Musicians And Stage Fright – Fight Or Flight?

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Many musicians seemed to be born to be on stage or in front of a camera. They give their best and enjoy the moment with great confidence. On the other hand, however the majority of musicians have to deal with stage fright at a certain point of their carrier. And the good news is: Musicians and Stage Fright, it’s just a passage to be the stage animal you dream of being.

 

Musicians and Stage Fright

Musicians And Stage Fright – Do You Fight Or Take a Flight?


When it comes to performing in front of an audience powerful emotions kick in and cloud our judgment of the situation. Does it feel like your hands are tight and you are your own prisoner?

There are various forms of stage fright. Some are light and easy to reduce to pure excitement. This article deals with those situations where we are nervous, shaking and not breathing right. Maybe sweating, cold hands, hot cheeks….

We have all been there and we can cope with it and learn a way to use those feelings to our advantage. So this article is for you when you deal with light to medium stage fright, which we can also call performance anxiety.

If you are having straight panic attacks just thinking about a performance in front of an audience, you should seek professional help. There a many famous musicians who had to do that and overcame their fight or flight response or freeze state. Panic attacks are serious and should be dealt with professionally.

Look at a list of musicians who went through extreme stage fright ——> here.

 

Do You Fear Stage Fright? Musicians And Stage Fright


fear of stage fright

That is often how it gets worse. You have been through a situation where you couldn’t control you fingers or breathing anymore and it all went blank. Maybe you lost you track and didn’t know where to enter or you didn’t play you solo.

Those horrible experiences are very strong. They stick in our minds and produce anxiety. This is how the next time you will be afraid to walk on that stage again, or maybe even playing just for you friends and family. That one time could become more times if you give fear a way into you preparation and mind and it will fulfill the prophecy of failure.

At that point there seems to be no way out and you won’t even fight it anymore but just never put yourself in that position again.

Stop and think. We are made like this, fly dangerous situations if we can’t fight them and how should we fight ourselves when we are sure we will fail?

 

Are Musicians The Only Ones With Performance Anxiety?


No actually. There are many forms of it and the most common is Speakers’ Nervousness. That one is so strong that some people prefer to be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. Just have a look at the Anxiety and Depression Department of America and their article on how to deal with Stage Fright.

This article is very helpful as it gives 10 steps to prepare and overcome performance anxiety that anyone can implement to improve any type of performance including an audience.

Furthermore, it is imperative not only for musicians to eat well, sleep well and practice. A state of health and well-being is the best way to reduce performance anxiety. How to prepare as a musician?

For more information on those different aspects read my articles about

sleep

food

practice

How do you put yourself in the best position to perform? Let me know in the comment section below.

But also consider this idea: Life and strong emotions are born from the hip flexor muscles. If we can train those we will be able to control life and feelings about life. Have a look at the training here.

Where Does Stage Fright Come From?


self-doubt musicians

Maybe you are an introvert and many brilliant musicians are. Some of us lack the confidence to be able to make others have a good time by playing for them. Many of us are perfectionists and judge ourselves very harshly. We then assume the audience would do the same and become afraid of their judgment.

Some of us have had bad experiences, like memory loss, freezing on stage or shaking so much we were unable to control our movements.

Sometimes we haven’t had the time to prepare right and do not feel ready. Still, in other occasions we have to fight with a dry mouth, overheated head and very cold feet, literally.

Often we lack the imagination of it being a wonderful experience because we are caught up in the dreadful experiences we had and our mind will reproduce what it knows.

The adrenaline produced leaves us two chances, fight or flight. If you can do neither of both you freeze and self sabotage in a kind of flight on the spot.

I personally suffer from overthinking while I’m playing. What happened a lot of times was that I was performing wonderfully and my mind went “how is that possible? you never played that well. Something has to go terribly wrong in the next passage” and guess what, it does. Never fails to go wrong when I think it will. Can’t we use that to our advantage? Isn’t the opposite just as true?

 

7 Ways To Overcome Stage Fright For Musicians


That leads me to ways to overcome stage fright. Here are 7 ways to get to the same result, a fulfilling performance for you and you audience. Remember that musical performance involves an audience. No way around it, so when you play, play with them. Not against them. Open yourself up to the idea that all of you just want to have a great time and feel something amazing. You need to feel that amazing feeling to convey it, so it all starts with you own attitude to what you are going to do.

1. The first and most important is to be prepared. To study and practice well. You cannot fool yourself into thinking of being prepared when you know you are not.

