The Top Eight Things To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed On Stage

There are many different facets of music. I mean… yeah, no shit. 

Each of us naturally gravitates towards a specific category. Some of us are natural performers, others are technical giants, songwriters, headphone critics, or a mixture of all the above. They often bleed into each other. I don’t believe that you should put someone into a single category. But for the purpose of this blog, let’s clump some people together.

Today I will be focusing on the performing aspect, and I will use myself as an example. I love to write, and I LOVE to perform. I start getting antsy if I haven’t been on stage for a while. Lucky for me, I know a particular babe *Shoots finger pistols* that hooks me up with a lot of shows ( all I had to do was kidnap her family to make it happen, love is a powerful thing)! 

Even though I get to play often, I still get nervous up on stage. It’s true, I still feel overwhelmed up there from time to time, it happens to everyone! We want to shake off some of those nerves. The more comfortable we feel up on stage, the more we will be able to connect with our audience a performer. I have a few tricks that help me out up there. But before I begin, remember this. If you are having fun, then your audience will have fun. 

Photo by the Handsome/Talented Everett Milloy

I will start with an obvious one, then I will move on towards some that may not have crossed your mind. 

  • Practice, lots of practice – Being well prepared will help you feel confident about performing. In preparation for an upcoming show, recognize how long it takes you to start feeling comfortable with a song. For me, it usually takes an hour of playing a new song entirely through. At that point, I feel like the song belongs to me. That doesn’t seem very hard until you have to learn 15 songs for the set. Now you need to give yourself a solid week before a show to make these songs feel natural to you. Take note of how long it takes you to get a song to the point where you feel comfortable, then respect yourself enough to give yourself the time it takes to be comfortable. The green room is not the place to learn a song. 
  • Simplify what you are doing on stage – Are you trying to play a lead part, while stomping a kicking a drum and hitting a snare with your head? Listen to me, CHILL OUT. I get it, I’ve seen Shakey Graves play. It is AWESOME, but that’s also incredibly hard to do, so if it’s not your gimmick, then don’t be stupid and try to multitask on stage. Ask someone to help you out! Don’t know anyone off the top of your head? Go to an open mic sometime and recruit someone! Make it sound you don’t have 15 things to worry about while performing. Even singing and playing can be hard, don’t be afraid to ask for help! 

  • If you make a mistake on stage, don’t tell your audience about it – You are playing LIVE music, you’re gonna make a mistake in almost every song you play. Don’t fret though (guitar pun), perfection is overrated. But this is important, stop giving away your mistakes! It’s not endearing, it makes me realize you are not taking this seriously. You just need to play it off. Hitting a bum note is okay. Even the pros hit the wrong notes! Don’t make a weird face, don’t laugh. Just play through it. Above all else DO NOT start off a song by saying “Hey, I haven’t really practiced this song.” Or even worse, “I’m just getting over a cold, so I hope my voice sounds ok.” You’ve already lost your audience. Don’t give yourself an excuse to suck in front of everyone. Keep your mistakes to yourself. Your audience either heard the error and didn’t care, or they missed the error. Don’t bring attention to your screw up.

  • Try to connect with your audience – It may feel scary while you’re performing, but through establishing eye contact you pull your audience into your world for a moment, and that really helps you to relax up on stage. Just open your eyes – Do you see them moving along to your beat?! They love you! Depending on your act, “rolling” around on stage helps to keep them engaged. There are a few other tricks you can implement into your songs. Some sing-a-long sections, quick drops, and starts, a well placed clapping part, these things will help to engage the audience. Engage your audience, it will help with feeling overwhelmed. 
  • Get to the venue early – This is an easy one that everyone misses. I can’t stand getting to a venue and jumping straight on stage. I need time to adapt to my environment. If your sound check is at 6:00pm and it takes you 45 mins to unload. Get there at 4:50pm. Does that make sense? Give yourself more than enough time. Musicians are ALWAYS late, and it is terrible and detrimental to the act. Have a solid soundcheck do not rush your gear onto the stage. I PROMISE that will make you feel SO MUCH BETTER about the set.

  • Meditate before the set – This creates a night and day difference for me! I use to feel like I needed to drink ten Red Bull’s before a set, to give the right energy for a set. Honestly, I just felt shaky and nervous up there. But if I feel centered, I perform so much better! I realize that I’m in control of my act. I can still pump myself up on stage when I need to, but I can also add dynamic to my act now. Respect the art and your beautiful brain by giving yourself some “you” time before the set. Utilize that green room! 

  • Stretch before the set – It’s surprising how much stress we keep trapt in our bodies before a set. I have a sister who’s talent is only matched by her beauty. She is a yoga instructor, she is terrific. I’m going to give you a link to a video where you can stretch with her. I promise you’ll be better for it! Stretch in the green room, stretch before you get there. Be loose with the whole thing! “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” A quote from the military! A very cool, very accurate quote. Follow my beautiful sister here! Be sure to like and subscribe!
  • Lastly, connect with the other performers – I watched many bands perform up on stage, and sometimes it looks like they kind of hate each other. I understand that in some sections, intense concentration is required. But most of the time, you should be able to goof around with the band up on stage. If I’ve said it once… I’ve said it eleven times. If you’re having fun up on stage, the audience will have fun up on stage. Let’s bring the rest of your group into it too! If you’re having fun up on stage, the band will have fun up on stage! Don’t be afraid to act the fool, to wink at a band member, to tell them they look like a greek god right now. These musicians are literally going through what you’re going through right now! It’s amazing! I would much rather see a band take an extra verse of a song to just goof around on stage than watch a bunch of stone figures sit up there and be proficient. Connect with those performing with you and the ones that have played before or after you. Take note the one that starts that crowd clap is usually another musician. That’s because musicians have a tight-knit community! HAVE FUN ON STAGE! Gosh… 

Lets review, make it easy for you to succeed, practice beforehand and connect with the band and the crowd. It’s easy! I want you to come off stage feeling like no one has done it better! You should feel like you are the BEST IN THE WORLD! 


Published by crazylegsdean

Self defined as: taste taster for the aspiring musician on the go.

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