As a musician, you’ve probably heard of or experienced stage fright. That anxiety of being in front of an audience – dry mouth, cold and clammy hands, heart pounding in your chest, sweat dripping down your spine, and your mind racing with doubts and fear – is something that doesn’t go away with age, skill, or years of experience.
Stage fright can (and does) happen to anyone, even the most professional performers. However, this doesn’t mean you must try to fight it. In fact, having some degree of anxiety is good. If you feel absolutely nothing on stage, your audience is probably going to get a dull, uninspired, and forgettable performance.
Instead of suffering from over- or under-anxiety and letting your nerves get the best of you, let’s turn the tables around. Here are 5 different ways you can practise to better manage and control your adrenaline and ultimately, enhance your stage presence.
1. Practise. Then practise some more.
Regular practise creates familiarity. Familiarity brings comfort. When you know your set list by heart – which can only come from countless hours of practising – you’ll gain the confidence that will enable you to perform expressively. You’ll feel more comfortable and creative. You’ll also learn to recover from musical mistakes in the best way possible.
Get involved in a nurturing environment with a supportive audience who can provide a safe, non-judgmental setting where you can experiment freely and perform fearlessly. Join Toastmasters or a local improv group. Remember to keep your practice performances realistically concert-like – you should perform complete sets and the audience should applaud afterward.
If this is your first time performing on stage, start with low-stress public shows where the stakes are low, such as in coffee shops, at house parties, and in churches. Take small steps to gradually build your confidence and musical prowess.
2. Watch yourself.
It’s a good idea to practise in private, such as in front of a mirror or in a quiet room with your cat, as long as you can watch yourself perform. Likewise, record your performances and analyze your onstage movements.
How honestly you evaluate your work during this time is critical to your progress. Be objective and forgiving: treat your temporary setbacks as areas for improvement, not as personal shortcomings.
3. Learn from the best.
Watch your idols. Observe top performers to decide what it is about the way they perform (e.g. their movements, body language, how they interact with the audience and other band members) that you enjoy. Watch how they do it.
This is taking inspiration, not copying. You should still remain true to your own style. Watching musicians with great stage presence will inspire and help you develop your own onstage persona.
4. Make eye contact.
Don’t be a zombie up there! Connect with your audience. Good stage presence is about communicating well with the crowd. Look them in the eye and show your emotion.
Even showing nervous emotion is better than no emotion. Connecting with your audience will help you take control of your nerves. Believe in your music and your audience will, too.
5. Work on your breathing.
It’s a good idea to practise different breathing exercises so you can better control your breath whenever you’re nervous. Consider trying yoga or pilates.
Focus on the pace of your breathing and be conscious of it when you’re on stage. Learn how to slow it down. Otherwise, the adrenaline will kick in and you’ll find yourself talking or playing so fast that no one can understand or enjoy the performance.
Being onstage should be a fun experience where you can have a good time while learning from your mistakes. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Getting better at any skill requires time and effort, so it’s important to work your way up one step at a time.
How do you fight performance anxiety?
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