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Performance Anxiety

PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 7:22 am
by texas blues
Just got back from one of my local weekly gigs. Seems I have the shakes for at least the first set or so. How do you get over it? I want to be impressive right off the bat but seems that I have to play the easier stuff to get through the jitters. Anyone out there have a take on this?

PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 11:12 am
by lightninboy
Hi Tex,
yep, it happens to every-body at one time or another.
It can really stuff you up if you have to play some tricky shi$.
After a while, you get used to playing in front of a crowd, but it can still catch you out, no matter who you are.
I remember asking Bob Brozman the exact same question once.
(He still gets nervous)

I've been making a living performing for over 25 years, and recently had a year off due to health reasons.
I was a little shaky myself for the first couple of gigs back, but soon fell into the groove again. A couple of gigs a week is all it takes, and most of it goes. You just get used to it.
I wouldn't want to handle a brown snake, but if I did it twice a week, after a while I bet it wouldn't bother me so much.

Here's Bob's answer.
You have to turn the nervous feeling into, "Hey, I can't wait to get out there and have some fun!"
(This is important).

It also depends a lot on "who" your playing to.
I remember once when I had to play in front of about 100 parents, at the start of the year, at a private college I was teaching at.
It was tough, but I did OK. But the poor brass teacher was so nervous he couldn't wet his lips enough to even blow a note. He tried and tried, but only managed a farting sound. He went fire engine red, and we all felt bad for him.
I've had to play end of year gigs in front of students parents many times, and I always get nervous.
Its like having 100 bosses scrutinize your playing! Freaks me out.
But I try to turn that nervousnes around, into, hey, check this out, I can play this thing!
Also, I start to think, hey, who cares what these people think, why am I bothering to be nervous in front of them.
Don't take this the wrong way, but sometimes I imagine the audience as a bunch of jerks that I couldn't give a fat rats about.
This helps.
Kind of like imagining them all naked; it's about not giving them too much respect.

Another thing, make sure you know everything you're playing backwoods and forwards. Confidence will help. Practise till your fingers bleed!

Also, I always try to fit in a set of warm up exercises just before I start.

All that said, I might add that a nip o' whiskey helps.
Not enough to rattle your brain, just a nip. (Dont get stoned either)

There, thats all my secrets!
Hope it helps.

Knock 'em dead from the first bar next week Tex.

Make it happen. :wink:

PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:12 pm
by texas blues
Lightnin' ....thanks for the tips and insight. It does get easier the more often I am out front of an audience..but never goes away. I think the really good players have some kind of built in beta blocker that controls or blocks out anxiety. I have heard of a specific beta block drug prescribed for performers that does that although I can't remember the name. Unfortunately for me the alcohol thang doesn't work. I tried that once and the juice didn't kick in to relax me till about the 3rd hoskey but by then I was about to take my pants off over my head...
We only have a few venues in my small town and I think one of the problems is that I have to perform in front of so many other musicians. I do try and play other material and know it stone cold....doublemint green gum solves the dry mouth problem....its the left hand that wants to turn into a crab claw that I have to sort out.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:24 pm
by ricochet
Lots of singers, players and speakers use beta blockers for performance anxiety. Can't bring that up over on Guitar Noise, because one of the mods gets all bent out of shape claiming he had a family member get really messed up by beta blockers, and he thinks they're nasty evil drugs. But they're generally safe and well tolerated by most folks. They're banned substances that are dope tested for in Olympic shooting and archery, because they steady the hand tremors that plague shooters under pressure.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:34 pm
by texas blues
Thanks Rico. Not to knock you...and don't mean to hijack the thread but I got the impression that Guitar Noise had alot of whiners, wannabees and no it least from some of the posts I read.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:47 pm
by oleman
Most of our gigs are where alcohol is served, so we like to show up a little early, visit with the patrons, set up at laid back pace while having a beer or two, flirt with the barmaids, pretend like we know what wer'e doing and by the time it's time to play wer'e relaxed and play our warmup medly and fall into the grove easy as pie. We played for the govenor and his suits and never even gave it a second thought. Being past 50 helps in the confidence area too!

PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:59 pm
by jeffl
A moderate case of jitters isn't a bad thing; it can give edge to your performance. That nervous energy does find its way into your music,and can help give it life. I used to get a little bit of a "billy-goat" vibrato with my singing if I was nervous,but people didn't notice,'cuz they musta thought it was my normal voice. It usually went away after I got warmed up. I hope you're always a little nervous,no matter how many years you stay at it, 'cuz the opposite is where you appear to be so bored with what you're doing that you have no energy to impart to the listeners. In general,the longer you play,the less of an issue it becomes. Some performers,like Barbara Streisand, deal with major,major jitters throughout their entire careers. I don't know know how or why they do it that way. I think it's less of an issue if you play in a band with 4-5 members or more, as opposed to gettin' up there all by yourself.

PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:25 pm
by texas blues
I think I am just one of those people that have difficulty with it. Seems no matter how many times I play or how big the crowd it always feels like the first time. One way or another I guess I can live with it as I am too addicted to performing. It really is the ultimate drug.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 10:49 pm
by stratman_27
Live performance is perhaps the biggest rush you can have especially when the crowd really digs what your doing. On the other hand getting a poor reception from the crowd can fill you with rage like you've never felt.

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 11:55 pm
by allanlummox
I'm always at least a LITTLE nervous before a show - the day I'm not, I'll probably start to sell off my gear.

PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 8:32 am
by jaybee
I never had any jitters before I got on stage, but as soon as that FIRST NOTE had to come out my fingers would turn to spaghetti... the trick was to make sure the first song was one where nothing could go wrong, after the first song I was alright again... after years and years of that I figured if I could do that, I might as well "skip the first song" and start with the second just as well, and it worked :wink:

démn, reading this, I just noticed this says a LOT about how easily I can be fooled... :roll: :? :roll:

PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 9:50 am
by stumblin
I always get a bit nervous before playing for an audience.
Usually, I kind of ease myself in by playing something relatively easy and well practiced first. It all gets easier after that crucial first number is done.

PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:58 pm
by bosco
On the other hand getting a poor reception from the crowd can fill you with rage like you've never felt.

I'm not sure rage is the right analogy, but it certainly gets my ire up when the band is playing their butts off and the people just sit on their hands. I've been known to say sarcastic things over the years such as "Thank you dancers" (when there are none) and "Last time I checked there was no ordinance against dancing in this county."

I've gotten better about it over the years. I finally realized that a lot of people experience what amounts to performance anxiety when it comes to dancing. They won't dance unless they're buzzed and a majority would never be the first ones on the dancefloor. Don't ask me why, they're just self concious I guess.

Dancing or not, no applause is even worse. Then you feel like part of the wallpaper and wonder what folks are thinking at that point. When I'm in the audience instead of behind the mic, I always applaud any musicians effort.....but I guess non performers can't appreciate all of the preparation that goes into a performance.

I rarely experience performance anxiety, but if I or anyone around me does, it helps to be reminded that about 97% of any given audience doesn't even have the nerve to get up on stage, let alone perform, so trust your talent and let 'er rip!


PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:56 pm
by stratman_27
Yeah I hate a cold reception from a crowd. Especially when you take your break and folks tell you how good you are or how good the band sounds, I've been known to tell a few "Sure couldn't tell by your guys reaction, I thought maybe everyone had just come from a funeral or something"

If I like what a musician is doing onstage I let em know it. I know how much hard work it takes to get onstage and perform and I certainly appreciate the effort when its done right. If the band is not very good I'll still offer up some encouragement that there are fellow musicians in the audience and to keep trying, you'll eventually get there.

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:25 pm
by jaybee
you have to do a REAL bad job not to get applause from me in the audience, I know what a 'dead' audience feels like only too well... that's why I developed this theory that "it's a good gig if I had a good time, if the audience doesn't want to enjoy themselves, that's THEIR problem"

nice anecdote: a friend and i were playing a 'taverne' one night, and everyone there was either looking into their plate, into their partners eyes or into their glass, NO reaction for about 60 minutes... then Matthew starts doing the songs with 'new' lyrics, making them up as we go and NOT paying attention to keep them "family acceptable" (actually it was more like an audition for an adult movie, without pictures... :twisted: ), making me almost fall off my chair laughing, while trying to play AND sing harmonies (lots of Eagles tunes...) which is a bit hard if you don't know what's coming... . Nobody really paying attention to us and this being in Belgium, where not everybody's English is that good, after about 3 songs people started looking at us with a look that said "HEY! why are these guys having SO MUCH fun, while we're sitting here being miserable?"