Do any of your more seasoned players have any helpful anecdotes to help me with my stage fright and shyness?

I was invited to play fiddle today at a house concert in Indiana today (solo).  There were about 30 people or so, several other musicians there demonstrating playing in various musical genres.

About halfway through my set, I started to blush, both arms began shaking. I apologized and walked away from the performance area.  I'm not really sure whether I'll be able to overcome this problem.

If anyone can lend any helpful words, I would appreciate thoughts.

Thanks!

Connie

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This is a hard one, Connie, but I think it's great that you've put this out there.  I'm not the most seasoned trad player, but I've been performing music of various kinds since I was 4 years old.  I think many performers can relate to what you felt, at one point or another, in their years of performing.  I know that I can.  I'm not sure of any quick fixes, unfortunately.

 

Frankly, I suspect that one of the reasons that many performers end up with serious problems with drinking or drugs is that this is the quickest way to deal with it. 

 

I'm not a phycologist either.  But I do think that there are some deep issues at work -- in each of us -- not always the same ones, either, that can make us react this way.  I know that I've spent a lot of time on this, trying to figure it out.  So, perhaps, one of the questions to explore is, why?  You know, of course, that the audience is pulling for you...and that in some cases, they won't even notice a mistake.  If you do make an obvious flub, I still would bet dollars to donuts that only a small percentage of the audience would really care that much.  Is it because of a need to be perfect?  Or to impress people?  To wow them?  The list of questions goes on.  

 

Even if you are able to figure out why you're having this reaction, I don't think it will go away immediately.  But at least, it's a starting point.  Would like to hear more...

 

Steven Hawson 

Hi Connie Rae

our hearts went out to you when we heard your plight. We've been there and bought the t-shirt. Firstly you will overcome this easily.

We're Guessing you don't do a solo every week in front of 30 people. That must have put you under a bit of pressure. There were other musicians there and you would have felt compelled to showcase your genre in it's best light. More pressure. You're now standing in the performance area the room goes silent and 30 pairs of eyes are burning into you watching your every move. Something had to give!

Now advice time. Dust yourself off and get back in the saddle. The only thing that got hurt was your pride and that builds character. Play in front of people as often as you can. Build it up over time so it becomes second nature. Have a starter tune that you are very confident playing, that way it gives you time to get used to the stares. Play the tunes you know best. Don't try anything too flash until you're sure you can.

It's not the end of the world to mess up a set of tunes. After you've done it often enough you'll laugh it off.

Now keep playing the music that you love!

All the best.

I very much relate to this as I've always been a very introverted shy type and it's rough to put yourself out there like that.  I've had many performances as a whistle player where I was fighing my throat closing up on me all the way through... not to mention quivering fingers, light-headedness and weak knees.  Honestly the thing I've found helps the most is just doing it--over and over and again--until it becomes nothing.  When I've performed regularly it became less daunting.  After not performing for awhile the anxiety builds up again despite the fact I know I've done this a hundred times.

 

Here's a few tips that have helped me:

1) Do your best to make yourself comfortable - performance etiquette be damned, if you're more comfortable sitting and keeping your legs under you is one less thing to worry about then take a seat and play from a chair.

2) Don't psych yourself up - talk to your performing mates, check your e-mails on your phone, anything to keep your mind occupied before you get on stage so that you don't sit and build the anxiety in your mind before you take the stand.

3) Pick tunes that you absolutely LOVE!  Again, making yourself as comfortable as possible on stage.  Also, playing with someone who puts you at ease.

4) Allow yourself to be human in front of the audience... after all, they don't expect anything more than that and should you slip up most of them will be none-the-wiser.

5) Talk to the audience - the more you interact with them the less distance you'll feel and the less it begins to feel like you're in the spotlight.  If you make a mistake just turn it into a joke and they'll be smiling or laughing right along with you (not at you).

 

Honestly though, even with all these tips it is the repeated performing that will break you in and help you to lessen the stage anxiety.

Hope this helps.

Wow! Thanks for taking the time to write out such thoughtful advice  - this discussion will be helpful info for any new or nervous performers!  I'll be sure to review all of this for some support prior to performing or sessioning in public next time.

At least I'd managed to give a nice verbal introduction regarding the Irish tradtional music prior to beginning my abruptly ended set. My dad says that I can "get as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs"!

 Now, if I can only keep my heart, music and mind from racing away in front of everyone!!! It's extremely uncomfortable and exhausting, it feels like my energy is draining out of me uncontrollably.  Next time, I plan to force myself to continue playing on, if possible.  At least I didn't faint in front of everyone, which I'd very seriously thought I might, just a few moments before I stopped fiddling...!!!

Thanks so much for so many supportive thoughts and tips!

~Connie

Have to agree with Johnny. Get in front of people, and do it often. It gets easier over time. Personally, I'm a ham, I love showing off in front of people. But if I'm not properly prepared, I do tend to get flustered and forget things. I just grin and start over, or move on to something else.

