July 16, 2020
Music Stage

How to Deal with Stage Fright

Causes and solutions for all musicians struggling to play on stage

Last summer, we surveyed VSM musician Members about one of the most common threads woven throughout music-making for musicians of all levels: music performance anxiety. Whether it's self-doubts, butterflies in the stomach, tense muscles, dry mouth, or all of the above, nearly everyone, from the most seasoned musician to the piano student in her very first recital, experiences performance anxiety in one form or another. We wondered how VSM Members experience this performance anxiety, and what they do to manage it.

More than 300 Members responded to our survey and gave us lots of data and comments to consider, which we'll discuss in some detail in this article. In no way is this article exhaustive of the topic, nor will it reflect every possible experience with anxiety. But hopefully this gives you some food for thought about your own anxiety, or your students' anxiety, and how to minimize its negative effects on enjoyment and performance.

Forty-nine percent of our survey respondents reported performing for an audience 12 or more times per year, and about 24% reported performing just once or twice a year. This gave us a fairly representative cross-section of musicians with varying levels of experience with performing in front of an audience. We felt this was important, given that music performance anxiety may, in part at least, be a function of a musician's level of experience with and exposure to performing.

How often do you play for an audience - Survey Chart

We'll also integrate our own research with the research of Kato Havas, probably the most well-known musician who tackled stage fright for musicians and author of the book "Stage Fright - Its Causes and Cures." [1]

Anxiety: The Bad and The Ugly... And the Good?

Not unexpectedly, the most commonly-described manifestation of music performance anxiety for our survey respondents was in physical/physiological symptoms, which included things like shaky hands and legs, increased heart rate, muscle tension, digestive discomfort, dry mouth, numbness, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, heaviness, stiffness, and/or loss of appetite.

For some musicians, these physiological responses to anxiety interfere with their ability to play their instrument with proper technique and enjoy making music. In some cases, there is a concern that the physical manifestations of anxiety are noticeable to others; as one musician explained, "I often tremble and worry this is noticed by the audience and that makes it worse."

“I often tremble and worry this is noticed by the audience and that makes it worse.”

Many musicians also commented that performance anxiety diminishes their ability to concentrate and focus on making music. As one musician offered, "Concentrating on the music and task at hand can be more difficult and then it is easy to forget what I intend to do with each note, phrase, etc." Anxiety can either broaden or narrow one's focus beyond a range that is optimal, thus leading to distractibility, confusion, "memory lapses," and other cognitive processes that can lead to more mistakes, less enjoyment, more anxiety – and the cycle continues.

Anxiety response according to repertoire situations - Survey Chart

Kato Havas talks about "memory lapses" in her book, saying that it is often caused by excessive reliance on the "mechanical, repetitive memorization" to which many musicians dedicate too much time. Instead, the musician should divide the piece into sections and practice for less time, focusing on each section. The musician should also eliminate himself from his thoughts, allowing for more focus on playing the piece and transmitting musical imagination to the audience.

In particular, anxiety, in both a cognitive and a physical sense, leads many musicians to doubt their abilities and experience decreased levels of confidence. As one musician explained, "I feel catastrophic loss of confidence - hands numb, memory leaking, mind close to panic." Another added, "I feel shaky, sweaty, tight, not confident, as though I will not be able to really show what I know I can do. I know what I want to sound like, but my body seems to disobey me and not allow me to express my best artistic side. My bow arm often feels out of control."

As Kato Havas describes in her book, stage fright is a burden to many performers, inciting a "sense of shame" caused by profound physical and psychological insecurities. A tolerable amount of anxiety is helpful and even necessary in driving humans to their maximum potential; however, "stage fright is nothing more nor less than an exaggerated symptom of anxiety." Stage fright often arises from a fear of failing in a recital or performance; logically, the more fear one has, the more anxiety he/she experiences, "with all its disastrous effects on body and mind." Stage fright also arises when the performer is afraid (often subconsciously) of not being appreciated by the audience, and this fear can extend for a long period of time. This anxiety is made worse by the fact that "the public has been conditioned...to criticize and judge, much more than to enjoy."

