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how to overcome stage fright

The Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright

The Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright

Stage performance is a challenging art form. Whether you’re acting out a role in a musical theatre setting, giving a speech in front of a crowd, or even playing a solo at an open mic night, the experience can be nerve-wracking even for seasoned performers.

It can be even more anxiety-inducing if you’re a perfectionist, as that can breed a fear of failure… and from there, performance anxiety can feel even stronger.

Performance anxiety (commonly referred to as stage fright) can devastate a performer’s career and enjoyment of their craft, but it doesn’t have to — performance anxiety is a normal human reaction and a completely curable condition if given the right resources, patience, and support system. This article is a guide to learning how to overcome stage fright, for anyone who may experience it — musicians, actors, dancers, speakers, educators, and students. If you wish to understand and improve anxiety issues that are holding you back from giving your best performances, read on!

What is Stage Fright?

Let’s start with anxiety, which is defined as a feeling or worry, nervousness, or unease about an upcoming event. Most people have experienced some level of anxiety before, during, or after a performance, speech, sports game, or test. Anxiety differs from fear in that fear addresses a present threat, while anxiety is typically felt in relation to something in the future. Anxiety is a normal, healthy human experience and, in small doses, is beneficial in making decisions and in achieving peak success.

Performance anxiety (stage fright) in particular is nervousness or unease about a specific future event in which you will be required to execute a task, such as a song, a scene, speech, or test — and usually when you’ll be in front of an audience. Symptoms may be present during the task, for weeks or months leading up to it, and sometimes after the event is over.

So, how do you get over stage fright? Even most experienced performers feel anxiety, so it’s more a process of learning how to deal with stage fright. Here are the steps I recommend.

dealing with stage fright - step 1

Knowing if you are truly experiencing anxiety is critically important, as it’s the first step toward understanding and overcoming it. If you have experienced a few or many of the following symptoms before or during a performance situation, you are experiencing stage fright:

  • Excessive sweating (typically in the palms, feet, armpits or face, but could be anywhere)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chills, hot flashes, or sudden changes in body temperature
  • Shallow breathing, tightness in the chest, or hyperventilation
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Racing thoughts, obsessive fear of failure during the task
  • Inability to concentrate or process logical information
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent urge to use the bathroom
  • Inability to make small talk or hold a basic conversation
  • Shakiness, especially in the hands
  • Sensitivity lights, sounds, or textures in the environment

As you can see, this list of sensations is not only unpleasant, but makes performing at your best nearly impossible. Fear of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Journal Activity 2 (3)

  • Look at the list of anxiety symptoms, and make a mental checkmark next to the ones that you have felt during performance situations.
  • Note when it happened, how often, and any other details you remember. Are your symptoms limited to a specific few, or all of them? Are there symptoms you’d like to solve first as a priority, before others?

Now go back next to each symptom that you’ve checked, and rate it on scale of 1-10 as to how severe it felt (1 being hardly felt it, 10 being you felt it so much you couldn’t concentrate on anything else).

If you are seeing numbers in the 1-4 range, it’s likely that you are experiencing normal, healthy jitters that can actually add to your performance by making you more focused. If you are seeing numbers in the 5-10 range, you are experiencing moderate to severe stage fright and should read on to discover strategies for improvement.

dealing with stage fright - step 2

Before you can properly map a route to overcome stage fright, it’s important to know where you’ve been — and what has caused stage fright in the past. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you are experiencing stage fright, how they might contribute to your present challenges, and how you can utilize them most effectively.

Start by asking yourself some questions about your performing career, starting from the very, very beginning, which might include childhood memories or more recent situations depending on your age.

Journal Activity 2 (3)

  1. Recall the first time you performed for an audience, formally. Who was there? What thoughts and feelings do you remember? Were you happy with the outcome of the performance? Was it a positive or negative experience, was it stressful or relaxed?
  2. Recall the first time you performed and experienced anxiety (if different from above). What were the circumstances? Who was there? Did you practice or prepare, and how much? If different from #1, what do you think sparked anxiety if there were previous performances that didn’t?
  3. Recall the next few times that you performed, after #2 above. Ask yourself the same questions and look for patterns.
  4. Recall the 2-3 most recent times you performed. How recent was it? Have you purposely avoided performing in recent circumstances due to fear? Were you with a large group, small ensemble or solo? Were there any post-performance experiences worth noting?
  5. From the above questions, look for patterns. Are there any pivotal events that dramatically changed the course of your performance history? Are there any key people, venues, or pieces that contributed to where you’re at today?

dealing with stage fright - step 3

The next step is re-contextualizing key anxiety triggers so that they don’t continue causing problems. Most people can identify one or two key incidents that left a large impact on their self-esteem.