 

Pick music with which you're thoroughly familiar. Play together with friends, especially the ones you'll perform with, so you get used to the dynamics. It helps to be so familiar that you don't have to worry about the tune or what comes next.

 

But get right back on that horse. Thinking about it, worrying about it, just makes it worse. You CAN overcome this problem if you CHOOSE to. Let your will overcome your emotions. Play with a few friends in a pub, or informal setting, get used to being in front of small numbers of people, and you'll begin to realize that large numbers of people are no different.

I feel for you, Connie!  I've been performing in public for many years and would offer this piece of advice... 

 

You may get nervous because in your head you are thinking about what you meant to play, or how you should have played something better, or where this was different the best version you ever played.  But nobody else hears what you play the way you do. All they hear is what you played!  They appreciate the good parts, they understand you're not a touring professional, and they want you to succeed.

 

Realizing this can help you relax and get into the flow of playing.  And yes, do bring out tunes you are very comfortable with.

 

Dave

Play in front of people often .Close your eyes prentend your playing in a session or playing at home >good luck

I had a dose of this a couple of months ago Connie - so don't think your on your own with this one!!

 

My local "session" is more of a singers circle so I end up doing solo's. It builds character and were all friends but that did'nt stop the nerves this particular night. My mouth went dry and it actually affected my breathing - really welcome for a whistle player!

 

I think the key is in the prep. Make sure your OK with your set - its no good going out with anything you can't get right at home, run thru things at home before you set out, even find a quiet area at the venue to run thru stuff if you can. Try to remember your their to have fun too, so lighten up. Make yourself busy immediately before you go on because the butterflys can creep up on you in the last couple of minutes.

 

Beyond that, I have never seen an instumentalist stoned to death for fluffing something. Everybody you are playing for is on your side. They want to be entertained and therefore they all want you to do well. Try to remember that. If something does go wrong, its not the end of the world. Remember the number of times you've seen pro's fluff things at concerts. I bet its more than a few!! Did you actually think any the worse of them at the time? - I very much doubt it!!

 

Top advice given elsewhere in this thread - close your eyes and concentrate on the tune. Just like you do when your practicing. You can actually forget that anyone else is in the room with you if your wrap the tune around yourself.

 

It does also get easier the more times you put yourself in that situation. Having said that, my experience tells me that the nerves can still come back to bite you without any warning. So you do have to be on your guard.

 

Oh - and the most important bit of advice I can give you? - NEVER SURRENDER! - don't give up.

Meditation is always worth a try :-)

Michael Robert Orme said:

I had a dose of this a couple of months ago Connie - so don't think your on your own with this one!!

 

My local "session" is more of a singers circle so I end up doing solo's. It builds character and were all friends but that did'nt stop the nerves this particular night. My mouth went dry and it actually affected my breathing - really welcome for a whistle player!

 

I think the key is in the prep. Make sure your OK with your set - its no good going out with anything you can't get right at home, run thru things at home before you set out, even find a quiet area at the venue to run thru stuff if you can. Try to remember your their to have fun too, so lighten up. Make yourself busy immediately before you go on because the butterflys can creep up on you in the last couple of minutes.

 

Beyond that, I have never seen an instumentalist stoned to death for fluffing something. Everybody you are playing for is on your side. They want to be entertained and therefore they all want you to do well. Try to remember that. If something does go wrong, its not the end of the world. Remember the number of times you've seen pro's fluff things at concerts. I bet its more than a few!! Did you actually think any the worse of them at the time? - I very much doubt it!!

 

Top advice given elsewhere in this thread - close your eyes and concentrate on the tune. Just like you do when your practicing. You can actually forget that anyone else is in the room with you if your wrap the tune around yourself.

 

It does also get easier the more times you put yourself in that situation. Having said that, my experience tells me that the nerves can still come back to bite you without any warning. So you do have to be on your guard.

 

Oh - and the most important bit of advice I can give you? - NEVER SURRENDER! - don't give up.

I used to perform music in public as a lead singer. I know how it feels especially when you see all pair of eyes looking at you. I think stage fright is something that only gets diminished with more playing. The lesser time you are being in front of people chances are, in your next performance you will still feel butterflies cold hands or worse the though of ending your show. Trust your audience. You can do this by making eye contact and talk a bit. When you see their reactions urging you then you will feel the surge of confidence and this will get you through the performance.
Thanks everyone for all your thoughts!  I played my fiddle out today, nerves much improved!!! I'm going to take this helpful advice and write it on a little piece of paper and put it inside my fiddle case to read each time before playing in public :)!

Ronan Browne is a prime example of a guy able to clown away mistakes, although in his case at least half the time it's the amazing temperamental contraption called uilleann pipes that cause the mistakes :)

Examples: http://youtu.be/5QskJoxYApohttp://youtu.be/csEIxSimJqIhttp://youtu.be/m58jVrL_PVM

Also i found whiskey or valium (emphasis on *or* :-p )  helpful before my stage fright went away..

 

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