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How to overcome the fear of performing music on stage

Updated on May 28, 2013

I have been playing the drums for about 13 years and for 10 of those I have been performing in front of live audiences. I love playing live and sharing my music with the audience. It’s a magical feeling when people appreciate your music and cheer for you. But for me, it wasn’t always so great. The first time I ever performed, I remember being scared out of my mind. My hands were shivering and the constant gulps of cold water didn’t help me much. The show went fine, but I still had that fear whenever I got up on stage. I didn’t have much of a stage presence until I taught myself how to break out of my shell. Once I stepped out of that barrier my performance got way lot better and people started to appreciate my music a lot.

So, how do you step out of your fear barrier?

PRACTICE

I’m sure most of you know practice is crucial. You should be sure of what you are going to play. More practice will give you more confidence and it will help you bring out a better stage presence. There is no easy way to this. You need to put in the time and work in your music until you can play it at any given time.

WATCH AND LEARN

When I started playing live, I used to watch videos of live performances of my musical heroes. I observed them carefully on how they carried themselves on stage. It’s like they just let the music flow through them when they play. Everyone in the audience was somehow connected with the music. If they ever made a mistake while playing, they carried it out so well that no one in the audience would realize they made a mistake. By watching great live performances you can learn a lot.

Legendary Queen Live in London Back in 1985.

COMMUNICATION

If you play with a band, communication is very important. I always keep an eye on my band members for any changes or guidance. It keeps your performance more coordinated and in touch with every musician on stage. If ever a mistake happens on stage, your band members will guide you through it. It gives you more confidence and peace of mind when you know that your band has got your back.

Mayer at his best. An example of good communication.

KEEP YOUR MIND CLEAR

One big problem I faced was caring too much on what people thought of me. I thought if I messed up, I would look like an idiot in front of so many people. This thought process made me more cautious and rigid. There was no excitement or a wow factor in the music I performed. But, I thought I was fine playing rigid and by the book. That was until I understood the importance of stage presence. Long time back, a few years after I started performing, I had to go up on stage to play a new type of music that I wasn’t very familiar with. Once I got up on stage, the lights on stage were so bright that I couldn’t see the audience. It was like the room was empty. It felt like it was just me and the band just playing for ourselves. Suddenly my fear went away and I felt more confident. We killed it that night on stage. I was so relaxed that I started moving and really feeling the music I played. That was the first time I felt a stand up ovation. It was one of the best things I experienced in my life.

BREAKING THE BARRIER

After I understood that stage presence was crucial to performing live, I started to work on it. At first I still had trouble. I just couldn’t do it when I could see people watching me. I caught myself wishing the lights were brighter on stage so I won’t have to look at the audience. After a few weeks, I was asked to represent my school for an inter-school music festival. This was my first ever musical competition. I was excited but once I reached the venue my excitement turned to fear. The judges for the competition were a famous local band that i was a huge fan of. I really didn’t want to make myself look like an idiot in front of them.My band got the last slot to play which gave us the opportunity to watch my competition and see where we stood. The bands that played were amazing and I thought we had no shot in hell of winning this competition. I went up on stage and I remember the night I broke loose and the amazing response from the audience. I knew that was the only way to increase our chances of winning the competition. I spoke to the band and we all promised to step out of our barriers. We went up on stage and started playing. I was scared at first and then I just thought to myself, “screw it, I don’t really have anything to lose “and I went for it. It was awesome. The band was off the hook, especially the lead guitarist and the vocalist. They killed it. We ended up winning the competition and even got to have a small jamming session with the judges. It was a great day and I knew I the power of breaking out of the fear. I never went back after that and whenever I feel that fear coming back, I just let my mind relax and I go for it.

EXPERIENCE IS KNOWLEDGE

Conquering your fear won’t happen in a flash. It’s a hard challenge. Take all the opportunities you can get to perform in front of an audience. Never turn it down. The more you play, the more confident you become, simple as that. If someone asks you mash out a solo on the spot, I say go for it. Even if you think you’re going to screw up, just do it. Learn from people you know who have more experience than you. Talk to them. Take their advice. It will be very useful to you.

I hope this article helps you to get over your fear. But whatever happens, never give up your music. It’s a gift you need to cherish and share for the rest of your life.

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    • profile image

      Jimmy 

      4 years ago

      This article is great.

      I agree that stage fear has to do with the fear of failure.

      That is great that you did so good.

      I got to work on my own fears.

    • Vacation Trip profile image

      Susan 

      5 years ago from India

      Useful article, i enjoyed reading. Thank you.

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