She adds that a prevalent fear experienced by a musician affected by stage fright is that of not playing loud enough. This is, in part, due to the "desire for increasing loudness in the world in general," with ever-growing concert halls and audiences as well as a younger generation more and more attracted to loud music. This anxiety experienced by the performer can also arise because of how tone can vary depending on the acoustics of where the instrument is played, causing a fear of not knowing how the instrument will, in effect, sound to the listener. The anxiety of not playing loudly enough is even worse when the performer is accompanied by the orchestra since he/she feels the need to play louder than the other instruments. The performer also often tries to hear his/her own "quality of sound, which is impossible for us to hear," instead of "pay[ing] sufficient attention to the pitch, which we can hear." As a cure, Havas again suggests fluidity while playing, claiming that "the acuteness and immediacy of our pitch depends on the mobility and sensitivity of our touch, which, as we have seen, is only possible if there is over-all motion and balance throughout the whole body." Havas stresses the importance of releasing physical hindrances and daily ear training, causing "the demand for overtones in every note [to become] a coordinated aural and physical reaction--without any time lapse between the hearing and the doing." It is also crucial to get rid of anxiety through positive thoughts instead of "telling ourselves what not to do."

For other musicians, anxiety also manifests itself in problems with technique. Not surprisingly, dry mouth can be problematic for vocalists and wind and brass players, shaky, sweaty hands problematic for string and piano players - and shaky legs can be quite a challenge for a soloist who needs to stand for the entirety of a performance. One vocal musician reflected, "As I consider my primary instrument my voice, anxiety shows up in a tightened throat, not enough breath support." Another musician shared, "I am sweating, I play notes wrong and/or too quiet. The music sounds awful in my ears and I hate that everyone is looking at me. I rush through the piece and don't play confident."

“The music sounds awful in my ears and I hate that everyone is looking at me. I rush through the piece and don't play confident.”

Some musicians also find that performance anxiety leaves them feeling emotionally and physically "drained" and "detached." As one musician shared, "I feel detached from the process, like I am unable to physically control my body. My arms feel wooden. On beginning a piece, I may feel quite calm, but about 20 seconds into the piece the nerves hit. I can find myself thinking, totally detached, whether to continue to perform or whether to leave the stage (this was in my 1st competition as an adult)."

Not all manifestations of anxiety are negative. As one musician reflected, and as we'll discuss a bit later, anxiety can be a positive force in music performance: "… I can feel nervous about the performance but how I manage the nerves depends on my mental control. If I let it get the better of me it can lead to a less perfect performance, but if I acknowledge it for what it is - care for my performance but backed up with appropriate preparation - then it is just adrenalin to do well." So, for some, anxiety might actually present itself as something "good" – excitement, motivation, sharpened focus, and full dedication to the moment at hand.

Anxiety might be somewhat inevitable, but its negative effects are not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Musicians shared with us many of the ways that they cope with anxiety, try to minimize its effects, and even channel it so that anxiety becomes an integral part of an optimal music making experience.

Anxiety response according to audience situations - Survey Chart

Havas, in her book, recounts the story of the Hungarian gypsy violinist, who plays out of enjoyment, with free-flowing movement that portrays a natural, pleasant feeling to the audience. Havas makes the gypsy violinist a point of reference for performers afflicted with stage fright, stressing the idea that they should play with enjoyment, not fear, and with the primary purpose of "giving" joy to the audience and "transmitting something greater than oneself, [which] is the essence of all artistic creativity."

Preparation and Practice

As we'd expect, adequate preparation was consistently mentioned as an effective way to reduce and manage performance anxiety. One musician commented that performance anxiety feels manageable when "I have done the best preparation possible so if something does go wrong, I'm able to manage it and am confident that I've prepared well and will do my best."