Maybe it was a teacher giving an aggressive critique, a family member telling you not to quit your day job, or a performance in which you froze on stage and ran off crying.

At the time you may not have realized the impact of this key event, but in hindsight you can see that it has undermined your confidence and affected your ability to perform ever since.

Journal Activity 2 (3)

The mind is powerful and can distort memories, making them seem bigger and nastier than they really were in real life. As far as exercises that can help you deal with stage fright, this is a great one to try. Pick one of your key incidents that is particularly painful or memorable and jot a few notes about it to the facts:

What venue were you performing in?
What piece were you performing or practicing?
Who was watching?
What feedback were you given, either verbal or non-verbal?
How did you react? Did you shout, cry, freeze up, or laugh it off?
If you responded verbally, what did you say?
What did you do after the event?

Re-Contextualizing the Event

Now let’s bring some imagination to it: sometimes taking the gravity out of a memory and bringing it into a lighter, if not humorous, context can be extremely healing. By re-contextualizing this event, you are not dismissing it or minimizing its impact, but re-framing it in a more positive, lighthearted perspective. By giving your brain a new way to interpret it, you will begin to move past it and no longer allow it to block your present performance opportunities. Jot a few notes in response to the following:

If you could go back and re-live this event, what would you do differently?
Is there anything positive that has come out of the negative memory?

dealing with stage fright - step 4

We’ve spent the preceding sections of this guide processing your past. Now it’s time to move into the present and start thinking about what you can do now, and in the near future, to overcome stage fright.

There is no magic formula, unfortunately; you must expose yourself – you must perform, perform, perform, and this is known as exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a fancy name for the common-sense approach known as “facing your fears,” a technique commonly used by psychiatric doctors to treat phobias of all kinds. However, there is an art to exposing yourself to your fears, and it should be done in careful, small, planned doses that gradually lead up to a major milestone.

Create an Exposure Ladder

Exposure ladders are a technique used widely by the medical psychiatric community to treat generalized anxiety, panic disorders, and phobias of all types.

An exposure ladder is a list of activities that lead you gradually to a big goal (such as performing on your city’s biggest stage, for example), with activities ranked from least to most anxiety-provoking. An individual will work up the steps of the ladder, moving on to the next step only after mastering exposure to the current step with little or no anxiety.

You’ll need to create your own customized exposure ladder, starting with #1, which is your first, tiny little step toward performing — something that you could handle right now, today, with little or no anxiety symptoms. Then you’ll move on to #2, and so on, gradually making steps more anxiety provoking as you go, until you’ve reached a final step which is your final performing goal. You can make your final step as big or small as you want, just be honest with your true performing goals.

One precaution: be careful not to create too big of a jump between steps on the exposure ladder. You can repeat a step as many times as needed, in order to master that level with little to no anxiety. Depending on how often you are working on the steps, it might take months or years until you feel you’ve mastered a step, and that’s just fine. Study the example below to help you brainstorm ideas for your own ladder.

Example Exposure Ladder

1. Imagine yourself performing.
2. Perform alone.
3. Record yourself performing a scene or song and watch it without critique.
4. Perform for a supportive partner or friend.
5. Perform a duet or ensemble in front of family or friends at an informal gathering.
6. Perform solo in front of family or friends at an informal gathering.
7. Perform a duet or ensemble at a venue that is higher caliber, like a talent show for your class at school, a neighborhood barbeque, or karaoke at a bar.
8. Perform solo within the same circumstances in #7.
9. Perform with a semi-professional ensemble, such as an audition-only community chorus or community theatre.
10. Arrange an opportunity to perform solo for your peers or an audience, within the group you’ve identified in #9.
11. Enter a competition.
12. Continue finding opportunities similar to #11 with gradually higher caliber venues (or even paying gigs!).

