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Stage fright

KlorgnumKlorgnum Registered User
edited March 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Over the past 7 months or so, I've started playing guitar at a local... thing. Calling it a talent show wouldn't be too far off. I've played there four times now, and each time I've gotten really nasty stage fright. Now, the audience is the friendliest one I've ever seen, and they'll applaud anything, but when I get up in front of them, I start to shake. I'm unable to control my legs and feel really unsteady. I've given fairly decent performances despite this, but the stuff I'm playing takes a hit from it. What can I do to deal with this?

tl;dr, Performing gives me the shakes

Klorgnum on

Posts

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I'm an actor, so I think I can speak on this with a bit of experience.
    It takes time. Play more often and in front of more people. Hell, go play in a park, on a college campus, at any open mic night you find. The more you do it, the less you will care.

    Auditions still unnerve me and I get paid to perform. Its stupid. I know that, you know that, everyone knows that. its only on reality shows that people want to see failures.

    Improvolone on
    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
  • pinenut_canarypinenut_canary Registered User
    edited February 2009
    I played lead guitar in a band, and I would get extremely nervous and shaky, leading me to mess up my parts. The more I got into the music and became less of a statue on stage, the more "loose" I would be and I wouldn't make as many mistakes. Now that everyone's gone to college, the band has separated, but I still do acoustic things at my school's coffee house now and then, and the same thing applies.

    -You're always going to be nervous. I've seen interviews of my favorite bands where they all still say they're incredibly nervous before a show starts, even long time bands that have been around forever.
    -Take deep breaths. I know this is said for about everything, but deep breaths really work.
    -The best way for me to not make any mistakes is to not think about what I'm playing or singing, it all has to feel natural and second nature, and that leads to practice and rehearsal. Practice frequently, and take your practices seriously.
    -I don't know what kind of music you perform, or if you write any of your music. I want to write music that has meaning and will influence the audience one way or another, and furthermore, I want to entertain those people. These goals are really important to me, so it keeps me focused on doing my best and having a good time instead of making mistakes or being nervous.
    -Play in front of people as much as you can.
    -Have fun.

    Good luck dude! Rock on.

    pinenut_canary on
  • blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
    edited February 2009
    Close your eyes. Then they all go away.

    Also, I essentially create a new persona on stage. I'm the best goddamn performer they've ever seen goddamit! then I get the jitters and rush out afterwards. I get nervous and can't talk between songs, but the actual performing gets easy.

    blakfeld on
  • winter_combat_knightwinter_combat_knight Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    my understanding, in last 7 months you've played there 4 times. I think its understandable to be nervous. 4 times in front of an audience, whether you know them or not is freaking hard. only advice i can give (and coming from someone who has never performed in band shows) is to just think about what you need to do, remember that the audience is friendly, probably their just to have a good time, not to abuse anyone. Also, try to see if you can organise to do audience shows somewhere else too. even if its just a group of family,friends. nothing is better to help the shakes and nervousness than expierience and getting used to the situation. Maybe even try finding what relaxes you before a show. try something that might engage the audience. get a feel of who your audience are.

    if everything else fails...
    try picturing them in their underwear:) *sorry* but serious good luck with it. i think it'll be something that improves over time and expierience.

    winter_combat_knight on
  • KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Yeah, I have a ritual I do whenever I perform.
    It starts when I take a show. Regardless of when I'm performing, there's a shower before I get dressed for that specific performance.
    Then I dress differently a bit. Even if it's just a specific button-down that I normally don't wear, it's something different.
    Then I do my hair, and then I go to the gig. I don't fully prepare before hand.. Normally I'm in a casual version of what I'm wearing... button-down undone.. whatever, I don't really commit 'till the performance
    Then I of course warm up and prepare
    Then I really finish off whatever I'm wearing
    Then I go onstage.


    I channel the nervousness into... sort of a preparedness. Yeah, performing is different than rehearsals(kind of), or practicing, but use that. This is your chance. You've prepared for this, you're ready for this, and you can do this. The ritual I use is just to remind myself of that. Am I nervous before performances? Not exactly. I know what I'm doing, I know what's expected of me, I know where I'm weak and I know where I'm strong. It's always going to be different performing than rehearsing or practicing, but it doesn't have to be negative.

    And that's the advice I can give. Don't think "Oh god what if I mess up what if..." etc. Of course you'll mess up. I perform music for a living and after every performance I can write a list of what I did wrong. Hell, I make it a game to see if anyone brings it up. They have.... three times. Twice the mistake were that I turned two pages instead of one, tried to remember where I was enough to continue, and only came relatively close. Twice the comments were from within the group. This game of "Who noticed afterwards" keeps me from making the "Waterfall" mistakes where one leads to another. The third time I got in my head. Me, the person I was playing for, and their teacher laughed about it after we were done. I haven't messed that up again.

