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Tim Smith

Stage Fright

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Any ways you cope with being nervous and apprehensive on stage? I was asked to play violin for my church's Christmas music. The song is a Getty song that has the tune "Star of Munster" as a part of the arrangement. The violin is a main part of the tune. The music is fast and I can only play it if I'm firing on all my cylinders. Usually when I play the tune I play it in a group of others who are all playing it too. In this case there might be two of us as the other violinist hasn't committed yet. I hope she shows up in some capacity to take others attention off of me. I am not eye candy. I am not a natural smiler. My "stage presence" doesn't exist. I don't have one.

Aside from all of that though, I really need to be on my game that night as there will be a pianist, bass player, various vocalists, a drummer and an electric guitarist. ALL of them will be depending on my parts to work. I went over it last night and I can barely play it at the speed they want to play it. I had given up on the violin for a few months after a less than nice teacher experience. It wasn't until I was asked to do this I picked it up again. So there's that too. I need to bring the chops up and I only have until Dec 19th to do it.

I must have played it a zillion times last night and I found a few places where the recording doesn't match the music. In addition, I learned the tune a little differently than it is presented in this music. I feel I need to unlearn some of the things I learned to play it as written.

On piano or vocals I'm generally ok in front of people. On the violin though, you can't have the slightest uneasiness or it will show in the playing and it's a more difficult instrument to play. I'm only 7 years in with lessons on the violin so I guess I'm not entirely comfortable with it yet. 

I feel like I'm "on the spot" with this. It's probably one of the main reasons I learned the instrument. I don't see myself backing out of it now.

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This may not help, but you never know...

I used to get massive stage fright before performing - I'd feel unable to eat the day of the gig and would pace nervously beforehand guzzling copious quantities of cola and being completely unable to focus.  I ended up on a work training course (which was awful in general, but that's by the by) which had a session on saying difficult things (in a work environment, of course).  And the trainer said (and this is apparently from a standard/well-known text) that we should just ask ourselves beforehand "what's the worst that can happen?", and you'll almost always find out that it's probably not as bad as you think - no-one's going to shoot you, say 🙂

The next gig I had after that, I tried this repeatedly through the day of the gig and convinced myself that, yep, nothing truly bad would happen if I made a mess of it.  I got to the gig, was way more focused and just did it.  And you know what?  I actually played much better as I was more relaxed.

I had to do this a few more times at subsequent gigs, but eventually, I stopped needing to do even that and just treated the gig as something I did on a "normal" day.  I still make mistakes but I don't worry about it - I'm confident enough that it's not the end of the world, and I'm confident enough in knowing the music that I can dig myself out of a hole I've made if it does go wrong 🙂

Good luck - you have a few weeks to practise your chops and your state of mind!

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Best advice I ever had on this was called the gateau in the fridge story. Say you throw a dinner party: starters, main, showpiece desert and gateaux followed by cheese and biscuits. 

In your haste to impress, you forget to serve the gateau - this was only one component of the desert. If you don't tell the guests - who's going to know?

So if you drop a note, miss a chord, forget or change a lyric - chances are nobody notices because the rest of it was great. So don't beat yourself up over perfection, because nobody is perfect.

Cut yourself some slack and be the best you can be on the day in question. Remember, it's all about the gateau in the fridge...

Andy

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1 hour ago, Kevin Perry said:

I used to get massive stage fright before performing - I'd feel unable to eat the day of the gig and would pace nervously beforehand guzzling copious quantities of cola and being completely unable to focus. 

I appreciate the thoughts on this. If I drank copious amounts of soda I would straight up pee my pants on stage. Anything I drink runs right through me within like 20 minutes lol.

1 hour ago, Kevin Perry said:

And the trainer said (and this is apparently from a standard/well-known text) that we should just ask ourselves beforehand "what's the worst that can happen?", and you'll almost always find out that it's probably not as bad as you think - no-one's going to shoot you, say 🙂

I could pee my pants on stage? Ok that was a pessimistic comment :) 

Seriously that's good thinking because if I can play it beforehand I should be able to play it then. I have heard that maybe imagining yourself on stage doing it helps us to mentally walk through it. So long as I don't imagine myself peeing my pants up there.  A pad might be in order, or maybe something to stand behind and a large notebook to carry at waste level when I walk down.

1 hour ago, Kevin Perry said:

The next gig I had after that, I tried this repeatedly through the day of the gig and convinced myself that, yep, nothing truly bad would happen if I made a mess of it.  I got to the gig, was way more focused and just did it.  And you know what?  I actually played much better as I was more relaxed.

