After working hard to create meaningful music, it can be incredibly exciting when your band starts to get opportunities like opening up big shows. But unfortunately, the thought of playing to a packed crowd often comes hand-in-hand with debilitating performance anxiety for some people, including everyone from members of newer inexperienced bands to seasoned music veterans.
While some performers get nothing more than the feeling of butterflies in their stomach before an important show, performance anxiety is a major issue for some musicians no matter their age and level of talent. But if you’re someone struggling to tame nerves during performances, don’t despair. Here’s some tips:
Stop feeling ashamed
Performance anxiety is awful enough, and letting yourself feel shame about it only makes it worse. Rather than feeling embarrassed about feeling nervous during performances, try being honest with yourself and dig deep to find the root of your anxiety. Be open and honest about it with the musicians you’re playing with. If they’re not supportive, then it’s time to find other people to play music with.
Strenuous physical exercise has been scientifically proven to treat anxiety and depression. If even the thought of playing big shows makes your heart pound, try exercising for an hour or two before your next performance and see if you notice any improvement. Many people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder could greatly benefit from making a real effort to be physically active, whether they play music or not. Yes, exercising on tour is a tough thing for serious musicians to do, but bands probably play better and will be much less anxious if they do.
Lay off the caffeine and alcohol
If you’re trying to tame your nerves before a show, you might want to save the alcohol and energy drinks for after your set. The things you put into your body could be one of the major factors contributing to the extreme nervousness you feel during performances if you’re an anxiety sufferer. Try cutting out anything that could potentially make your body feel strange or disconnected before shows and see if that helps.
When you get nervous during a show, do you think the same thoughts of doubt and doom over and over again? Meditation is a great way to face those thoughts and quiet down the feedback loop. Like exercise, meditation is a proven way to manage anxiety.
Practice and perform as often as you can
There’s a distinct line between being nervous to perform for a good reason and suffering from nerves during a show out of a deeper anxiety problem. If you’re worried about messing up basic things like forgetting lyrics or chord progressions in songs, your anxiety is warranted, and you need to keep preparing. But if you know your songs like the back of your hand, you probably have a deeper issue with anxiety.
Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.