Stage fright is a common phenomenon - almost everyone had it at some point
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Do you know the feeling of a dry mouth, sweating, trembling voice and strong heart beats before going on stage? This unpleasant inner tension and strong nervous excitement starts immediately before certain situations. This happens frequently when facing a public performance in front of a large audience or exams. You want to prove yourself and perform well. Most people have experience with stage fright. Learn helpful tips and tricks to combat stage fright in this article.
Almost everyone has to face stage fright, especially among musicians it is a common phenomenon. Stage fright is normal even amongst the best. Barbra Streisand or Paul McCartney, for example, suffered from severe stage fright. In extreme cases, it goes so far that people can no longer perform and speak in front of an audience. You may ask: "What is the reason for having stage fright? It sounds not helpful at all..."
The situation of exposing oneself in front of others and presenting one's talent triggers a fear reaction in the body. Dating back to the stone ages, the same reaction patterns are still ingrained in our bodies when we are exposed to a dangerous situation. Either we flee from the saber-toothed tiger or we fight it. Our body is activated and adrenaline shoots into our bloodstream. We are on alert, more focused and experience our emotions much more intensely.
The good thing: being more aware and energetic usually helps to tackle the problem. We master our performance without any troubles (the supposed saber-toothed tiger). You overcome stage fright by turning the alarm into something positive. Then, it does not necessarily affect your performance.
Strategies and ideas to tackle stage fright
But what exactly can I do to overcome stage fright and deal with it positively? Generally, you must find the method that fits you best. In the following, we present a few ideas and strategies.
Understanding and acceptance
The knowledge you have gained now will help you dealing with stage fright. Accepting stage fright is the first step, because stage fright is a matter of mindset. Understanding and accepting it as natural, biological reaction will let you relax and take pressure out. Try to notice your mood and body reactions, do it completely without judgment. I feel excited and my heart beats faster. That's not bad, it's normal. Thus, you are not in a negative spiral of thoughts that get worse: I'm nervous, I can't handle this and I'm embarrassing myself. That makes me even more stressed, I get even more nervous - a vicious circle.
Talking openly about stage fright
Talking openly about your stage fright (e.g. with your band members) helps you relieve the tension. Your colleagues will encourage you and strengthen your skills, which will give you confidence. Or you get constructive criticism, which helps you to become even better.
Preparation is key
Good preparation is half the battle. Practice enough in advance so that you feel confident and are not easily worried. Practice makes everything perfect. Conduct enough band rehearsals, perhaps in front of a small test audience. Familiarize yourself with the stage and the venue in advance. The later performance won't be much different that way. Think about possibilities for improvising in some situations in case something goes wrong. No one is perfect. Plan time to encourage yourself and to reinforce your performance. You can do this!
Do not forget to breath
This point also takes a little practice. Take a deep breath. It may sound trivial, but breathing properly helps you to relax. Breathing exercises are easy to incorporate into your performance preparation. Try to consciously breathe deeply in and out, ideally counting along. This way you focus on yourself and are distracted. The rhythmic breathing lowers your blood pressure and you calm down. You can even influence your heart beat by exhaling longer than inhaling. Before you start, breath out deeply, then you are ready to perform.
When it comes to relaxation methods, there's no general one-size-fits-all recipe. Test a few methods and decide what is suitable for you. A popular relaxation technique is 'Progressive Muscle Relaxation' by Jacobsen. You tighten specific muscle groups one after the other to release the tension afterwards and perceive the relaxation. This method requires training beforehand, so you can use it at any time.
Shake off excess energy
For some people physical exercise to reduce the extra energy and stress hormones in your body is easier to implement than the other exercises. You can run a short loop around the block, climb stairs, or quickly walk up and down the hallway. Generally helpful is to exercise regularly in advance (which has many benefits beyond that).
Especially with bigger crowds, many musicians try to simply look "above" the crowd instead of seeing in the judging faces of people. Try to see it just as a moving object without the individuals judging you. Once you feel more comfortable you can consciously make eye contact with individuals, confronting the impulse to run away. Eye contact allows you to interact with your audience. You can see how your audience is reacting and you can see the joy in their eyes. You see they like what you're doing and they're having fun. This can give you confidence. However, if you are not yet ready to go for this "confrontation" try to do the opposite first and imagine the crowd as one big mass instead of many faces.
You are your biggest critic
Simply be aware that nobody judges you as hard as you judge yourself. The audience is listening to you because they like you and your music and are having a fun night. They are favourably disposed toward you and don't want to tear you apart; your biggest critic is yourself. You can make intentional eye contact, as stated earlier to gain some confidence. See how well you and your bandmates come across. Focus on sympathetic faces in the audience or simply stick to your bandmates that make you feel positive, but don't forget about the other audience members.
As a final advice, have confidence in yourself! The more often you face the uncomfortable situation, the more confident you will get and the more fun you will have.