It’s been a while!
I’ve been spending more and more time writing and rehearsing songs, which is a good thing: the fact that my creative juices are flowing again means that I’m on the right track with my burnout recovery. I may still nap sometimes, and I still can’t work full time, but this is a great development.
However, writing and playing songs means I have to perform in public. Solo. I never felt the need to do this when I still focused on writing music for films and games, and come on, how hard could it be?
Well, singing songs is not difficult at all.
What’s far more crippling, is stage fright.
I never experienced this, until the moment I had to perform all on my onesies, without the safety of a choir. Funny thing is, when I’m just playing the piano, everything is fine. Add singing to that, and I almost pee my pants.
Why do you have stage fright anyway?
Everyone may encounter stage fright in a slighter or more severe form. If it’s just a little, it might even help you perform better, because you are more focused. However, too much stage fright can really affect your performance in a bad way.
There are a number of reasons you might have stage fright:
1 – You have practiced poorly
When this is the case, you know exactly where your weak points are and what could go wrong. With the added stress of an audience, you are bound to forget that chord progression or lyrics you haven’t studied as hard as the other parts.
2 – You are inexperienced
I mean, who isn’t frightened at least a little for something new?
3 – You are insecure
Not because of poor practising, but because you are not self-confident enough. Is my song interesting enough? Will people like my voice? Is my genre of music to their taste?
The first reason you can take care of by proper practising, and only performing a certain song if you can play it with the utmost ease at home. The other way to overcome your stag fright is by gaining experience, so you get more familiar with how everything works and the reactions of others. Positive feedback means the next time you perform will be a little less scary!
But how can you get more experience in a relatively safe way? Experiences that will most likely turn out positive, without the risk of people thinking too bad of you when you accidentally fuck up? Try this:
1 – Perform for family and trusted friends
This is the safest thing you can do. You family will think you are amazing, even if you fuck up and have to search for your notes or restart your song in the middle. Grandparents will always enjoy their grandchildren playing, and the positive reactions will teach you the valuable lesson that it doesn’t rally matter when you make a mistake.
2 – Perform at a public piano
In the Netherlands, we have public pianos at quite a number of train stations. Playing one or two songs in such a place can be a great start to performing for a public consisting of people you don’t know. You can start by playing at quiet hours, and work your way up to peak hours, when more people will pass. Most people will just walk by, but soms may stop to listen for a while.
This is a great way to play anonymously to train your confidence, but also to get more publicity when you are more secure of yourself and want people to follow you on Youtube or SoundCloud.
3 – Record videos
Recording videos is a great way to experience feedback from strangers from the comfort and safety of your own home. Make it a one-shot video, but you can do as many takes as you wish and choose the best one. Especially when it’s an auditioning video (for a part in musical theatre for example) you can experience the stress of performance, but if it gets too much, you are still in the comfort of your own home.
However, this method will not help you with actual fright for live performing – it is only a way of getting used to performance stress when you have never ever done such a thing before and are just starting out.
4 – Pupil concerts
If you take lessons, whether private or at a music school, your teacher will probably organize one or two concerts in a year, for all pupils to get some performing experience. I can highly recommend participating in this! The audience will be a very safe group of people, mostly parents and maybe some other friends and family. Because a lot of pupils are performing during such an evening, you can also learn from how they behave on the stage and manage their stress.
5 – Open mic nights
A step further is an Open Mic Night, usually at a small pop music venue or a pub. Here you find all sorts of folks: from newbie songwriters to the more experienced artists that look for some exposure. There will probably be someone to tell you how it works and answer questions, for example how many songs you can play, if they allow for cover songs, etc.