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Stage fright


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I had bad stage fright starting in my teens. I couldn't even speak in front of the class without stammering and losing my crap and not being able to finish what I started, I was terrified to perform. And then my very first gig was a county fair and this guy (a senior at the time, we were just sophomores) just heckled us the entire set, start to finish, him yelling at the stage , you suck, booo, insert graphic insult here. I was mortified and didn't take a stage again for more than 15 years.

 

Fast forward to 2008. I never drank much in my life, if at all before that, wasn't my thing, but someone here suggested it, and I started my night with a couple of beers and a shot. Instead of being terrified taking the stage, I found myself with only a bad case of butterflies. After a while, I became more confident, and was able to take a stage sober, without alcohol.

 

Now I take the stage lubed by choice, not necessity.

 

Don't knock social lubricant, it changed my musical life.

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I had bad stage fright starting in my teens. I couldn't even speak in front of the class without stammering and losing my crap and not being able to finish what I started, I was terrified to perform. And then my very first gig was a county fair and this guy (a senior at the time, we were just sophomores) just heckled us the entire set, start to finish, him yelling at the stage , you suck, booo, insert graphic insult here. I was mortified and didn't take a stage again for more than 15 years.

 

Fast forward to 2008. I never drank much in my life, if at all before that, wasn't my thing, but someone here suggested it, and I started my night with a couple of beers and a shot. Instead of being terrified taking the stage, I found myself with only a bad case of butterflies. After a while, I became more confident, and was able to take a stage sober, without alcohol.

 

Now I take the stage lubed by choice, not necessity.

 

Don't knock social lubricant, it changed my musical life.

 

Some war nog to steel the nerves is probably nearly as old as war.

 

As I already mentioned in a post on the same subject upon SSS, I had nothing but tough juries when I was in HS at The North Carolina School of the Arts. For several years. One day a good friend of mine, an awesome violinist, was performing a piece with the orchestra as the soloist. After the overture there was some shuffling around to do and I got up and went backstage. There she was with a few of her ballerina friends, and they had given her a glass of wine. There wasn't much left in the glass. She went on and played great. As well or better than the rehearsals.

 

That gave me ideas. For my next jury, in addition to being better prepared, I had a glass of burgundy. I had also practiced with a bit of wine a few days prior to it. Anyway, it went really well, and I knew it. I played the first movement of the unaccompanied Bach C Major Sonata. And half of the Fugue. The next day my jury sheets read, "Doesn't look or sound like the same violinist. Bravo!" and, "Well where have you been a all this time." So, it wasn't simply that maybe I just thought I'd played better. There was really no question.

 

And that was my fix for a while. But only for the most nerve wracking situations. And as I got busier, and more accustomed to being under pressure, I shook loose. It can't be maintained in a busy schedule anyway - where you're playing Fri. night, twice on Saturday, and again on Sunday afternoon.

 

It should be mentioned though I think, that there are some who will go from a little loosener to full on Duff, quickly. How many bottles of vodka was he putting down a day? 17 iirc. What was once helpful, becomes ruination, and stories abound of the sad consequences.

 

Anyone who decides to avail themselves of a medicinal libation should be very careful, IMO.

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I never had stage fright or even butterflies - lucky me.

 

I come to the gig prepared, I know I'm good, I know the audience wants to like me, and I usually know what songs to play for them.

 

I make mistakes, but I'm good at recovering so that the audience doesn't know, and most of the time my bandmates don't even know.

 

And there have been times when a 'train wreck' occured or I screwed up so badly that the song had to stop. Rare, but sooner or later it will happen. When you can't hide it, don't. Laugh at yourself. Say something like "Did you ever have one of those days where things you do every day for some reason just screw you up?" or "Oops!" or "Damn! That worked out perfectly in rehearsal yesterday", or something appropriate to the moment, "Did you see that gal wiggle!" (be careful with that), and you will find the audience will bond with you. Instead of laughing at you, they will laugh with you, and inside cheer you on for the next song. After all, when you let your humanity show, people will bond with you.

 

The secret, prepare, and have fun. Make sure you are appropriate for the gig (don't go playing disco in a country bar). Remember you are playing WITH the audience, not TO them.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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I don't think luck has much to do with it. As though one got bit by the 1 in 1000 mosquitos that's carrying the bug. 10% maybe.

