The lights go dim and there is a hush in the room. You hear your name, and your hearts does that familiar big thump. Then you feel it, your heart as it drops down into the depth of your stomach. You take a breath, and remember to exhale, eventually. Its time. You take a step, but cannot feel your legs, you urge another step forward and will your funny legs just to hold you up and take you there.
Somehow you make it to the center of the stage. You have to say something, but your mouth is bone dry, your palms slippery and sweaty. You open your mouth and there is a lump in your throat that doesn’t seem to want to make the words come out. Sometimes you even feel like crying. Stage fright – you know what I mean.
Causes of Stage fright
Before we look at any of the ways that we can manage stage fright better we will consider what causes it. Stage fright is most commonly an anxiety attack, a reaction to an uncomfortable situation. Other factors may also contribute to these feelings also. Stage fright may be triggered by a release of pent up energy. Performing is an exciting business, and mostly we have to control these feelings.
The good news is that you are not suffering from any strange mental or emotional breakdown when you experience stage fright. In fact, it’s a very human response, one of our most basic instincts of survival. “fight or flight” in light that we are a placid people now fighting your audience might not be the best option, so your instinct says “flight”, run far far away. Now consider that running might not be the brightest choice either. This is stage fright.
Stage fright may even be the result of a sudden disappearance of confidence and self-esteem.
Tips to overcome stage fright
Allow yourself just one last thought before you go out there and give it your all, a reflection. Pause for a moment and remember why you play anyway. You’re there because you love it! You worked your best to master your instrument, your guitar or your voice for the love of it. This is what matters the most.
There is something else that you forgot to remind yourself also, you’re good. You’re not only good at it, you’re great. You have practiced and trained, and know every note. You know the gig, and probably even done it before. Perhaps now you should take a moment to ask yourself to consider the logic in thinking that it is even possible that you should not play well after the work you have given already. When you realize that this really doesn’t make any sense you can take the time to congratulate yourself, and head on out there to claim your reward.
When you take the next step it is time to clear your mind and focus on what you are doing. Learning a few relaxation and focus techniques are an ideal method for dealing with this step. More precisely learning these techniques will give you the confidence to know that you can stay focused on the goal of entertaining. Know yourself enough to know that the hardest critique you will ever face is you. An audience will forgive you for being you, that’s what they paid their money for. You should do the same for yourself.
Be personal with your audience. If you are going to have a deeply intimate moment, as performing is, you might find that you are more comfortable with just one person. Consider that the audience is one, or a small group of your nearest and dearest. I have been assured that this is an ideal way to approach all performances and even musicians who do not seem to suffer stage fright greatly enhance their performance and audience appreciation. Its one thing to know the songs, but real music is sharing the emotion.
Now pretend you’re a superstar. Soon enough, the moment you start to play, you’re not pretending anymore because you are a superstar. There might only be 500 people out there in the audience, there might be 5000 or more. It doesn’t really matter, you’re a superstar to them.
When it’s happening to you it feels like you’re the only one. But you’re not the only one. Many successful accomplished musicians actually face the same fears you do. I have typically watch interviews with famous musicians and have always been surprised when one of them confesses to experiencing stage fright. No-one could ever guess it by the way they play or the millions of dollars they make doing it. Always after these interviews I have liked them more than I did before. It is nice to meet them as the person they are and know they have the same vulnerabilities and fears as the rest of us do. Relax and remember why your there. Go out and accept your reward your worth ever moment of it.