dealing with stage fright - step 5

Once you start working the steps on your exposure ladder, there are going to be successes, and also setbacks. It’s important to arm yourself with relaxation techniques so that when setbacks occur, you have a strategy in place to deal with them in a healthy way. Try these:

Meditation

Find a quiet space, sit or lay in a position that is comfortable enough to sustain for 10 minutes minimum, close your eyes, and stop thinking. It’s as simple as that; meditation is simply a state of thoughtlessness. Your mind will wander, and when it does, just bring it back to a blank space. If you can commit to meditation as a daily practice for 10-20 minutes, over time you will be able to push aside thoughts that distract you during performances, including anxious thoughts.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Find a quiet space and lay down with your arms naturally at your sides and legs fully extended. Close your eyes. Prepare with three slow, deep breaths. As much as possible, focus all of your attention on the task at hand; don’t let your mind wander. Tense your forehead muscle, holding it as tight as you can for about five seconds. As you do this, inhale and hold the breath while the muscle is tense, and then exhale and breathe normally as you let the muscle relax. Enjoy the relaxed position for about five seconds.

Repeat the above process with the following muscle groups: your face/cheek muscles, neck muscles, shoulders (pull them up and tight), back muscles (pull your shoulder blades back and in), abs/stomach muscles, arms and hands (make a fist while you do this and tense it all the way down to the fingers), glutes, thighs, calves, and then finally feet.

dealing with stage fright - step 6

Acceptance is a final and critical step in learning how to overcome stage fright, as resistance will only make a problem grow stronger. It’s important that you stop criticizing or judging yourself for having fears or challenges on stage, as it is one of the most common types of anxiety, and you are definitely not alone!

Acceptance is not declaring that stage fright is “just a problem you have” and that you’ll have to deal with it for the rest of your life. Acceptance is realizing you have some uncomfortable symptoms that are occurring and allowing the process of change to unfold, even if the process is difficult. Acceptance is allowing setbacks to happen, refraining from self-criticism when they do, and celebrating the small successes along the way.

Conclusion

Public speaking and performances of all types continue to be the number one fear of most adults. By reading this article, you have embarked on a journey that very few are brave enough to take – congratulations are due just for starting!

Your reading has given you initial tools for understanding what stage fright is, how you experience it personally, how your past is affecting your present, and beginning to learn how to deal with stage fright.

Performing is one of life’s great joys and you too can enjoy sharing your unique gifts and stories in front of an audience, free of fear, paralysis, or uncomfortable feelings. Don’t give up, and remember that psychological change is a gradual process. Good luck, and happy performing!

Readers, what other ways have you learned how to overcome stage fright? Let us know in the comments!

How to Overcome Stage Fright Infographic

ErinRPost Author: Erin R.
Erin teaches acting, singing, speaking voice, and more in San Diego, CA. She holds a B.A. from University of Minnesota in Vocal Performance, a M.A. in Education from National University, and has been teaching since 2007. Learn more about Erin here!

Image credit: Kian McKellar

Audition Anxiety and Putting Your Students First

audition As a teacher, your job doesn’t stop at the end of each lesson. Going out of your way to provide ongoing support and advice is one way the best instructors set themselves apart from the rest. Sometimes, it’s as simple as being a familiar face at an audition. Read on for NY voice teacher Deanna C.‘s story…


One of the most challenging aspects of music education is to get students to throw away performance nerves. For students in my area, this form of anxiety tends to be heightened each year when NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) season rolls around. As a music educator, it is your goal to help students overcome this fear by any means necessary. Success is met when your student’s needs become your first priority.

One NYSSMA season, I had a student with severe performance anxiety. The day of her audition she called me in complete panic mode. In an attempt to calm her nerves, I cleared my schedule and had her come to my studio. We did warm-ups and then ran several mock auditions so that she knew exactly what to expect.

While this seemed to alleviate some of the fear, she was still shaken up and asked if I would accompany her to the audition. Of course I said yes, knowing how helpful familiar faces can be during emotional times.

After we were signed in, there was nothing left to do but wait until the judge was ready. She began to pace as her anxiety kicked into overdrive. I took her aside, hoping to distract her mind from the nerves. We went over last minute Italian pronunciations and the steps to make sight singing easier.

