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How to Overcome Stage Fright

Q: Would you have any advice on how to deal with performance anxiety? I do fair to middling when I’m practicing by myself but let me get in front of someone to play and all of a sudden I have 10 thumbs instead of 2. It makes me feel so foolish.

A: Hi Donna. Welcome to the club. I’m naturally on the introvert side and playing in front of others used to be really difficult. There’s really only one thing that works. Psychologists call it systematic desensitization. That’s a fancy word for do it over and over. Start small, with one or two people and play something easy. Then push your comfort zone little by little. Keep looking for opportunities to play for others.

That’s a simple explanation. A more thorough approach involves relaxation techniques and using your imagination as well. There are many articles on the web that can give you more information. 

Here’s one I found that I think is particularly good:

Two more things I like to mention.

First, the most important part of the process is repeated exposure. Don’t get stuck in the imagination stage.

Secondly, this and many other articles mention learning meditation. From my own experience I would highly recommend this. The benefits are considerably far reaching beyond but including reducing anxiety.

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  1. Thanks for your reply, Tomas. I will most definitely try your suggestions and let you know how it goes. Keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks for this. It works! After more than a year of having to play for my guitar teacher every week, it’s slowly becoming less unnerving although I still make mistakes sometimes which I don’t do when practicing alone. He smiles and I continue like it was meant to be played like that but I still feel like an absolute idiot inside! (For the meantime I call it, Systematically Proving That I’m Not There Yet!) Patiently waiting for the day when I can play for someone else AND feel comfortable doing it.

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