HOW TO OVERCOME PERFORMANCE NERVES
When it comes to performing live, sometimes our nerves can get the better of us.
Often the scenario would play out in this fashion;
We are standing on side stage about to go on and perform to hopefully an eager audience, excited to see you. You hear the crowd, and thoughts are running through your head, ‘What are the words to the first verse’, you go over the verse and perhaps the chorus, then for the life of you, you draw a blank to the second verse. Your nerves get the better of you and you begin to panic, ‘Oh no, damn, I can’t remember the words’.
Nerves can sometimes be detrimental to our performance and can prevent us from performing at our best.
You quite often think to yourself, ‘I did that song so much better in rehearsals’, and now that you have finished your performance, you feel ready and want to go back on and do it again.
Firstly, let me just say, that if you don’t have a certain amount of nerves, I would be more worried than not.
Nerves help us get through various situations and we need them. However when they become more than nerves and form into anxiety, you feel you are out of control and can ruin your performance to the point of despair.
I remember when I was performing on National Television, when I was coming up to the second verse of the song, my mind went blank and I repeated the first verse. Of course I kept going and pretended nothing was wrong. I came off bitterly disappointed and when someone would give me a compliment on my performance, I really didn’t know how to react.
To those I knew well, I had mentioned to them I had stuffed up and sang the same verse twice.
What was really interesting is that no one noticed. I couldn’t believe it.
I auditioned for a role in the musical ‘Rent’, and I was so focused on getting the role, for weeks I practiced like I had never practiced before. I wanted this more than anything. Placing so much pressure on myself, during the audition, not only did I stuff up and forgot the words, but my voice didn’t come out how I had practiced.. This was the absolute worst experience I had ever encountered. Placing too much pressure and the wanting of something so so much resulted in my failure with my audition.
There have been countless times nerves have got the better of me, but over time, I learned to manage them and deal with them by putting in place a few really great helpers.
Firstly, know that you can do it. If you knew your words without a thought during rehearsal, and you have allowed enough time for sound checks and are prepared well in advance, remind yourself that you are prepared, and treat it similar to your sound check or rehearsals, but you will have a little more energy which will help to add that spark and excitement.
Take in the atmosphere and don’t think about the songs you are about to sing.
Be in that moment and learn to enjoy what you are doing. This can take an enormous amount of pressure off.
People who are coming to see you perform will be having fun, and when they see YOU having fun, you will more likely feel a better connection.
If you do forget your words, you can either laugh it off; make it into a joke; especially if nothing comes out. Just be yourself. (of course you can’t do this on Live TV)
The other tactic is to make up words or repeat them. Although, if your audience is familiar with your songs, they will more than likely notice.
Finish the song, and if you think your audience noticed, talk to them and say, ‘hey, I decided to repeat the verse because I like it better than the second verse…..’ or something of that nature. Lighten it up.
The other alternative is, if you feel you are blanking out, point the microphone to your audience and ask them to sing it, getting them involved. Not only will they love it, but would have created a diversion to you memory loss.
Some great tips on what you can do before you step onto the stage are;
Ask for someone to tell you a joke
Laughing is a great stress release and can help in many circumstances to relieve tension and lighten up.
Some people find the exact opposite to help with nerves.
Meditating and getting in the zone of your ‘self’. Sitting quietly; not necessarily thinking about the words or your nerves, but sitting calmly, closing your eyes and not allowing your thoughts to come into your head focusing on your breathing and the here and now.
Remember why you are doing it.
If you have fun, then it will show, and it will always improve your performance in more ways than you could imagine. When you focus on having fun, the muscles in your body relax and enable your voice to sing without the tension. When you are not relaxed with your head, jaw and neck area especially, this creates the stress and tension, which can cause breaking and cracking with the voice.
Let it go, and have fun. You will also find you will have better control over your diaphragm when you can focus on the fun.
I asked our Teen Talks team what they do to help with performance nerves.
What is the worst memory you have with nerves while performing and what did you learn from it?
MADDIE: My worst experience with nerves was when I was doing a pretty large performance and I forgot the words to the first verse of Justin Beiber’s “Love Yourself”. I was super embarrassed, and it made me extremely nervous on stage but I kept the song going and skipped to a part that I did know. After that I couldn’t play that song live for a really long time because I was afraid to mess it up. I practiced it lots at home and I’m finally comfortable covering it now!
FAITH: Once I’m on the stage all my nerves go, it’s the few days before a performance my nerves take over, as a vocalist this is terrible because I get tight shoulders and neck, so my practices end up sounding like a dying animal. This adds to my nerves how will I ever hit a note!
HARRY: I’m the opposite to Faith I’m not nervous until the point I hit the stage, I’m still goofing off behind the stage moments before we play. But as soon as I walk up the steps and look out at the crowd I’m like a deer in headlights ‘frozen on the spot’ it’s so embarrassing! Faith once had to guide me to the piano and place my hand on the keys! Actually as soon as I hit the keys that’s it for me I get the job done! The only trouble is I’m now concentrating so much I look really serious.
What do you do before you perform in terms of battling those pesky nerves?
MADDIE: Something that helps me get over the nerves is getting friendly with the audience before I start singing if it’s possible. I like to talk and ask questions so that everyone is more comfortable. If I feel like my normal self, I have less nerves.
If it’s not possible to talk much, I always play the songs that I feel are my strongest first, and ones I’ve been playing for years. It calms me down and gets some of my jitters out!
FAITH: My vocal coach taught me vocalists yoga, certain postures that help to relax the upper body and mind. Having good vocal practices before I go on stage are important to my confidence so using these yoga techniques really helps and allows me to enjoy up and coming performances.
HARRY: I’m still looking for an answer to ‘stage fright’ that literally happens the moment you hit the stage. I can’t use Faiths yoga on stage the crowd would think me crazy! I’m sure theirs a solution just have to find it!
Just remember to enjoy the moment. Life is to have fun and the more you have fun, the more you also create great memories.
Be in the now.