Solid practice before performance was mentioned widely by our respondents as an essential element of preparation for minimizing performance anxiety. Further, 75% of musicians reported that they experience little-to-no anxiety when performing music that feels "easy." One thing that could make a piece of music feel "easy" is by practicing and preparing adequately for a performance. A musician may find a piece of music highly difficult at first, but with effective practice over an extended period of time, the musician may grow to perceive that same piece of music as "easy," thus reducing anxiety while performing it. Additionally, not only does frequent, consistent, productive practice itself increase the chances that the performance will involve fewer errors and feel more automatic, simply knowing that one has practiced diligently can increase a musician's confidence, thus helping ease performance anxiety somewhat. Simply put, one musician commented, "The more comfortable I am with the material the less I worry;" and this comfort level comes, in large part, with mindful, effective practice. Still, interestingly, more than 60% of musicians reported at least some degree of anxiety when performing music that feels "just right" for their skill level, suggesting that anxiety may have more to do with performing in general, regardless of whether music is easy, difficult, or appropriately skill-matched.

“The more comfortable I am with the material the less I worry.”

But, practicing a piece of music for a performance is not always possible. Spontaneous, "on the fly" performance seems to produce no anxiety for some (20%) and a lot of anxiety for others (22%). Some musicians may feel less pressure when they know they are just "winging it," while others may feel less comfortable performing when they have not been able to practice and prepare for exactly what they hope to do in front of an audience. Music that is more improvisational in nature, like jazz, may lend itself to a more relaxed, spontaneous approach, thus creating a climate where musicians feel less pressure to perform perfectly. Other styles of music, like classical, may have more rigid structures and expectations to which musicians feel they must adhere, thus leading to more anxiety when performing. Some of this may also pertain to a musician's personality. Individuals with a Type A personality, for example, thrive best when they feel a sense of control, predictability, organization, and preparation when faced with an achievement situation, like music performance. Their tendency to strive for perfection may lead them to experience heightened levels of anxiety when performance is spontaneous, and thus, not heavily practiced. In contrast, someone with a more relaxed, easy-going Type B personality may not feel the same degree of performance anxiety in either spontaneous or rehearsed performance situations, simply because they may be more forgiving of themselves for mistakes and other imperfections.

Anxiety response according to venue situations - Survey Chart

Preparation pertains not only to "practice, practice, practice," but also to things like arriving on time, or with time to spare, before a performance; making sure one's instrument is ready for a performance; familiarizing oneself with the instrument for the performance (particularly important for pianists, organists, and other musicians who usually don't bring their own instrument with them); becoming familiar with the performance venue; simulating performance conditions in practice; and even taking care to tend to one's physical needs before performance (i.e., getting good sleep the night before, limiting caffeine, using the bathroom before going on stage, drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated [but not too much, of course], eating nourishing foods [like bananas, which was mentioned by a number of musicians], etc.).

Kato Havas mentions the importance of of rest, physical exercise (such as yoga), and a balanced diet in relieving the stress of everyday life and keeping the musician's physical condition in optimal health. In turn, this alleviates mental tensions and makes way for musical creativity. She actually discourages "too much practice." She writes that "The musician should limit the hours of practice because it benumbs the brain, renders the imagination less acute and deadens the sense of alertness that every artist must possess," and so leaves little room for the artistic creativity necessary to give to the audience. Havas suggests that it is best to practice in the morning when the brain is fresh and makes it clear that "it is not the length of the practice that counts but its quality," which will make the musician feel more confident and so less susceptible to the effects of stage fright when his/her performance comes around.

“The musician should limit the hours of practice because it benumbs the brain, renders the imagination less acute and deadens the sense of alertness that every artist must possess.”

More than 80% of respondents indicated little-to-no anxiety when performing in a venue that feels familiar. As part of musician's preparation, then, it may be worthwhile for musicians to visit new venues before a performance – perhaps even before rehearsals – just to get the feel for the surroundings: the acoustics, the lighting, where facilities and amenities, such as bathrooms and the Green Room, are located, etc. This is of great importance, especially if the main cause of stage fright is "the fear of not playing loud enough," as explained above.