The girl in the time spot ahead of my student was leaving the room, meaning we only had a few minutes left. Now it was time for a pep talk. I told her that I was proud of all the hard work and passion that she had put into her lessons. We had over-prepared for this audition so I knew that she would do extremely well.

The judge was at the door calling her name, with a bright smile on her face. “See, she looks friendly! You can do this!” I whispered and gave her the thumbs up. She took a deep breath and then calmly walked into the audition room.

After several weeks had passed, we received the audition results. Not only did my student receive the highest mark in her entire school, but she had also gotten a perfect score. I was so proud of her that I went out and purchased little treble clef earrings as a congratulatory present.

I learned from this experience that when you put the students first, you will always have a positive outcome. As a teacher, I strive to be 110% aware of my students needs so that I can help them flourish as musicians. I love watching my students succeed because it gives me a sense of pride and I know that I have done well.

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Massapequa voice teacher Deanna C. Deanna C. teaches singing, music performance, opera voice, and theatrical Broadway singing lessons to students of all ages in Massapequa, NY. She joined the TakeLessons team in June 2012, and her main focus is teaching opera. Sign up for lessons with Deanna, or visit TakeLessons to search for a vocal instructor near you!

 


Photo by thepanamerican.

In a Band? Take a Lesson from Bob Dylan

There’s no one quite like Bob Dylan. After all, it’s hard to compete with a recording career of over 50 years, a long list of achievements and awards, and spots in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

But if the idea of pop princess Kesha covering a Dylan song doesn’t seem right, you may want to stay away from the newest 4-disc compilation “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.”  The project features newly-recorded Dylan covers by 80 artists, including Adele, Sting, Dave Matthews, punk rockers Bad Religion, country duo Sugarland, hip hop artist K’naan, and – yes, we’re not joking – Kesha.

Throughout his career, Dylan shared his talents and influence with fans all over the world, appearing on numerous television programs, headlining several music festivals, and touring extensively around Europe, Australia, and the U.S.  If you have a band of your own, it’s important to follow in Dylan’s footsteps – that is, get out there and start playing more shows.  Whether it be street performing, neighborhood gigs, or European tours (dream big!), here are 3 great reasons to play live:

1. You’ll Make New Fans
Fans – or your fans-to-be – can’t get excited about your music when you’re playing it for yourself in your rehearsal space, no matter how good it is. Recordings are good – and important – but there is nothing quite like a gig to really get your fans enthusiastic about your music. Think about your own experiences as a fan – are you ever quite as keyed up about music you love as you are when you walk out of a really great gig? A good live experience just makes your fans more loyal to you.

And what happens when your fans are loyal? They tell their friends. They bring their friends to your shows. Some of those friends will become your fans. And then they will tell their friends. And so on and so forth until you need to book a bigger venue to cram them all in.

2. You’ll Hone Your Craft
First of all, don’t shy away from playing live just because you’re not 100% sure you can hit every note without a flub 100% of the time. It’s fine to play when you’re a little rough around the edges – in fact, in some genres, getting too slick will lose you fans.

But the more you play live, the better you will get at it. Your sets will become tighter. Your confidence will grow. Getting comfortable on the stage is a crucial skill for a musician to have, and no, it didn’t just come naturally to all of your favorite bands. It’s something that takes practice, just like everything you do as a musician. You will only get better from show to show.

3. You’ll Open Doors
Live shows are the ultimate in networking opportunities for musicians. At every show, you have the chance of meeting (and making a good impression on) new bookers, promoters, music journalists, musicians, managers, agents and more. Even if, say, the local DJ you meet at your next show isn’t the one to put your new song in heavy rotation, maybe the journalist they mention your show to gets curious, seeks you out and writes a story about you. Maybe the manager of another band on the bill passes your music on to a label. The possibilities are endless – and every new face at a show is potentially the face that will make THE difference in your music career.

Not convinced yet?  Let us know your thoughts, comments, and questions by leaving a comment! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

You might also like…

Hittin’ the Road with Your Band? 7 Must-Read Tips
4 Things You May Be Doing Wrong at Gigs
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Photo by Alberto Cabello.

