Standing on a stage in front of a crowd can be a terrifying experience for anyone. For singers and musicians, however, it’s part of the job. Though you might assume performance anxiety is rare, a Gallup poll suggests about 40% of U.S. adults suffer from stage fright to some degree. It causes everything from rapid heart rate and shortness of breath to trembling and changes in vision.
As a musician, understanding performance anxiety is the key to overcoming it. You may not be able to change your body’s physiological response to fear, but you can learn to control your symptoms.
What is Musician Performance Anxiety?
According to 2017 article published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, 24% of professional musicians suffer from stage fright. Musician performance anxiety (MPA) or stage fright is more common than you might realize, and it produces a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
Musician performance anxiety has both a physical and a psychological element. In addition to triggering physical symptoms like racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dry mouth, and trembling, it can also cause feelings of inadequacy or fear of disapproval. Symptoms of stage fright can lead to behavioral changes as well, such as avoidance of the situation.
Tips for Managing Stage Fright
The thing to remember is that musician performance anxiety is treatable. Beta-blockers like propranolol can help with severe cases, but there are simple things you can do before and during a performance to help manage symptoms of stage fright as well.
Here are five tips to help you manage your stage fright symptoms:
1. Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy
When preparing for a performance, it’s important to keep your mind and body healthy. Stay hydrated and try to limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption. Follow a healthy diet and be sure to get enough sleep. When your body is functioning at its best, your mind will be as well, and you’ll be better able to cope with the symptoms of your performance anxiety.
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2. Acknowledge and Accept Your Fear
Performance anxiety is a long-term problem for many musicians and singers. At a certain point, you may simply have to learn to accept and deal with it. Start by acknowledging your symptoms and find out what triggers them so you can learn to predict when they might develop. Channel your nerves into your music, using the extra energy to drive your performance. Don’t feel like having MPA makes you any less of a performer. Even famous singers like Adele, Rhianna, and Andrea Bocelli suffer from stage fright.
3. Boost Your Confidence with Preparation
Preparation is the biggest confidence booster. They say practice makes perfect and while you can’t expect every performance to go off without a hitch, being prepared will help you overcome anxiety. In addition to rehearsing on your own and having a solid warm up routine, do a mock dress rehearsal with friends and family so you get used to performing in front of a crowd. You may even want to practice some breathing techniques to help you calm your nerves on the night of the performance.
4. Keep a Positive Attitude
The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be and that will help you keep a positive attitude about your performance. When you start to experience self-doubt, remind yourself how much you’ve practiced and how ready you are for the performance. Shift your fear into excitement and imagine the audience full of friends or family instead of strangers. Remember that you love what you do and try to enjoy the performance.
5. Try Virtual Reality Treatment
One of the best ways to overcome a fear or phobia is to desensitize yourself to it. Through repeated exposure to the trigger for your fear, you can gradually reduce your body’s stress response. Virtual reality treatment can give you the feeling of a performance situation, putting you in a 360-degree virtual simulation. Repeated treatments may help reduce the psycho-physiological activation in the body that produces your symptoms of performance anxiety.
Performing on stage may never get any easier, but there’s no reason to let your nerves get the best of you. If you concentrate on the symptoms, you’ll find yourself in a loop of negative thought and anxiety. Instead, make an effort to acknowledge and understand your symptoms, taking steps to manage them as well as you can so they don’t get in the way of you doing what you love.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Robert Lunte’s “4 Pillars of Singing” so that you can keep your voice in strong shape throughout the year, which will, in turn, make you a more confident singer! Also, make sure you join The Vocalist Studio Group on Facebook for help from our community of singers and coaches and subscribe to The Vocalist Studio YouTube Channel for More Help and Content!