Besides preparing for specific performances, many musicians also talked about the importance of exposing oneself to performance situations, in general, to develop the experience and coping skills necessary to more adequately manage performance anxiety. The more one performs in anxiety-provoking situations, the more skills one may develop to cope with performance anxiety. Or, perhaps frequent exposure to performance situations lessens the potency of anxiety. As one musician put it, "Frequency helps. The more I play under all circumstances, the more comfortable it becomes."

It's the Thought That Counts

Anxiety often emerges as a result of a person's thoughts, or cognitive processes, about a particular situation. If a musician has negative, worrisome thoughts about their performance, chances are these negative thoughts will lead to feelings of performance anxiety. So, not surprisingly then, many of our respondents talked about ways they try to shift their thinking away from negative thoughts and towards more positive ones, or in some cases, thinking about and responding in positive ways when anxiety does arise.

Kato Havas mentions that the fear of not being good enough is one of the most prevailing causes of stage fright and arises largely because of the pressures put in place by our competitive social system. Many musicians adopt the "strive to succeed" mindset and feel their "personal worth [is judged] according to the degree of success accorded by society." Instead of seeing music as a means of competing with others through "technical accomplishment," music should be treated "as a form of creative art." Also, the musician should strive to "assess the degree of one's success by the ability to transmit the music to the listener." This again relates back to the idea of "giving" the beauty of music to the listener and also gives more meaning to the music.

The fear of "not playing fast enough" is another cause of stage fright, according to Havas. This causes rigidity throughout the body that hinders the free-flowing movement necessary to portray the musical imagination to the audience. This rigidity can be alleviated by releasing physical blockages. Oftentimes, there is a lack of coordination between both hands, and this is cured by having "a central point of direction which has the power to synchronize not only the physical actions, but also the workings of the mind." In this way, both physical and psychological implications of stage fright can be eliminated, allowing fast playing to come more easily to the performer. The positive effects of this central coordination are amplified by imagining the notes first and then playing them; this way of thinking ahead makes the player feel more confident when it comes time to actually play the notes.

It might not be possible to eliminate negative thoughts altogether. After all, you can't unthink something once you've thought it. The key, then, is for a musician to respond to their thoughts in such a way that the seemingly negative thoughts, feelings, and sensations are cast in a more positive light – reframing.

One element of music performance that may respond well to reframing is the way a performer feels about the presence of an audience. Some musicians commented that an audience can provoke feelings of intense anxiety, but when they come to view their audience as a supportive, rather than an adversarial, entity, then the presence of the audience may actually minimize anxiety rather than heighten it. As one musician said, " … realizing the audience is on your side (they want you to do well so they can enjoy the music)" can help a musician feel far more positively about their audience, thus easing the anxiety one can experience when one feels as though they are being evaluated rather than supported.

But even with supportive audiences, some musicians may feel as though the expectations of an audience for a "good performance" put pressure on a musician, thus leading to anxiety. In these cases, it might be helpful for musicians to set their own reasonable goals for a performance and allow those self-set, manageable expectations to shape one's thoughts and feelings about the performance. Your expectations might reflect how much you've prepared, how you feel that day, how difficult the music feels for your skill level, and any other circumstances that might be present at that moment which might have an impact on you and your performance.

Negative thoughts may also creep in when mistakes during performance occur. Fifty-five percent of musicians reported feeling moderate-to-high levels of performance anxiety once they've made a mistake during performance. There's not much time or space in the middle of a performance to do a whole lot of reframing and reflecting, so musicians may find it helpful to practice and explore how they feel, think about, and handle mistakes while they're practicing. Simply reminding oneself that everyone, even the world's most sought-after musician, makes mistakes – while practicing, while recording, while playing with other esteemed colleagues, and while playing in front of large, expectant audiences. Remembering that you are one of many who makes mistakes during performance may help to alleviate some of the self-criticism that can become a distraction and impede performance.