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Oops! How to Handle Your Biggest Music Flubs

Have you ever made a mistake during a performance?  Hey, we’ve all been there, and it happens to both us regular folks and celebrities alike. Fortunately, when we mess up, it doesn’t end up all over the Internet.  And despite how you may feel right after making the mistake, it doesn’t mean the end of the world.  Trust us.

First, take a look at our previous blog about how to change your attitude when it comes to making mistakes.  Once the deed is done, however, the key then is how well you keep your composure.  You might be frustrated, and you might be disappointed in yourself, but don’t let it show.  Here are some key tips for keeping your composure when you make a mistake:

1. If the mistake is so bad that you need to start over, feel free to take a moment to breathe, adjust your positioning, or take a sip of water. Smile or nod at the audience if you feel the need to ease any tension, or simply get back into the music – you’re more affected by the mistake than they are.

2. Set a comfortable rhythm in your head (or metronome).

3. Start again from the beginning of the song (if you’re not too far in) or restart the page or line.

4. Stay calm! Your energy is better aimed toward playing and enjoying the song.

5. Don’t worry about perfection; it’s about conveying a feeling through music, and the opportunity to do so is never lost.

If all else fails, you can also amaze (and, ahem, distract) your audience with an awesome stage trick.  Hey, every little bit helps!

Readers, what other strategies help you when you make a mistake?  Leave a comment below! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

 

 

You might also like…
5 Secrets to an Awesome Audition
How to Bounce Back from a Bad Audition
What’s Causing Your Stage Fright?

Photo by Song Lyrics .

How to Build Confidence On Stage

Today we lost legendary R&B singer Etta James, whose adaptable style, powerhouse voice, and fiery hit “At Last” made her one of the most recognizable blues performers of all time.  Her talent has been recognized in several different ways, with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and several Grammy awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award.

As with many soul singers, a voice that powerful demands a commanding stage presence as well.  If you’re on the shy side, sometimes all it takes is some extra performing experience to break out of that habit.  Anytime you see an opportunity to perform, grab it!  And yes, that includes karaoke, as cheesy as it sounds.  Check out this great list of other ways to gain experience and increase your on-stage confidence:

– Open mic nights. Great for getting used to singing with a live band, and for getting seen.  Many bands started as a result of people meeting each other at open mic nights.
– Peruse Craigslist for bands looking for lead or backup singers.  (Being a backup singer is a great place to start if you have no prior live band experience.  You’ll learn a lot even as a backup singer.)
– Start or join an a cappella group.
Student recitals. If you are taking lessons with a voice coach or at a music school, there are probably performance opportunities through there.  They may not be the rock-star performance situations you ultimately envision yourself in, but they’re valuable stage time nonetheless.
– Start a duo. Team up with a pianist, develop a repertoire, and start playing in restaurants and bars.
– Start a band. Easiest if you are a teen or twenty-something, before your peers have real jobs, kids, and mortgages.
– Hire a band. For those with deep pockets:  if you’re willing to pay for a professional band’s rehearsal time, even a novice could start a rock trio and play standard covers in bars.
– Try out for a role in a musical theater production.
– Join a choir. There are lots of community choirs – some are open to all ages and levels, others require auditions.
– Prepare yourself to sub in a party band. Even if you don’t win an audition to be a party band’s new lead singer, they may find themselves in a tight spot one day if their lead singer gets sick.  If you prepare a standard party repertoire, you’ll be ready to step in if and when a last-minute opportunity arises.
– Make a live music video. Design a stage area somewhere – your basement, your garage – and videotape yourself performing to backing tracks.  When you’re ready, call some musician friends and have them come over and play the song(s) live with you performing up front.  Videotape that and put it up on YouTube and on your own web site to help you connect with bands looking for singers.
– Learn an instrument. If you don’t play any instruments, guitar is a great one to start with because an acoustic guitar is very portable and is enough accompaniment.  This opens the door for you to write your own music and get hired for small gigs. (Search for a music teacher here!)
Play on the street. If you do play guitar – or, once you have learned a few chords – go out somewhere and practice playing in front of people.

What are YOUR favorite ways to get performing experience, and what has helped your stage presence?

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You might also like…
What’s Causing Your Stage Fright?
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Photo by Roland Godefroy.

