest acts make them. If you can accept that fact and learn to calmly carry on when slip-ups occur, you'll find it much easier to settle into your performance. Remember: most of the time the audience won't even realise you've gone wrong.

Give the audience a focal point
A gig is as much a visual performance as it is an aural one. While having a conventional frontperson isn't a necessity as such, you do need to think about that the crowd sees while you're performing. Audiences subconsciously focus on the centre front of the stage, so by putting your most charismatic band member in the middle you'll be giving them what they want without them even realising.

Practice, practice, practice!

There's no substitute for practice. Working on your songs until they become second nature frees you up to fully concentrate on your performance, and will give you a visible self-confidence boost too.

Playing live music is easy, but playing it well is extremely hard. These tips should give you a solid grounding to launch your playing career, but as a musician and performer you'll never stop learning. Ultimately, live performance is all about confidence. If you know your material is good, and you know you can play that material well, then you're setting yourself up for some excellent gig experiences.

-Andy Walton


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.