Getting Over Music Performance Anxiety

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Music performance anxiety is a familiar shadow that looms over many musicians, both amateur and professional. It’s a form of stage fright that can dampen the joy of sharing one’s musical talents and inhibit the ability to perform at one’s best. Understanding and addressing this anxiety is crucial not only for personal growth but also for career sustainability in the competitive field of music.

Understanding Music Performance Anxiety

Music performance anxiety manifests itself as a distressing combination of emotional and physical symptoms that occur before or during a public performance. Musicians might experience shaking hands, racing heartbeats, nausea, or excessive sweating, accompanied by feelings of dread, worry, or fear of failure. The root of this anxiety often lies in the fear of judgment, making mistakes, or not meeting one’s own or others’ expectations.

This anxiety is not just about feeling nervous; it’s about a pervasive dread that can interfere with a musician’s ability to perform effectively. For many, these feelings are linked to negative past experiences or deep-seated beliefs about their abilities. Recognizing these triggers is the first step toward managing them, as it allows the musician to apply specific strategies tailored to their personal experience and needs.

Performance Anxiety in Musicians

Performance anxiety is particularly pronounced in musicians due to the personal nature of their art. Music, unlike many other forms of performance, often requires a deep emotional investment and a high level of vulnerability, especially in genres that involve expressive performances. The intensity of these emotions can amplify the fear of making mistakes or being evaluated.

The impact of anxiety can vary significantly between different types of performances. Solo performers might feel more exposed and thus more anxious, as all eyes are on them and any mistake is easily noticeable. In contrast, musicians in ensembles might experience anxiety due to the pressure of synchronizing perfectly with others, fearing that any error might let their peers down.

How to Get Over Stage Fright Singing

For vocalists, stage fright can be particularly challenging. Singing is an intensely personal form of expression, often perceived as an extension of one’s self. This can make the fear of judgment more acute, as singers might feel their voice is being scrutinized, not just their performance skills.

To begin overcoming this fear, singers should focus on the technical aspects of their performance, such as breath control and posture, which can provide a sense of control over their delivery. Vocalists should also engage in mental preparation techniques. Visualizing a successful performance, focusing on the joy of singing rather than the potential for error, and setting realistic performance goals can help mitigate feelings of dread.

Additionally, it is beneficial for singers to establish a routine that fosters confidence. This might include a vocal warm-up sequence that not only prepares the voice but also calms the mind, or a pre-performance ritual that helps set a positive mindset.

An artist performing on stage with his hand raised up in the air while crowd also raises their hands up in reciprocation.

Hypnosis for Performance Anxiety

Hypnosis is another intriguing method that some performers find beneficial for managing stage fright. Under the guidance of a qualified therapist, hypnosis can help musicians reach a state of deep relaxation and increased suggestibility. In this state, they can more effectively internalize positive affirmations and strategies to enhance their performance confidence.

The process typically involves the therapist guiding the musician to envision themselves succeeding and feeling calm during their performances. Hypnosis can also help musicians mentally rehearse their performances, going through every step of their routine in a calm, controlled mental environment. This can be particularly powerful for breaking the cycle of anxiety and negative thinking that often accompanies stage fright.

Meditation for Performance Anxiety

Meditation offers another valuable tool for musicians to manage their performance anxiety. Techniques like mindfulness meditation can help performers stay present in the moment, rather than getting lost in worries about what might go wrong. Regular meditation practice can help reduce overall stress levels and improve focus, both of which are crucial for successful performances.

Simple meditation practices might include focusing on one’s breath or conducting a body scan to identify and release tension. By learning to observe thoughts without judgment, musicians can begin to detach from the anxiety-provoking narratives that build up around performance situations. Over time, this practice can help them approach performances with a calmer, more centered mindset.

Psychological Approaches to Overcome Performance Anxiety

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a well-established psychological approach that has proven effective for many anxiety-related issues, including performance anxiety. CBT works by helping individuals identify and challenge their negative thoughts about performing and replace them with more realistic and supportive ones.

For example, a musician might believe that making any mistake during a performance is catastrophic. Through CBT, they would learn to challenge this belief by considering the actual consequences of making mistakes and by focusing on past successful performances despite minor errors. This helps build a more balanced perspective that reduces the emotional impact of such thoughts.

Exposure therapy, a component of CBT, involves gradually exposing the musician to the feared situation—in this case, performing—until the fear begins to decrease. Starting with low-stakes environments and gradually moving to more challenging ones can effectively desensitize musicians to the anxiety of performing, making each subsequent performance less daunting.

Physical Strategies to Reduce Anxiety

Developing physical strategies to reduce anxiety can be a game-changer for musicians. One of the most effective techniques is focused breathing exercises. By learning to control breathing, musicians can significantly lower their heart rate and calm their nerves before and during a performance. A simple technique involves deep, diaphragmatic breathing, which provides a physical counteraction to the symptoms of anxiety, such as shallow, rapid breaths.

Additionally, incorporating a tailored warm-up routine can help reduce tension and anxiety. For instrumentalists, this might include scales, arpeggios, or other technical exercises that focus the mind and limber the fingers. For singers, vocal trills and humming can relax the vocal cords and prepare the voice for performance. These routines not only warm up the necessary muscles but also serve as a psychological signal to the body that it’s time to perform, grounding the musician in familiar and controlled actions.

A dj in the dj booth mixing with a purple theme in the background

Preparing for a Performance

Preparation is key in overcoming music performance anxiety. This includes not only the hours of practice beforehand but also the logistics of the performance day itself. Ensuring that all instruments and equipment are in top shape, knowing the venue layout, and having a clear timeline for the day can alleviate unnecessary stress. Musicians should also practice their pieces in different settings and times of day to simulate potential performance environments and build flexibility and confidence in their ability to adapt.

Creating a positive pre-performance routine is also crucial. This could involve a quiet moment of reflection, a reassuring pep talk, or a physical warm-up. The goal is to create a ritual that feels reassuring and boosts confidence, setting a positive tone for the performance.

On the Day of the Performance

The day of the performance can be fraught with nerves. To manage this, musicians should focus on maintaining a routine similar to their normal day to minimize stress. It’s important to eat well, stay hydrated, and avoid any drastic changes in daily habits that could unsettle the body or mind. Just before going on stage, it can be helpful to engage in a short mindfulness exercise or visualization of a successful performance to reinforce a positive mindset.

Staying focused and calm during the performance is about mindfulness—being in the moment and connecting deeply with the music, rather than worrying about the audience’s perception. If anxiety begins to creep in, focusing on the physical sensations of playing or singing, like the feel of the keys or the breath, can help anchor the musician in the now.

After the Performance

After stepping off stage, it’s natural to replay every detail. However, it’s beneficial to focus on the positive aspects and what went well instead of dwelling on any mistakes. Every performance is a learning opportunity, and constructive self-review can lead to improvement. Discussing the performance with trusted peers or mentors can also provide helpful feedback and reinforce positive aspects of the musician’s performance.


Dealing with music performance anxiety is about understanding its roots, employing strategies to manage its symptoms, and reinforcing positive performance experiences. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a nervous newcomer, remember that overcoming performance anxiety is a journey, not a sprint. Be patient with yourself, keep practicing these techniques, and each step forward will bring you closer to the joyful, expressive performance you aspire to achieve. Now, why not pick up your instrument or step up to the mic and put one of these strategies into practice today?

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