Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

A good friend of mine recently started hypnosis for his verson of stage fright (which wasn’t much by my standards but he felt it was holding him back). He says it’s been WONDERFUL and he wishes he’d done it years ago (and this is from someone who’s made his living as a performing musician for the last 4 decades or so). According to him, he now stays rock calm and can play every bit as well as he does working at home out in front of enormous audiences. I don’t know of anyone in Ireland, but if you like I can see if I can get hold of his hypnotist (who works mainly with athletes) and perhaps she can put you on to someone in Ireland…?

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

I heard Chamomile tea works. I drank it the other day and I seems like it would do the trick. So I stole one from my cousin’s house ‘cause I have an audition coming up. We shall see! I don’t think I have enough time to go to a hypnotist so tea is the way to be for me!

… oh lame.

Cheers,
Armand

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

I seem to have no stage fright when playing guitar, but when first made to sing in public (we were playing where they expected some singing!) I literally had to take a half a Xanax and a few sips of Jack Daniels, this is true. It worked. I didn’t care who laughed at me, well not that much anyway.

I am only a mildy passable singer, but sometimes we play a gig and they expects a few songs. I no longer use the drink and drugs and don’t really recommend them, but I did what I felt I had to do that first night. The realization that no one ran out laughing and some actually clapped made me see that I didn’t have to be so scared. Now I am still nervous to sing and will only do it if under the gun, never volunteer, but not anywhere near as bad as before.

If you do something long enough the fear should go away at least somewhat. Theoretically that is!!

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Bananas help - dead serious. The potassium in bananas calm stage fright/anxiety. I’ve seen a lot of quality musicians use it for competitions and the like. So if you get nervous try eating a banana.

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Iris, I wish you would sing more!!

Colleen

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

This isn’t exactly what I would wish on everyone, but the thing that really helped me be much less frightened in singing in sessions/ on stage ( and actually remembering to breath) was a major upheaval in my personal life. Suddenly, singing in front of people seemed to be the least of my problems!

Other than that it has just been lots and lots of practice among friends and then going places where I was totally unknown. The reaction you get and being welcomed in my really good musicians is a wonderful boost.

I’ve not got it completely nailed - need to improve my relationship with microphones- still just hear the accent coming back.

And I’ve heard of the banana one - but never tried it.

J

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Whiskey is cheaper than a hypnotist and very effective. I’m not saying that you should get loaded, just a wee bit will do wonders by lowering your inhibitions.

Hey Iris,

I agree with Colleen, you should sing more often.

Peace,
Ed

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

What on earth are you anxious or frightened about ??? if you figure that out thats half the problem solved, old cliché here but dont worry about it

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

As irisnevins says, "do something long enough"…

Any way of upping your "mileage in public" in a major way, busking, playing for dancers’ practices, that kind of thing?

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Mac, it’s easy to say that once your used to playing on stage. I admit, I don’t find it too much of a problem, but a couple of jars always loosens me up.
But in answer, I give some talks at work to all level of academics, and that is far more stressful than playing a gig. My solution to that stress is to go for a run beforehand. That really burns off the adrenaline and perks you up wide awake. This of course can only be recommended if you already have a certain level of fitness, but it deffo does work. No kidding.

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

I don’t suffer from this but my singing teacher gave me two tips -
Make sure you are not dehydrated (use water not guinness).

Lick your lips before you go on stage (this helps instrumentalists as well).

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Once you realize the audience will not turn into lions and rip you to shreds if you make a mistake, you are halfway there…..

Seriously, I have found that just getting up in front of people again and again and again tends to break the fears down—practice makes perfect.

Playing in sessions is a low-risk way of learning to be in the public eye, and then work your way up. In the US, there are Toastmaster’s Clubs that train people for public speaking. If you are a church-goer, there may be lay speaking courses that you can take. All of this helps you learn to handle yourself while the center of attention.

When I was young, I couldn’t string a sentence together in front of people without stammering—now I can talk in front of a group at the drop of a hat.

So hang in there….

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Imagine the worst case scenario. Then ask yourself, could you live with it. If you could, there’s no need to be nervous. If you couldn’t, you shouldn’t go on.

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Al and many others have the gist of it; you overcome any fear by doing the thing you are frightened of and observing no terrible consequences. Unfortunately you have to do this many times and the fear WILL diminish incrementally.
It takes real guts to perform when terrified so reward your-self for a job well done.

Good luck

PP

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

A case of nerves is a good thing, it means you care. Stage Fright on the other hand is just an ego trip, Yr making It about yrself, instead of about the music. Think about being the guy in the buffet line (paper hat,bowtie, long plastic apron.) serving up MUSIC!.
Or if that don’t work ,remember that nobody is paying any more attention to you than you are to them.

I’m just trying to help you imagine a worst possible case scenario by saying meaner things to your face than anybody in the audience would be thinking.

Hope that Helps :-D

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Just vomit and sweat copiously, this should help you through :-)

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Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Thanks Colleen and Ed….I hope you bring me some bananas tomorrow night!!
iris

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating here.

The first big gig I did as a fiddler was in a large, sould-out concert hall. We were opening for a very popular band. We’d rehearsed for weeks, which only made things worse by heightening our own expectations and our awareness of every little flaw.

So the day of the show, I went for a run, I ate bananas, I chanted affirmations, I imagined the audience in their underwear. The butterflies were threatening to fly away with my bowels. An hour before curtain we all assembled in the green room and launched into a gentle warm up, playing the sets at an easy lope. Our guitarist tried to break the ice by noisily using the toilet in the green room, and then coming out with a mile and a half of toilet paper stuck to his shoe. I drank a beer. Then another. Then someone was calling us on stage.

