What is music performance anxiety?

Music performance anxiety is when the performer is in a state of worry and panic when it comes to making a musical performance and in some cases, it can be to the detriment of a musical performance.

What is stage fright?

Stage fright is when a performer suffers from fear and anxiety about an audience’s presence and reaction towards the performer conducting his or her work on stage.
The 5 steps to beating music performance anxiety

  1. Try and establish a sense of flow in a performance so that the performer is music making at an optimal level that is within his comfort zone.
  2. View performances as a challenge rather than a threat.
  3. View performing as a joy rather than a job
  4. Make sure there is adequate time to practice and prepare.
  5. Make sure practice routines are optimally utilized

What are the symptoms of music performance anxiety?

Physical symptoms include body twitching, lack of proper sleep routines, fatigue, fast breathing, body tensing, and in some cases, panic attacks. Behavioural symptoms related to performance anxiety can be either over practicing or under practicing, addiction and substance abuse, stress, and inefficient usage of practice times.
What are the causes of stage fright / performance anxiety?

  • Lack of flow in music making. Flow in this sense involves playing at your optimal levels to ensure performing is within your comfort zone.
  • Lack of positive self-talk and self-confidence.
  • Being over or under prepared.
  • Having doubts about your ability to shape the music the way you need and want it to go.

Mistakes people make when dealing with performance anxiety and stage fright

  • Common mistakes include over rehearsing.
  • Not being able to break up the music into smaller sections when practicing.
  • Not being able to reap enjoyment and reward from music making
  • Viewing music making as a job rather than a joy.
  • Seeing the performance as a threat rather than a challenge

Tips to help with performance anxiety

  • Creating flow or optimal performance utilisation when music making in order to maintain a constant feeling of being within your comfort zone.
  • Having adequate sleep and exercising routines.
  • Setting the right amount of time for practicing.
  • Going over difficult bits in isolation to the rest of the piece.
  • Breaking up the piece into smaller components so that there is adequate attention to detail throughout the whole piece.
  • Seeing music making as a joy rather than a job and a challenge rather than a threat

Living with performance anxiety

If performance anxiety is a longer term problem seeking help from mental health care professionals can be the best way of minimising its affects.   Seeing mental health care professionals who also have a musical background can be advantageous as their musical performing experiences will help with the therapeutic services they provide.

Mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapies are commonly practiced when dealing with music performance anxiety in a therapeutic setting. Mindfulness tends to focus on the here and now thereby reducing stress, whilst acceptance and commitment therapy tends to focus on relevant and realistic actions and behaviours that we can commit too.
How does performance anxiety affect the voice?

Performance anxiety has been known to increase body tension.  When singing, body tension in the jaw, neck, tongue or breathing apparatus can severely affect the quality and endurance level of the sound.