Also, allowing mistakes to be a reminder to re-focus and bring one's attention back to the music and the performance can be helpful, especially in situations when distractions in one's life or the immediate surroundings can lead one's attention astray. After all, nearly 80% of our survey respondents reported at least a little bit of anxiety when having to perform while other aspects of their life are particularly stressful. Mistakes under these circumstances can be viewed as a gentle tap on the shoulder to get one's head "back in the game."

Some musicians also find it helpful to think differently about anxiety itself. For example, the "butterflies in the stomach" can be viewed negatively as anxiety and cause for alarm, or rather, as excitement – something positive, and a reason to focus, embrace the moment, try one's best, and enjoy the experience. One musician shared, "All performers (athletes, musicians, actors, public speakers) should have a few butterflies before they perform, as this helps to keep them focused on the job in hand. If you don't get a few butterflies, it could suggest you are blasé about your performance or that you are not taking the performance as seriously as you should, and this is where errors creep in." So, not only is anxiety perfectly normal and experienced by almost every performer, but it may also be essential for an optimal music making experience – unpleasant as it may seem on the surface.

Anxiety response according to specific situations - Survey Chart

In contrast, though, some musicians find it helpful to think differently about performing by "downplay[ing] the importance of the event." This suggests that musicians need to discover their own balance between taking a performance seriously enough to stay focused and present, while not taking it so seriously that mistakes, the audience, anxiety, and the outcome are all magnified greater than reality would suggest. Some musicians might find it helpful to develop a mantra that can remain in their thoughts before and during performance that helps keep the relative importance and seriousness of a performance in perspective. Thinking something like, "No matter what happens, I'm still me" or "I give my best, and that's all I can do" are examples of short phrases a musician might keep in mind.

One musician shared advice from a teacher that they found particularly helpful in terms of keeping the relative importance of a performance in perspective, and reframing the inevitable, necessary feelings of anxiety: "You have to find something more important than your fear. … It isn't about not having the fear (anxiety, etc.); trying to get rid of feelings as an end in itself doesn't work in any context in life. It's about allowing the feelings to exist, but then choosing to focus on the reason you're there in the first place: to communicate the material. … Giving a higher purpose to what you're doing - whether it's about the music itself and making that live, or whether it's about a belief that the music comes from somewhere spiritual, or both, or even if it's simply about making people feel something new - focusing on that purpose makes the anxiety take a back seat to performance."

“You have to find something more important than your fear.”

Kato Havas stresses a great deal about the "inner ear" of the musician. She shows how important it is to develop the inner ear to eliminate stage fright and create more passion whilst playing. The inner ear must be trained to "supply the sound with a meaning and color of infinite variety." It is also "closely linked with our imagination...the sum total of a heightened awareness and sensitivity of all the passions, joys and sorrows in human nature." Listening through the inner ear is always done before the musical passage is actually played, as "by its very nature of creativity it is always ahead, compelling the player to pursue it." Summoning this imagination allows the player to, in a way, escape from the reality around him/her and so escape the stage fright that would otherwise consume him/her. Through "the elimination of the self," the musician can portray the true meaning of music to the audience "through the interplay of co-ordinated balances."

Using the "right words" can also help, according to Havas. It is crucial to think of words with positive connotations to allow oneself to ease and release the tensions that may affect his/her performance. Words such as "‘move,' ‘flow,' ‘give,' ‘love,' ‘release,' ‘pulse,' ‘through,' [and] ‘unite'" are usually "associated with harmonious activities" and so can help alleviate the effects of stage fright. On the other hand, words that create tension should be avoided, such as "‘hold,' ‘grip,' ‘pull,' ‘push,' ‘hit,' ‘press,' ‘stretch,' ‘vibrato,' ‘jump,' ‘listen,' ‘concentrate,' ‘good,' ‘bad,' [and] ‘loud.'" "Good" and "bad" are also on this list of tension-inducing words because they place too much stress on the performer and cause the stage fright to worsen. Instead, the player should think about what sounds "nice" and what doesn't, keeping the idea of "giving" pleasure to the audience in mind. This method of constructive criticism should also be employed by music teachers to keep their students at ease but always on the right path of improvement; this creates a support system that is valuable to budding musicians and does not make them vulnerable to stage fright.