 

I'll give fear of making mistakes, for me, a whopping 20% - 25% maybe 50% for some people.

 

On the day that I had my first bad experience, I was as prepared as I had been for any performance since the age of 5. But some other things had changed, most notably my energy, and perception. The level of preparation that had gotten me along well enough up to that point would never be enough again though. And to feel like I belonged, or had a right to be onstage, for classical stuff anyway, I had to take my preparation into 'no stone left unturned and placed just so' territory...a level of confidence where I was looking forward to showing what I had to accomplished - and had to offer quickly replaced concerns about making mistakes, or not having command of myself.

 

Until I got to that point, teachers, friends and relatives urging me to just go out there and have fun got a rather blank look from me I'm sure.

 

Preparation is big. 75%+ Some gigs require different types and levels of prep. Some gigs you can yuk it up with the crowd, some you can't. :)

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To the OP if you are still there. Maybe some words here parted the clouds for you and by some miracle flipped a switch. I never found what anyone had to say to be of much help, other than to practice harder, smarter, and be much better prepared.

 

With the irony in mind I would advise you to take it in small steps. maybe try to get down to 1 beer, or none at all when you jam with friends. Be well prepared in any way that you can be. From there set up small, low key performances. Real confidence will be at hand when you don't need a drink anymore. Maybe it goes well, maybe it doesn't. Try to take the long view, and don't let a setback sway you any more than is to be expected. If it is important to you, you can take the punishment.

 

But it will take work and you can't give up, if performing in some comfort is something you wish to be able to do. I wouldn't expect anything that's been said here to make your next attempt easy though.

 

 

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Piano lessons , and the eeeeeek recitals. A couple of those made hiding out in a band pretty easy. The best way to get over being nervous is to know your material, and learn to blow by a clinker rather than think about it. After the gig dont labor on things.... that bad note has left the building.

 

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After many years of playing, I get a little anxious a few minutes before show time. I have noticed that I get more anxious if I am playing at a new venue. Once I get on stage and start playing, the nervousness fades away quickly. Talk to your physician, they may prescribe something to calm your nerves. Also, consider dark sunglasses and imagine everyone in the audience is naked. :idk:

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I'm a Taurus born on the cusp of Gemini. Creative and artistic yet I battle with a dual nature. In my case I'm both an extrovert and introvert at the same time. I used to get hammered every time I performed. Over the years I've mellowed out and I don't care what other people think so much now.

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some old big band era horn player once told me' date=' " if you ever stop gettin' butterflies before you go on... take up knittin' or something cause your heart just aint in it anymore."[/quote']

 

^^^ I love that ^_^ There's always a fine line between being excited and nervous.

 

Being prepared and knowing the set frontwards and back gives me confidence and helps fight nerves too.

 

My stage fright gradually faded as I performed more and gained self-confidence. It's hard to explain, but I stopped being "nervous" and started being "excited" when I realized on a deeper level that the show wasn't about me, it was about the audience and connecting with others through music.

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Great thread!!

 

I have suffered this too in several occasions, and after a great deal of observing myself and thinking I've come to the conclusion that for me what makes a huge difference is my friendship with the other band players.

 

Whenever I played with people who were friends of mine outside the band, I just didn't care about fumbles, broken strings or pulled cables (all of which happened aplenty, of course). We just laughed at each other and kept playing, and I never felt ashamed for more than a split second, because I always felt like we were all in it together, sharing the fumbles as well as the fun.

 

But when I played with people who were not my private friends but mere band acquaintances, then I did feel a lot more pressure and stage freight. It's like I always had to prove I was up to the challenge, and always under scrutiny. I never had to prove anything to friends!

 

Same thing when performing solo, thank God that happened only really a few times... the worst when I was asked to play an acoustic song at someone's wedding. Just ONE damn song, with a woman I barely knew singing along (so maybe not truly technically "solo" but I was the only instrument), and yet I spend almost 3 whole months in total anguish practicing that song to perfection, with the panic that if I made a mistake I would have ruined their wedding (they were the kind people who really want that "perfect" wedding). Never again...

 

Edit: I forgot to mention, that eventually I did manage to play that wedding song perfectly, but the singer screwed it up :D

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I don't know if it's stage fright per se, but I find that my solos are better at home.

