How many of you get nervous before a show or audition?
I’ll bet many of you are saying, “yes, I do.” Guess what? You’re not alone. I get nervous too.
I’d like to offer you some strategies for overcoming this anxiety. Below are some things to tell yourself, actions to take or things to consider in order to calm yourself before a show or other musical event. Most of this falls under the category of “positive self-talk.”
1) You’ve done this before successfully
First, remind yourself that you’ve done this before. And you’ve done it before with success. So, why would this time be any different?
2) You’re really well prepared
Second, think about how well prepared you are. You are prepared, aren’t you? If you know the songs really well or have played down the charts multiple times with ease, what are you worried about? You know the stuff.
3) You’re a really good drummer
If you’ve been playing for a long time, it’s easy to remind yourself that you’re actually good at playing the drums. You’re a great player. I sometimes give myself a pep talk: “You’re a great drummer. You’re going to destroy this gig! You got this.”
4) You got called for the gig because you deserve the gig
Remember how you got the gig. Someone may have asked you to come to the audition or asked you to do the gig. Perhaps someone recommended you for the job. That person thinks you’re a good drummer and that you’ll do a good job. Believe them.
5) You’re auditioning them as much as they’re auditioning you
If you’re going to audition for a band, unless it’s a high-level act and it’s a no-brainer that you want the job, consider the fact that you are judging them as much as they are judging you. After the audition, perhaps you’ll want to play with them, or perhaps they won’t be up to your level. You won’t know until you play with them. Either way, flipping the page mentally so that you’re auditioning them too can relieve some stress.
6) The audience wants to like you; it’s a friendly environment
Consider the fact that when you go to sit behind your set of drums on stage, you’ve already won. When people walk into a club and see equipment set up on a stage, they’re already excited about the show. They want to see and hear some good music and musicianship. They are ready to like you. They want to like you. They’re not there to cut you down. Quite the contrary. It’s a friendly and happy environment you’re walking into. Thinking about this should calm you.
7) Your fellow musicians already like you
Consider that the people you’re playing with are happy to be playing with you. You’re there for a reason; they want to play with you. That’s because they like the way you play or someone else they trust told them about you. Once again, this is a friendly situation. It’s a happy environment. So, why be nervous?
8) Drumming is fun
You play drums because it’s fun, right? You love playing the drums. Think about how much fun you’re about to have and that may calm you down too.
9) Nervousness is self-imposed
It’s true. You’re nervous because you are worried something bad will happen. You’ll screw up and never get another gig. But, of all the gigs you’ve played, how many times has that happened? Probably not many if at all. So, realize, it’s all in your head and you have some power to calm yourself down. That primitive “Lizard Brain” is at work imposing negativity on you. Realize those negative thoughts are not rational.
10) Breathing and Visualization Techniques
Other than the above, breathing deeply and slowly and practicing visualization techniques (vividly imagine yourself playing the show successfully) can help calm you.
11) Beta-Blockers / Physchiatrists
Finally, if none of the above works, and you can not self-sooth, consider talking to a doctor about prescribing some medication that will help. There are drugs that can be prescribed to help with stage fright. One such drug is Propranolol, which is a beta-blocker. I’ve popped a small dose of Klonopin before a show that I was particularly nervous about and it helped a lot.
It’s Just Music
Remember it’s just music. We’re performers and musicians, not doctors or airline pilots. The point is that no one is going to die if we make a mistake. So, with that in mind, see if you can relax and have fun.