Chillin' Out

Another common way of coping with music performance anxiety mentioned by our respondents was through relaxation techniques. Many musicians mentioned that they use deep breathing exercises to help alleviate music performance anxiety both before and during performances. Others talked about using meditation and muscle relaxation techniques to help ease tension held within the mind and body. Others talked about using strategies like walking or socializing with others prior to performance as ways of staying loose and relaxed before taking the stage.

Relaxation techniques like deep breathing can be incorporated into pre-performance preparation, or even implemented during performance in some situations. Short, on-stage breaks when you are not playing can be infused with deep breathing that can send the message to your mind and body that you are calm, confident, and that despite your being on stage and performing, all is well. The most effective deep breathing emerges from your diaphragm rather than your chest. To see if you are deep breathing correctly, place one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Inhale fully through your nose, and feel that your belly rises before your chest. This ensures that the air you breathe in is first filling your abdomen, then filling your chest. You might even incorporate some relaxing words into your deep breathing: "Calm" as you inhale, and "Relaxed" as you exhale – just as an example.

“Calm as you inhale, and Relaxed as you exhale.”

The mind and body are closely tied together, so chances are that if you can relax your muscles and release physical tension, your mind and emotions will relax as well. Relaxing the facial and shoulder muscles, for musicians in particular, may have a huge impact on the muscular tension that can lead to increases in mental and emotional tension as well - not to mention problems with musical technique that can arise when muscles are too tight. Take note of other places in your body where you hold tension, and make a conscious effort to release the tension you hold there. Gentle stretches or even self-massage are some effective ways to release tension in tight muscles. These practices can be incorporated into pre-performance routines, or even implemented during performance. Simply noticing that you have a furrowed brow and relaxing your face, lowering your shoulders as they creep up towards your ears, or flexing one's toes to stretch tight calf muscles can all be done on stage with little, if any, disruption to the performance or other musicians.

Other musicians commented on the importance of staying loose before performance to help maintain a relaxed attitude. One musician said they like to "Walk about [and] talk with fellow musicians" to stay relaxed before performing. If socializing with other musicians isn't possible, or you're just not inclined to socialize before you take the stage, it might be important to have other relaxing outlets available to you before a performance that encourage you to stay loose and relaxed - like reading an enjoyable book, going for a walk outdoors near the performance venue, or listening to music that puts your mind, heart, and body in a positive space.

Kato Havas suggest that imagination is also of paramount importance when eliminating stage fright and giving more meaning to the music being played. Imagining the instrument differently helps many musicians release their tensions and make music more freely and beautifully, and the performers' "self-doubt tends to disappear and then [they] obtain the desired physical release as well." This allows the players to give the pleasant sound and movement they imagined to the listeners in real life.

Say A Little Prayer

Much like relaxation techniques like deep breathing and releasing muscle tension, many musicians call upon faith and spiritual practices to manage performance anxiety. Some musicians mentioned using "prayer" as a part of deep breathing exercises to help calm their nerves, seek divine help with performance, and stay focused on what feels most important for them. For some musicians strongly guided by faith, one musician offered, "The less focused I am on myself, the less anxiety I have, especially when I surrender the results to God. The more detached I am from desiring a certain outcome and the more focused I am on the music, the better I perform." This may be important for musicians who make music as part of worship, where a congregation is the audience, and the music and praising a higher power are integrally linked. However, even non-religiously affiliated musicians who live a strong faith, or simply consider themselves spiritual individuals, might find comfort and re-channeling of their performance anxiety when spiritual elements can be incorporated into their preparations and on-stage experience.

Become the Music

Beginner musicians may find that they need to focus on technique and other fundamentals while they perform. "Feeling the music" may take a back seat to keeping track of one's posture, hand position, breathing, rhythm, intonation, and other musical skills. Even some more advanced musicians find it comforting and grounding to focus on, as one musician explained, " … what I need to do at the moment … like violin position, bow hold, pitching notes, thinking sound, phrasing, in fine details." As some musicians develop their skills more fully and obtain more and more performance experience, however, focusing on such technicalities can sometimes narrow one's focus too severely, take away from automaticity, and lead to the very mistakes that could make performance anxiety emerge. Some musicians who responded to our survey talked about "just feeling the music" as a way they cope with performance anxiety.