Boo! How to Deal With Your Worst Music Nightmares

You get up on stage.  Adrenaline is rushing through your body.  You’ve been working on a solo for months, and now’s your time to show it off.  The band is counting on you.  And as the crowd screams your name, you grab the microphone, take a deep breath and… you’ve lost your voice?!

Sound like a singer’s worst nightmare?  It’s enough to give any musician a scare!

Luckily – with the exception of this nightmare – most of the time when you make a mistake, it’s much more noticeable to you than to your audience.  But for someone just starting out, we know how traumatizing it can be.  Making mistakes is a natural part of learning – and it shouldn’t scare you.  Here are some pointers to think about, courtesy of Gerald Klickstein from The Musician’s Way Blog:

1. Errors are not failures
An on-stage mistake resembles a stutter: it doesn’t bar listeners from hearing and feeling the larger phrase.  When we miss a note or drift off pitch, if we keep up the musical intensity, listeners will stay immersed in the music and don’t notice the flub.  Even when bigger mishaps occur – say, a singer misses an entrance or has a sizable memory slip – we can still keep the mood alive.

Failures, in contrast, result in lasting loss: a driver who causes a fatal car crash fails as a driver and citizen.  Just remember: an on-stage error can’t become a failure unless a musician turns it into one.

2. Errors are not shameful
Musicians who confuse errors with failures often harbor shame. Not only do they view slips as disasters but also conclude that their missed notes prove that they’re untalented.  Of course, mistakes aren’t fun. We might even feel guilty if our blunder alters a special moment in show.  But there’s a world of difference between guilt and shame.

It’s human nature for us to feel guilty if, for example, we accidentally damage a friend’s instrument. People who feel shame, though, believe that their mistakes indicate that they are inferior.  When musicians perceive errors as shameful they also wrestle with stage fright because if on-stage slips seem catastrophic, their possibility triggers fear.

In truth, every musician, no matter how gifted, makes errors on stage.  As we build up our abilities, we make fewer and smaller errors, and we mask them more gracefully.  Nonetheless, our errors alert us to things we need to learn, so if we treat them positively, they can actually aid our development.

3. Errors are information
When we rid ourselves of any negative emotional baggage associated with errors, we can then see them for what they are: information. Errors don’t come with emotional strings unless we strap them on.

Memory slip? Enjoy ad-libbing through it, and then explore the possible causes in practice. If you discover a flaw in your memorization procedures, modify your learning habits accordingly, and your on-stage security and artistic power will grow.

In sum: Instead of running out screaming the next time you miss a note, think of it as a learning experience, keep calm and keep on going.

Readers, what do you think of this advice?  How do you react to mistakes and what do you learn from them?  Check out our Facebook page and join the discussion.  Happy Halloween!

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Overcoming Stage Fright: 4 Important Steps

Boy with stage frightDo your palms sweat every time you get up in front of others to perform?  If you get nervous when all eyes are on you, you’re not alone.  Most musicians, at some point in their careers, have experienced stage fright or battled nerves.

But forget the age-old advice of imagining the audience in their underwear – here the steps to follow that really work for overcoming stage fright

Step 1: Self-Assessment
Get to know yourself as a musician and as a performer.  For example…
– What are your capabilities and limitations as a performer?
– Ask yourself: “What am I really afraid of?” Worst-case scenario—you run off the stage and everyone laughs hysterically. That’s unlikely, and might give you perspective into the realities of what it is you are really afraid of.
– Try not to confuse self-assessment with self-criticism!

Step 2: Gradual Exposure and Preparation
– Look for opportunities for exposure to mild to moderate levels of stress that challenge but do not overwhelm your coping skills, such as visualization of the performance.
– Other examples: practice performances, dress rehearsals, taping yourself and playing back.
– Be thoroughly prepared. Nothing replaces adequate time spent in rehearsal and practice! (See also: How to REALLY Maximize Your Practice Time).

Step 3: During the Performance
– Rather than blocking out the audience, or seeing them in their underwear, try seeing them as allies who are generally supportive and want you to do well.
– Remember, most performers have to contend with anxiety – it comes with the territory. You’re in good company!
– Feelings of anxiety are natural, and can be used to your advantage.
– Act calmly, even if you feel nervous. The more you dwell on anxiety, the more you are likely to remain preoccupied with it.
– Try to overlook errors when you perform. Overall impressions are more important to the audience than note-perfect performances.
– Enjoy what you’ve accomplished! Others are more likely to enjoy it this way, too.

