While it’s clear that the pandemic isn’t going to have a defined endpoint, musicians of every genre and background are beginning to get back on stages around the world again, and audiences couldn’t be happier. As you make your way back to the world of live shows, you might be surprised to discover that you feel oddly nervous about performing again. Some reading this might be musicians with years of performance experience, but the truth is that more than a year of sitting out live shows is a long time to be away from the stage even if you’re a seasoned pro. Combine that with anxiety you might have about being indoors with crowds of people again, and you’ve got a recipe for performance-related nerves. Here are a few tips to help fight stage fright before your post-lockdown shows:
Prepare for important venue shows with low key house shows
If it’s been a long time since you’ve played in front of other human beings, consider setting up a low-pressure performance in your living room, back yard, or local park. You can live stream your show and play in front of a couple of friends and family members. One performance is as valuable as a dozen practices, even if that performance isn’t at a venue. Setting up a low-key show on your own terms is a great way to ease nerves before you get back to playing conventional venue concerts.
Meditation has always been one of the best methods for combating pre-show nerves, and it’s even more important now as we venture back to venues after a long, unexpected hiatus. Stage fright often comes from someone’s fear of the countless mishaps that could occur during their performance––forgetting lyrics, playing the wrong parts at the wrong times, putting the capo on the wrong fret of the guitar, and playing excruciatingly out of tune from the rest of the band. Instead of running away from these fears, meditation calms you down by giving you a space to confront and deal with them. You’ll feel calmer and more confident when you realize mistakes are inevitable in your performances and that the audience cares far more about passionate playing than flawless performances.
Practice more than you think you should
This is an obvious tip, but it’s worth mentioning. If you practice your sets over and over again before your post-lockdown shows, you’ll head back to stages armed with as much musical preparation and confidence as you can possibly have. You might have years and years of playing experience under your belt, but being out of the game for a year or more means that you’re probably rustier than you’ve been in a long time. By practicing more than you think you need to, you’ll be able to combat stage fright with the knowledge that you’ve done everything humanly possible to prepare from a musical standpoint.
Realize we’re not back to normal and prepare accordingly
Many predicted we’d be back to some sense of normalcy by now as a society, and we’re nowhere close, unfortunately. Musicians are frustrated, fans are fed up, and music venues around the world are still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic. As a performer, expecting a transformed venue landscape before you get back to playing shows will help you stave off nerves before important shows. This could mean last-minute show changes, stressful restrictions, and tenser playing environments than you’re probably used to. You also might be overcome by nerves simply because you haven’t been inside a room with crowds of people for a long time. If you anticipate stressors ahead of time, your shows will go smoother and your nerves will be calmed. If you think being indoors in close proximity to crowds might stress you out, gradually expose yourself to those situations in public before your show, not at the venue. And if you approach post-lockdown shows with as much patience as possible, you’ll be able to diffuse your stress and focus on your performance.
There’s no shame in feeling some stage fright as you get back on stage again whether you’re a professional musician or are still new to performing. Keep in mind that the fans you play for are also feeling similar anxiety even though they’re not the ones playing. With a little preparation and patience, you’ll be able to keep your nerves in check and put on a great show.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.