As one musician explained, "I remind myself that I play because I love to do so and put myself in a zone where the music and I are one. Loving every note helps." For those whose anxiety is particularly rooted in the presence of an audience, one musician also reflected, "Strive to not be aware of people around you and be one with the music - go to a world of your own - just you and the music. It takes years - for some a lifetime - to let the music ‘speak' and experience yourself just as the conveyor."

“I put myself in a zone where the music and I are one. Loving every note helps.”

Finding a way to connect with the music you are creating and allowing your audience to feel your own connection to the music, may help some musicians find a degree of flow in their playing, even if mistakes do occur, that invites anxiety to fade into the background. Learn about the music you're playing and who composed it. Can you relate to the roots of the music – either the circumstances under which it was written, or the emotions it evokes? Are there passages in the music that you think sound really beautiful or evocative in some way? Are there sections that are simply fun to play? Can you think about portraying a character through the music? Does the music speak to someone or something close to your heart? If you can explore some of these facets of playing and performing, and not lose sight of them when the moment of performance arrives, chances are your anxiety may take a seat in the very last row of the venue, leaving you on stage to play with joy, confidence, and mastery.

Finally, here are some videos from music experts Robert Estrin and William Fitzpatrick that can help you even further:

How to deal with Stage Fright

An approach and some solutions to the most common of musicians' problems.

Released on July 3, 2013

Dealing with Stage Fright on the Violin

Approach and solutions for getting rid of stage fright

Released on June 3, 2015

Wrapping Up

You'd probably be hard-pressed to find a musician anywhere and of any level who never experiences performance anxiety. Anxiety may come in many shapes and sizes – yours might show itself quite differently than that of your stand partner, your students, or your fellow band members. Your own anxiety might even look and feel different from day to day, and in different performing situations. Rather than ignore your anxiety, try to explore it further – come to know when it arises, what it feels like, how it affects you, and what kinds of things alleviate it. Once you know what you're dealing with, and accept that anxiety may even be a necessary component of music making, you can discover ways to manage it effectively: preparing and practicing adequately, reframing negative thoughts and responding to them in adaptive ways, relaxing and easing tension, calling upon spiritual practices, and allowing yourself to be absorbed by the music and the amazing experience you are creating.

What's your experience with Stage fright? How did you cope with it?
Please, share it with us in the comments section below!

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Comments or Questions:

Denise * VSM MEMBER * on December 29, 2022 @5:36 am PST
This will help my 13 yr old niece with her Stage fright. She’s an amazing singer and musician at her young age . Though doesn’t want to audition for the above reason. I’ll have her read this as she’s an avid reader also. Thanks!
Jennifer Vose and Sofia Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on December 29, 2022 @9:51 am PST
You are most welcome! Thank you for your posted comment. Stage Fright is a bad thing; pretty much all musicians experienced it in some way.

My best wishes for your niece to reach her goals as smoothly as possible!

All the best,
Claudia Haithcock * VSM MEMBER * on March 12, 2022 @12:08 pm PST
This article will help me with my anxiety about playing without errors.
I’m an Old pianist return to learn piano and learn to play again. I’m playing with organist soon on piano.
Jennifer Vose and Sofia Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on March 13, 2022 @10:07 am PST
Thank you Claudia for your posted review of this article, and I am glad it'll help you!

Congratulations on getting back into playing, that's fantastic.

Please, feel always free to contact us with any questions or ideas you may have, we will be always glad to hear from you.

Enjoy your time here on VSM and keep playing great music!

All the best,

References and Notes

[1] Kato Havas: Stage Fright - Its Causes and Cures. [link]

DISCLAIMER: All content within this article is provided for general information only. The views and the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees. Virtual Sheet Music is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of those sites.
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