Killing Stage Fright

With Stage Fright, it's 'kill or be killed!' A little bit of adrenaline before an appearance is actually great for you and your audience. It means you care!

But if you've ever had a bout with really bad stage fright (shaking hands and trembly voice, a feeling of physical weakness, extreme anxiety, etc.), you know that it will destroy your ability to do what you do!

Kill it or be killed! But how?

I have found stage fright commonly coming from 2 fears: One is expressed by the question 'Where am I?' (answer-'I'm on stage-vulnerable to the opinions of other humans.')

The other question is 'Who am I?' (answer-'I'm no good.' or 'I'll never be worth anything.' or 'I am a creature of God, magnificently made to sing!')

Where Am I?

This question refers to your consciousness of being on stage, in front of everybody. It can stir up the feeling of 'Oh my gosh, I hope I don't mess up and make a fool of myself.'

It will usually be aggrevated by the sense of the unfamiliar: New venue, equipment, etc. or new song, or new stage partner, band, etc.

These 'new' elements give you a feeling of unsure footing. This kind of stage fright is certainly beatable, but it takes real work! You cannot just expect it to subside by itself.

New venue--Go early to any venue that is new to you. You must walk the stage, look at the equipment, arrange for an adequate sound check, and ask all your tech questions ('Where will I plug in my guitar?' 'Do I turn the mike on when it get's handed to me or should I expect it to be live?').

Note--sound check is not 'rehearsal.' It's just a chance to get the sound man used to you and you used to the venue's equipment. Mentioning 'rehearsal' brings me to the next point:

New song--You should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER get on stage with a song that you aren't completely confident about.

If it's new, rehearse it 50 times if you have to. If there's that one note that you aren't sure you can ALWAYS hit, DON'T sing this song yet! (You won't have to worry about high notes if you have worked with my course, but even then, the point is you MUST KNOW that you never miss! Only then is a song ready to perform.)

New stage partners/band--You must rehearse, rehearse, rehearse with a new band until you have no doubt. If you or some of your band members are too lazy to do this work, you don't belong in front of an audience yet!

That reminds me of a story about Fred Astaire. It is said that he would rehearse a dance routine for hours a day for weeks before it was to be performed for a real audience or the cameras.

By the time it was to be presented, it was as if he was taking a pleasant stroll in the park, instead of doing a demanding dance number. If you ever watch Fred Astaire dance in a movie, you will be struck with how easy it looks--literally effortless.

THAT'S BECAUSE IT WAS EASY BY THE 475TH TIME HE DID IT! (You probably said to yourself 'Boy, I wish I was that talented.')

If you're lazy, you deserve stage fright!

Who am I?

This question refers to fears about yourself, most of which have nothing to do with performing. They followed you here from childhood.

These fears come from inner 'tape recordings' of school kids, parents, teachers, etc. that tell you that you are inadequate. As we grow into adulthood, we usually repeat these negative things to ourselves (and make up new things) and therefore cut ourselves down to size.

Eventually, we get stuck between a strong desire to be 'enough' and a feeling that we most certainly are 'NOT enough.'

When you take the stage and you haven't dealt with this problem, you will experience the feeling of 'if they only knew how worthless I really am, they'd reject me for sure.'

Unfortunately, this reads on your face like an open book.

The only thing that seems to work is what I call 'thinking work' done ahead of time:

Healthy Imagination--Your imagination was designed for this very job. You need to 'work things out ahead of time' by imagining your desired result.

Spend time imagining a very successful time on stage. 'See' it with your mind's eye. Don't use words, but just 'watch the movie' of your successful gig--over and over.

You'll need to spend TIME in a quiet place to do this right.

That brings us to the second technique:

Modeling--Watch real movies of great performances and see how the best of the best do it (Go Fred!). Then take their confidence as your own! Here's a secret: Every star you watch did this same thing. They looked to some 'hero' that they modeled for their success.

The Stage Fright Silver Bullet

If you really want to kill stage fright, there IS a sure-fire way. You have to...

Kill your Ego--This is the hardest thing to understand. If you want to really succeed on stage, you must NEVER ask 'I wonder if they'll like me?' Once you let yourself ask that question, you've headed down the wrong road.

You must ask only 'I wonder how I can love these people and serve them?'

An audience can sense selfishness without even trying. The same goes for one-on-one. If you have trouble remembering people's names when you first meet them, you have a selfishness problem, not a memory problem.

Think about it--you're asking 'I wonder if this person likes me?' instead of 'I bet this person is a fascinating person I should get to know...'

Also, you will never make an audience like you by being a 'fake' you!

So just be who you are and constantly lean toward being a lover of your audience. You came with music. Serve it up FOR THEIR SAKE and not your own ego strokes!

Your audience will sense that you are there for them and will love you for it!

Eye Contact--Make eye contact with the most positive people in your audience and connect with them as if with a new friend. This will pull the rest of your audience into the 'conversation.'

I'm sure this will help you to...

Keep singing,
Brett Manning

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