    You'll make mistakes. I can assure you that you will make mistakes. I can also assure you that no one in the audience is going to notice.

    Think of it this way: How many people in the audience know exactly what you're trying to do? None. They may have some idea... some grasp eventually, but they won't notice mistakes short of something catching on fire.

    And finally: Have fun with it. No one will make no mistakes. Anyone who pretends they've ever had a flawless performance is either lying or too shitty of a musician to notice the mistakes they've made. I'm obsessed with my mistakes and it would kill me with nervousness, but my solution is the one that I've found that works. Have fun with it. Mistakes happen. Enjoy them. Don't worry about being perfect, just have fun.

    Khavall on
  • Sci-Fi WasabiSci-Fi Wasabi Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Remember also that if this is a music thing, many people in the audience won't notice the vast majority of the mistakes you will make. You and your band mates will, and that's fine, but will the audience know you were supposed to sustain X note for two seconds longer? Probably not.

    My cousin gets off the stage all the time going "I did ok but fucked up during song X" and I'm always like "man I didn't even notice".

    Sci-Fi Wasabi on
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  • SoggychickenSoggychicken Registered User
    edited February 2009
    You can try visualization exercises, especially since you've played there before and you know what the location is like. Basically, just close your eyes and imagine yourself playing in front of the audience on the same stage that you'll be playing. Go through every song in your set and try to make your mental image as close to the real performance as possible. You want to put yourself into the same mindset that you'll be in when you are performing. Try to make yourself nervous.

    Do this a lot. On the train to work. In the shower. Before you go to bed. It will not make your nerves completely go away but it'll help. Oh, and I second whoever said that nobody will notice most of your mistakes.

    Soggychicken on
  • KlorgnumKlorgnum Registered User
    edited March 2009
    I'd like to thank everybody for their advice so far.
    Remember also that if this is a music thing, many people in the audience won't notice the vast majority of the mistakes you will make. You and your band mates will, and that's fine, but will the audience know you were supposed to sustain X note for two seconds longer? Probably not.

    Mmm. It's not so much a "I was supposed to sustain this note two seconds longer" but a "Oh god I hit the wrong note and it buzzed oh fuck I'm still doing it it sounds awful ohgodohgodohgod".
    I don't have a band to back me up either -- I play solo fingerstyle guitar. (Stuff like this) I was told by a couple of people after my last performance that I did a great job, but it seems like little mistakes would be incredibly noticeable here (not necessarily for that song, but for that style in general).

    Klorgnum on
  • sligmastasligmasta Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    i've acted and played instruments on stage both, and when i am nervous about the audience, ignoring them is what works for me, i just un focus my eyes so when i look into the crowed i dont see any real people, just a blur.

    this method doesn't give itself to the best performance though, it doesn't let you play off the crowds energy, but sometimes it gives you enough time to get comfortable and into your groove

    sligmasta on
  • KlorgnumKlorgnum Registered User
    edited March 2009
    sligmasta wrote: »
    i've acted and played instruments on stage both, and when i am nervous about the audience, ignoring them is what works for me, i just un focus my eyes so when i look into the crowed i dont see any real people, just a blur.

    I'm afraid that won't work for me. Dark room + bright lights means I can't even see the audience.

    Klorgnum on
  • NastymanNastyman Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Klorgnum wrote: »
    I'd like to thank everybody for their advice so far.
    Remember also that if this is a music thing, many people in the audience won't notice the vast majority of the mistakes you will make. You and your band mates will, and that's fine, but will the audience know you were supposed to sustain X note for two seconds longer? Probably not.

    Mmm. It's not so much a "I was supposed to sustain this note two seconds longer" but a "Oh god I hit the wrong note and it buzzed oh fuck I'm still doing it it sounds awful ohgodohgodohgod".
    I don't have a band to back me up either -- I play solo fingerstyle guitar. (Stuff like this) I was told by a couple of people after my last performance that I did a great job, but it seems like little mistakes would be incredibly noticeable here (not necessarily for that song, but for that style in general).

    You'd be surprised how different fast finger work like this sounds to the audience than what you hear while playing it. A huge buzz to you will barely be noticeable to the crowd. I play guitar (just as a hobby) and when I play things for people I'll mess up. If you just keep playing and act like it never happened then they won't even notice, even if you tell them you fucked up afterwards. They just say "Man, I didn't even notice."