When I have run across these things before and then seen pics or video of it later I look far too serious. Not like one of those looker girls with nice white teeth and a smile. I wish I could just smile but I look like I have a bad case of gas when I smile. I was able to at least play though and I guess that's the most important thing.

1 hour ago, Kevin Perry said:

I had to do this a few more times at subsequent gigs, but eventually, I stopped needing to do even that and just treated the gig as something I did on a "normal" day.  I still make mistakes but I don't worry about it - I'm confident enough that it's not the end of the world, and I'm confident enough in knowing the music that I can dig myself out of a hole I've made if it does go wrong 🙂

Good luck - you have a few weeks to practise your chops and your state of mind!

Thanks for this. Not getting to hung up on the little things is what I hear you saying. 👍

19 minutes ago, AndyB01 said:

Best advice I ever had on this was called the gateau in the fridge story. Say you throw a dinner party: starters, main, showpiece desert and gateaux followed by cheese and biscuits. 

In your haste to impress, you forget to serve the gateau - this was only one component of the desert. If you don't tell the guests - who's going to know?

So if you drop a note, miss a chord, forget or change a lyric - chances are nobody notices because the rest of it was great. So don't beat yourself up over perfection, because nobody is perfect.

Cut yourself some slack and be the best you can be on the day in question. Remember, it's all about the gateau in the fridge...

Andy

This is great stuff!!! Thank you. 

One other thing I have learned and this comes from sometimes being up front all by myself and getting in the habit of thinking I had to "carry" things when more people are involved. Offloading responsibility is a wonderful thing. It makes far more sense to sit out on some things where no one will think anything badly of you than it does to attempt to play something we don't really have a handle on. I hate to tell you I've made that mistake before. Feeling for the key and the rhythm and looking like your feeling for it on stage isn't a good thing.

No harm as you say, in omitting if you can't really play it or filling in with something you can play that fits 👍

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Hi.

I've only had stage fright for approx. 5 minutes, before I just enjoyed it. I usually play guitar on stage.

I still got/get very nervous the last minutes before going on stage, and fells like I have to pee the whole time.

But I have learned to use that nervousness to pump myself up the last minutes before going on, jumping up and down, and playing on my guitar while banging for myself.

As soon as I connect the cable, and have sound, the nervousness is totally gone, and I just look forwards to being on stage again.

As mentioned earlier, if I do make a mistake, I just laugh at it and continue. It happens that I look around to see if anyone noticed it, but I've gotten past the error already when I start looking at the audience, and get back to enjoying it. A wrong note(s) (IMO) doesn't take away from a whole performance live.

It's my favorite place to be.

Not sure if I've been of any help, but just rambled.

All the best.

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Hey Zargg,

 

 Yes the idea of getting more comfortable after you begin playing is something I can relate to. Thanks.

Tonight I practiced the music and feel much more confident already. It's amazing how more practice helps.

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*Pfft!!!*  The stage doesn't frighten me at all!  But the lunatics out in the audience are a totally different thing!!! 😲

 

😜

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This

18 hours ago, AndyB01 said:

So if you drop a note, miss a chord, forget or change a lyric - chances are nobody notices because the rest of it was great. So don't beat yourself up over perfection, because nobody is perfect.

Cut yourself some slack and be the best you can be on the day in question. Remember, it's all about the gateau in the fridge...

Andy

Besides - if you're perfect everytime the audience might as well buy the CD or use streaming.

Other than that - be as prepared as possible, i.e. be as well rehearsed and well rested as possible, clear your mind from anything else than the music and make sure your equipment is in good shape. Playing out should be a fun experience so it may also help to push one self towards a happy state of mind.

Or you can do as me - be lazy and just leave the stage😄

Having fun with the audience is the key for me and the best part of making ""organized noizzze".

IMG_4129_CW.jpg

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I've never had stage fright, perhaps because I started young, before I knew any better.

My advice, prepare and practice until the piece(s) you are going to play are totally under your fingers. Then tell yourself that you know it, you know it well, and the people will like what you do.

They will like you, because you are doing something they can't do and can't even imagine how.

