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Stage fright and performance anxiety – a step-by-step guide for music teachers and performers

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

In this article, you’ll learn more about stage fright and performance anxiety. You’ll see that emotions can be seen from another perspective, how important are your thoughts, self-confidence, mental preparation, and relaxation techniques in order to better control your stage fright and performance anxiety. If you are a student, music teacher or performer, take some minutes and read this article until the end.

Stage fright
Stage fright is a common challenge for musicians and music teachers

Is it normal or common to suffer from stage fright and performance anxiety before playing on stage?

Each musician feels performance anxiety more or less intensely, depending on one’s experience or age. Even the greatest or exceptional musicians are used to that. Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein, Luciano Pavarotti, and Andrea Bocelli are some examples. In spite of overwhelming emotions, they managed to be themselves on stage and to enchant the audience with their extraordinary performances—not just once, but so many times! We can let ourselves be inspired by these great examples and believe in our ability to play as we want when it matters most.

It’s true that if my students play many times on stage they will be used to it and the stage fright will disappear?

Maybe you’ve read or heard that strong emotions will decrease the more concerts you perform and so you must play as much as possible on stage before an audience. The truth is that things are not exactly this way. Even if you get used to playing on stage, every time is different, and the same holds true for the emotions you feel. Sometimes, they’re extremely intense, and other times less so, depending on the context and the importance of that moment for you. In conclusion, emotions do not disappear with more experience, and you’d better get used to this truth.

Can emotions be seen from another perspective?

Anxiety alone does not affect performance. Moreover, the emotions you feel can give you the energy, motivation, and inspiration you need to achieve excellent performance when it matters most. Just like athletes, musicians can use what they feel to their advantage. Having emotions before playing on stage can be a positive thing because it proves you’re invested in what’s about to happen. When your adrenaline is high, you can use that to play with enthusiasm and offer a brilliant performance. Instead of complaining about how high your emotions run, you could remember that they are the basis for your excellent performance. Without our emotions, we cannot convey our feelings and sentiments through our music, and we would be unable to create an invisible and magical link with our audience.

How important are our thoughts and inner dialog before and during our performance?

Thoughts and inner dialogue are responsible for the way we feel, as well as the results we get. Negative thoughts appear and disappear quickly, almost without your awareness. They whisper that you are not going to give your best performance, that you won’t be able to control your emotions and will make mistakes, and that the audience will be disappointed. These thoughts seem logical and convincing at the time, but they should not be allowed to become certainties in your mind. When your thoughts are affirmative and positive, they will affect not only your state of mind and the way you feel (you will become much more confident, energetic, and motivated), but also the final result, which will be much better.

How important is self-confidence for my students when they play on stage?

As musicians, we all experience moments of low self-confidence. Lack of confidence may be triggered by certain failures, criticism, negative feedback, or rejection. All these could provoke your students to take a step back and make them reluctant to take any risk for fear they could fail again. You can help them raise their self-confidence by encouraging them to write down ten accomplishments they have had throughout the years. These should include both small and big accomplishments as musicians.

Is mental preparation important in order to better control stage fright?

Mental preparation before the performance represents a decisive step that significantly contributes to the desired results at a concert, exam, competition, or orchestra audition. Top athletes and performers use this method to feel safer and more confident in these crucial moments. In addition to technical preparation, mental preparation makes us ready to offer our best performance on stage. Some techniques are visualization, mental practice, or positive affirmations.

How can I help my students prepare mentally for the stage?

There are some relaxation techniques your students can use during practice hours, before performances, and when their emotions are intense. Breathing exercises, meditation, and visualization are some of the methods that will help them better control their physical symptoms of stage fright and improve their ability to concentrate, which is an essential skill during the performance. To get the results they want, they’ll need to practice relaxation exercises regularly, the same way as any other exercise. The breathing exercise and meditation don’t need so much practice, it will take just some minutes to do them, just before going on stage.

As a conclusion, here are some takeaways for you:

· Accept your own emotions and get used to taking them as they are

· Use positive and affirmative thoughts

· Practice relaxation exercises

· Trust yourself, your technical and mental preparation

More information and exercises about stage fright and performance anxiety you can find in my book: Coaching for Musicians, which is available on Amazon:

Performance, Career and Life Coaching for Musicians and Music Teachers:


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