Saturday, April 12, 2008

Stage Fright

Q: My playing has taken a new turn in that I played my first open mic, playing my own songs about a month ago. It has taken me many years to get up on that stage. The one thing I noticed is how different and difficult it is right now in comparison to playing in my living room. I feel little tight and nervous. I had one song where I muffed up a Basic Bar F chord and C sharp minor Yikes, I have been playing those for years. Any advice?

A: There isn't too much advice to give about stage fright but I'll tell you one thing, it eventually goes away. It is just a matter of experience playing in front of people. Even me, who has been caught on stage yawning in front of several thousand people, used to be so scared to play in front of an audience that my legs would shake on stage. It takes about four of five times and its over. In some ways, when you stop getting stage fright, part of the fun goes away. Its sort of like when you are a teenager and go on your first date and you are all nervous and hating it, but looking back, it was part of the fun. There are a few thing you can do to make sure things go without any train wreck though.

1. Practice standing up. You see the guitar different when you sit down compared to when you stand up. This can lead to mistakes. When you sit down, you may tend to look at the top of the fretboard but when standing you see more of the side of the neck.

2. Even when sitting down, keep a strap on. And when you stand up and play, make sure the strap is adjusted so that the height of the guitar is the same as when you are sitting. I see this with students all the time and it always screws them up. When you sit down the guitar sits on your leg, and that is about the height that you want when you stand up as well. If your strap is long and your guitar is hanging down to your knees like Jimmy Page, you are going to have a hell of a time playing it, especially if you are nervous. If you are concerned about your image, drop it a little at a time to get used to it.

3. As I said, it is a matter of experience, so play in front of your friends and family before you get up on stage.

4. Last on my list. I always have found that anything I can do in my living room is only worth 80 percent on stage. I've managed to get it closer over the years but I know that if I want to play 100 percent on a gig, I need to have it at about 120 percent at home.

Don't worry too much about it. Enjoy the jitters while they last and keep on keepin' on.



ella said...

having stage fright is just normal, see even professional and the most confident person in the world could never escape from this stuff. esp to those performers are always subject to this kind of fear even you have many experiences of being in front of many people you will be again and again feel the nervousness brought by your audience.So I also want to share some advice to overcome this thing..

Wear Gloves
If your hands get so sweaty when you have stage fright that you might risk the microphone slipping out of your hands or be tempted to always rub your hands on your clothes, then gloves might be the answer. Find some thin, flexible gloves that match your performance costume (the trick is to have them blend it). Then, when your hands get slippery, the gloves will prevent it from coming through and impacting your performance. Just remember to practice with the gloves on too, so that there are no surprises on performance night. More tips and articles at

deadwarrior said...

having anti-anxiety medication before performance always helps :)