Other than that, I feel better onstage, than being a guest at a party.

If there is any anxiety, it's in the hours before, worrying I've forgotten an important cable at home etc.

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2 hours ago, OnKeyboards said:

I don't know if it's stage fright per se, but I find that my solos are better at home.

Dunno how common it is but I sing/play much better at home on the couch or while rehearsing. Let me get in front of a microphone--even for at-home recording--and I suck. Add an audience and I really stink.

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spend more time with the mic in your face...you just need to get used to it. You don't have 'stage fright', you play in front of people every week [or at least you did, pre-Covefefe-19].

I've been at this stuff for longer than I care to remember, and to be frank, of course there is always a bit of nervous tension before you start. But actual 'stage fright' is a crippling condition I have observed first hand in some very talented musicians.

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I play my best when I have an audience. I like musicians in the audience too, because they know how to listen and can appreciate some of the things we do that go over the heads of the 'lay-people'.

I'm missing my audience in these COVID days, and I will impatiently wait until it is safe to do it again. That doesn't mean I'm chomping at the bit to rush it. It just means I'm glad when this emergency is finally over.

Insights and incites by Notes

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4 hours ago, daddymack said:

spend more time with the mic in your face...you just need to get used to it. You don't have 'stage fright', you play in front of people every week [or at least you did, pre-Covefefe-19]. . . .

Assuming that's directed at me, yes, I played in front of people every week but as a backup "musician." Nerves hit when I go solo. OnKeyboards mentioned doing better at home and I was following up on that.

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as was I...spend more time with the mic in your face. Once you get used to it being there, it won't cause you any issues.

I spent many years as the 'back-up singer/guitarist' after my initial duo split. Worked with a number of exceptional vocalists. It took me a long time to get my confidence back as a singer [1979-1998], mainly doing home recordings of original material, all the while doing side gigs, singing back-up/harmonies and 'doing sound'. Developed a whole new style, which I am trying to shed now and re-develop my old singing voice.

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38 minutes ago, Notes_Norton said:

One thing I caution against is relying on alcohol or other drugs to feel comfortable.

I don't know how to overcome the problem because I never had it. I just get into what I love doing and I'm lucky that they like it.

Notes

we have discussed this elsewhere...we are being paid to perform at our best, and at least to me, that means wide awake and sober, hitting on all cylinders [will electric cars make that an anachronism?]...

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On 5/28/2020 at 11:11 AM, daddymack said:

we have discussed this elsewhere...we are being paid to perform at our best, and at least to me, that means wide awake and sober, hitting on all cylinders [will electric cars make that an anachronism?]...

We still dial phones and they haven't had dials since the 1970s so the phrase should continue with it's present meaning. Phones haven't had bells either, but if you call that beep-beep or whatever a ring tone, it's still applicable.

I do think "You sound like a broken record" will fade away though.

I also don't eat before or during a gig. I need my lung capacity for singing and wind instrument playing. I do whatever I need to do to entertain at the very best of my ability.

Back to the OP, try looking past the audience at a spot on the back wall. I read this along time ago as a trick people who are afraid to speak in public use. I never had that problem either. I'm not afraid to stumble, make mistakes or look stupid.

Most mistakes I've learned to cover up so the audience and sometimes even my band mates don't know that I screwed up. But there are always those times when there is a musical train wreck.

If that happens I find the best thing to do is to laugh at yourself on the mic. Something corny like "Sorry folks, I got my finger stuck under the G string again." or "Have you ever had one of those days where things you do a million times just come out wrong?" or if a legitimate distraction walks by (like a pretty female) you can say, "Sorry, this goddess walked by and I lost my place." or something else the pops into your head. So instead of laughing at you, they are laughing WITH you, and that is a world of difference.

This actually puts the audience on your side. Everybody can relate to screwing up, and nobody likes to get caught at it. So they relate to you. When you start again, you will find the audience on your side.

I was in the audience of a famous jazz singer who stumbled, stopped the song, and said, "You know, that spot always gets me." He started the song again and when he got through the same spot there was applause from the audience, and he reacted with a big thumbs up.

So relax, the more you do it, the more comfortable you should be, and if you screw up, remember, the audience is on your side, especially if you relate to them.

Insights and incites by Notes

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