Three Tips For Overcoming Stage Fright → Edit

 by Kim Foskett
Music Lessons and Stage Fright

The step from music lessons to public performance doesn't need to feel overwhelming.

Nerves. Butterflies. Anxiety. We’ve all experienced these feelings as musicians. We all know how they can cripple our performances and cause us frustration. With a few simple techniques, you can transform your stage fright into a powerful motivator and get back to the fun of music-making.

Practice Makes Perfect

One of the most obvious precautions you can take is to have the music as prepared as possible. Ask yourself, “What am I most nervous about for this performance?” If the answer is related to a spot in the music, practice that spot until you have it perfect. This sounds ridiculously obvious, but after working on a piece for so long, sometimes students get caught up in the big picture and forget to focus on small mistakes.

Another aspect of practice is one students often overlook: the performance. Many students have their music practiced perfectly, but it all falls apart when they walk onstage and see their parents, friends, and peers all staring at them. Performances involve additional elements that are hard to replicate in everyday practice sessions, so it makes sense that one might not be fully prepared, despite having the music completely learned.

The good news is you can practice performing at Music House.

The good news is you can practice performing at Music House. One thing I love about Music House is the fact that my students get lots of diverse opportunities to perform. I always start my students with one of the smaller Student Showcases, which tend to be populated with small crowds of super supportive family and friends. To prepare, I encourage my students to try a couple “mock performances” at home for their parents. Starting in the living room, then moving on to a small public performance gently acclimates the student to playing in front of people. After that, we can shoot for larger goals, like Music House Grand Showcases and Friday Night Concerts. It’s a win-win.

Preparing for Physical Reactions

One of the most obvious precautions you can take is to have the music as prepared as possible. Ask yourself, “What am I most nervous about for this performance?” If the answer is related to a spot in the music, practice that spot until you have it perfect. This sounds ridiculously obvious, but after working on a piece for so long, sometimes students get caught up in the big picture and forget to focus on small mistakes.

So often as musicians, we feel ready to nail a performance, but feelings of anxiety cause our bodies to do weird things.

So often as musicians, we feel ready to nail a performance, but feelings of anxiety cause our bodies to do weird things. Dry mouth, clammy hands, and shaking are just some of the most common symptoms of nerves. Sometimes, these reactions are unavoidable, no matter how much one prepares.

How do we beat the inevitable? Adapt. List the physical things that happen when you get nervous. Look at your list and figure out how you can anticipate and prepare for each thing. For example, you know you always sweat a lot when you’re nervous. You can prepare for this in many ways: Lighter clothing or fewer layers, pull your hair back, be well-deodorized, and carry a small towel so you can wipe off your hands or forehead. Another example: you get dry mouth when you’re feeling those performance butterflies. First, make sure to stay hydrated leading up to the performance day. Next, on the day of the performance, carry a water bottle and drink it. Just avoid drinking too much, since you don’t want to be distracted by a full bladder. Finally, if you’re feeling dry mouth right before you perform, have some bites of an apple. The juiciness will make you salivate. Overcoming physical reactions to nerves can be easy, if you know what to look for and prepare.

Mental Techniques

Performance anxiety can be a tough beast to manage because it doesn’t always manifest itself the same way. Tackling something that is ever changing requires a strong mental state.

Sometimes performing music is a lot like acting. You might act like you know the part better than you do. You might act excited in certain pieces, even when you’re not. Extend the idea of acting to your feelings of anxiety. Acting confident and not nervous can actually go a long way. In other words, fake it until you make it. Pretending to not be nervous has two benefits. One, the audience will have no idea. They will think you are calm and confident. Two, if you aren’t letting yourself get caught up in feeling nervous, those bad feeling will start to subside.

The best mental strategy is to focus on the music. It’s the reason you’re here.

The best mental strategy is to focus on the music. After all, It’s the reason you’re here. If you find your mind wandering during performances, develop techniques to reign it back in. The best way to do this is to make up a story that goes alongside the music. It doesn’t matter if it’s something silly or something serious, just come up with a story. As you play the piece, keep mentally coming back to the story. Try to tell it using only your instrument. Not only will you stay mentally focused on the music, you will play more musically.

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Written by
Kim Foskett

Kim foskett oboe lessons kansas city

Music House oboe instructor, Kim Foskett, received her bachelor’s degree in oboe performance from the University of Missouri and has been a regular performer and featured soloist in UMKC’s orchestra, wind ensembles and the Midwest Chamber Ensemble. Kim’s teaching style focuses on excitement, particularly in the beginning stages. “Oboe is a wonderful, but challenging instrument,” says Kim. “Keeping my students engaged and inspired is essential to helping them achieve their musical goals.”