Written by: Lou Mars
Last week’s blog (read here) covered stage fright and my own personal experience with it. Here are some tips I have learned over time to aid a musician with stage fright –
1) Mind over matter: Program and convince your mind to realize that stage fright is not fear, but actually excitement to do what you do best in front of others! You are not scared, you’re highly anticipating your performance. Yes, you are excited! You are lucky to be where you are. Enjoy it.
2) Speed: Use caution to not jump out too fast on the opening song due to nerves. Sit back on the beat for the first three songs until you get your bearings locked in and are a bit more calmed down. Otherwise you can rush the set. Most musicians can calm down by the second or third song. It is especially important for a drummer to hold the beat as fellow musicians in your band may also be struggling by rushing the tempo.
3) Nervous Symptom Antidotes:
[Drummers] – If you suffer sweaty palms, use drum sticks that are “not” lacquered and instead have a dryer unfinished surface. Gloves will also do the trick, but cut off the fingertips to cool your fingers. If you toss or snap sticks, make sure to keep one handy and close by in an easy access holder for a quick grab. A drop is never as long as you think it is. Take your time, grab the stick and get back to the beat. It’s not how you miss, it’s how well you recover!
[Vocalist] – Water is key. Nerves will cause a dry mouth and make it difficult to speak. Keep your mouth and lips moist with water placed nearby for an easy quick grab. You can actually purchase cup holders for microphone stands that will provide this service. Breathing is also key to calm your diaphragm. Breath deep and exhale slowly.
[Strings] – Ensure the neck of your instrument is well oiled and clean. This will keep sweaty hands from leaving a residue on the strings and slowing your finger work. For guitarist, a pick holder installed onto the microphone stand to replace drop picks is key.
4) Paralyzation: Sometimes when playing in front of very large crowds I could feel myself tensing up to the point where my arms felt like they were not going to move. This type of paralyzation (deer in headlight) reaction is also common. If this occurs, clear your mind of thinking of the number of people watching you. Don’t look into the crowd at this point and instead take a deep breath, exhale slowly. Repeat. Think to yourself that it is no different then rehearsing at home. Once relaxed again, make sure to re-establish eye contact with the audience, smile and put on the performance you were meant to deliver. Once you get started this feeling will usually fade within 1 to three songs. Therefore, don’t stop. You are just minutes away from a great performance!
5) Anticipation: many of my fellow musicians (including myself) are more nervous “before” getting on stage, than actually during the performance itself. If this is the case, find a backroom to get yourself calm. Do not use alcohol or drugs to relax your body, as your adrenaline level will entice you to consume more quantity without a positive desired effect; such as actually calming your nerves. But such substance abuse will in fact affect your performance in a negative manner instead.
**Remember, you’re on stage because you worked hard and you deserve to be. The people watching are there because they want to enjoy your performance. Don’t forget to enjoy the experience as well, and as a result your positive energy on stage will be contagious not only to your fellow band members, but also to the audience.
Keep the music alive!