This question came in last week from fellow breakthrough guitarist, John.
“How did you best deal with controlling nerves (no shaky hands) to play accurate guitar on stage?
What a great question. Especially because dealing with stage fright doesn’t just happen before a big show…
It can happen when picking up your guitar during a dinner get-together with friends. Or even when you simply wanna play in front of your significant other.
And as someone who’s played in front of more people than I could ever count, I’d like to think I know a thing or two about dealing with nerves.
So here’s 3 ways to tackle stage fright when playing in front of others:
1. Be prepared.
The biggest cause of anxiety when playing in front of others is from not knowing the material well enough. If you can’t play the song well, your hands will naturally be shaky — even without the pressure of the “crowd”.
So practice the material like crazy. Because when you’re prepared, the muscle memory can take over, and you’ll feel confident.
2. JUST START playing in front of others.
I get this might seem like a cop-out answer, but it’s true. The more you play in front of others, the more confident you’ll be. For example, when Jim Morrison started playing shows with The Doors, he couldn’t even face the crowd. But the more he got up there, the less he felt the need to turn away. Obviously he’s not a guitarist, but the point holds. There’s no better, faster way to feel confident playing in front of others than getting the first few times under your belt. And if you start with your loved ones, that’ll take away some stage fright nervousness off the bat, because you know they’re there to support you no matter how shaky your hands are, or how many mistakes you make thanks to the nerves.
3. Relaxation breathing techniques.
The last thing you can do to help calm yourself down (after you’re sure you know the material), is do some relaxing breathing patterns. Now, there are a million different patterns, but a simple relaxation technique is called “square breathing”. This is where you breathe in for a 4 count… hold your breathe for a 4 count… breathe out for a 4 count… and hold the exhale for a 4 count. (Hence, “square”.) By focusing on the breathing and counting, you take your mind off of what’s causing the anxiety. AND you slow your heart rate — leading to a calmer, more confident you.
There you have it.
3 simple ways to feel more confident playing in front of others, and getting rid of your stage fright.
Hope that helps!