When you’re a guitarist, your livelihood can depend on how well you perform on stage. Though many artists enjoy the rush of performing to large crowds, some may suffer from Performance Anxiety and have issues sharing their talents in a live setting. In movies and TV shows, crowds go wild when a guitarist does an impressive solo. But for many guitarists, regardless of how much they practice and hone their technique, they struggle with facing a live audience.
Here are the symptoms of performance anxiety:
Change in vision
Feelings of nausea and upset stomach
Hands breaking out in sweat
Dryness in mouth
If you’re a guitarist who is suffering from Performance Anxiety, you should know that you're not alone. A study found that 59% of musicians experienced anxiety that impacted their performance and 21% had severe anxiety. With the right strategies, you can overcome performance anxiety and thrive on stage.
Check out these five tips on how you could make your stage fright a thing of the past.
Don’t Do Anything That Will Increase Your Anxiety
Before a performance, you shouldn’t do anything that will exacerbate your Performance Anxiety. These are a few things that you might be consuming on a daily basis that could make it worse.
Though coffee can increase your wakefulness, as a stimulant, it can increase your heart rate and subsequently push you over the edge. However, you can certainly drink coffee as long as you don’t have too much. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you shouldn’t consume more than 400 milligrams of caffeine. Since caffeine affects people differently, you shouldn’t drink it before a performance if you aren't a regular drinker.
Chances are that if you are a guitarist, you will find yourself around a lot of alcohol. You most likely book gigs at performance venues, concert halls, bars, and nightclubs that are fully stocked with liquor. So, before a show, it can be tempting to down a few pints or take a couple of shots to ease that Performance Anxiety. Alcohol can make you feel more relaxed by decreasing your inhibitions. But it can actually make the problem much worse.
Here are some short-term effects of alcohol that can impact your performance:
Poor motor skills and coordination.
Worsens your vision
Makes it harder to concentrate on a task
Impacts your social judgement
Unfortunately, insomnia is linked to anxiety disorders. And insomnia can lead to anxiety and depression. This creates a vicious cycle where since you aren’t getting enough sleep because you are anxious, you become mentally even more on the edge. It’s absolutely critical for you to get a good night’s rest before you go on stage.
Check out these tips on improving your sleep cycle:
Avoid using screens before bed
Don’t drink too much caffeine
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or night
Stop taking long naps throughout the day
Avoid alcohol consumption
Redesign your bedroom
Stop eating right before you go to bed
In addition to avoiding counterproductive beverages and improving your sleep cycle, you should also stay hydrated to decrease your stage fright.
Accept Your Nervous Energy
A study conducted by the National Institute for Mental Health found that 18% of Americans deal with some sort of mental health disorder. Though mental health issues are widespread, there is still a stigma around them. This is not surprising: since we all face so much pressure to be perfect and successful, it can be difficult to come to terms that we face psychological hurdles, even if so many other people are in the same boat. To overcome your stage fright as a guitarist, you will have to accept your nervousness. These are a few helpful steps:
Reach Out To A Psychologist: If you are continuously suffering from Performance Anxiety, you should go talk to a psychologist or another trained professional to come up with strategies that work for you. You can also look into meditation apps. These apps make it so you can get expert advice with a few simple clicks.
Channel your nervousness into your performance: We all know the expression “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” When it comes to dealing with stage fright as a professional guitarist, it’s highly applicable. Instead of ignoring the issue, channel your anxious and nervous energy into your performance, and motivate yourself to give the show you’re capable of. Plenty creatives have their own issues that they channel into their art. Your Performance Anxiety can actually make you a stronger, more compelling guitarist.
Meditate: Meditation can help mitigate panic disorders, stress, depression, and anxiety. Before a performance, take a few moments to find your zen and center yourself. Even if at first, meditation can be difficult to get into, you will be able to see the benefits on stage.
Exercise: Similar to meditation, exercise is a simple, inexpensive way to decrease your anxiety. A couple of hours prior to the big show, you should hit the gym or do a few laps around the block. Just remember to take a shower before your performance!
Rehearse So You Feel Prepared For Your Show
Often, stage fright stems from dealing from facing the uncertainty of a performance. If you’re a touring guitarist, you might be performing for a different kind of venue and audience every night. The best way to overcome this anxiety is to frequently rehearse so you feel prepared and unafraid of the unknown. The more confident you are going on stage, the less chance you will have Performance Anxiety. Check out these pointers for rehearsing:
Mock Rehearsal: Though it might feel a bit ridiculous, you should invite a few friends, family members, and colleagues to a mock rehearsal of your performance. This way you will experience what it’s like to perform for a crowd.
Breathing Techniques: Did you know that there are breathing tactics that can help decrease your anxiety? It’s remarkable how far something like changing how you exhale can help.
Prepare For The Worst-Case Scenario: As the cliche goes, “the show must go on.” There are plenty of things that can go wrong during a performance. And if you have Performance Anxiety, those worst-case scenarios can be an absolute nightmare. However, if you prepare yourself for something going wrong, you will handle the situation with ease on stage. For example, is your biggest fear someone screaming in the middle of your performance? Have a friend act like a belligerent audience member so you feel prepared.
Check Out VR Treatment
With Virtual Reality treatments, you can get a highly realistic, 360-degree rendering of a performance. By immersing yourself in a hypothetical performance, you will be able to train yourself to overcome your fears of crowds. Though the benefits of VR therapy are still being thoroughly investigated, there is potential for a virtual performance to help reduce anxiety symptoms by exposing your body to the conditions you will have during an actual concert.
Have A Positive Attitude
When you’re suffering stage fright, you might end up getting stuck in a self-defeating cycle. The more you obsess about the performance, the more anxious you will be on stage and the worse you will do, therefore validating your self-defeating thoughts. Even if it can be initially difficult, you need to approach this issue with a positive attitude. Many guitarists would dream of having an opportunity to perform for a crowd — you shouldn’t feel self-doubt in your artistry because you have already come so far.
To reduce your anxiety, you should imagine that the audience is filled with all friends and family members. Once you envision yourself performing for people who have been supportive, you will feel more relaxed. Although you should prepare for worst-case scenarios, you should also prepare for the best. Imagine a cheering audience clapping and enjoying your performance. Here are some tips on how to avoid self-doubt:
Gratitude Journal: Wake up every day and write a few things you are thankful for in a journal. This way, you will start off your days on a positive note and acknowledge how far you have come.
Pump Yourself Up: Do you have that song which regardless of how your day is going, puts you in a good mood? Listen to it to get yourself excited about your performance!
Talk To Friends: Sometimes, the best cure is just talking to those companions who support you regardless of how well you perform. Your friends can boost your confidence and give you the reassurance you need to deliver that awesome guitar solo.
Whether or not you use beta-blockers, Performance Anxiety is completely manageable. With the right strategies, you will be able to move past Performance Anxiety and share your skillset with an enthusiastic audience. Even if it may take a lot of patience and strength, it’s important that you never give up hope and know that you have what it takes to be an excellent performer. Just take it one day at a time and you will certainly do great.