I've been a pro all my life. I've had big screw-ups on stage. Not often, but they are sure to happen sooner or later. I'll say something to the audience like, "This worked perfectly in practice" or "Did you ever have one of THOSE days" or "Damn it, I got my finger stuck under the G-String again" and laugh with the audience. Everybody makes mistakes and as long as you joke about it, they will be forgiving.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

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In a recurring nightmare I find myself unexpectedly on stage with a bunch of players I've never met before, we haven't rehearsed anything, and there's a packed house waiting for us to start. Then I realize that my gear is still in the van.

Preparedness is the best defense.

If I know I'm going to be challenged, e.g. a difficult or fast part, my secret weapon is Starbucks Iced Mocha. Because I don't normally consume much caffeine, that quickly winds me up into high gear. My brain is moving so fast that I mentally step back and just watch my own fingers moving, seemingly of their own accord. It's a marvelous Zen state.

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4 hours ago, Notes_Norton said:

"Damn it, I got my finger stuck under the G-String again"

If done properly, you won't get slapped or arrested. 😁

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3 hours ago, bitflipper said:

In a recurring nightmare I find myself unexpectedly on stage with a bunch of players I've never met before, we haven't rehearsed anything, and there's a packed house waiting for us to start.

This is a typical Irish session for me most of the time. lol.

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We used to play at a place called The Larry Holmes Commodore Inn in Phillipsburg NJ near Easton PA where Mr. Holmes is from. It was right at the time the bar scene was dying because the State Troopers were cracking down on drunk driving. Zero tolerance. Half a sip over the limit and you went bye bye. The bars emptied out almost overnight. It was a huge place that held at least 200 people, maybe more. Huge stage and a dressing room in the back. The last time we played there it was us, the bartender, and the manager. We went on and treated it like a normal job, very professional, didn't screw around. It was horrible though. I still get sick to my stomach when I think about that night. This huge stage, huge dance floor, spotlights shining down on us, dozens of tables, all empty. The first time I played there they had to turn people away because they went over the occupancy limit. The last time we played there, there wasn't a single person and he sold the place a short time after.

New Years Eve gigs always got me twisted in a knot too. I haven't played out since 1998 and I still get butterflies in my stomach on NYE feeling like I have a huge gig to go to somewhere and I can't remember where. I call the drummer every year and we joke around about where we're going for the gig this year and we'll reminisce about all the places we used to play. He's 74 now and was almost killed in a car accident a month ago and can hardly talk so we'll have to skip the call this year. I'll text him to cheer him up.

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Bars or anywhere else people get loud are good places to break into playing out live. Nobody s really ever paying any attention to you and most of them don't hear you.

It is truly just background noise.

My vote for the loudest place I've ever been in around here is PF Chang's believe it or not. No live music in there. Just a whole bunch of people all talking at the very top of their lungs. No carpet on the floor. Acoustics are terrible highlighting the effect. I had to yell for the person next to me for them to hear me....and so is everyone else.

 

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I played a forces social club once with a mate and we were a bit wary. We had a pretty average first set and during the break a couple of (big) lads asked if they could do a couple of numbers using our gear. That would usually be a 'we'd rather you didn't' but this pair clearly weren't going to take no for an answer, and it wasn't as if we had particularly flash or expensive gear.

Reluctantly we agreed and it proved to be a master stroke - they were clueless and utterly lacking in talent. We stormed the second half and absolutely rocked the place. Could have ended very differently mind you.

Joys of live performance eh, this is why I now perform exclusively in my empty home studio. 😂

Andy

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We've all had those Thursday nights when the bar is empty.

That's when I announce, "Thank you all for coming dressed as tables and chairs" or something about as stupid as that.

Remember, they call it PLAYing music. Don't take it too seriously, PLAY like a child and have a good time. If you are having fun, it's contagious and the audience will have fun too.

Your attitude is important, gear your mind for success, prepare well, and that's what you will get.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

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I remember going to meet one of the members from another forum when his band was playing near where I live.  It just happened to be my birthday, but that's also meant it was right before Christmas so people had a lot of other things to do apparently!  For their entire first and second sets, I was the only person there!  To their credit, they played as if the house was full (something I found out later was the usual for them).  It made for a killer birthday! 🥳👍

Oh, and during their third (and final) set, I was joined by someone who probably was a homeless person who sat in the back playing a pair of drumsticks on his legs the whole time - lol! 😆

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On 12/2/2021 at 10:23 AM, 57Gregy said:

Wear a funny T-shirt. That way they'll be looking at the shirt instead of you.

Reminds me of a Dimitri Martin joke...

"I think they should put pies on the front of trains, so when they hit something it's at least a little bit funny".

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