Here are 5 ways to help you overcome the fear, the anxiety, the panic of performing in front of 1 person or 1000 people.
- KNOW THE PIECE. Whatever your performance is, whether playing the guitar, singing, or speaking, you have to know the material without hesitation, without doubt. You cannot be guessing what’s next. Do you know the chords to the song, can you write them out or tell them to someone else without the guitar in your hand? Learn the song in sections. Know each section separately. What are the Intro chords? What are the chords on the verse? What are the chords on the Chorus? What are the chords on the bridge? Know the structure of the song. Practice playing the song out-of-order. Play the Bridge. Then try to play the Chorus, etc. This will remove what causes a lot of doubt and insecurity. Do you think Steve Vai or Eddie Van Halen is just winging it? No way, especially not on the level of their playing. Prepare yourself before you go into battle.
- RECORD YOURSELF. Now that you think you know your piece it’s time to get the evidence that you really do know it or you might still have some work to do. You need to record yourself because a recording doesn’t lie. Listen as if you were listening to someone playing a piece for you. Listen with a critical ear. Don’t depend on your brother’s opinion. This doesn’t have to be a Hollywood production, you can use a Digital Recorder or even Video and Sound from an iPhone is great to use just for evaluation. Listen or watch it and fix what needs to be fixed, go back a day or 2 later record it again. If it really hasn’t improved, get some help from a good teacher.. If you don’t have a quality guitar instructor, then find one (I have several blogs on that subject that will help you in your search). This can cut years off of trial and error on your part. You want to walk away at this point confident the you know the piece and it sounds good to you. Time to test it out in a real setting.
- EXPOSURE. Don’t try to go play Madison Square Garden for your first performance or your first hundred performances. Start very small, play for your Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Wife, Husband, other family members, branch out to playing for friends, maybe your church if you belong to one, then go public, maybe an open mic night, or sit in with a band. This is not for their opinion of you but so you can gain experience in a live setting. You can practice guitar all you want at home but you’ll find performing is a completely different mindset. If you’ve prepared through the previous steps, you should be gaining confidence and start gaining experience performing, knowing what to expect, the unexpected.
- TALK BACK TO YOURSELF. When the doubt, fear and insecurity starts to talk to you in your head, if you don’t stop it in its tracks it will cause you to perform poorly. Whatever your negative, defeating thoughts are saying, immediately think the opposite. “I’m not good enough” can be turned into, “I’ve prepared and will do my best, that’s all that counts”. You might think, “they won’t like me, can be turned into, “people want me to be entertaining, they don’t want me to suck”. Many great performers don’t want to be distracted before they perform. They prepare physically playing the guitar or singing but then they prepare mentally before they go on. Barbra Streisand still has an immense fear of performing but still does it.
- DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO ANYONE. We all have different performing strength’s and weakness’s, so don’t listen to someone else and think, well, I can’t play that fast, I can’t sing that high.Work with a great teacher to bring out your individual strength’s and to strengthen weakness’s.
Remember, you don’t know the real person that you’re looking at up on the stage. No matter what level, even world-class performers still to a degree go through the same things new performers go through, they just pay less attention to it. They have learned their music, they’ve proven they can play or sing it by recording, they have gained confidence by performing in low pressure settings in the beginning, they develop a positive, realistic mindset and they are concerned with topping their best, not trying to be someone else.