In many ways, performing a gig is a lot like a having big job interview, or taking your first driving test. The spotlight is focused solely on you and an audience member is sitting there with arms folded and a look that says, “dazzle me, or else you’re a failure.” It can be nerve wracking, especially if you’re new to playing out. Even the pros still get nervous from time to time, but they’ve also learned a thing or two during their careers about how to calm down before hitting the stage. Here are some of the more common tips to help ease those jittery nerves so you can give your best performance.
No caffeine. Caffeinated beverages could make your already shaky nerves even more shakier.
Eat a healthy, hearty meal an hour or two before the show. Not too close to the show but far enough in advance so all those nutrients will be kicking in while on stage.
If you drink, no more than one or two. A good belt of whiskey or a cold beer might make you feel better and lift your spirits a bit right before taking the stage, but alcohol is a depressant AND, like caffeine, a diuretic. The last thing you want is to crash and burn during the middle of the set while needing to pee. So go easy on the booze.
Get a laugh. Re-watch your favorite comedy or invite that friend who always cracks you up when you hang out. Nothing eases the nerves like a good belly laugh.
Find some space and just breathe. Sometimes taking deep breaths and having some time alone is just what the doctor — or the Zen master — ordered.
Don’t rush yourself. Make sure you’re well-rehearsed and prepared the day before. Get a good night’s sleep and arrive 15 minutes earlier than they tell you to for sound check. Sometimes sound checks are nerve racking themselves, so get there early and get set up and ready to go.
Don’t fight the nerves, use them to your advantage. When you are nervous and stressed-out, your body is producing and releasing endorphins — natural pain and stress relievers — and adrenaline, which heightens alertness and mental focus. This could be a nice recipe for a better performance, so instead of trying to suppress or calm your nerves, accept them and use them to your advantage. Let your body do what it naturally wants to do by putting those natural chemicals and hormones to work.
Smile. You may be so nervous that smiling won’t come natural, but the people you encounter before a show, from fans to the sound person and other venue employees, will likely respond to you in a more positive manner if you are smiling instead of fretting and pouting. You’re a performer, you can do it.