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Stage Fright common?

olddude 11 May 09 - 01:54 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 11 May 09 - 02:04 PM
stallion 11 May 09 - 02:28 PM
DonMeixner 11 May 09 - 02:32 PM
BobKnight 11 May 09 - 02:33 PM
Wesley S 11 May 09 - 02:34 PM
Don Firth 11 May 09 - 02:40 PM
Mrrzy 11 May 09 - 02:53 PM
kendall 11 May 09 - 03:56 PM
VirginiaTam 11 May 09 - 04:08 PM
Eve Goldberg 11 May 09 - 06:20 PM
dwditty 11 May 09 - 08:24 PM
Peace 11 May 09 - 08:30 PM
Deckman 11 May 09 - 08:44 PM
Peace 11 May 09 - 09:00 PM
Don Firth 11 May 09 - 09:01 PM
Eve Goldberg 11 May 09 - 09:03 PM
Peace 11 May 09 - 09:03 PM
Eve Goldberg 11 May 09 - 09:05 PM
GUEST 11 May 09 - 09:07 PM
Don Firth 11 May 09 - 09:22 PM
Deckman 11 May 09 - 09:35 PM
Peace 11 May 09 - 09:38 PM
Eve Goldberg 11 May 09 - 09:58 PM
Don Firth 11 May 09 - 09:58 PM
olddude 11 May 09 - 10:23 PM
Don Firth 11 May 09 - 10:32 PM
Eve Goldberg 11 May 09 - 10:52 PM
Peace 12 May 09 - 12:42 AM
Bert 12 May 09 - 02:54 AM
stallion 12 May 09 - 04:06 AM
GUEST,Jon 12 May 09 - 04:21 AM
GUEST,Fantum 12 May 09 - 06:43 AM
Bernard 12 May 09 - 07:00 AM
Aeola 12 May 09 - 03:00 PM
Tim Leaning 12 May 09 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 12 May 09 - 04:07 PM
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Subject: Stage Fright common?
From: olddude
Date: 11 May 09 - 01:54 PM

I use to play all the time been away from it for awhile. From the time I first stepped out on stage my mind has always been "it's not going to go well, no it is going to go great, no it's not going to go well" on and on and on

Once the music start everything is like sitting at home goes well. In one of my songs (not about me) is a line "a coward and a hero sometimes both inside my mind" referring to this feeling ..

Is this the way that others experienced also ... what do you do to setting down before you start a performance. I normally like to get there at the last minute so I don't think about it just go out and play but is this common for everyone?


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 11 May 09 - 02:04 PM

I can remember, very early on, singing in a coffee house. There was a Chinese restaurant, with a bar, conveniently close by. Several of us would frequently repair to the bar for a quick "nerve chaser" before going on. I have not done that for years. Some of those who maintained that habit are paying for it now - big time.

What I have done is to arrive a bit earlier, get the "lay of the land," speak to a few people and use the butterflies to keep me focused. When you stop feeling them, you're getting too comfortable and, maybe, takinig your audience for granted. I don't recall meeting many entertainers, even those with years of experience, who don't have to overcome nerves. The trick is to use it to your advantage.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: stallion
Date: 11 May 09 - 02:28 PM

I suppose I do occasionally when I think we under rehearsed, it's more embarrassment, when we are well prepared then it's about concentration on the performance and, for me, that blots out nerves but oh dear if it is the former it is awful pukey time!


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 11 May 09 - 02:32 PM

I've seen my brother throw up and then do a killer show. Carly Simon used to cancel jobs or not tour because of it. There are many excellent earlier threads on just this topic.

Don


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: BobKnight
Date: 11 May 09 - 02:33 PM

I've been plying in bands since the late 60's and I still get "nerves" from time to time, but only since my move to solo work - it's much easier with 3-4 other band members around to carry the load. I'm usually OK after the first song.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Wesley S
Date: 11 May 09 - 02:34 PM

In my case I'm not a solo act. I'm part of a trio. I think that goes a long way toward easing the jitters I used to get. But with anything else - the more you do it the more comfortable you get with the situation.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 May 09 - 02:40 PM

I had been singing at parties (with other people who were into folk music) for a couple of years. Then, when I was in a physiotherapy sanitarium for a couple of months, when I wasn't undergoing the various prescribed tortures I was there for, there was little to do, so I had my guitar with me, along with a bunch of technique manuals and a stack of song books. I spent most of my spare time practicing and learning songs.

