Combating Stage Fright for Musicians

Published on 29 March 2024 at 11:33

 

 

You are about to go on stage and have arrived at the moment of truth. Your heart is beating fast, and through the cracks of the curtain, you see people sitting in the audience. They all look calm, collected, and comfortable, waiting for the performance to begin. And here you are, nervous and anxious, ready to jump on stage so that you can start playing. There is only one chance to play and play right. And you know that very well. You wish there were a magic formula to combat nervousness, but here you are with what you have now. 

I used to experience this funny feeling before going on stage, as if I feared that the sound of my cello would not come out once I got up there. And once I started, and everything began happening like it usually does, I relaxed and continued playing.

Some performers can remain calm and collected until the last minute, while others may start nervously and then calm down on stage after the concert begins. 

Therefore, let's examine why a musician would experience stage fright before performing.

Preparation level and not warming up properly (insufficient time or place, technical issues, and a late accompanist), not having played on stage for a while, being a returning musician, and personality type (varies from person to person)—everyone dealing with the performing experience differently might be some of the reasons that performers experience stage fright. 

When I was to play for my final recital at the university, two days before the recital, I experienced this paralyzing pain in my right hand. My accompanist and I were rehearsing on stage when that happened. I immediately called my teacher, who instructed me to stop playing and go to his studio. I rushed there, and he observed my hand and told me not to play for two days. At my concert, this experience alone made me nervous because, for all I knew, my hand could collapse on stage, and I would need to stop playing. Luckily, nothing happened, and I performed very well in my recital. 

We must consider several ways to combat stage fright and aspects when performing a concert. 

 

  • Teachers and family members can significantly support and encourage performers before concerts.  
  • The emotional factor that goes into playing should be taken into consideration. Preparedness does not necessarily refer to the preparation of your repertoire. Of course, we should prepare our performance pieces to the best of our ability that is a given, but we should take our practice sessions far beyond technical issues and musical concerns. 
  • We can acquire a mental picture and image of what and how we want to communicate a particular piece to our audience. What do we want to impart to our audience? The latter depends on our repertoire, but determining our performance goals can aid us. 
  • Self-reflection on past performances is essential as we make mental notes on the elements that were not to our satisfaction and find solutions for these issues to resolve them in our practice time.
  • Frequency is another helpful aspect in combating stage fright. That is the frequency of performances. A performer should increase the frequency of stage presence to lessen the anxiety felt on stage and build confidence. Frequently playing to an audience several times has been beneficial in getting rid of tension and nervousness. Should this not be possible, it would be wise for the performer to create as many opportunities as possible to perform for family and friends before the main event/performance. I remember playing my entire concert program at a church a week before my performance. I did my best to resolve any issues I had that night and reoriented myself to my goals during the week that followed. 
  • It is also crucial to remember to breathe calmly right before the performance. Everyone is different. Some people talk to distract themselves from the situation, while others like to go to a quiet place and turn within.  

Next time you have a performance, prepare well physically, mentally, and emotionally. Play for your family and friends and create opportunities in your community. To balance out your hard work, find time to relax and rest so that when you go on stage, it is not so much about nervousness, shaky hands, or an inability to breathe as about enjoying playing music for your audience. 

How do you deal with performing and stage fright? Please comment below. 

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