Who struggles from stage fright? When I was first starting to play, I found myself locking up before every performance. Not only did my stage presence suffer, but my playing suffered too! After years of performing across the country, I find myself doing the same 3 things before every performance.
1. Practice In Worse Conditions Than I Play.
Touring in a heavy music band, we often played bars and clubs with terrible sound and almost no light. I started practicing before tours by playing with my eyes closed while jumping in circles. I looked crazy, but it helped me feel comfortable knowing I could play my songs no matter what happened on stage.
2. Visualize My Performance Before I Play.
Before every gig, I go through the music, whether it's a call list of 75 tunes for a wedding or a musical book, and visualize myself playing each song. I close my eyes and watch myself perform each song and think of alternative ways to play a difficult part. By "playing" the set in my head, I can work out all the kinks before I play my first note.
This is going to sound simple and easy, but I often find myself holding my breath when I get to a challenging part of a song. For singer/songwriters, you may find that you're singing over your planned breathing points and then struggling to catch up. By focusing on breathing during a performance, before performances, and while practicing, you can help shake the jitters while on stage.
What do YOU find to help your stage fright?!
It is kind of like the old question, "how do you get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice. Practice. Practice" :)
Brad & Tom offered great thoughts. Breathing & Meditation. When I am preparing for a performance I always take time to sit in quiet, calm my breathing, meditate, at home or at the venue ~ I need to be in "my place,"
The more comfortable you are when you step on stage the easier it will be to ease stage fright. You have to keep doing it. Keep getting out there and go easy on yourself, start simple. Be prepared. Open mics are a great way to practice and gain confidence. Pick a few uncomplicated songs and learn them well so eventually you relax and are not stressed over the playing part of the performance. A comfortable, supportive venue is helpful, Remember, we are often our own worse critics and the audience is generally there to cheer you on. .. and be a part of RISA :)
All good suggestions, Brad. I offer a few more thoughts...
When I practice, I also rehearse my song introductions. Good between song patter can add a lot to a program, and to the comfort of an audience... and when an audience is comfortable, I'm comfortable.
My memory is not what it used to be. This is probably related to my age, but may also be the challenges of writing so many songs that I can't have them all inside my head at once (several hundred at the moment). Occasional memory lapses have increased my performance anxiety. I do run through my setlist earlier in the day (hours before my performance) to make sure the songs are fresh in my mind. But I have abandoned the requirement to not use a music stand. These days, I have my lyrics unobtrusively nearby on stage where I can refer to them if needed. Usually just having them nearby is enough to relax me so I never need to look at them. To my thinking, it is far better to glance at my lyrics than to suffer the embarrassment of having to stop a song partway through. If I am embarrassed, then my audience is uncomfortable, which of course increases my performance anxiety.
Before high-profile shows, I like to meditate and do some stretching and simple yoga. I used to frantically run through songs just before going on stage, but I have learned that I can't improve my performance by "practicing" at the last minute before going on stage. I try to do whatever I can to relax, which allows me to perform at my best. One of my best performances was a time when a back stage friend gave me a back massage shortly before taking the stage.
I also try to make my music the focus, rather than a concern for what will make me look good. When I ask myself "what is the best way to make this song really stand out and communicate?" I tend to avoid that voice that says "Don't suck! Don't suck!"
Finally, I am a strong proponent of open mikes. I go to at least one each week. They are a great way to increase my confidence on stage, and my confidence with a new song that I am trying to refine. RISA offers numerous performance opportunities in a warm supporting environment.
Now get out there and make music!