With venues opening their doors again in many parts of the world, you might find yourself feeling strangely nervous to perform in front of other people for the first time in years. Or, you could be new to live music and overwhelmed with dread at the thought of getting up on stage. Nerves can be a serious problem for performing musicians and stage fright has the power to thwart your performances even if you’ve practiced more than you think you need to. But nervousness doesn’t have to cause problems for your music career if you prepare in the right ways. Gradual exposure to live performance situations can help you overcome your fears and thrive on stage.
One show is worth months of band practices in terms of experience because so much other than going through the motions of playing your songs happens. Talking on stage, performing with the venue’s sound equipment, and working closely with the sound engineer are just a few of the major differences between live shows and practices. And then there’s the crowd to consider, and there’s no way to predict how many people will show up and how they’ll react to your music.
There are loads of unknowns when it comes to playing live, which is why you shouldn’t just practice performing your set, but should practice performing as well. If you haven’t played a show in years or have never set foot on stage, going from practicing at home or in your studio to playing in front of a room full of strangers, friends, and family is a huge leap.
Take a gradual approach
If you’re struggling with show-related performance anxiety, try taking a gradual approach to playing live that slowly builds your experience. For example, you could start by inviting a couple of close friends to your next band practice. Then, move up to a small house show and get more people to show up. Consider doing a few of these and streaming them live. And finally, when you’re ready, graduate to conventional live performances at venues.
Every musician is different, so some will do just fine with a quick transition to venue shows while others will need more time and experience to get comfortable. Other options for getting warmed up to playing live are busking on the street, checking out local open mic nights, and volunteering your musical talents in your community. Performance mistakes are inevitable, and audiences understand that. But playing without confidence or passion can absolutely kill your shows. A baby steps approach will help you learn to be yourself on stage, which is crucial. It takes work to practice performing in front of other people, but it’s a great opportunity to gain experience and potentially some new fans, even if they aren’t “real” shows. There’s a lot outside of your control when it comes to playing live, but what you do beforehand to prepare is completely in your hands.