How do I overcome Music Performance Anxiety (MPA)?

Music Performance Anxiety can happen to any musician at any time in any performance- even the most experienced musicians can get stage fright. The reality is, that it is something that musicians may have to deal with for the duration of their musical careers. It does not, however, have to be an inhibitor to having a long and successful career in music! 

So, while “overcoming” might be a somewhat ambitious goal, learning to cope or deal with your music performance anxiety in a way that allows you to perform well and have fun is absolutely possible. 


Preparation has to be the first thing to discuss, because if you aren’t properly prepared for a performance, all the rest of these tips are going to be useless. Preparation will help you to feel calmer, more in control and more confident. Physical preparation (practice and rehearsals) is important, but so is mental preparation. You can use several strategies to help you prepare mentally for a performance.


2. Embrace the anxiety

Trying to tell yourself that you aren’t nervous, is only going to make you more nervous. Allow yourself to feel. Embrace the anxiety, and then you can try to deal with it. Performing is scary- you’re going up there and putting your work and yourself on display. It’s okay to be scared. Its normal to be scared. 

3. Visualize

Instead of focusing on all the things that could go wrong in your performance, focus on all the things that could go right. Visualize the hall/stage/venue, your clothes, an audience and a great performance.

concert hall. Music performance anxiety

4. Reframe

Take all those negative thoughts and all that nervous energy and reframe it. Turn that anxiety into excitement- they are very similar emotions. Remember how hard you’ve worked and tell yourself that you are excited to share your talent with an audience. 

5. Set realistic goals

There is no such thing as a perfect performance.

There is no such thing as a perfect performance. 

One more time…

There is no such thing as a perfect performance. 

If you are expecting a perfect performance, you are going to be disappointed. Set realistic and attainable goals for yourself. 

6. Lifestyle

Pay attention to your lifestyle. Getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly and being hydrated all lower your overall stress levels and will help lessen your performance anxiety as well. Try to eat something before a performance (not right before if you are feeling nauseated for obvious reasons), in addition to providing you with energy to perform, eating will tell your brain that it is not in danger, leading to less of the “fight or flight” response. 

healthy lifestyle

7. Move

Before a performance, take a walk, stretch or do some other form of moderate exercise. This will help your muscles relax and allow you to think more clearly. 

8. Breathe

This might sound obvious, but breathe. Deep breaths, in and out. One of the most frustrating symptoms of performance anxiety is hyperventilating. Taking deep, deliberate breaths will help to regulate breathing and alleviate some of the effects of the adrenaline rushing through you. 

9. Connect

Look at your audience. Don’t try to pretend they aren’t there, because at some point during your performance you’re probably going to look up and seeing an audience you were ignoring is going to throw you off for sure. Acknowledge them, spot the friendly faces and smile. The vast majority of the audience is not there to count your mistakes. They are there to support you or to listen to beautiful music. 

10.  Fake it

Even if you don’t feel confident, you don’t need to announce that to the entire room. Stand up straight, sit at/hold your instrument with good posture and pride, smile at the audience. You’ll soon find you feel a lot more confident when you act confident and eventually you won’t even have to fake it. Also, pay attention to your clothing, if you look good, you will feel good! (Choose clothing and shoes that you feel comfortable in and aren’t distracting.)


Bonus tip: PERFORM 

The best way to get better at anything is by practicing it… and that includes performing! Performing regularly may be frightening, but it will get easier. It will also help you to find coping strategies that work best for you and settle into a performance routine that allows you to feel as confident as possible. 


It is possible to manage your anxiety and be the musician you’ve worked so hard to be! Be proud of yourself for facing your fears and celebrate small victories!

P.S Chewing gum helps alleviate mouth dryness (just remember to spit it out!)

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