Overcoming Stage Fright WiredGuitarist July 27, 2018 Articles, Tutorials, Uncategorized Most of us tend to feel confident in our guitar abilities… until there are other people in the room. Turn into a complete wuss who can’t play a G chord as soon as you get on stage? You’re not alone. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back on this one. Let’s talk about how to fix that. It Takes Time We have to start by mentioning that this isn’t something you’re going to fix in the 10 minutes you’ve spent Googling articles like this one before you have to go on stage tonight. Moreover, not every one of these methods is going to work for you. You have to persevere and try different things in order to find out what methods are going to help your particular fears and insecurities subside. If one doesn’t work don’t give up, keep at it! You want to keep doing what you love, right? So stick with it! Play A LOT One way to get over your fear is to just straight up do the thing. Yeah, do the thing. Do it a lot. Go to open mic nights, book as many shows as you can, play at local markets and fairs, talent shows, music festivals, play when your friends come over, play for your family, just keep doing it. The reason this method works is because we’re teaching our body about survival. If we do something we’re scared of and we come out relatively unscathed, we’ve taught our brain that things aren’t as bad as they once seemed. The more you do this, the faster your brain will learn that all the scare outcomes you’ve played and replayed in your head are just that: entirely in your head. You’ll learn to control the irrational spiraling because you’ll have proved it to your brain (and yourself) that it’s really not that bad. If other people can do it, so can you. Start Off Small If getting up on stage in front of 100 strangers in a bar and playing a 30-minute set scares the pants off you, then scale back. Start by playing in front of just one person. A friend, a family member, just ask if they would let you play a song for them. Or hey, maybe just a couple riffs, whatever is comfortable for you. In keeping with our first suggestion, repeat the process. Once that’s comfortable, up the ante and add a few people. Slowly you can work your way up from just one-on-one, to a small group of friends, to maybe a small crowd of mostly friends and a few strangers at a coffee shop or bar. It won’t be long before you’ve bumped that up to playing public performances without any issue! Play On The Street Street performing (or “busking”) can be a much easier experience for some people. Sure, depending on where you are there may be thousands of people around, but the vast majority of those people aren’t watching you. They’re going about their day and only hear you for a brief period. This can help you perform in front of a large number of people without worrying that they’re judging you because their focus isn’t on you to begin with. It’s almost like tricking your brain into being comfortable in front of lots of people in a performance situation without the stress of having to entertain them all or face the consequences of them all leaving, yelling at you, or whatever other terrifying but entirely imaginary scenario you’ve concocted in your head. Ask Yourself Why As a mental exercise, it can be invaluable to spend time thinking about where your fear comes from. Is it a fear of being judged? Is it your own insecurity in yourself, outside of music? Is it specific to certain individuals in the crowd, or a certain kind of performance (solo vs. a full band)? Imagine bringing your car to the mechanic and he tells you “Well, your car doesn’t work.” Yeah, no kidding, that’s why you brought it in. But WHY doesn’t it work? That’s the point of the mechanic, he’s there to find out the “why” so you can begin to work on the “how.” You can’t begin to fix a problem if you haven’t diagnosed it. Spend some time in thought, analyze your past experiences and feelings and you may discover the solution quicker than you expected. Create Privacy I’ve never been a fan of the whole “picture the audience in their underwear” schtick. It’s never worked for me, and when I went to college for music I found many other musicians shared the same distaste for the approach. However, I did find that many of my colleagues preferred the “It’s just me” strategy. In short, you simply create an environment in your head where it’s just you (and your band if you’d like), playing to no one. For some, this takes the form of pretending you’re in your bedroom jamming out with all the confidence we have in our daily practice. For others, this looks like picking a piece of furniture in the room and performing only to that item. Not only are we convincing our brain to chill out, but by using our mental energy to focus on something other than the crowd and our performance there’s not a lot of energy and free brain power to be spent on worrying anymore. Persevere Remember, it takes time! Entire books have been written on stage fright (and I do recommend buying a couple for anyone who struggles with it) so you can be sure that you’re not crazy for being a little nervous. Stick with it, and if you do you’ll be able to keep performing for years to come.