Step 4: After the Performance

– Temper external feedback with internal beliefs and expectations you have already established.
– Asking others for feedback without asking yourself first might be depriving yourself of a significant source of valid information about your performance: YOU.

View the full article, Coping With Music Performance Anxiety, here.

If your music goals involve overcoming stage fright and building your stage confidence, we hope these tips help you perform your best.  And if your nerves still get the best of you – don’t dwell on it afterward.  Celebrate your accomplishments, and keep working toward your goal!

Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

You might also like…
What’s Causing Your Stage Fright?
How to Bounce Back From a Bad Audition
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Breaking through the Fear of Failure and Stage Fright

Here is the first blog entry from our new Bay Area piano teacher Drina B:

So, you (the student) are well on your way toward making musical
progress
. You are practicing diligently, daily and accurately. It has
been taught to you that:
Practicing Piano

A) The muscle memory “memorizes” every movement, and the quality
thereof (jerky, smooth, relaxed, tight, etc). And that, any mistakes
you practice, probably become automatic habits too. To practice
correctly becomes very important, even key to your practicing at home.

Correct.

B) Consistency is important. This means consistent daily practice,
and also consistent quality of work. Your attention must be focused, to
assure that your joints are relaxed as you play, that you maintain your
good form, in order to “teach” your muscle memory the correct way to
play.

Correct.

And yet, there is a problem with this model. As absolutely necessary
as it is to practice correctly and with consistency, there is a certain
mental rigidity which can develop from lack of freedom. One can feel
boxed in psychologically, and practicing becomes a chore instead of
joyous. Above all, there is a fear of failure, particularly in
performance situations: What if one “Messes up” and makes a mistake?
Uh-oh! Disaster strikes? Particularly when “on the spot”, in public?
Nerves begin to flutter at the very thought, never mind the actual
experience. And the very thought of practicing so cleanly and so well,
can also be what fosters such nervousness. Stage Fright

There must be a solution to this. And of course, there are many
solutions to every problem. It would be fun to read what other music
teachers do with their students in this same situation, and I am not
suggesting that my method is the only way to go. However, I also am
sharing my own way of working with this, in the hopes that this article
will spawn further conversation, among teachers and students alike. It
would be interesting and fun to read all the various ways of tackling
this same issue!

What is my method of conquering stage fright and helping my students to overcome the fear of failure?

Yes, you got that one right. Practice making mistakes. On purpose.

No, I am not kidding.

Students look at me as if I’ve gone crazy, the moment I even suggest it. Particularly, my young students.

But once they get going, they have a blast at it.

And then something very interesting begins to happen.

The door to freedom has been opened, and particularly my child
students begin to improvise. Let freedom ring! Let it sing! It works!
Actually, every time. I cannot think of even one case in which a child
did not begin to improvise, after practicing deliberate mistakes, not
in all my twenty-four years of teaching.

Adult students are naturally resistant at first too, but then they
settle in with it. While adults may not be as inclined to improvise as
readily as children, in my experience they also do find the permission
to make mistakes psychologically freeing. And of course, the ensuing
laughter is very healthy for the student-teacher relationship, just as
it is for the psychological freedom carried into the student’s
practicing at home.

Once we have confidence that it really is okay to make mistakes, we
become much more free artistically, and therefore, more expressive as
players or singers.

But there’s more too.Confident Singer

When performing, consider the knee-jerk reaction to playing a
juicy-sounding mistake, in public. Yikes! Grimaces take over the face
like a tragi-commedia mask, and training to hide that grimace still may
or may not relax the performer, from within. So the question becomes,
how do students learn to deal with making a mistake, on stage, and in
recitals?

In the lessons and in the practice room, that’s where.

For a solid two months before any recital my students are preparing
for
, I always have them playing at least three mistakes for me in each
movement or piece, on purpose.
Thereafter, we begin the theme of working with the mistake instead of through it.

For example:

A) The student makes a mistake, and practices continuing right on
playing the piece, as if nothing had happened. This is good practice
for maintaining one’s composure, in public.

B) Improvising around the theme of a mistake can be a creative way
to cover up a glaringly “Wrong” sound. To practice improvising around
the theme of a mistake is to keep a cool head in public situations.