One of the doctors asked me if I would be willing to provide some entertainment for the other patients one evening. In the hospital dining room? Sounded easy enough, I thought, so I said, "Sure."

When I walked into the dining room, I expected to seem maybe a dozen or so people there. But what they had done was pushed all the tables against one wall and lined up the chairs as if it were a theater. There were about two-hundred people sitting there, along with some of the patient's families, and much of the hospital staff! With a chair set up front for me.

I had never sung for a group that size before. I was petrified! And when I started to sing, my voice was trembling and my hands were shaking so badly that I had to abandon my carefully worked out accompaniment and just strum.

But I got through the song without actually falling off the chair. And, then—they burst into applause! They were not going to rush up and lynch me! By the third song, I was feeling fine and starting to have fun. I wound up singing for about an hour—and they wanted encores!

Thinking over the experience during the next few days, I decided that I would really like to do that for a living. After all, there were guys like Burl Ives, Richard Dyer-Bennet, and a couple of other people, like Ed McCurdy and Susan Reed, who were making a living by giving concerts (this, incidentally, was in spring of 1956, a few years before folk music became a pop-music phenomenon and folk singers started crawling out of the woodwork, and at the time, folk singers doing concerts were not all that common).

When coffeehouses started opening in Seattle (1958), I got hired by one and sang every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night for several months at a stretch. That was a sort of training ground. Four or five sets a night, week after week. Along with this, I did a television series, then came concerts, and I was off and running.

It was the regular, night after night singing in coffeehouses that really took care of the nerves. It allowed me to develop confidence in myself and feel sure that I knew what I was doing, and if I ever goofed or blew a song, which happened from time to time, more often than not, I managed to get a laugh rather than being run out of the place.

Do I still get nervous before I perform? Well, yes and no. I'd say I get a bit keyed up, and I'm eager to get started. By now, I know that I sing and play well enough that people are willing to pay to listen to me, and that goes a long way toward calming the nerves.

Take every opportunity to get out there in front of people and sing. Know your material, be well practiced, and go out there and have fun. I know it's a cliché, but it's true: nothing succeeds like success!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 11 May 09 - 02:53 PM

The first song I sang in front of people, I was so tense that my voice came out almost an octave higher - but I got through the song anyway, and by the next one, I was OK... now I'm OK, even for the first song of a time.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: kendall
Date: 11 May 09 - 03:56 PM

I used to get so nervous my shoes wouldn't stay tied up. Then one day I realized that this is not about me; I am only the conductor and what I'm offering is not mine. I'm simply sharing what was given to me and all I'm doing is passing it along.

That realization took a hell of a load off my shoulders.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 11 May 09 - 04:08 PM

I used to shake like I had convulsive chills. I still tremble sometimes and I get sick at my stomach. That fluttery nausea I am gonna kill them damn butterflies by swallowing insecticide kind of panic.

Never could do anything but sing my solos (church) and hope people didn't notice I had turned grey and mixed up verses.

Recently I am much better. I just let my Andie do the singing. She never was afraid of an audience. My fingers do get a bit tied when playing guitar in performance situation.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 11 May 09 - 06:20 PM

This is a huge topic and there's lots of things that could be explored about it. I think there are many different ways to experience stage fright -- every time we take another step in terms of playing/singing in front of other people is another opportunity to get used to what that feels like. And everyone is different, so your experience of stage fright will be different from mine or the person sitting next to me.

Playing a song for your spouse/parent/child/best friend is different from playing a song for your guitar teacher, which is different from playing a song in a song circle or musical jam, which is different from playing a song at a local open stage, which is again different from performing a half hour set at a club, which is different than performing for three hours at a senior home... you get the idea, all the way up to doing a two hour show in a massive arena with 50,000 people (anybody here ever done that? Do tell!).

The point is that each time you push yourself into a new performing situation, there will be different things to deal with in terms of distraction and stage fright. You might be perfectly comfortable in one setting and absolutely freaked out in another. Or you might find certain things daunting in one setting but feel totally comfortable with those things in another setting. Understanding your own quirks, anxieties, distractions, etc. is part of figuring out who you are as a performer.

