Ten tips to overcoming stage fright

Afraid you’ll stop breathing and careen into the front row? I’ve toured for over 25 years and I’m still alive. I must be doing something right.  Here’s what I do:

Know your material well

Whether you’re giving a speech or playing a few songs at an open mike, practice until you wake up in the middle of the night mumbling your presentation. Practice everything – even what you say between songs. If you freeze up in the middle of your performance your muscle memory will kick in. I’ve had times where I freaked out, looked at my hands and they were still moving into the right chord shapes, like an alien had taken over.

Visualize your performance

Visualize this kind of crowd.

Sit or lay in a relaxed pose. Close your eyes and picture how the performance will go. Imagine walking up to the stage – what does the floor feel like under your feet? What sounds do you hear – your footsteps, the crowd? Then think about standing in front of the mike and smiling.  Imagine how your hands feel on the strings or keys. Go through the entire show with you hitting every right note and word, visualizing smiling faces, tapping feet and enthusiastic applause.

Check out the venue beforehand

Walk out on the stage. Stand at the podium.  Stroll around and really get a sense of the place.

Make sure you have everything you need

Insure that you have your instrument(s), music, stands, water – whatever you need. Make sure the sheet music or notes are large and readable. If you’re outdoors, have a way to clip the music on the stand.

Wear comfortable clothing

You might want to avoid clothing like this.

Don’t pick this time to wear those new designer shoes. Wear clothing that you know you feel and look good wearing. Don’t wear something you’ll be tempted to fiddle with like a tie or a bra with straps that tend to slide.

Take care of yourself that day

Don’t plan too much. Take a relaxing bath. Send the kids to Grandma’s. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there.

Warm up

Take a walk. Do some light stretching exercises.  Hum and then sing a few notes, working from low to high.


Just before walking on stage close your eyes and take some calming breaths. Remind yourself to breathe when you’re out there.

Know that everyone is your friend

On the whole, audiences want you to do well. Don’t think of them as stern and hard-to-please. Think of them as people who love you and want you to excel.

Focus on positive looking audience members

Don’t focus on someone who looks like this.

Don’t look at the one in the crowd with the crossed arms who looks like they’d rather be getting a root canal. Look at the people who have an open and relaxed posture. In noisier venues I focus on the people in the front rows – generally they’re more engaged.

Now go out and enjoy yourself!

Did you find this post helpful? Please consider keeping me in coffee and my cats in kibble. And it’s only $2.

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Knowing your instrument well will help you with stage fright. If you live in Ottawa, ON and you’d like lessons on guitar, mandolin or ukulele, contact me.

About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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8 Responses to Ten tips to overcoming stage fright

  1. Robin Gelman says:

    What I always tell my students is that the most important thing is to realize up front that you’re going to be nervous and it’s OK! Sometimes, they’re so surprised. But then, it’s also important to realize what your body does when it gets nervous – some people get sweaty hands, some get shaky legs, me – I always have to pee 5 minutes before showtime. Everyone reacts differently – so, once you know how you react, it’s important to know what to do to counter. Bring a handkerchief, take deep breaths, find the ladies room early ….

  2. Danielle says:

    Thanks Jamie. Very good advice indeed for any type of presentations.
    And good point Robin. Knowing some of your potential reactions certainly does help to deal with them easier if and when the time comes.

  3. Great advice.

    I want to emphasize Jamie’s point about knowing your material. Once I performed a brand new song that was a little “too new”. I got through the intro and my mind went completely blank.

    And even when that happens, just move on to the next song, the next performance, etc. Everyone has bad days and the audience knows this. So just go out there and have fun!

    As a speech professor once told me, “Everyone gets butterflies in their stomach. The trick is to teach them to fly in formation.” Channel that energy into delivering a more powerful performance!

  4. BTW, I posted a link to this article on my Facebook page. It’s good info!

  5. Pingback: So you wanna be a professional singer-songwriter? | Jamiebobamie

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