Overcoming Stage Fright – Part 1 by Andreas Farmakalidis… It’s easy to spot the manifestations of stage fright and gently work towards practical solutions. I have found that the most important way to counteract perfectionism is using a physical warm up that is calming at core level and then building the idea of just “doing our best”, letting go of the pressure to achieve the “perfect” performance every time.
Our goal as bass players and as performing artists is like a top athlete or dancer: Be completely relaxed and at the same time, be ready for anything. Preparation is key. Our brain must learn and hold all the information regarding the song and the performance as well as be able to react quickly without overwhelming us with unhelpful self-judgment.
For bass players with stage fright, a quick run through different warm up exercises are not enough to contract the underlying panic. We need a more comprehensive approach that includes a thorough warm up, therefore there will be no doubts about our ability to perform the material.
The warm up exercises such as scales, arpeggios etc., not only prepares the bass player for the demands of the show, but can also create a psychological certainty and calm knowing that we are truly ready and duly prepared for the gig. You should always start and end with a deep breath. Taking the time to breathe will help remind us to breath during the show as well as plant the idea in our heads that we can only do the best we can under the circumstances, and if we ever find ourselves losing control during the performance or straining for notes? The best rescue for a song going wrong is always a deep breath. All the useful oxygen will flood our brain like the motor of the car is suddenly flush with gas. If you do not believe me just try it! You’ll be relieved you did.
Some people claim that closing our eyes makes musicians feel safer and less vulnerable. This might be partially true however, keeping your eyes shut will make us isolated from the rest of the band, the crowd and stuck into our own world. That will end up being counterproductive since staying in a closer relationship with the on stage musicians benefits the music and gets us out of our own heads. I always say that we should pretend that we are on a date with the crowd whilst performing and that we are trying to engage them in a relationship – give and take relationship. We can feel the audience in and feel their enjoyment it can help us forget our negative thinking and allow us to be more available to the music. Always stay attentive to your date and try to feel if they are enjoying themselves.
Through practice and repetition could it be that you are just convincing your muscles and your mind that they already know what to do? To sum up, it’s the underlying pressure we are putting on ourselves that must be dealt with ultimately. Make sure that your high expectations and how they are affecting you are acknowledged. Taking all the above mentioned points into consideration, one should always try that commonly known technique of imagining the crowd naked… it might make you laugh and therefore relax you.