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When I first started playing my music to large crowds of people I suffered from crippling stage fright. I couldn't play a single note unless someone was touching my shoulder or I was playing in a group. I'm proud to say that after a decade of playing for large crowds I have figured out how to deal with my chronic stage fright.
Any artist that tells you they have never suffered from a case of stage fright is either lying or a very very rare exception to the rule. Stage fright affects almost every performer at some point in their career, usually at the start of their endeavor into the music industry. I was fortunate enough to take a program at Algonquin College called Introduction to Music Industry Arts; in IMIA we had a class called Performance and literally, all we did was perform for our classmates and have them and the professor give us tips on how to improve our performance skills. We also learned how to deal with stage fright. Now every person is different and will require their own ways to deal with the jitters, but the point of this article is to help you find ways that may help you out.
Our professor, Dick Cooper of The Cooper Brothers, has been performing for live audiences since the late 60s. He told us that you should never go on stage and perform unless you don't just know your part, but you have it mastered. Having your part down to muscle memory will really eliminate the stage fright because you won't be over thinking what you're doing. If you have your part memorized you can just focus on having a good time and not worry about messing up. Dick also told us that if you do make a mistake don't stop playing, just keep going. The crowd more than likely won't even notice if you make a small mistake here and there; don't ever tell the crowd that you messed up, that's how you lose the crowd's attention. If you're singing and you feel like you might forget the lyrics even though you have them memorized, try printing them out and taping them to the floor of the stage. If the lyrics are taped to the floor then the crowd can't see them and it gives you a minute to glance away from the crowd and reassure yourself of what the lyrics are. I know this will come across as cliche but fake it until you make it. Dick always told us that even if you are dying inside, you need to put a front on it because if you show your fear, then the crowd will lose interest in you or even worse they'll pick on you (but this is rare).
Some artists have a pre-show ritual that they do to keep their mind off of the large crowd. I find that wearing my usual outfit (Ozzy Osbourne Scream shirt, black skinny jeans, black socks and D.C. Shoes), only drinking water and Tim Horton's coffee, running over my favourite scale until I feel my fingers are warmed up, and always giving my girlfriend a kiss before I go on stage, always keeps my mind in the game. Like I said earlier though, I'm my own person and each artist will find their own way to deal with their stage fright.
I talked with my good friend Noi Ya who is an Ottawa-based solo artist about how he deals with his stage fright. Here's what he had to say:
"I wake up every day and make a list (stay with me here) outlining everything I need to do before I can sleep feeling accomplished. When I'm playing a live gig I usually try to fill this list up with motivational speeches, it doesn't really matter who, I usually just try and listen to a new one every day."
"I talk to myself. I think most people would benefit from learning how to talk to yourself with self-respect. Tell yourself why you deserve things and not *that* you deserve things, give it some basis y'know?"
"If I'm really nervous I take a few seconds in the back of the venue to be alone. I usually re-listen to my songs to keep the timing and lyrics extra extra fresh in my mind."
"This is the last and the best one. I call my dad."
I hope that this article will help you figure out a way to get over your fears and pre-show jitters. Just remember when you're walking up to the stage that you are about to do what most people dream about doing. You have the coolest job in the world, take a deep breath, count to ten and have fun!