As a musician, I know very well how big the desire is to give your best performance in the most important moments. There are many musicians which struggle with performance anxiety before and during their performance on stage.
Feeling nervous before or during an important moment is normal and natural. Every musician feels more or less performance anxiety, regardless of experience or age. You may have read or heard that stage fright will disappear with the large number of concerts, so you are advised to play as much as possible on stage in front of the audience. I can tell you that: this is just a myth. I know musicians with many years of experience which are as anxious as they were 30 years ago. Stage fright remains with experience, and you should be comfortable with the truth.
What can you do to overcome performance anxiety? Here are some very useful suggestions:
Being nervous before playing on stage can be positive, and it shows that you care about what’s happening. Instead of complaining about your feelings, try to accept them as something very natural.
When faced with emotion or performance anxiety, we see this as a weakness and we have the impression that those with good performances are not in the same situation as we are, but this is not necessarily true. After doing some research, sports psychologists have come to the following conclusion: performers with very good results have the same degree of anxiety as those with weaker performance. The only difference is that elite athletes manage to control their anxiety in the most important moments, and have great confidence in their abilities.
As you can see, the anxiety in itself doesn’t affect your performance. Here is how to take advantage of your feelings and emotions in you next performance:
It’s important to invest time in your preparation and to spend many hours in the practice room. There is no shortcut. Being very well prepared technically represents an advantage, but still there is more than this. You need to be confident when you are playing on stage and to be very aware about your strengths. If you have a low self-esteem, this exercise may be helpful for you. Write down 5 to 10 accomplishments from your past (they can be small or big, it doesn’t matter) and try to savor them again. How does it feel?
Our thoughts have a big influence on our emotional state. Negative thoughts appear and disappear very quickly, almost without your awareness. They whisper to you that you will not be able to play on a high level, you’ll make mistakes, the audience will be disappointed, etc. As a result, you will become more tense and anxious. These thoughts seem logical and convincing, but they should not be left to become a certainty for you. Moreover, you can ask yourself about your past experiences, if your thoughts were correct and objective. You will see that this happened very few times. Do not let your automatic thoughts control your mood, confidence and performance results. Every time such a thought appears, replace it with a positive one. Here are some examples: ‘’I trust myself and my preparation/ I’ll play very well/ I’m in a good shape/The audience will inspire me /I’ll give my best on stage etc.
Breathing exercises, visualization, meditation, are very good techniques which you can use to control better your anxiety and the strong physical symptoms like: shaking, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle tension, headaches, fast heartbeat etc. Try the following breathing exercise before your performance:
Breathe IN: 1, 2, 3, 4
Hold the air for 2 seconds
Breathe OUT: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
By doing this exercise, even your nervousness will not disappear completely, you’ll feel calmer. Repeat this exercise 3 or 4 times.
Hopefully these tips will help you to combat your performance anxiety.