How To Tame Nerves Before A Big Show

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.

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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.

DaveHow To Tame Nerves Before A Big Show


Join the conversation
  • Dan Finnegan - November 29, 2017 reply

    This happens to the best of them. I’ve literally heard this from so many already famous musicians. It’s just plain human nature. Great tips & insight on relieving the anxiety! The trick for me is trying to get the mind to just r e l a x…… easier said than done though. Just treat it like a friendly environment if you can. Also, depending on how often you play has an effect too. Once you get in a regular back to back routine, I notice it starts to go away. If there is more time between gigs…it seems to hit me easier. You almost just have to tell yourself “It will be fine. Just chill. You’ve done this before you know.” When you get into that relaxed state, things will flow smoother as well! – Thanks for the article Patrick!

  • Anthony ( Tony ) Ginn Sag-Aftra ID: 10050998 - November 30, 2017 reply

    I was born into the Music business and was raised and mentored my Grandfather, World Renown, Ragtime Composer to understand that no matter what happens in your daily life leave behind like throwing away garbage and give the best performance you can whether it be in a small club or on the big stage playing before 60,000 Fans and shoot for an encore. Be comfortable in your own skin and don’t beat yourself up which will definitely create anxiety an self doubt. Now let’s address living a healthy life style, Eat healthy food and not pizza and fast food. In my experience I have lost many of my colleagues to poor health without any health insurance. Some from Diabetes, Cancer, Heart failure and even suicide that I feel was an aspect of depression due to alcohol and drugs. Also, a bipolar polar condition caused a swing from manic to a depressive state and if not addressed, this is where health is needed to have the proper medication prescribed to keep at Artist balanced to remain stable and have the creative juices flowing. So, what separates those who pass and fail? I believe it is a spiritual mindset that no matter what religion you choose that the blessings always comes first and recognize that most people approach work as I HAVE TO DO THIS vs. I GET TO DO THIS because their are very of us that do what we do and continue to concentrate on our ART. My example is Ray Charles, B. B. King who died of diabetes and my Grandfather who died at age 89 and my Great Uncle Eubie Blake who died at 100 who taught me from the jump that “Artists Only Die and WE leave our Legacy behind for Others to follow in Our Footsteps” What you create today musically as covered by ASCAP where the copy rights are 70 years now instead 50 before your music goes into Public Domain. Your royalties will always be tracked Worldwide! So, I still receive Royalties from Grandfather’s compositions it is in his will to make sure that royalties are distributed to surviving family members. So, I guess I will Bop until I Drop and be posthumously awarded for a job well done to touch as many lives as possible through my Music. Oh, and never give up! Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays! ” Break a Leg “!

  • Lance - November 30, 2017 reply

    I play in a band and have very little anxiety when giggling, i mean gigging. But i have started doing Open Mic shows with my personal material, with just my acoustic and myself, and it exposed my insecurity with not being ‘good enough’ or liked.
    I do use the exercise technique of doing a quick 20 push-ups to get rolling and it helps.
    Also, the mindset of thinking ‘What the heck, it’s not brain surgery’ helps, too.

    Jam on, friends.

  • gabriel - November 30, 2017 reply

    Thanks slots I normally feel dis way

  • the jimmer - November 30, 2017 reply

    Hi – as most do get stage fright as they call it – even the biggest stars in the industry come down with it –=- thinking about standing or performing up in front of who knows how many is and can be unnerving– myself to get over my anxiety in the beginning which in my mind was right up there with others – I took as many toast master classes as I could — this was just one of the avenues I took – this help my level of speaking with clarity and thought — before that I was a stumbling mess – could not keep on track and even finish the Bla Bla Bla i was trying to spew out – but now I only Bla a couple of times when the words do not come to me — memorise is the name to my game – it does get better as i have gone along — still now I still do not like being front man

  • Fallon - November 30, 2017 reply

    This is a huge issue for me when it comes to shows where I am being judged. I play four shows a week and never get nervous at all, however, one audition and I’m a mess. It’s not the feeling of nerves that is the kiss of death, but it’s that I sound NOTHING like myself and what makes me great and different from other singers when I do get nervous. I lose all character to my voice and sing way higher than I usually do because my heart is racing etc. I will know a song like the back of my hand and it can be a song I have known for decades but it doesn’t matter. I will even forget my own lyrics and stumble over them when I am super nervous. Most of this comes from self doubt and general self loathing that many of us artists have. We are all one step away from cutting our ear off when it comes to our art so we are hard on ourselves. I have started to try and come from the mindset of “how can they even judge you period if they never fully get to hear the real you because you are so nervous that your voice is shaking and you sound nothin like YOU.” Hoping it helps the next time around. Ha

