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Music performance anxiety is a totally natural feeling that every musician will probably experience at some point in their career. Maybe it’s your first ever gig or you’ve got the opportunity to perform for a really large crowd. Although live performances are exciting opportunities, dealing with anxiety can be totally draining and fill you will self-doubt.
Many musicians who experience performance anxiety are overly critical of themselves and even struggle with imposter syndrome. The feelings of not being good enough or anticipating failure, are all too common.
When I get hit with music performance anxiety, my heart starts pounding so hard I can feel it in my ears. Not to mention excessive sweating, shaky legs, and – my least favourite – a nervous stomach. Combine these physical ailments with the overwhelming mental strain and you’ve got a recipe for potential disaster.
Musical performance anxiety should never get in the way you accomplishing your goals. If left unchecked, it can seriously hinder your growth as an artist. Thankfully, since it’s something a lot of people deal with, there’s lots of advice for overcoming your performance anxiety.
Keep reading for awesome tips on controlling anxiety and turning nerves into positive energy.
The sweating and shakiness you get thinking about an upcoming performance or even throughout a performance are normal. Yes, they are undoubtedly annoying to deal with, but your body is doing what it’s supposed to in that situation. Once you accept this fact, you can move on and focus your attention on more important things. Dwelling will likely only heighten your symptoms, so simply acknowledge them and move on.
It’s normal to have high standards for yourself as an artist. It’s a good thing! At the same time, it helps to put things in perspective from the audience’s point of view. Say there’s a rhythmic section in your music that’s particularly tricky. Sometimes you nail it and other times you know it could have been better, but members of the audience really aren’t aware of this.
In my experience, I’ve come away from performances disappointed in myself only to receive an abundance of praise from listeners. Being able to play an instrument, read music or carry a tune is already enough to impress most people. Plus, they’re not critics. Although it may feel that way sometimes, they aren’t there to nitpick and point out your flaws. People just want to have a good time with their friends and experience that live performance atmosphere.
Maybe it’s just me, but I actually appreciate the little imperfections and seeing how musicians handle them.
Breathing is pretty much the universal standard of advice for calming nerves. The reason being that it gives you something to focus on and helps you feel more in control of your body. Before a performance, take some time to do breathing exercises and even a bit of light stretching.
Even better, make this a part of your everyday practice routine. It’s good to be in the habit of doing these exercises prior to a performance. This way you can frame it as a part of your normal routine rather than a response to your performance anxiety.
Lack of preparation should never factor into a musical performance not going well. Sometimes, music performance anxiety can put us in the mindset of “This performance will go badly, so why put in the effort.” Makes absolutely no sense! Plus, as your performance nears imminently closer, deep regret begins to set in. So when you get that urge to self-sabotage or procrastinate, think about all the time you’ve spent promoting your music to get here.
Of course, other problems that are out of your control can arise. Technical issues are pretty commonplace in the world of live music performance. Get to your location early, address any unexpected problems, and still have time to relax and loosen up. Besides, just being early to familiarize yourself with the environment and the people you’ll be working with can help you feel more at ease.
It may seem like you’re trying to trick your brain but, truthfully, you are excited! This is something you’ve worked for that you want to experience. Your nerves are just taking up too much of the spotlight. Put them in their rightful place by focusing more on the excitement. For example, saying “I’m really excited” instead of “I’m really nervous” can make a big difference. Physically, the feeling you get when you’re excited isn’t all that different from how you feel when you’re nervous. The mindset is what makes the biggest difference so shift it in a more positive direction.
The more you do something, the more confident you will feel. Don’t ever shy away from a performance because it gives you an opportunity to learn and grow, even the not so great ones.
Typically, you are your own worst critic, but bad performances do happen. Sometimes, we need to check our ego and accept that we make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world, even if it feels devastating at the time.
There are plenty of other tips for dealing with music performance anxiety. If none of these speaks to you, don’t give up! You will find one that helps put your mind at ease. Try a couple out and ask other musicians what work for them. Soon, performing in front of huge crowds will be second nature!
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Nia is a classically-trained musician with nearly ten years of professional experience. She studied music performance for one year at Georgia Southern University before ultimately pursuing a degree in public relations. Combining her passion for music and knowledge of media relations practices, Nia aims to provide musicians with the know-how to become successful in the music industry. Stay tuned!