Ells’s Helpful Guides to Music Things, Part 2: Confidence On Stage

Rock with confidence!

If I’m honest this is less of a guide and more of a discussion, because on-stage confidence is something that, I must confess, I struggle with….

For those of you that don’t know (and why would you?), I have performed as a solo acoustic singer-songwriter for the past 6 years or so. I started out playing just occasionally at open mic nights, and now gig regularly around North Wiltshire and Bristol (although I do still play a lot of Open Mics, because a. I organise them, and b. they’re great fun!)

But anyway, despite all this lovely shiny gig experience, I still get nervous, you see.

Super-nervous.

Sometimes the nerves help – they give me the little kick of adrenaline that I need to do well and to give the audience everything I’ve got. Sometimes they overcome me – and I get up on stage thinking ‘ok, why do I do this to myself?’, my hands are shaking all over the place, my throat is dry and I’m verging on the edge of panic.

So, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not the best person to definitively tell anyone ‘this is what you need to do to be confident’. But actually, that’s a good thing (no, it is – promise!), because everyone has to find their own way to channel nerves into energy and confident performance.

I will however, share a few things that have helped me in the past, and am really interesting in hearing any ideas from fellow musicians/performers – think of this as a starting point, and add your own spin to it. Because you’re the only one who can find out what works best for you.

Right, on to the tips:

  • Think positively: – approach every performance with a ‘bring it on’ attitude. It doesn’t matter whether you are nervous or not, telling yourself that this will be a positive experience will help it become one. Visualisation is a common technique in sport and performance – try imagining yourself doing well, feeling great after a good set and easily getting over any little mistakes. For me, this helps to counter-act the negative thoughts that creep in and make nervousness worse. It can be battle, but one you can win – I like to think of hitting the evil paranoia fairy with my big stick of positivity. Maybe that’s just me….
  • Make sure you’ve practised: – Yeah, you’ve heard this one before. But think back – the performances you dreaded are the ones that you didn’t feel ready for… am I right? The more you can play/sing your songs automatically, the easier it will be to concentrate on other performance aspects when you’re on stage, and be confident in what you’re doing.
  • Talk loudly: – Ok, I  admit that this is one my husband always tells me off for… mumbling between songs. When you introduce a song, do it loudly. Your mic will be set for the volume of your voice when you sing, which is, of course, louder than your normal speaking voice. You will appear more confident if you raise your voice between songs and people can hear your introductions. Try to talk as if you were still singing. Now, if only I could practice what I preach on this one…. (I’m trying!)
  • Fake it, baby!: – You’ve heard the phrase ‘fake it to make it’… well it’s kind of true. If you pretend to be a confident, interesting performer when you walk up on to stage, the audience will see… a confident interesting performer! Not that you don’t have to be yourself on stage, just a bigger, braver version of yourself.
  • Don’t let one bad gig get you down: – Something else that I’ve been guilty of (naughty, naughty Ells). It’s really easy to let a gig that didn’t go to plan affect subsequent performances. You start telling yourself that you sucked then, so you’re going to suck now… but no – it’s the paranoia fairy again! Time to get the big stick of positivity out… Tell the silly fairy that ok, the previous gig may not have been great, but you’ve learnt from it and got better. This one will be good – you’ll make sure of it.

Ok then my lovely peeps, it’s over to you – do you have any tips of your own? Have you successfully combatted your natural nervousness, or are you like me – fighting the evil fairies at every show? Leave a comment – I’d love to know!

And finally: A mini mash-up of useful links:

Building Stage Presence and Confidence – an interesting article with some good practice/performance ideas

How to Manage Stage Fright: Not Just For Musicians from HappenChance – confidence tips to apply to all sorts of situations

Top Ten On Stage Music Tips: A count down of ten top tips!

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2 Comments

Filed under Techniques, Tips and Advice for Musicians

2 responses to “Ells’s Helpful Guides to Music Things, Part 2: Confidence On Stage

  1. i used to have trouble talking in front of people when i worked in cosmetics… there was a loud woman who worked on one of the other counters so i just pretended to be her when i was talking. eventually it rubbed off!

  2. Thanks for the comment – using someone who exudes confidence as an example is a great idea. Cheers!

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