I have found that I have a constant running tape in my head. Whenever I play and sing, the tape is saying things like, "Okay, don't forget the words to this next part, and here comes that place where you have to play that tricky change, get your pinky ready, hey you did that pretty well, nicely done, oh, shoot, I didn't quite get THAT part, gotta practice that some more, what's the next line..." and so on. It is constantly running and it never stops. If I am in a performance situation, in addition to all the chatter about the song I'm playing or how many mistakes I'm making, the running tape is saying things like, "I wonder if they are liking it? Did they notice that I almost missed the words there? I've got to project a little more and smile, oh, there's a guy out there with his arms crossed. He looks like he really is not enjoying himself..." etc.

Whether I am playing by myself in my room, or playing in front of a huge audience, the more I engage with that internal voice and let it occupy my attention, the further away I get from being "in the music." And the less I am "in the music" the less enjoyable and relaxed the whole experience is for me. So I try to focus on listening to the sounds I am making, taking in the whole environment that I am in, and generally "being in the moment." I don't try to stop the tape from playing, I just try to let it recede into the background a little bit while I focus on something else.

I also find it helps me to think of performing as a form of two-way communication. It's not just about me getting up and projecting out. It's about the give and take between the two of us, me and the audience, at that moment in time. The more I remember that, the more I can be open to what happens, and respond to it authentically, which makes for a much more genuine performance.

And yes, it helps to be very confident about what you are doing, but it also helps to know how to recover and carry on when you make a mistake. And everyone makes mistakes. Some people are just better at moving right along without letting it push them off balance. That takes some practice, but the more you do it, the better you get at it.

That's my two cents for today. Thanks for starting this topic -- I look forward to hearing more of what others have to say.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: dwditty
Date: 11 May 09 - 08:24 PM

I highly recommend this book:

Art of the Solo Performer

www.soloperformer.com

So many great little nuggets to help with this.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Peace
Date: 11 May 09 - 08:30 PM

Every now and then I still feel like puking before I go on, not because I think it's all about me, but because the notion of not being as good as I can be scares the shit outta me. Was like that from time to time when I was performing five days a week for months on end. Still is from time to time.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Deckman
Date: 11 May 09 - 08:44 PM

Stage fright comes from SELFISHNESS. If your frightened, it's because you are thinking of yourself. You have an obligation to your audience, to your material. Get your head out of your own ### and do the job that people expect you to do. And stop whinning! (bad bad bob)


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Peace
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:00 PM

Equally, Bob, one could as easily argue that a lack of stage fright means one doesn't really give a shit about one's audience or presentation. As you said: performers have an obligation to their audience. Feeling ya might bugger that up can lead to stage fright. imo


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:01 PM

". . . all the way up to doing a two hour show in a massive arena with 50,000 people (anybody here ever done that?)"

Not quite that many, and not the whole show, but a good chunk of it. One summer evening in 1963, I sang at one of the Seattle Center Hootenannies in the Horiuchi mural amphitheater to a crowd that the police estimated at about 6,000 people. The following week, the crowd was up to 15,000.

That was pretty exhilerating! Applause from a crowd that big sounds like surf!

My chunk of the program consisted of just me and my guitar, but oddly enough, no nerves!! I did songs that I knew well, had been doing right along, and although there was a big sea of faces out there, I had no idea until later that the crowd was that big.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:03 PM

Hmmm Deckman,

I'd say that's a little bit harsh.

Stage fright is a kind of fear, fear of not meeting expectations, fear of what other people think, fear of letting go, fear of making mistakes.

I don't see that as selfish at all-- quite the opposite, in fact.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Peace
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:03 PM

Once sang for a big crowd (a la Don Firth). Didn't phase me a bit. Sang for a crowd one hundredth that size and got stage fright. Who knows.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:05 PM

Yeah, that's what I mean about everybody experiencing it differently. Sometimes I have no idea why I get more nervous than other times. I've performed in front of large crowds and felt perfectly comfortable, and then the next time totally off my game.

Conversely, I've sung in very small, intimate settings and felt perfectly comfortable, and then another time felt more antsy.

Weird.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:07 PM

Ken Nicol (brilliant guitarist from Steeleye Span) has written a learned paper on the subject of stagefright for a masters degree.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:22 PM

There is a lot to what Deckman says.

To get into the University of Washington School of Music, I had to audition for Dr. Stanley Chapple, the head of the department. Now that was intimidating! Much more intimidating to perform for just one person who can possibly decide your fate. And in fact, I was so nervous, I started screwing up one of the classic guitar pieces I was playing. Dr. Chapple stopped me, and I figured, "There it goes! I'm dead!"

