Written by Ayana Webb
I have a lot of musician friends who have absolutely no problem with this, since performing gigs is what they do on a regular basis, but if you’re anything like me, you could be exploring live performance as a totally new field, outside of another occupation that has nothing to do with musical performance, such as teaching or producing. There’s nothing fun about dealing with stage fright, especially for first timers. I’ve compiled a small list of techniques that can help deal with nervousness and help you prepare for your first live set:
Record Yourself at Home: Stage fright is inevitable, so the idea isn’t to eliminate or ignore it, but to learn how to work under pressure. When I was hired to perform a wedding gig last summer, I tried the recording technique, not to eliminate the nervousness, but to induce it (for me, recording myself makes me feel like someone is “watching” me). It allowed me to see where I really was with my confidence in what I was playing, and I could foresee exactly how I would operate once the big day arrived. It sounds funny, but it worked for me. You’ll instantly know what songs or pieces might fall apart during the real performance, so you know what to work on.
Have Family/Friends as an Audience: This could be a great warm up to performing in front of strangers. Family and friends are a more familiar audience and you’ll get a more comfortable taste of what it’s like to prepare a piece in front of people.
Do a Facebook Live Performance: Here’s an extension of the “have family/friends as an audience” technique. The other great thing about doing a Facebook live performance is you don’t have to “arrange” to get family and friends together. You can go live whenever you feel like it, and people can log in to see your performance either during the live stream or after the stream is over.
Dress Rehearsal Right Before the Performance (if possible): Whenever I put on a recital for my younger students, I keep in mind my first-time performers who suffer from severe stage fright. So, what I do is arrange for a dress rehearsal an hour before the performance. Not only does it get them acclimated to the piano at the venue, but even better, all of the parents are already there, so they get to “rehearse” their piece in front of everyone in a more informal way before the actual ceremony. According to their own feedback, it’s helped them get all the butterflies out the way the first time around, because when they play their piece “for real”, it feels like they’re just doing it a second time. If you ever arrive at a venue before your performance time and have the opportunity to work your instrument before it’s time to perform, definitely take the opportunity to do it.
Just, Perform: As many tips as I can give you to reduce the nervousness of performing, the one most effective way to deal with stage fright is to go through with the performance. What causes nervousness most of the time, is the “unknown” and feeling some lack of control over what could happen if you make a mistake. Our mind tricks us into thinking that the world will end if things go terribly wrong and we will “die”, and to prepare for the worst. But, once you go through the actual experience of performing, your mind will replace it’s speculations with the actual real-time experience, which usually ends with, “wait……. I didn’t die? This wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought!” Then when you perform a second time, you know what to expect. Each time you perform and log in those experiences, you get a more realistic (and more relaxing) perspective on live performance.