C) To repeat a mistake is to create symmetry and balance in a piece,
as if it had been written right onto the page, in the composer’s own
hand. Surprise: Mistakes can often sound quite nice, sometimes even
lovely!

D) Once in a concert I attended, the soloist played a mistake. She
did a surprising thing: She made yet another much worse one, right in
the next bar, quite intentionally. She lifted up her instrument and
practically shot that next mistake right at the audience! And of
course, everybody laughed. This, incidentally, was a world-caliber
virtuosa player, and was her way of cutting through the enormously high
pressures particularly coming with being a virtuosa player. After all,
virtuosi are humans too, and everybody makes mistakes. No exceptions!

Of course, as goes without saying, such deliberate mistake-making is
only done after the student has already mastered the basics of good
technical and musical form, has learned how to practice well, and has
made good progress. I would never attempt such a thing with a new
student: I only do this after the student and I have come to know each
other well, and the student feels relaxed in the lessons.Dualing Pianos

We all strive for the highest standards possible, especially when we
are as in love with our music as we professional musicians are. There
can be no arguing that aiming for utmost beauty, the best technical
proficiency, and practicing with meticulous intention is the only way
to go. There is not a doubt about it and the purpose of this article
would never be to argue with that high standard, which the artist
inside demands of all of us.

However, there also may be a time and a place when, in a very safe
setting, to make deliberate mistakes is not only freeing, but opens up
new creative doors. In the safe context of the lesson or the practice
room, making deliberate mistakes can help to cure the fear of failure,
conquer stage nerves, aid our presence of mind in handling public
bloopers, and may just be one cornerstone of all healthy practicing
habits. The new-found freedom may even open up new artistic depth and
improvisatory exploration. Have fun with this!

Drina B, Novato, CA

176581_1248304123

For Vocal Performers – The Art of Practicing

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How many times have we watched a vocalist stand frozen and expressionless on a stage and been bored by their performance, regardless of how beautifully it was sung? Have you ever watched a singer and felt uncomfortable because you could see how uncomfortable they were?

Vocal students commonly forget one important aspect in their practicing; they forget to practice performing.  While technique such as breathing, resonance, pronunciation and vowel placement are all important aspects of practicing for vocal students, performing or acting their repertoire is just as important.

On stage rocking out
Once a song is learned, it needs to be analyzed.  What is the mood of the music? What do the lyrics say?  Measure by measure, map out a script for yourself.  What expression will you have on your face?  Where will you look?  How will you stand; or will you sit?  What kinds of gestures will you use and where will you use them?

Once you have a game plan, it should be incorporated into your practicing.  So many times I’ve heard singers say they were just going to wait until their performance and let it be an organic experience.  Unfortunately, we all have nerves and 99% of the time this will backfire on us.  By the time you put your song up in front of an audience, the acting or performing should be second nature to you.  You don’t want to have to think about it in the moment.

Practicing your performing will make you a better performer.  When you are a good performer, the audience will hear what you are singing.  They will enjoy your performance without being distracted by your awkward or uncomfortable presentation.

Even the youngest of students can benefit from this.  Would you send a young violinist up on stage without teaching them how to use their instrument?  Probably not!  The singer’s instrument is their body.  It is the entire body, not just the vocal chords.  Teaching them to perform and use their body in an effective way helps them to feel prepared for their moment on stage. Being prepared builds confidence.  Confident singers are effective communicators of music.

———————————–

Christie By Guest Contributor and TakeLessons Instructor, Christie Lynn Devoe.

Along
with being an instructor for TakeLessons.com, Christie has an impressive performance resume, as
well.  She spent 7 years as a working actor
and singer in New York City. During her time in New York,
Christie performed in many Off Broadway musicals, several operas, on television
and in film.  She has performed at Madison
Square Garden
,
at the Original Improv Comedy Club, and was seen at the NJPAC performing “The
Lord of the Rings Symphony” with the New Jersey Symphony.  She studied vocal
music performance at Montclair
State University

under world-famous counter tenor Jeffrey Gall and music education at Asbury
College
.  She also had the great
privilege to study acting in New York under the amazing Gene Frankel. Christie now resides in Howard County adives singing lessons in Baltimore and the surrounding area.