Your hands are sweaty and your heart is racing. And if you’re a performer, you will know this feeling. It's called stage fright! Many people would rather go into hiding than onto the stage, but as a singer/musician, that simply is not an option. Whether you are on stage or simply doing your music exam, stage fright is a very strong feeling than can totally ruin a performance. So, it's time to face your fears as we guide you in understanding how to overcome this powerful emotion.
Step 1: What Exactly is Stage Fright?
As human beings, we’re wired to worry about our safety and possible threats. We tend to worry the most about our reputation above other things.
According to Darwin, there are primitive parts of our brain that control our reaction to threats on our reputation. This makes it extremely difficult to control our response in situations like going on stage and performing in front of people.
Different studies have concluded that this response is an ancient and instinctive reaction, one which hasn’t been changed by modern civilization. We know this response today as the “fight or flight” syndrome - a natural reaction that is designed to protect our bodies from any harm.
So, when it’s time for you go on stage and the nerves start settling in, you start thinking about the negative consequences and possible outcomes. These negative thoughts trigger the release of the hormone ATCH, which results in the release of adrenaline into your blood.
This release of adrenaline is what leads to sweaty hands, a racing heart, and rapid breathing. Your body’s way of trying to protect yourself from a possible bad outcome. Understanding that this type of reaction is simply your body's natural response will help you gain a psychological edge over stage fright.
Step 2: Signs and Symptoms of Stage Fright
The next step in overcoming your stage fright is knowing whether you’re truly experiencing it. If you have experienced a few or more of the following symptoms before or during a performance, you are experiencing stage fright:
- loss of appetite
- excessive sweating (usually on the palms of your hands or face)
- shallow breathing or hyperventilation
- increased heart rate
- nausea and/or diarrhea
- frequent urge to go to the bathroom
- lack of concentration
- inability to hold a basic conversation
Step 3: Tips and Exercises To Overcome Stage Fright
It’s important to remember that stage fright is a perfectly normal phenomena. It happens to many performers, singers, and musicians. Some of the most experienced artists have admitted that they still get nervous before going on stage. If a GRAMMY winner like Adele still experiences stage fright, we think it’s safe to say that you will probably experience it too from time to time, but it does not have to hold you back.
Here are some tips and exercises to reduce your stage fright:
1. Just before the performance
The most nerve-wracking part of performing is usually those last few minutes before you go onto the stage.
To combat these feelings, go into your dressing room or bathroom and stretch your arms as far as you can above your head while holding your hands together. Take three (or more) deep breaths in and out. Do this as slowly and for as long as you can.
You can also try to inhale more oxygen than it feels like your lungs can take, and exhale slowly. It might feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but you will start to feel more relaxed as you continue.
Stretching and breathing releases hormones that trigger a relaxation response within your body...calming your nerves and mind.
2. Be prepared
No one can deny this. Knowing your stuff inside and out helps a lot, but doesn’t necessarily get rid of the problem. Being prepared will obviously help you perform, but most importantly, will give you confidence.
Confidence will help you to think on your feet and have a back-up plan for when something goes wrong. This will then help you in eliminate, or at least, lessen your fear.
3. Find your own “happy place”
Create your own place or moment of happiness. You can do yoga, go for a walk, listen to your favorite music, or call your best (and funniest) friend. It will help calm your nerves and also boost your mood.
4. Don’t share your mistakes
Most of the time, your audience won’t notice that you’re nervous or perhaps made a mistake. So why tell them?
When you inform your audience that you’re nervous, you will only distract them from your performance. You may notice some small detail that's out of place, or feel that your hands are shaking, but your audience will most likely not notice any of it.
5. Don’t fight your stage fright - use it!
As odd as it may seem, don’t try and resist the experience of your stage fright. Work with it!
Your nerves are also a form of energy that you can use to your advantage. Don’t let this energy work against you. If you embrace it, you can channel it into positive energy.
When you expect and accept that you will feel nervous for the performance, especially in the beginning of it, the stage fright will slowly ease off and give you an edge to work with. And before you know it, you will be performing without anxiety and enjoying the experience.
About the Author: Brian Collins
I am a classically trained singer who believes that every instrument requires maintenance - including the voice! I started my professional music studies at the age of 8 and competed in and won several local and state piano competitions. I graduated with honors and earned my Bachelor of Music Education in 2003, and since then I have studied with famous musicians and teachers around the world. I have also completed hundreds and hundreds of voice lessons, exploring various methods, and attended countless seminars on voice coaching for all ages.