Thinking about stopping by an open mic night, or hitting the stage for karaoke? Performing in front of others is a fantastic way to boost your confidence and meet other musicians in the area – but it can also be pretty scary if you’re a newbie! Luckily, learning how to overcome stage fright is easy when you focus on the right things. Read on to learn more about how open mic nights work, how to prepare for your first performance, and how to overcome your stage fright:
How Do Open Mic Nights Work?
Every venue is different, so you may want to contact the owner or host to make sure you’re prepared (check their website or social media sites for contact information). Some venues run on a first-come, first-served line-up – simply show up, and ask the host where to sign in. Others may require you to submit your name prior to the event, or might go by a lottery system if there’s a large turnout. Keep in mind that most places will also have a time or song limit – for example, two songs maximum, or a 10-minute timeslot.
You might also want to find out beforehand what kind of set-up the venue has. Do they have backup instrumentalists or a full band to accompany performers? Should you bring your own equipment, or will there be amps and other gear provided? Should you be prepared to play an all-acoustic set? If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to the host before the event, there’s nothing wrong with attending just to watch, to get a feel for the environment and the crowd. You might even find the inspiration you need to join in on the fun!
Tips for Surviving Your First Open Mic
- Prepare your piece. While some performers prefer to improv on stage, as a beginner you may feel more comfortable if you pick out the piece you’re going to play in advance. Consider giving a mock performance in front of your family or close friends, if you want extra practice in front of others.
- Invite your friends! Sometimes, all you need is your best supporters cheering you on from the front row to give you a confidence boost. If you get nervous, looking at a friendly face can help. On the other hand, other performers might feel even more nervous around people they know. Figure out what works for you.
- Don’t forget to warm up. Open mics may feel pretty relaxed, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on your warm-up – especially if you’re a singer. Step outside and tune your guitar, run through some scales, do some vocal warm-ups, or whatever you need to do to prepare.
- Get settled. If it’s your first time performing, or you’re feeling particularly nervous, you may want to show up a bit early, so you have time to settle in and relax before you’re called on stage. Review your piece in your head if that helps you, but don’t work yourself up!
- Use visualization strategies. The mind is a powerful thing, and often just visualizing yourself having a great performance can do wonders for your self-esteem! As you practice leading up to your performance, visualize hitting each and every note. Picture the audience loving what you do. Think about your sheet music in your head, and get your fingers used to the movement on your instrument. When your mind and your fingers are working together, your piece will feel like second nature.
- Appreciate your audience. During your performance, think of the crowd as your allies. Remember, there will most likely be other people attending the open mic for the first time, who may be just as nervous as you! And the rest of the crowd? They’ve all been in your shoes once before!
- Ignore your inner critic, and stay calm. When you’re particularly nervous, the negative voices in your head may seem extra loud. Check out this helpful advice from teacher Victoria W. to combat the feeling. Did you make a mistake, or forget the words to what you were singing? It happens to the best of us, even professionals – so don’t sweat. Do what you can, stay calm, and most likely the audience won’t even notice.
- And the most important advice of all: Relax, and have fun! The whole point of open mic nights are to provide positive and welcoming environments for performers of all levels to show off their skills. This is your opportunity to shine – make the most of it!
- Suzy S., TakeLessons staff member and blogger
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