• June 26, 2023
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    • Conquer Stage Fright: 9 Essential Tips for Every Musician

      Let's face it: struggling with performance anxiety can be a real downer. It can drain all the joy out of playing music, and the typical advice of "just practice more" doesn't always cut it. But fear not, my friend! I'm here to let you in on some techniques that can genuinely improve your situation.

      Here are nine quick and simple tips that you can start using right away:

      1) Diaphragmatic Breathing: Before a gig, take a moment to consciously take slow, deep breaths through your nose. Pay attention to the details: keep it slow, involve your belly, and be fully present in the experience. Breathe in for 4 and breathe out for 8 or longer.  Keep going for 5 minutes. You are trying to reverse the fight or flight response so doing this for just 30 seconds isn't going to cut it. Don't worry about doing it "perfectly" right away. Just start with the intention to get the basics right and reap the enormous benefits. You can even make this type of breathing automatic with a pre-performance routine, which will calm anxiety and lead to better performances.

      2) Focus on what you want, not what you don't. Maintaining a strong focus is crucial for playing music well, but it's equally effective at reducing performance anxiety. Instead of trying not to think about your worries, direct your focus towards something positive. Prepare in advance where you want your focus to be during your performance, eliminating doubt and uncertainty. Practice hitting this target over time, so you instinctively know where to aim without overthinking it.

      3) Remember that the physical effects are normal: Don't beat yourself up when performance anxiety strikes. It's important to understand that your body's response to pressure is a natural, evolutionary reaction. Accepting this truth changes the game. Rather than perceiving performance anxiety as a huge problem and desperately trying to calm yourself without success, acknowledge that there's nothing wrong with you. Stop wishing for things to be different, and gradually you'll find that your nerves have less impact on your performance.

      4) Reframe nerves as excitement: Did you know that nerves and excitement have similar physical responses in your body? The key difference lies in the emotional component. By reframing your nerves as excitement, you can make significant improvements without needing to change your physical response. Simply thinking "I'm excited" has been proven to positively impact performance.

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      5) Think about what the audience wants: Shift your perspective and focus solely on giving the audience an enjoyable experience. It's easy to get caught up in your own expectations and judge the success of a performance based on your experience. But when you redirect your attention to the audience's enjoyment, you free yourself from unhelpful thoughts and fully concentrate on the present moment.

      6) Set realistic expectations: It's crucial to recognize that demanding a flawless performance from yourself every time is neither achievable nor helpful. Loosen up and let go of the pursuit of perfection. Embrace occasional mistakes as part of the process and have fun with your music. When you set realistic expectations and alleviate pressure, you might be surprised by the outstanding performances you can deliver.

      7) People don't pay as much attention to you as you think: Before going on stage, it's natural to believe that everyone will scrutinize every note you play. However, studies show that people's thoughts are predominantly focused on themselves, even in performance situations. The "Spotlight Effect" causes individuals to overestimate the attention others pay to them. Remember that most of the audience won't notice minor mishaps, and their thoughts will often be elsewhere.

      8) Remember that the audience is on your side: Keep in mind that the audience has come to enjoy themselves and genuinely wants you to succeed. They're cheering you on, not hoping for a poor performance to criticize later. Embrace the support and know that the audience will relish your best moments while disregarding any imperfections. Don't worry about judgment; focus on delivering an outstanding experience

      9) Replace unhelpful thoughts: It's normal for unhelpful thoughts to pop up, especially when you're nervous about performing. The key is not to dwell on them. Instead, have alternative thoughts ready to replace them. One simple and effective example is repeating to yourself, "It will be fine." This affirmation always holds true, even when you're in the grip of performance anxiety. When you consider the bigger picture, you'll realize that whatever the outcome, life goes on unchanged.

      Take your time with these tips, my friend. Start with the one that resonates most with you and master it before moving on to others. Eventually, you'll be able to integrate them all, significantly enhancing your enjoyment of performance.

      Don't know where to start?

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      Now, I'm curious: which tip from the list is your favorite? Do you have any other tips that I didn't cover? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let's keep the conversation going!


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