How to Deal with Performance Nerves

I have been incredibly blessed in the past few years with performance opportunities; I’ve played in orchestras, folk groups and funk bands; in cathedrals, music shops and festivals. I don’t tend to get too nervous when performing but I had some really high-stake gigs in the last couple of months and as they got closer I could feel my anxiety rising and the dread setting in. So I put out a call on Facebook for some advice on how to deal with performance nerves and the response was amazing! I’m lucky enough to know some incredibly talented performers from all walks of the arts, so any advice given here has been tried, tested and proved ten times over.

Preparation

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“Know every aspect of your performance inside out, every break, every change over, how your going to stand, everything. If I’m well rehearsed, I’m never nervous and just enjoy it, if I’m not, I get very stressed.” –Cain Bariskill, Musician

“An amateur learns something until they get it right – a professional learns something until they can’t get it wrong. If you know your material inside out you can just relax and enjoy it. You know you won’t go wrong because it’s so in your head that you don’t need to think about what comes next”- Lucy Brown, Actor

“Rehearse like mad. Like, even by yourself. The thing that tends to turn us to mush is when we don’t know what we are doing, or at least feel like we don’t.” – Siobhan Mazzei, musician

“I find the key is to not over think when you are on stage. The rare occasions when I have messed up, it has been because I was worrying about what line came next, even though I totally knew it! If you know a song really well, you don’t have to think at all, it just happens.”- Celia Allsop, Musician

“I use my phone to record myself rehearsing my whole set, watch it back, and repeat until I make no mistakes. Then I know I can do it.” Will Horspool AKA Poetman, Poet

“Think of a couple of things to say between songs too. Otherwise the flounder of banter will seep into you hands.” Adam Weikert, Musician

Motivation

Getting on that stage and remembering that if you don’t do the things you love it would make you miserable”- James Byron Norval, Musician

“If you’re doing something you enjoy you can focus on finding the joy in it for yourself rather than doing it for the audience. If you are involved in what you’re performing the audience will find you much more captivating to watch than if you’re just performing for them.” – Lucy Brown, Actor

Starting Right

“It is indeed all in the breath. I’ve been doing the ‘headspace’ app which is 10 minute meditations & a lot of it is similar to pranayama breathing techniques. The first thing to be affected by nerves, anxiety, fear is the exhale breath. It becomes short and uneasy. If you focus on just following the journey of that exhale breath, beginning, middle and end – and every time you become distracted just kindly bring that awareness back, to just the exhale breath, it becomes longer & longer & apparently it’s less likely for mind & body to continue being anxious due to this calming loooong exhale breath.” Ruth Steel, Actor and Yogi

Having an intro that you can relax into, so that your comfortable from the beginning.– Alice XY, Musician

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Mistakes

“Try not to worry about it – if you make mistakes just ride it out, the audience likely won’t know.” Simon Matthews, Musician

“Try practicing with mistakes and battling through them. It’s true that you should try to practice until perfect, but make sure that if you make errors while practicing NOT to stop – in the real thing you’d have to ignore it and carry on anyway, so get used to doing that and you’ll be fine. I always make mistakes when performing but I train myself beforehand on how to ignore them and relax. If you have the mentality of ‘I mustn’t make a mistake at ANY COST’ then it just makes the pressure and anxiety worse.” Jamie Evans

“Just think back to the times you’ve made a mistake in the past and whether it was devastating and if anyone even noticed? Chances are they didn’t and you probably still got good feedback. Remember that good performers still make mistakes, they just deal with them well. You just need to trust yourself that you can handle whatever happens and it’s rarely the end of the world” – Doe Demure, Dancer

Using the Nerves

Use the nerves and find how to let them elevate a performance. Control your performance and then let go in the right way. I’m performing regularly now and nerves aren’t stopping me at all. I still feel them but I relax and know it’s all under control, as good as it can get and be part of the moment and that they go when adrenaline takes over and I breeze through and enjoy – Lucy Littlemore, Dancer and Musician

“Nerves are all part of performing, its how to use them to your advantage which is key” – Greg Poole, Musician

How do you deal with your performance nerves? Leave a comment below to let us in on your secrets!

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