Dealing with nerves on your first performance/gig.

guitar performing keith urban

Jerry Seinfeld said that the only thing people fear more than death is public speaking, which to him meant that most people when at a funeral would rather be in the casket up the front than reading the eulogy! Funny stuff….But he makes a good point, talking or performing to an audience when you start out is beyond terrifying.

 Being your own worst critic.

The best thing to realise when starting out is that no-one in the audience is going to be as critical of yourself as you are. We all put our own playing and performing under a very unfair and unkind microscope that others just won’t be doing. Just think of any performance/band gig you saw in recent times. Were you analysing every single passage and lick that the musicians were doing, standing with a pen and paper breaking down every screw up and standing at the edge of the stage afterward to dutifully inform them of how they just humiliated themselves beyond repair? No I’m guessing. However badly you may have viewed your own performance, I guarantee that the audience will not be so harsh.


Another thing; be prepared. Let’s say you’re performing ‘Little Wing’ by Jimi Hendrix, a fairly fiddly complex piece of music which I have personal fond memories of turning into a dog’s breakfast during a high school performance. If there’s a particular section or lick that you play well say 90% of the time during practise, mark my words, when it comes to performing you will without fail rightfully balls up said passage in a most spectacular way. The best way to avoid this is to know how to play the song inside out, back to front, frontways, sideways, anyways…you get my point.

Don’t rush.

This to me is a big one. It’s so tempting when you get called up to play on a stage if you’re nervous to set a world speed record for getting your gear setup, music on the music stand, plugged in etc…. I mean the audience are waiting right? They’re busy people after all, they have things to do, places to go, people to meet. No! Netflix and chill is the key here! ….The body has a strange way of reacting when anxious and the best way to counter this is to force against that feeling of wanting to rush, so please, take it slow. Walk slowly toward the music stand, slowly plug in, take a few deep breaths, etc etc. You’ll be grateful that you did.

Lastly, remember that adrenaline when channeled properly can enhance your performance tremendously. The enthusiasm you feel for what you’re doing will spill over to the folks in the crowd and become infectious for them too. For greater elaboration on this please check out my Stuart Fraser interview in which he speaks at great length about the gremlin of nerves when performing. Take a look.

Until next week, practice, practice, practice!!



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