Coping with Performance Anxiety...

Although thousands of people gain a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction from playing guitar, when it comes to an actual performance, many find the experience is tainted by the appearance of nerves.
While it is true that a little “stage fright” is a normal reaction to a potentially stressful situation for others it can be more severe. Some suffer nerves and anxiety to the point that it not only taints their experience of playing but it can make them want to stop performing altogether.

In addition, an abundance of nerves during, or prior to, a performance may taint the actual performance. Playing the guitar or piano while your hands are shaking or your palms are sweating is a very difficult job to do.

Although nerves are considered normal, it is best for the player (and the audience) if everything possible is done to keep those nerves down to a minimum. Luckily there are a number of tried and tested tricks and methods which can be utilized.

#1. Preparation
Practice does indeed make perfect, and such repetitive playing can increase your confidence and therefore reduce nerves. Most people feel themselves becoming anxious about a performance because they feel they’re not “ready.” This may be because they feel rushed during rehearsals or haven’t had enough time to learn the particular piece.

It might also be that they don’t feel confident or at ease with what they’re expected to do or haven’t had a proper “dress rehearsal” where they might have played with the rest of the band or in the particular venue's setting.

If this is the case, then taking the right amount of time to prepare, to get to know the piece and to thoroughly familiarize yourself with your music is vital.

However, it should go further than that. If it is possible, get to your venue earlier in the day and scope out your performance area. Getting a really good idea of your stage layout 9or wherever you could be playing) can be extremely useful. 

#2. Planning
Although planning and preparation might sound like the same thing, they’re not. Preparation is you and your performance, while planning takes into account all of the other factors such as logistics, venue layout and the schedule of the performance.

In addition, it involves the actual instrument itself. For example, if you know you’ll be using Fender amps for your performance but you’re not used to these, then it’s a good idea to get to know the settings, tone dial-in and your personal playing style set-up of one before the performance. Also, it's wise to never bring unproven /untested gear to a gig, (especially at an important gig). Test your gear at home and at your rehearsals - not live on stage! 

#3. Practice
Everyone practices in different ways. Just as they prepare for a big exam, some cram in some last minute practice the night before the exam, while others stop and allow themselves time to relax and clear their minds.

Although it is true that everyone has their own style of styudying, if yours isn’t working or you feel that it’s your lack or abundance of practice which is leading to the nerves, it’s never too late to change your own approach.

Make a "Practice Schedule" and follow a pattern where many subjects and songs can be covered in short time frames. Be sure to include warm-ups and track your metronome speeds. It is also valuable to record yourself and listen back. Making a few videos doesn't hurt either.

Video yourself "as if" you're playing the gig. Watch it afterward, and notice how you look. Are you looking cool, calm, relaxed and smooth? Or, do you appear stiff and seem nothing at all as to what you wanted to project from the stage?

Make a mental note of how you want to come across not just with your sound, but also with your live on stage image. Practice this prior to jumping on a big stage at an important gig. Ironing out your "rough-spots" at rehearsal time will pay off huge down the road.


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