But he said, "The reason people get stage fright is because they are more concerned with what the audience thinks about them than they are about actually performing the music itself." We chatted for awhile and he asked me about my ambitions and where I wanted to go with my music. Then, he said, "Now try it again. But this time, think of what the composer wants, and ignore the fact that I'm here. Just play the music."

This time I got through it okay, and he welcomed me into the department.

With folk songs and ballads, since there is usually no known composer. The point of concentration should be on the story the song tells and telling it well.

Maintain audience contact, yes. But your obligation, really, is to do the songs well, and then everybody's happy.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Deckman
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:35 PM

TWO things ... I know it was overlly harsh ... I meant it to be. Perhaps to wake you up a bit and put performing into perspective. You are hired (paid) to perform/entertain. Get controll over yourself or don't take the job.

And I've had the same experience of being more "nervous" in a small crod of say 50 people than in a large auditorium of say 2,000. Maybe because in a house concert of 50 people you can't avoid the close eye contact. I dunno! bob


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Peace
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:38 PM

Well, Bob, I have done a helluva lotta performances in my life too. And we'll have to agree to disagree on this aspect of performing. Respectfully, Bruce


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:58 PM

A while ago I came across references to someone who works with performers suffering from stage fright and his/her theory is that stage fright is about unresolved anger issues. I wish I could remember who it was, but I remember being very intrigued by it all. I remember reading or hearing from a performer who had worked with this person and told some incredible stories about overcoming paralyzing stage fright issues.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:58 PM

Uh--I think you guys are both saying basically the same thing.

It's normal, I think, to be a bit keyed up and eager to do a good job, but to be debilitatingly frightened is both selfish and self-defeating. I don't know any performer worth his or her salt who doesn't focus their concentration before a performance, but it you are worried so much about how you will do, there is something wrong, and you're laible to disappoint both yourself and your audience.

One of the things Dr. Chapple said in our conversation was about the immportance of being well-prepared and well-rehearsed. This, I've noted, is a common flaw with a lot of singers of folk songs who seem to think, "I don't have to practice. In fact, I shouldn't practice. After all, this is folk music!" Implication: "Because it's folk music, I don't have to be all that good."

When you get up in front of an audience, no matter what else you might be, you are a performer, and you owe it to the audience to be well-prepared.

Being well-prepared is the master key to conquering stage fright.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: olddude
Date: 11 May 09 - 10:23 PM

for me once the guitar or banjo is in my hand then it is like being at home, it all works, the songs have been played and played. It is the hour before that I pace and pace mind racing .... that is why I don't go early, I will stay outside the building and come in when it is time. I envy people like sleepy john estes who they had to wake up when it was his time. My brain doesn't work that way at all. And I give a crap what I present to the audience. It has nothing to do with being self centered it is about doing a job.   I have to agree with Bruce, .

My question was how do others handle it. Some handle it by not caring others get more hyped up, some get panic attacks ... some have a beer first ...


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 May 09 - 10:32 PM

I've read a couple of things about the unresolved anger connection. There may be more to it than this, but the main thing I've heard about the anger issue has to do with musicians or "aspiring" musicians who were basically forced by their parents into taking lessons and practicing, and were pushed into a music career, or at the very least, into doing student recitals when they didn't really want to, and it was more to fulfill the ambitions of the parent or parents than because the child wanted to become a musician. Being debilitatingly frightened may be groping for a possible escape route.

In fact, in some ways, performing can be a bit like sky-diving. Once you walk out on that stage, it's the same as stepping out the door of the airplane. You just bloody-well hope your chute is going to open! And more that one person has said, "No! I'm not going to do it!" Stage fright is the result of finding yourself in what your reptile brain tells you is a dangerous situation, and the flight reaction cuts in.

Again, confidence comes from knowing that your chute is packed correctly. Be prepared.

But perhaps before all this, why are you there? Do you really want to do this?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 11 May 09 - 10:52 PM

Olddude, it sounds like you need some strategies to deal with that hour before you get on stage. Here's a couple of thoughts:

It's natural to get keyed up before a concert. You are excited! As you have already found out, once you get on stage, you are fine. How can you remind yourself of that feeling beforehand?

Another thing is that your symptoms are a sign of adrenaline working in your body. And adrenaline can work for you, if you let it. The key is channeling it in a positive direction instead of letting it make you nervous. Think about that adrenaline giving you a lot of positive energy when you are on stage.

And, if it helps, pace, or run around, or do something to dissipate the energy a little bit. Some people find pushing on a wall or doing pushups helpful (I know that sounds weird, but it works!).