2. While you practice you should also imagine you are in the performance situation. Imagine the lights going out in the audience. The applause when you enter and yourself smiling and confident. No tricks, you are prepared. Imagine yourself playing the very first sound. Listen to it as it leaves you and comes back to you. Imagine the acoustics and the audience carrying you sound together with you.

3. Visualize the moment that the audience breaks into a long applause after you performance, the tension has left and the light is turned back on. This is what is going to happen if you are prepared and willing to share a beautiful moment with you audience.

4. Change you focus. Do not think about yourself, you playing, the long hours of practice and heaven forbid the way you are going to fail anyway. This is what we usually do. Our panic feeling is a response to the unpleasant thoughts we are thinking that anticipate a situation we would rather not be in.

Think about what you are going to offer to you audience, focus on them not yourself

About why you play for them and about why they came. Connect with them and smile at them the whole time, also in your visualization. Try to greet them innerly. One by one. Welcome them.

5. Find out the right breathing exercises and meditation to relax and calm down before and after a concert. You can read about breathing and stretching exercises in my other articles here and here.

6. Be yourself, no perfection needed. It is perfectly fine to make a mistake. You do not have to be flawless. No one is. Your connection with the audience will be so much deeper and more enjoyable on both sides if you can just relax and smile about you own shortcomings. Acknowledge you are afraid. You can even tell them. Just use positive words like excitement and energy. Be generous to them and to yourself. Everyone can relate much better! be yourself

7. My very own way is to create a bodily feeling of the sound of my music. It has to be a strong positive emotion. Like feeling at home. E-motion is energy in motion, vibration.

I create my own positive vibration and inhabit it. I then open the door and welcome everyone to have a sip of the energy, sit down and make themselves comfortable.

 

Music Is Vibration, Feelings Are Vibration – Vibration Is Our Essence


But this is just the result, a natural result. The important thing is to inhabit your sound and create a positive vibe. Besides, this feeling has the duration of a second or even less, but I can create it whenever I want and keep out thoughts of self-doubt. There is simply no space as the feeling is huge, even limitless. No way of breaking in. And then I play the first note and it is a self-fulfilling prophecy again.

The good feeling enhances the sound, the sound enhances the feeling. We can then just glow and shine and invite everyone in.

Does that make sense to you? Feelings are the strongest vehicle we have. Therefore attach different strong, reassuring and warm feelings to every passage while you study. Relive them every time you play and you will be back in there on stage.

That feeling is what the audience remembers, not a mistake. Moreover, they will feel enriched because you did generously give them something. A pure wonderful vibration that uplifted them. After all, that is what music is all about, isn’t it?

 

How To Get Rid Of Stage Fright, Light and Bright Insight!


cabbage field

There are some fun ways as well. My mother, a flutist, told me that her grandmother (farmer) told her to look at the audience and imagine that they are all cabbage heads. Not as an offense, but the way a cabbage field looks like. And play for the food you will be blessed to eat.

However, my mother somehow wasn’t that much into cabbage and found another way: She imagined everyone naked! Literally without clothes. She was the only one dressed and her sound would dress the audience slowly. Piece by piece.

At the end of the concert everyone is dressed and happily applauding. Lights are turned back on and she can smile at the great job she had done!!

Understandably, I’m very happy that her audience never knew why she was radiant and smiling so much. They just thought she was confident and a fantastic musician, offering generously good feelings and beautiful sounds.

Isn’t that awesome? Try it out and let me know if it worked! Or find you own story and let us all know how you did it.

Link it to a vibration of joy, fun, lightness, ease and happiness.

 

Musicians And Stage Fright No More – Highlight!


How do you handle stage fright? What is your solution? Please share you experience in the comment section below and let us know how you deal with stage fright.

no more stage fright

What have you tried and does it work?

We would love to read you ideas.

Leave us a comment below!

 

Happy and fulfilling performance,

 

 

Janie from Topflute

founder of

Musicians and Stage Fright

 

 

topflute.com

myflutelife.com

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10 Replies to “Musicians And Stage Fright – Fight Or Flight?”

  1. Hi Janie,

    I always enjoy reading your posts, they read as if they come straight from the heart.

    The passage where you say: ‘think about why you play for your audience and why they came’ I can really relate to. In my case, because I am a worship pianist, it helps me a lot because I know the audience came to worship and I play for them to lead them into the worship…

    But set apart from religious aspects, besides prayer, I also use meditation. I visualize the performance… I truly believe that visualization techniques when done right, give your brain memories of success… I don’t know if that makes sense?