As we walked out into the lights and polite applause, I had images of firing squads and public stonings. When I got to my chair, I looked down to avoid tripping over the mic wires—which is when I saw the huge, blindingly white patch of rosin on my black slacks, glowing in the spotlight, perfectly highlighting my "lap." (I now know precisely where your lap goes when you stand up. :- | )

I looked up and realized what a sight that must be for the standing-room-only crowd, laughed at myself, and instantly relaxed—because I knew that no matter what goofy sounds came out of my fiddle that night, nothing was going to top this.

We opened with a ripping set of reels, and the roar of applause and hollering that followed made it easy to settle in for the ride.

I once performed in front of 40,000 people at the Philadelphia Folk Festival without a hitch, but I’ve also had panic attacks in front of a dozen people, or in totally neutral settings. Turns out there can be underlying physiological conditions that can set these off, including damage to your adrenal gland that can lead to overproduction of norepinepherine.

If nothing else helps, beta-blockers and other meds can offer relief with little or no side effects for most people.

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Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

first of all, i’d suggest reading a brilliant book called the inner game. the book deals with musicians nerves brilliantly and helpes no end.

another thing is that a clear consience helps, i.e. that you know the piece inside out that it’s just second nature. if you’re playing a reel with a difficult part in it, well, chances are its that tricky bit which is a big cause of nerves and during the set, you’ll be thinking about that one part which may take your concentration of the rest of the set thus causing more probs.

before a big gig, i like to take loads of deep breaths, jump about a bit and then get rid of all my tension in the first set because playing for me is the greatest way of blowing stress. it is, or was generally was,( before the a certain 50’s movement,) a medium which allowed a huge amount of expression and if you can express your fear, it can be easily overcome.

martin t.

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Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Oh, yeah, and I forgot to mention, one of the major breakthroughs in a performing musician’s development is learning how to play through mistakes. The trick is learning to do "course corrections" and get your playing back on track after you do bobble a note. Keeping the beat, getting back on rhythm, is an important part of this recovery process. Learning to get past mistakes makes things a lot easier, as you don’t view them as the "beginning of the end"—simply as a little glitch that may not even get noticed, which is what mistakes usually are. And remember, most people listening do not have the discriminating ear that you do—they don’t even notice a wee bobble or two.

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Mairtin - is that the book that’s adapted from the book The Inner Game of Tennis? We talked about it in one of my pedagogy classes and tried some of the techniques which were really cool.

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

great ideas, everyone, from bananas (potassium and magnesium) to humor. the book is called ‘the inner game of music’ by bass player Barry Green of cincinnati symph orch. He worked with Timothy Gallwey who wrote ‘the inner game of tennis’ . the main thesis is that there are two voices in our heads; one tells us we WILL mess up (judgemental self) and the other one, your more true self who should trust innate ability. we should let go and just play, trusting the beauty of music. he mentions how children learn to ski or anything else, they trust that they can feel what to do without reciting a teachers instructions.

but our trust in our musicality has to be real, if we really don’t know a bar in some tune, our subconsciouses will give us a hard time (the bad voice.) the work for stage fright is done WHILE YOU ARE LEARNING A TUNE. learn tunes SLOWLY and ACCURATELY and then get up on stage and let go! laugh, enjoy.

good luck!

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

yeah, thats available for music now…

The inner game of music / Barry Green with W. Timothy Gallwey
Imprint London : Pan Books, 1987

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Re: Will Harmon is Right Again

I have not played venues as big as Will, I most probably am elementary compared to his ability. But, as festivals and large halls my red headed father used to chant two things that stick in my mind. One, "no one will ever remember a botched note or even song in the morning, and they may not even remember tonight (aye to the ale), and second, and more caustic was "if they don’t like it they can leave, their will be plenty of drunks left at closing time". But, I was asked to play at a family funeral, and at a small chuch with friends and family present and literally froze with a panic attack, not once but each time. Friends and family can be the cruelest critics and they listen for every note, roll, and slur. So, find musicians that you can play with that are not that critical and have fun playing and want you to return, and forget the crowd, they won’t be together having fun at the next gig and you and your musician group will be.

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

…funny, I think of myself as more left of center…..
:o)

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Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

I’ve heard a few ideas on this subject over the years.
1. Imagine all the people listening are naked. (This doesn’t work for me).
2. Try to convince yourself all the audience are peasants and know nothing about what you are doing (this works until you see Kevin Burke in the second row)
3. Take drugs (works but a bad idea)
4. Drink (works but you find find yourself thinking you are playing better than you are)
5. Close your eyes when you play. (Very good apart from the time when you don’t see the mandolinist frantically trying to tell you the next tune is in a different key to the one planned.)
6. Prayer, meditation, hypnosis etc. All good, but practice also helps.
7.As a singer,my confidence dramatically improved when I became more confident with my technique (still trying to get there with the fiddle, so can relate to panic attacks, bow trembles etc.)
8. Do something more fightening and demanding than performing so the latter seems like a doddle afterwards.
9. etc. etc

Re: Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright

Larsheen I would 100% agree with point 7 above from Rob Millner - if you’re playing/singing beyond your comfort level you’re going to be nervous, and with reason. However, Chris Smith/coyotebanjo has a lot better words than me on this subject which are linked to discussions here - I’ll try and find them. My best advice is to just remember why you’re doing this at all - music; not note-perfect, flawless music, just the music you love. Love conquers all, as they say.

And Rob, as for No. 8 above, are you suggesting I talk to our drummer before every performance??