I'm sure there are other ideas out there, but there's a few.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Peace
Date: 12 May 09 - 12:42 AM

Dan, I'll e-mail you.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Bert
Date: 12 May 09 - 02:54 AM

OldDude,

You have to get it fixed in your mind that YOU ARE THE GREATEST!!!.

Maybe not the greatest guitar player ever or the greatest voice ever, but you are the greatest at what you do. The audience have come to hear YOU and you are going to WOW them.

You know your act, you can do it blindfold. If you fluff a word or a chord or two, just laugh and say oops! and they will laugh with you.

You offer a performance that they can get nowhere else. Go out and enjoy singing for them.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: stallion
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:06 AM

The performance is everything on all levels and for all reasons, you have a duty to the paying public to be at the best of your ability and , not to be confused with EGO, self esteem, no one is happy with themselves if they perform badly, that's why I feel embarrassed. When the three of us are singing together and something doesn't sound right I always blame myself, which isn't always the case. A case in question , we were asked to sing at a remembrance day service , Ron dropped out a week before, so Martin and I did it, the specific songs requested were all songs that Ron lead and we hastily re-arranged them. As we were stepping on to the stage Martin confided that he had moved the key up half a note on his song, I was apoplectic, as someone who relies a lot on muscle memory it was a disaster in the making, I actually made it through his song and screwed my own up, I dried half way through, and as in a folk club, cracked a joke about it, i think everyone laughed, but I was mortified that it was wholly inappropriate at that type of event.


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:21 AM

I've been through hands and legs shaking to a time with a folk club of wrongly just going through the motions to being scared again.

I was at a do on Sunday where I could not find the courage as a sort of floor spot to play the mandolin I'd brought with me and it was suggested I played.

Easiest way out for me in these situations where you are just giving one off spots (I'd never be able to hold a 45 minute set together on my own) is (even though I'm most likely to be found joining in with others playing tunes) is to sing an unaccompanied song.

I find there is more time to think (you can take a pause and sometimes get you head back together) than there is say recovering from a hornpipe where you have lost it (sort of the beat must go on while you are collecting your thoughts and shaky fingers do not come in to play).


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: GUEST,Fantum
Date: 12 May 09 - 06:43 AM

Olddude
Oh yes I have been frightened before a performance
The racing heart the stomach turned to water and the mind a complete blank. Happens even now and I have been doing it a while.
The best way I have found has been given by Don Firth and Stallion and others. Prepare and practice and if you have done it right then for the first few minutes your technique will carry you through. After that you should settle down and your performance will be fine.
Good luck

Deckman you are a very very hard man and I disagree with the selfishness bit (though I see your point).
The rest of your post is right, once you have decided to get up in front of an audience you are at work screw up your courage and get on with it.

Fantum


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Bernard
Date: 12 May 09 - 07:00 AM

I'm pleased to say it's something that doesn't affect me. I'm one of those people who can quite happily step up in front of an audience without a set list and entertain for a few hours...!

However, when I was about 18 (over forty years ago...!) I was to play the church organ for a service for the very first time, but I froze and couldn't play a note. It was a few months before I was comfortable with it, and by the time I was playing folk gigs in the late 1960s I was completely over it.

I do understand that ability plays no part in stagefright - people who have absolutely zero ability seem to be quite comfortable when demonstrating that very fact...!

Mind you, if I'm within about half an hour of the start of a gig, I find I'm not at all tolerant of people asking me searching questions which are unrelated to the gig itself, so I must subconsciously be 'focussing'... perhaps that's stagefright related?


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Aeola
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:00 PM

It has already been said ' Know your subject ' whether it's a tune, song or lecture!!


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 12 May 09 - 03:52 PM

So which is it relax or total focus?
Not that I plan to put myself in that position ever again


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Subject: RE: Stage Fright common?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 12 May 09 - 04:07 PM

I've often compared going onstage to jumping into a cold swimming pool. If you have to think about it very much, you might not do it at all. As Don Firth has said rather eloquently, be prepared and well rehearsed and then step out confidently and go.

As an aside, my late mother was a registered nurse and a physical therapist in the 1930's and '40's. She specialized in rehabilitation work with polio patients in central California. I remember visiting people in iron lungs and having several schoolmates with braces or in wheelchairs. Most people born since 1950 may not recall the epidemics and the fear and pain that polio caused before Salk and Sabin formulated their vaccines. I salute you, Don, for all you have accomplished in life despite the affects of the illness you endured.


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