How to overcome stage fright?
How to overcome stage fright?
Knees weak, palms are sweaty. Stage lights are blinding you feel like throwing up your spaghetti? Yes, that’s how stage fright feels like and all of us performers/entertainers/speakers will have to go through this experience.
In today’s article, we are exploring how we can overcome stage fright or help a child to do so. Before we jump into the remedies, let us understand a bit more about stage fright.
Stage fright is the emotion(s) you feel when there is rush of adrenaline in your body. A popular term for this is the ‘fight-or-flight response’. This is when your body thinks its stressed and it needs to get ready to run away or to fight back whatever life-threatening situation you are in.
It’s the same feeling you get on a rollercoaster when you start to descend on the drop. Your body thinks it’s going to crash into the ground so it releases adrenaline into your blood to prepare for the impact. Performing on stage may not necessarily carry the same danger as falling at speed while suspended in the air - but the body reacts the same way because of this one factor: uncertainty, or the fear of the unknown.
This fear can be expressed via the question ‘what if?’
I make a mistake and everyone laughs at me;
I fall down halfway on stage and embarrass myself;
My guitar strings snap halfway my solo;
My strap breaks into half;
I drop my pick into the sound hole of my acoustic guitar;
The stage flooring breaks apart into a nice hole surrounding me;
The sky breaks into a million pieces and ruins the show;
Now the list can go on and on for the myriad of things that can go wrong before/during/after the performance. This is called ‘overthinking’ or worrying about nothing.
As a stage performer, is it our responsibility to prevent as many of these from happening, such as buying a strap that can store extra picks or getting a good set-up for your guitar so that the strings are less likely to snap and buying strap locks to prevent your strap from falling out suddenly. However, there are also things beyond our control such as the weather and how likely the sky would break into a million pieces.
These are the unnecessary worries and contribute as bad stress. Ask any seasoned performer and they’ll tell you they actually benefit from a little bit of adrenaline when performing on stage. The stress coming from wanting to do your best and to immerse yourself in your craft and to provide a convincing performance is the good stress that can boost your performance.
Managing stage fright is the method of managing this stress and changing how it affects you. Scared of falling down? Practice walking slowly on stage and wear shoes that have the strongest anti-slip properties. What about playing the wrong note? Practice the song a hundred times with your eyes closed and even if you messed up play it like it was planned and own that note confidently.
Taking the rollercoaster as an example, the second or third time on the same rollercoaster isn’t as exciting or terrifying. Likewise, rehearsing on stage can reduce the effect of stage fright.
The best way to do away with stage fright is to be comfortable on the stage.
If you don’t have access to the stage, then practice it in front of people. Think about the gusto you want to portray when you walk on, accept those feelings of nervousness and turn them into feelings of bravery and courage and inspiration. The fact that you are chosen to go on stage means that you have the recognition and trust of the people who put you there, and all that’s left for you to do is to perform and engage the audience with the beauty of your craft.
Stage fright is not something that you can instantly overcome in minutes. It takes time and progress and positive reinforcement from the audience. How can we do this?
Imagine that a performer has this fear or anxiety of tripping on stage. Ask them specifically ‘what do you think will happen if you fall?’. A common answer is that they are scared of being laughed at and embarrassed on stage. That’s a valid fear and here is how we can work on it:
Practice walking up to the stage slowly and time your steps;
Check the floor before walking;
Walk with confidence;
Practicing these steps with safety in mind and the ultimate goal of showing them that they can indeed do it. Take a video for them and show them how must gusto they have when they walk up confidently.
In the event that you do make a blunder and fall, embrace it. If you fell down halfway because you lost balance, then practice walking and balancing. The more time we spend wondering about all the what- if(s), the less time we have to address them and overcome them.
Did you find this post helpful or inspiring? Here at Guitar Emerge, we have teachers who are seasoned stage performers and we have regular performances catered for our students. This builds up confidence and trust in themselves and their instrument. We love guiding them every step of the way so that they can let their inner musician emerge – from practicing in front of the mirror at home to standing proudly on stage. Sign up for our free trial guitar lesson here and get started with Guitar Emerge!