    Nastyman on
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  • JRoseyJRosey SeattleRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Man just reading this thread is making me shaky. I used to play bass for a band for about three years and I never got over the stage fright. I tried just about everything and nothing worked. I'm sure I had an extreme case of it, but still. Might not just disappear.

    JRosey on
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  • gobassgogobassgo Registered User
    edited March 2009
    In high school band, i used to get nervous for the performances all the time. Then i formed my own funk/jazz group, and once I felt the rush of improvising in front of a live audience, i've never looked back. Compared to the nakedness you feel when improvising, just playing bass on stage and locking with the drums is cake. It also helped that I was performing on a constant basis with a number of other groups, so basically just keep doing it and concentrate on the fact that you are doing it because you love it.

    gobassgo on
  • SarcastroSarcastro Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    It gets easier over time?

    I only ever used to get a little nervous, not really nervous, but I've been performing here and there for as long as I can remember. There were a couple of tricks- I think the first was to search the crowd for a friendly face, and blank out all the rest. Nobody else out there really exists, its just between you and them.

    In readings, I would always start of with a bit of something 'funny', lets everybody laugh, and went a long way towards easing tension. I developed a special shorthand that went with the poems and speeches themselves, telling me where to breath and emphasize, using the words as percussive music. The less you have to 'wing' the better. In singing, it was practice practice practice, usually in the same space as the actual performance, so on the night of, it was no big deal. On stage, the audience wasn't really there, I would purposefully unfocus my eyes when looking out, and let the lights blind me a bit, so instead of an entire auditorium, you only have a few vague shapes in the first row.

    Somewhere along the way I just stopped caring. I mean, you're there for them, and even if you're bad, its still entertainment, so everybody wins out regardless. I'm sure somewhere in there were a couple of complete and total failures, in which there were pity smiles and polite applause. That's pretty much the worst that's going to happen. Once you've been through the worst, everything else gets a lot easier.

    You use the first part of whatever you do to find a groove with your audience, and when you find it, stay with that until the end. Its weird, but an audience often seems like one person, and just like you can play up to a single person, you can play up to a large group of people. Comes over time. Keep at it, there's no magic bullet, just time, effort and repeat performances.

    Sarcastro on
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  • KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Nastyman wrote: »
    Klorgnum wrote: »
    I'd like to thank everybody for their advice so far.
    Remember also that if this is a music thing, many people in the audience won't notice the vast majority of the mistakes you will make. You and your band mates will, and that's fine, but will the audience know you were supposed to sustain X note for two seconds longer? Probably not.

    Mmm. It's not so much a "I was supposed to sustain this note two seconds longer" but a "Oh god I hit the wrong note and it buzzed oh fuck I'm still doing it it sounds awful ohgodohgodohgod".
    I don't have a band to back me up either -- I play solo fingerstyle guitar. (Stuff like this) I was told by a couple of people after my last performance that I did a great job, but it seems like little mistakes would be incredibly noticeable here (not necessarily for that song, but for that style in general).

    You'd be surprised how different fast finger work like this sounds to the audience than what you hear while playing it. A huge buzz to you will barely be noticeable to the crowd. I play guitar (just as a hobby) and when I play things for people I'll mess up. If you just keep playing and act like it never happened then they won't even notice, even if you tell them you fucked up afterwards. They just say "Man, I didn't even notice."
    Last week for a performance of a few thousand people I mistakenly though that one piece I was playing was in the book, when instead it was just lying looseleaf. I grabbed the music to turn the page, threw it over, and lo and behold the music sailed about 2 feet to my left. I also had grabbed the next page. I have played the piece maybe 4 times before in rehearsals, hadn't touched it outside of rehearsals, as is common for me these days, and I was reduced to playing it from memory from page 2 on.

    So there I am, just me and a drummer being the sole accompaniment for a group, he doesn't play with music and I just give him direction while playing when there's stop-time or changes, and my music's on the floor where I can't read it, so we just basically make up the last 4/5ths of the song

    No one in the group noticed, let alone in the audience.


    Also what Sarcastro said about the audience... Work them. Especially if you're playing somewhere where there's a regular group... it might also help to get to know them. Performing is really easy when you know some of the people there. Depending on where I'm performing, I tend to know anywhere from just a handful to a large portion of the audience, and it helps.

    Khavall on
  • cooljammer00cooljammer00 Hey Small Christmas-Man!Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Remember, if you mess up, try to just play it off.

    cooljammer00 on
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  • Mr BubblesMr Bubbles David Koresh Superstar Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    As someone who is playing their first gig ever in 2 weeks, I'm taking a lot of this threads advice onboard...

    Mr Bubbles on
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