    But as you say, fright is usually a result of memories of past experiences that did not go very well. So if through meditation and visualization, you can give your brain ‘suggestive’ memories, those will help cope with fear and stage fright.

    Thanks Janie! Looking forward to your next post!

    Cheers,
    Tom

    1. Thank you so much, Tom! Your experience is very helpful and to us it makes perfect sense. Visualizing a positive outcome and getting into the feeling of it, will inevitably lead to it. More memories of success you create, the easier it will be to get into the positive vibrational state. And also, as you say so beautifully, there is some bigger reason that you are there together with your audience. In your case it is very clear and inspirational, but it is not far from that usually. Don’t we worship music and connection in itself in every concert? So maybe this is a good idea for everyone. Create the idea of worship for the moment, not in the religious way you experience, but the idea of being humble in front of something so much more important than our playing.
      We are very grateful for your comment and appreciate your time and experience,
      Janie
      Topflute

  2. Great post once again. Thanks for sharing your advice. I never performed in front of an audience but I know how ‘sweaty’ it can be to stand in front of a bunch of people while they all stare at you. I think that all of us experience the moment as terrifying since it’s not something that we don’t do every day. But as you’ve said, just be yourself and it’s gone. And as you keep repeating the experience, it becomes natural. Thanks again for sharing your advice.

    1. You are very welcome, Ivan. I guess you found the perfect way to deal with speaker nervousness. Once you do it enhances the positive attitude to the situation and makes it all the more enjoyable for everyone!
      Thank you for sharing your experience,
      it adds to the positive vibe we need to create,
      Janie

  3. Some great tips, Janie. I remember how frightened I was when I played piano as a child at some performance where all students of the same teacher had to play. I did overcome it somehow but it was not a pleasant situation.
    I don’t perform now but I can see a parallel with going for exams. One of my English students who studies law had failed at some exam repeatedly and she was scared to death to try again. I advised her to visualise the outcome, as you are advising in this article. She practiced that and she passed the exam. I was so happy when she told me!
    So these things really work. We have to prepare in advance!

    1. Hi, Lenka! Thank you for reading and commenting. We appreciate your experience and are grateful for you taking the time to share. In fact, visualizing the positive outcome instead of being stuck in the negative loop has so much power!! Congratulations on your student overcoming her fear and passing the exam in the end. You are so right, let us prepare in advance to not let any negative experience get stuck in our heads!
      Janie
      Topflute

  4. I am not a musician. “Stage fright” I think applies across so many activities.

    In sport the new player, never having played in front of 100,000 people bombs out.

    But they don’t say it is stage fright.

    They say he wasn’t up to the standard of the other players. Really?, he must have been, otherwise why did they pick him?

    Sometimes, and we have all had those moments, when no matter how hard we try, it all turns out wrong.

    Yet the day before, could do all so easily, even make it look easy.

    The mark of a professional, making something look easy.

    For myself in my profession, “stage fright” has different terms. Hopeless, incompetent, and worse derogatory terms.

    Construction is a very confrontational occupation if your a site manager.

    I am only about 5’10” and 80kgs. Having someone about 6’2″ and 130kgs., trying to stare you down to get their way can lead to more than stage fright.😁

    Nothing like a full blown argument, to clear the cobwebs.

    As some one said above, it is all in the preparation.

    Before I went to any new project the boss would get me in the office, send me down to a back room where all the plans, scope of work documents, selected contractors, everything needed was on a table.

    Even a list of things for my containers.

    Get your head around these he would say. Then walk out and close the door.

    Music, Speaking, Sport, there is an element of stage fright in so many things I think.

    Probably for a Musician it is a little more scary.

    I mean if you had to play in front of Royalty for the first time.

    What could possibly go wrong? .

    1. Hi, Michael! Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It seems you got into some pretty dangerous situations!!Happy you came out one piece. Even though that is not really stage fright, it can be very scary and induce the fight or flight response. You are so right about sports! That would be similar, only that if you have to run and move fast you can boil of some of the adrenaline that you can’t when you have to stand still and coordinate refined movements when your body just wants to run away. That is an element which we musicians have to deal with.
      We can do a lot of exercise after a concert or pracicing, but while on it, it has to be on spot. You say it so beautifully: to make it look professional you gotta make it look easy.
      Best wishes,
      Topflute

  5. Wow! This brought back an old memory. When I was in high school we had a required class that included drama. On one assignment we had to get in front of a camera and speak. I completely froze up and couldn’t do it. I could have used your help!

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