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Most musicians have to deal with performance anxiety sooner or later in one way or another.
There are professional musicians who struggle with it each and every single performance and others who overcome it quickly.
I also was not immune to the fear of playing in front of people. I remember one of my first gigs when I smoked 2 pack of cigarettes before going on stage.
The nervousness was unbearable, but the strange thing was when I got on stage and started playing I was so focused that the anxiety fell away. All that was left was pure excitement.
Once I started playing gigs every week it was no more an issue. I learned that doing more of the same thing takes away the fear.
But then “change” can come along, new things happening, unexpected situations, bigger stages, different people, larger crowds and you have to deal with the uneasiness all over again and that’s a pain in the #ss.
Still, when you’re aware of a few simple rules and take the necessary steps the nervousness becomes tolerant and will eventually disappear completely. A big part of the salvation lies in your own hands and is easy to attain.
Fear simply comes from worrying about the future, the unknown, thinking about what might happen, going through all the ‘what if’ scenarios and torturing yourself with what others might think.
They are all scenarios that arent’ there, cause you’re here now and those situations aren’t. They only live in your mind.
And yes that’s the theory, you still have to deal with it or better said ‘let go of it’.
Well, here are the keys to help you out and truly enjoy the entire experience of your performance.
Be in the moment
Whenever the voices creep in your head on stage and you start worrying about the audience, let them go, concentrate and focus on your playing, enjoy your playing, immerse yourself into your playing, feel the excitement of the music and be in that moment totally.
If your mind slips into some unpleasant thought just visualize that thought as a cloud, let the cloud pass you by and gently move your focus back to your guitar playing and the pleasure of it. If it comes back, just let it pass by again and again. Eventually it will give up.
You can also close your eyes for a few moments to eliminate the distraction of the audience and to really get into your music.
Break the rules
A lot of musicians act a certain way on stage, because people might have an expectation of their behavior and presentation on stage. This can be suffocating. Catch people off guard and do the opposite. Be different. Break the rules and think outside of the box. Be free and let go of formulas, procedures, rituals and recipes. Be yourself!
Prepare yourself as much as you can. Memorize your lyrics in any possible way until you are sure there is almost no way you can fail. If necessary, print your lyrics with big letters and stick it to the stage floor.
Learn your chord progressions, riffs and guitar solos inside out. Practice the intro, verses, chorus, bridge, solo and outro separately and practice the whole song from beginning to end without faltering again, again and again.
Practice your performance from the moment you walk onto the stage (or the place you will be performing) until you leave the stage. Practice and memorize what you want to say to the audience, how you’re gonna introduce yourself. Just a few words is enough. Thank them for coming and tell them what you’re gonna play.
Before your actual performance first play your song or repertoire for a friend, a relative or just someone you know. Everything you practice and prepare thoroughly will build your confidence on stage and take away your feeling of uncertainty.
Solid preparation builds confidence and takes away most of the anxiety.
Love the audience
Don’t see the audience as people who are there to criticize you. No way! The audience is there to enjoy your music, to have a good time. And you are living their dream. The dream to perform on stage. Don’t see the audience as your enemy but see them as your friends with who you want to have a good time. Smile to them, talk to them and appreciate them.
Let go of your ego
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Lighten up and be relaxed. Accept you are imperfect. You’re ego wants you to be perfect but screw your ego and be the relaxed dude or dudette who doesn’t care to make a mistake and just wants to play the song, enjoy it and share it with others. Don’t play to impress, play to have fun!
Love your fear and it cannot hold you, push it away and it owns you. ~ Unknown
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