  • Rob Patterson - November 30, 2017 reply

    Some excellant points from both the author and the commentators. I could echo them all day, but I wont.
    I will add, before going on, I reflect on why we do this (big picture) in the first place. Enjoyment of playing some music with your mates which is supposed to be fun and The act of love contained in the giving an honest performace to an audience.
    Love your audience and and have fun.

  • GM Reszel - December 1, 2017 reply

    Just like it says on the neon sign: Breathe. I find big deep breathes are very helpful – conversely when you’re very nervous and uptight your breathing becomes shallow so counter that with long deep breathes. Also I’ve heard people say to pretend your audience is naked. I do just the opposite and pretend I am and I’m comfortable with that. After all, you literally are exposed before a crowd in the sense of your physical, emotional presence and abilities. Don’t try to pretend you’re so strong or like they said above, ashamed. You’re you – in the end reflect on your abilities,,,that amazing performance you’re able to do in your home. That is in there waiting to be released. It is said, ‘Dance like no one’s watching.’ Also don’t let a mistake debilitate you because I used to do that – one mistake makes you embarrassed and then maybe angry and you make another and another and your night is seemingly ruined. When you make that mistake just roll right on and forget about it – or I’ll often laugh at myself or to my bandmate that gives me the eye (and hopefully understands),,,there’s nothing worse worse than a bandmate who telegraphs your error that most people probably didn’t even notice (which most don’t).

  • Jungleman - December 2, 2017 reply

    I started as rhythm guitarist and now I front a rock band. And talk about anxiety …. I have always had stage fright and have found that if you think about it too much it makes it worse. Instead of worrying about how your going to do, I say look forward to the set . Be excited know that you and everyone are going to have a blast. Don’t let the enemy have his way if you know what I mean. You have obviously prepared yourself for this performance and you “own it” that’s the key!!! VOCALISTS warm up your voice just B4 the show even if you only have a short time to do so. Getting pumped up by some kind of exercise, even if it is just jumping up and down is good advice. Last but not least, rehearse your set the day if your gig. My band does that and it really helps us to have the best show possible. Peace

  • Denis - December 2, 2017 reply

    Another nice thing is to eat something before you go on stage, because when you chew, you are sending a message to your brain that everything is fine. The brain associates eating with tranquil setting, therefore when you eat you are “deceiving” your brain, which will lead to to feel more relaxed. Chewing gums is a good option.

  • Bruce - December 4, 2017 reply

    Being an entertainer is one of the few professions where people *want* to like you when they go to your shows. They don’t go out with the idea in their head that they want to do something distasteful or suffer through a uniquely disturbing experience.

    In turn, they want you to like them. That is the other half of the equation. So do it. Love your people, take down the entertainer/audience wall, one or ten thousand, it makes no difference. Practice, have your chops down and be ready to accept their love and give it back to them, it is a virtuous cycle, and your job is to not get in the way of that.

    Knowing this helps me get past the little monkey inside that tells me that I suck.

  • Michael Caruso - December 4, 2017 reply

    Among other gigs that I do, I perform the Star Spangled Banner (acapella) at sporting events in my region. When there’s 20,000+ in the arena… the lights go down and they train the spotlight on you….and you see your face 50 feet wide on the Jumbotron… the nerves can certainly get to you. There were times I would go into a kind of “tunnel vision”, and have to fight through it.
    After putting dozens of these performances under my belt, my best advice is this…..
    YOU got whatever gig it was for a REASON. REMEMBER what that reason was!!! You ARE that good! Mentally drink in the entire moment (venue, crowd, noise, nervousness) in the seconds just before you perform, and take the time to ENJOY IT. Smile at yourself!! Turn whatever anxiety you’re feeling into a warm thankfulness just to be getting that opportunity.
    Then go KICK IT’S ASS! The performance always ends up seeming like it was over way too quick. 🙂

  • Liberated Performer - December 29, 2017 reply

    Definitely lay off the caffeine before. I once drank two cups of coffee to compensate for the jet lag and it only resulted in more shaking!

  • METHODIUS - December 30, 2017 reply


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