Gigging is one of those things all musicians should at least give a try. Not only can be great for bringing in income, but it can also strengthen the connection fans feel they have with you. This leads to a more loyal fanbase, essentially more income and better word of mouth promotion.
But what happens when you’re too nervous to get up on stage and perform? When the thought of gigging fills you with dread? Unfortunately, this is a problem many musicians face.
Thankfully though, this can usually be overcome with practice and time, even if you have anxiety driven stage fright. By doing the 5 below things, you’ll find those pre-gig nerves affect you a lot less, and might even go away all together.
So have a read for tips on how to deal with performance nerves, and be sure to put what you learn into practice.
1. Remember Why You’re Doing This!
One of the biggest tips I can give to you regarding performance nerves is to remember why you’re doing this. If you suffer from nerves and are reading this, my guess is that you want to get over them. Or at least make them more manageable.
Doing so will allow you to gig more, build up your fanbase, and earn more money from your music career; all things worth working towards!
While the below tips will help you better manage your nerves and do so in gradual steps, there will be times where you have to simply ‘suck it up’ and do what needs to be done. Even if you’re not 100% comfortable at the time.
Ask yourself; what’s the worse that’s going to happen? Are you going to get physically hurt if you start out practicing in front of one of your family members? Is your life going to take a turn for the worse? Will you never be able to perform again? On all three counts, NO!
The simple truth is this; the more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll get comfortable doing so. A lot of people will be fully comfortable with gigging after their first 5 or 10 shows, while others will always have some nerves no matter how many shows they do. That said, it will become more manageable as you go along.
So don’t back out of the below exercises at the first sign of nerves. Work through them and you’ll see there’s nothing really to fear whilst there’s a lot to gain.
2. Make Sure You’re Well Rehearsed
When you’re nervous about performing, it becomes easy to freeze up when you first get on stage. Some people forget their lyrics if they haven’t prepared well enough. Hopefully this won’t happen to you, but if it does, you’ll want your training to come in and save the day.
When you put a lot of practice into what you’re doing, you’ll give yourself a ‘autopilot’ mode to fall back on. If you know the song you’re singing inside out, you’re a lot less likely to forget the lyrics when you get on stage. You want to know the song so well that as soon as you wake up in the morning, you can sing it naturally from start to finish without reading any lyric sheets for reminders.
Then you want to practice it some more.
To get to that stage, you need to sing (or rap) it over and over again every day a week before the performance. Depending on how well you take lyrics in and remember them, some people won’t need this much. But if you’re not sure how long it’ll take you, try practicing it at least a week before, maybe more. Make those words come out as if it’s second nature to you.
One more danger when you go on up stage is that you forget the beginning of the song. This can happen regardless of how well you know it. To avoid this, you should write the first few words of the first line on your hand before you go up. This will give you a starting point which you can refer back to if needed. Once you start singing these words, the rest of the song should come out as you practiced beforehand.
As well as practicing your lyrics, you’ll also want to practice what you’re going to do on stage. This is so you know what kind of movements you’re going to do, and aren’t left wondering how to navigate the stage when it comes to the live show.
3. Practice In Front Of Familiars
Before you go and practice in front of a bunch of strangers, have a few practice runs in front of friends and family. What this does is give you some experience with performing in front of others, but with people you know and trust.
Even this might be a daunting task if your nerves are bad, but it’s a start. You’ll be in the comfort of your own home (or wherever you’ll be doing it), and you should hopefully have an understanding audience.
This will get you used to having eyes on you when you perform. Remember, many of the biggest musicians in the world have gone through this too before. Most humans are naturally nervous about showcasing themselves in front of a group of people, but do it enough and they usually get used to it.
If you’re having trouble performing in front of your family or friends, ask them to be very quite and start out by singing / rapping with your eyes closed. Blank everything out, feel the song you’re about to perform, and just do it. This is a step in the right direction, and something which you can build on.
4. Start With Open Mic Nights Or Small Events
Once you manage to perform in front of family or friends, next it’s time to move up to performing in front of others. Open mic nights are good for this as you can usually show up on the event day, put your name down, and perform. This will allow you to get some practice time in before you go to book a proper gig, and allows you to build your confidence up in a usually understanding environment.
At these nights you should also watch how other people perform. You can see how the audience react; usually you’ll notice they’re kind regardless of talent level of the performing artist. If you get a venue that isn’t like this however, don’t perform and instead go to another open mic night.
As you do these shows, you’ll learn this one thing:
The nerves usually go away once you’re on stage! They can affect you before the performance, and often as you go up to the stage. Maybe even for the first few seconds when you open your mouth. But as you fall back to your autopilot mode (if you rehearsed well), the rest of the performance will usually go smoothly and you’ll forget about the nerves. Realizing that will make things easier for you as you do more shows.
5. Don’t Be Too Early
As I mentioned, for some people the nerves never go away. If you’re one of those people (hopefully not), here’s a good tip for you with regards to each show you do:
Don’t arrive at the venue too early!
What happens when you do, is you get time to think. Your belly gains butterflies, and you become nervous just thinking about the show. Watching the venue fill up doesn’t help either.
You don’t want to arrive late as you’ll need the event organizer to know you’re there, but try and leave your entry until you’re really needed.
If you’re needed early, a good idea is to go and show your face, do your microphone check if they require it, then leave the venue until nearer your show time. Maybe get something to eat, read a book, or do anything else that will take your mind off it. Then when you have say 15 minutes to your show time, go back to the venue. This will give you time away from sweating about what you have to do, and make the lead up to the performance a lot more manageable.
So there are 5 things which can help you deal with pre-gig nerves better. Nerves affect a lot of musicians, but they become more manageable with small hacks, time and experience.
Do you have any additional tips for dealing with this? If so, please leave them in the comments below. Similarly, if you have pre-gig nerves or have had them in the past (but got over them), I’d love to hear your experiences as well. I’m sure others will too.