How to Conquer Stage Fright

Article by Carley Varley 

 People come to watch you do what you love and succeed.

Feeling overwhelmed by fear and anxiety before performing is one of the worst feelings! It is so easy to get focused on the fear of everything going wrong that you can forget lyrics to your own song. I remember when I was fifteen and I performed in front of my school (1,500) students for the first time. I was so nervous! I was told by my mum to just ‘picture everyone in their underwear’ but that really didn’t do anything for me. I think when it comes to performing, it can somehow be worse when performing in front of people you know, at least that’s how I felt. I remember freezing up, looking at everyone’s faces and thinking ‘they hate it’ before I even started.
I hope these tips today encourage you and that they help you with that horrid feeling of stage fright! It can be overcome and these tips certainly helped me over the years. I am now (at 24) a full-time musician and I perform in front of audiences on a regular basis. If you’d have told me that when I was 15, I’d have said ‘No way! I could never do that!’ It just goes to show that with practice and time anything can happen, so enjoy these tips below!

Top 5 Tips to Overcoming Stage Fright

#5 Focus On The Song

This may sound really simple but you’d be amazed at how many people focus so hard on the audience that they forget that they are there to perform a song! Try to focus your mind on each note, the lyrics, the first word of the song and you’ll find you ease into the song and it becomes easier to forget the audience is even there. I always focus on the lowest and highest notes, this helps me when I am performing. I am so hell bent on making sure the melody is sung well that I end up being in my own world. I’d recommend putting it into practice by playing songs in front of family and friends first, ask them if you look nervous, how they found your performance because family are the most honest. 

#4 Don’t Focus On What Could Go Wrong

Again, this sounds very simple but I know many musicians that are so afraid of what could go wrong during their gig/performance that it affects them whilst they are playing. I always use to say to myself ‘Oh no, this bit is so difficult, what if I can’t do it!’ Even if I’d of hit the note in practice or played the song a million times, I would be in my own head saying such negative things. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, focus on what could go right. Be positive and the rest will fall into place. Practicing helps this too because that way you feel more positive.

#3 Tell Yourself You’ve Got This

Remind yourself how much you have practiced, how much time you’ve spent perfecting your performance. This always helps my stage fright because I remind myself of the work that has gone into my performance behind the scenes. I give myself a pep talk and I tell myself that I will ace the performance and this really helps me. If I am having an off day, I message friends and ask them for encouragement, this is also a great tool because positive messages can uplift you before a show if you are nervous. Remember that you have GOT THIS.

#2 Set Routines In Place Before A Performance

I now have a ritual that I follow strictly before every gig and it has helped heaps with my handling of stage fright. Before a gig I fill up my water bottle, make sure I have my capo/picks, do a 20-30 minute vocal warm up and give myself a pep talk. Setting these steps in place will train your brain to know that you are going to perform and that if you complete these little tasks, then the final goal of performing will be easier. You can even do something as simple as writing out your set list and putting it next to your microphone or calling a family member before the gig for good luck. It can be anything you feel will calm your nerves and make you feel better prepared

#1 Remind Yourself That People Are For You

One thing I always forget is that people LOVE music, especially new music! People don’t come to watch you to see you fail, they come to watch you do what you love and succeed. I often feel daunted when I look in the crowd and see stern or straight faces blankly looking back at me but often after I have finished my set these people come up to me and say ‘That was amazing!’ Don’t psych yourself up to think that people don’t like your music or don’t want to hear it because it isn’t true. If you are good at what you do then people will want to see you! This comes with time and practice but also with perfecting your image and sound. I am still telling myself this now even after 2 years of being in music full-time. It does take time but you’ll get there and your stage fright will slowly ease away the more you do.
Article by Carley Varley
cover image: Elijah Ekdahl

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