Stage fright is a phenomenon that affects many people, whether it be in the arena of public speaking or performing music on stage. In fact, 96 percent of orchestra musicians reported pre-show anxiety before heading onstage. As singer-songwriters, we’re in a similar, if not more porous, boat. Often, we’re performing alone under the spotlight with all eyes on us, and we have to back ourselves up if we make a mistake.
Performing solo can feel daunting, and a little nervousness is completely normal. But if your fear of the stage is seriously affecting your ability to play your best, try these seven simple remedies.
1. Practice your songs and your stage banter
Practicing your songs is pretty obvious, but it’s also important to rehearse the exact order of your set, including anything you might say in between songs. This way, your set will flow smoothly and you won’t stumble over awkward words. For example, if you have to stop and change tuning between songs, you may be tempted to break the silence by saying something to the crowd. Make certain that you lightly rehearse your joke or brief monologue beforehand. Unfortunately, not all of us are able to improvise well under pressure, and there’s nothing quite so painful as watching someone make an awkward, nervous attempt at small talk onstage.
2. Meditate before the show
Meditation – even just for a couple of minutes – will help take some of the pre-show anxiety away. You can even use breathing exercises during the show. By focusing on your breath, you’ll be able to calm your heart rate down a bit so you can play guitar without shaking like a Furby doll on Duracell batteries. You could also try a little yoga or light stretching before the show. Keeping your body limber will help relax you even more.
3. Go with the flow
Even if you practice your set a thousand times, it’s still entirely possible to make a mistake, or for something out of your control to go wrong, like your microphone cutting out. With the exception of extreme circumstances, the best you can do is go with the flow and keep playing. It may seem like a huge deal to you in the moment, but if you keep it cool, audiences usually won’t even notice if you make a mistake. And even if they do notice, they’ll silently applaud you for keeping it professional and moving right along.
4. Get to the venue early
Have you ever noticed how much better your day tends to go when you give yourself plenty of time to get ready for work or school in the morning, rather than waiting until the last possible minute to jump out of bed and rush through everything? It’s the same deal with performances – you’ll be way more relaxed for the show if you give yourself ample time to arrive, set up, soundcheck, and maybe even chat a little with the staff or treat yourself to some herbal tea. And if anyone who’s there to see you shows up early, you can take the time to talk with them and maybe even get some emails for your email list. Being open and comfortable with the staff and audience will help boost your confidence and take away some pre-show jitters.
Another benefit of not getting there at the last minute is that watching the room fill up will give you a sense of ownership and responsibility. This is your show. It’s not like the sound guy is the monster underneath your bed.
5. Look at foreheads, not eyes
Looking at people’s foreheads instead of their eyes when you’re performing is a tried-and-true method of circumventing stage fright. You’ll appear to be confident because no one will be able to tell that you’re not actually making direct eye contact with them.
6. Wear clothes that make you feel both comfortable and confident
Stage lights can be hot. Wear something comfortable that won’t set you on fire underneath harsh lighting, but also something that you love wearing and feel confident in. Your perception of yourself has a huge impact on how others see you. It has a little bit to do with what you’re physically wearing, but it’s so much more about how you feel in what you’re wearing that gets the vibe across to the audience.
7. Maintain good posture
Not to sound like a grammar-school teacher, but seriously, good posture will make you feel (and look) more powerful onstage and can help reduce your performance anxiety. Slouching actually brings you closer to the fetal position, which is not good for promoting self-confidence. To prevent this, sit up straight, but in a relaxed way. This will lower stress-inducing cortisol while augmenting testosterone, thus giving your body the boost it needs to play a kick-ass set!
As you can probably tell, most stage fright issues tend to be rooted in a lack of confidence. Although it’s important to remain humble as a performer, it’s crucial to project confidence when you’re performing in order for the audience to make an emotional connection with you.
Which stage-fright remedies have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below!