When I was in high school, I attended a guitar camp in northern California for a week. I was in the improv class, and the first session of class our v metal looking teacher informed us all that at the end of the week there would be a showcase that all our friends and family were invited to attend. Most of the class was super excited and looked forward to their communities gathering around watching them be the best version of themselves. Meanwhile awkward high school me was completely dreading the week’s end and wondering if there was any way I could tell my teacher I had to be picked up early. I was really worried I would stick out as the only person who wasn’t actually good at guitar, and thought they would probably kick me out of the camp for not being at fluent as the other guitarists in the modes or shredding! After a week of getting that tight feeling in my chest whenever I thought about it, the showcase finally came to fruition. And guess what- I can’t even remember it like AT ALL. I know we all played some very fusion-y type song and I don’t think I did bad (I don’t think?)? Looking back on that experience though, it’s weird to me how nervousness wrecked my little week and put a damper on things until the performance was finally over.
Since this experience, I’ve struggled with nervousness on and off, but for the most part have learned some really helpful tips to manage it! If you are in this boat, here are a few tips that have helped me deal with stage fright.
1. Literally Don’t Think About It
I know in most areas of life, pushing things down and refusing to confront your problems isn’t too healthy, BUT in this case, this has been the biggest thing that’s helped me. I never really realized I had the power to will myself into a new way of thinking, but I do! Whenever there is something that I’m feeling nervous about, I tell my brain that we aren’t even gonna go there and change the conversation in my head. If people ask me if I’m nervous, my answer is no, and I try to make my body language relaxed as well. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy!
2. Be Prepared
Ok duh, but I’m talking about thinking through those little things that will trip you up! For me, if I am somewhere and my tone doesn’t sound like it normally does, this makes me really nervous. For this reason, I put little pieces of tape on the side of all my pedals as a consistent default tone basis (if you have a Kemper or something you are blessed with always the exact same tone). I take the time to get the licks I need to know exactly right, have lots of picks, and now I have an iPad that I can take to practices with song charts and notes (allelu!). Knowing I’m ready gives me a lot more confidence so I can loosen up on stage and have the little things taken care of!
3. Getting Over Imposter Syndrome
When I first heard about imposter syndrome, I was like wooow this is 100% me. If you haven’t heard of imposter syndrome, it’s basically when you’re pursuing something you are passionate about, at any given moment, someone is going to find out that you aren’t actually good at that and are just a poser. I just listened to a great podcast by Jenna Kutcher the other day on this and it really resonated with me! I’ve definitely worried that someone will find out I’m not a real guitar player or entrepreneur and I’ve also talked to a lot of you who I have noticed don’t feel comfortable saying that are a real guitar player unless you are making money only from touring. That’s simply not true though. If you have played a note on guitar, then you are a guitar player and you are capable and ready for any scary opportunities that have opened up for you.
Did you guys know I teach Pilates on the side (so no need to worry about me sitting hunched over on the floor playing my guitar!). I have learned so many things that have helped me with guitar playing through this. Two of the biggest things are thinking about posture and breath. Taking deep breaths where the air goes to the very bottom of your lungs is super helpful at keeping you calm and bringing your shoulders down and relaxed (ps have you seen this TED Talk on body language- it’s fascinating!). Also reminding yourself to move on stage so you aren’t a lil statue guitarist is always good!
If there’s anything else that’s been really helpful to you, I would love to know! Remember that the more you perform, the more you will definitely start to feel less nervous and probably just stop caring how you look. I have been congratulated on my “bass” performance enough times to know people really aren’t noticing me in a band as much as I think they do lol. Music is so connecting, nostalgic, and healing and it’s so important you keep sharing the creativity inside you even if you feel some nerves! Tell me your thoughts below and as always, thank you so much for reading!