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.



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Connie:  Just by the fact that you are sharing this is evidence that you will be able to manage it.  As others said, we all have some level of this.  I think adults nowadays are at a slight disadvantage  because they did not emphasize public speaking and performance in starting in grade school as they do nowadays.  So our "generation" has always had a bit of a stigma surrounding pubic speaking/performance.  all three of my kids were doing music recitals starting at age 4 in front of 30+ complete strangers (at their request :-) and giving presentations in school starting in first grade, wonderful training, which has all but wiped out occurrences of stage fright for them.


I definitely still get some level of it at times, even though I was performing and addressing audiences starting at age 10.  Just the other night, at the tale end of a house session, when it was down to myself and a highly experienced fiddler trading tunes, I choked on a couple tunes i was sharing for the first time.  Stopping and making a joke about it got me back on track then back to the tune in entirety.  My personal "therapy" has been to make myself play out in the park or on a bench in the street mall during the busy lunch hour.  People listen as they go by but rarely stand and focus on you, a few will of course.  its not quite as intimidating as playing a house concert, but help prepare you for it.  This practice has done wonders for my confidence.  I once went to a song circle that announced an "open night" and asked if I could solo a couple tunes, had the shakes, was short of breath, but got through it.  When I started tapping my feet to the beat, the group of 20 or so started clapping hands and the guitarists tried to match with some chords and everything was fine.  So the suggestion of getting audience interaction is a good one.  Perhaps start by talking about the tune(s) you are about to play, where and how you learned them, what they mean to you, where they originate from, how they make you feel, that will really help "warm" you and the audience warm up to one another.


Thanks again for approaching this topic.  Best wishes and may your enjoyment of playing concerts increase immensely (-:

Hi Russ,

You are right; it used to be that most children were to be seen and not heard!  Those were very strict rules.

I had four siblings and 23 aunts and uncles (some of them close to my age) - so being quiet was considered a real virtue!!!  The "good" kids were the most quiet, because, imagine the chaos :)!  No wonder some kids from larger families are very shy to speak or make loud noises... there were all those RULES against doing many things at home!!!  Of course, I did play my violin (for my family), when asked to do so!

Thanks so much for taking your time to respond.  It will be a good while before I can get courage to sit on a park bench or busk, but those are great ideas.  The tips in this discussion will no doubt help many other performers in the same situation as myself, so it's good to have this conversation.

Stage fright is common, youre not alone.  Back when I played in a band I was elected frontman. So as the singer it was baptism by fire and I was a nervous wreck.  It got easier as time when on, like anything, you can adapt and get comfortable with it.  Its been years now since Ive  played for anyone other than a few musicians jamming. But I plan to astart again and Im sure I'll have to deal with it all over again.....but hey, music is meant to be heard and as musicians, we'll deliver

Hi Connie, what a great thread. I have extreme shyness and play guitar and sing so your request for help has also helped me.

It's the singing the scares the hell out of me, it's so exposing. So I've forced myself to perform at folk clubs maybe 7-8 times to try and get over myself. I only looked at their feet - their tapping feet. Suddenly I realised they all were on my side. Not only that, they were tapping their feet enjoying it! Not only that, they clapped enthusiastically at the end. There was no boo'ing or being escorted out of the room!

I figure my shyness is about being self-conscious which ultimately is my ego. I worry - what will they think, who's looking at me, will I go out of tune, who's noticing that I'm an imposter! My ego? Goodness me, I better put that back in its box.

So, that last performance was different because for the first time I lifted my gaze. Like the others have said, and I trust them, it will get easier.

I use a song book sometimes to glance at if I get too nervous and forget a line. I now place a posit sticker on the open page that says "You are amongst friends" :)


Quote:  "I now place a posit sticker on the open page that says "You are amongst friends" :)"

Love it! (-;

Robyn and Russ,

I agree Russ! I thought that Robyn's idea of a post-it was both ingenious and easy to do!  Really good advice. This thread will be great for anyone to read that has any fears about public performance!

I have been playing at sessions for a while now but I still get awful nervous for the first half an hour or so. I am always a bag of nerves when I'm in a new session with people/tunes I don't know. I suppose it's all down to personality or self-confidence (or lack of!)...

Hi Connie!


First: It's not the end of the world to get nervous. Even if it feels like it.

Nowadays I'm never nervous, it used to be opposite. Unless it's live national TV and I'm expected to play something I don't even know... then I may get a little uneasy...

I practice like crazy to really know what I'm playing, to play it as well as possible. And after 40 years of doing this I can tell you it helps, it really works if you know the tune! ;-)

And that's number one, KNOW the tune(s) you're playing. I usually call it to be "over rehearsed", meaning I can play the tune in my sleep if I need to, I've played it at least 500 times more than I "needed" after learning it. Goes for every tune in my repertoire that are among the "hot hundred" or so (I have another 1000 or so to work with if I need a "new" one).

Second, when you get nervous you get tunnel vision. Work against that, be aware of the wall (or birch or house if outdoors) to the left, be aware of the column/painting/pine to the right. Lift your eyes from the instrument, trust your fingers. 

Don't think in sentences. Like "what note is next?", "I did good this far, only two measures left", "is this the a-part or the b-part?".That throws you off, no exception. To avoid sentences sing the melody in your head while playing, makes it impossible to think about anything else...

I could write a lot more but this will help you a little, you'll be on your way. But you also need to practice this, it's not easy to trust your fingers, to "let go"... Practice. The only way to get better.

I'll be here if you have any questions... :-)




Hi Peter,

You have a wealth of outstanding advice here and some great insight!  My fiddle teacher has often asked our class to "over learn" the tunes we are playing.  I, as most other people, DO have a tendency to second-guess myself!

I'm hoping that this discussion can help all performers find at least one bit of advice that can help them as individuals, because most performers and presenters struggle with stage fright, and everyone is different.  Even the most revered and seasoned players can have nervous jitters!  The same advice may not work for everyone!

Thanks again for taking the time to add such great advice to the discussion!


Hi Connie,

It's been great to read all the good advice about performing in public and I won't repeat it but will add that as a young player performing in front of family friends/visitors, later big halls of people, my instinct  at that time was to picture myself as the flute player I most admired. This enabled me to walk proudly on and play as if I was him!

It saved me from dying of fright and it really worked for a long time until I had built up confidence in my own abilities.

But yes, use every opportunity to play in public - even your local church might be open to a little quiet, incidental music. And emulate your favourite player - use their confidence as yours until you build up your own. Sometimes it's easier to be somebody else (in your head only though) when you are nervous.



I've enjoyed reading all the posts here, especially as I suffer from stage fright horribly.  Interestingly, my work has involved me speaking to audiences of several hundred and this never makes me even a little nervous.  I have played electric bass in pub bands - and this doesn't make me nervous, even when I get the occasional solo.  However, the instrument I love to play is the mandolin, and playing that in public is a nightmare for me.  I shake.  And shaking hands help neither fingering nor picking.  Whether I am playing with others in a band or a session, or solo, the fear is just as great.  I have found the solution, though.  I play for me - in the kitchen, on my own.  I go out and listen to others.  It works for me!

Good to hear from you again Simon.  Yes, shaking hands are a nightmare... but my twitchy fingers and bowing arm can actually make some kinds of interesting sounds on the fiddle sometimes, whether for better or worse!!! If only the good twitches can be replicated on command!  I think it would be much more difficult to handle shaking or twitching on a mandolin.  I hope you have found something in this discussion to help. 

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