I always have a heaving postbag, with people eager to ask me questions to help them overcome their guitar-related problems. If you have a question yourself, feel free to ask me anything you like via the contact form on this page.
Whilst I can’t promise to answer every question that is asked individually, I do try to address them in my upcoming blog posts.
The first thing to bear in mind about performance anxiety is that you are not alone – everyone has suffered from it to some extent. I don’t care if your name is Steve Vai, John Williams or Paul McCartney, at some point in your past (or maybe in the present day on an ongoing basis) you will have suffered from some level of performance anxiety.
Now you know that you’re in good company, hopefully, that will take some of the pressure off you, which should help you feel a bit more relaxed.
Rest well and eat properly
One thing that I always make sure of is that I am not buzzing from a high-caffeine energy drink or espresso. It may sound obvious, but stimulants can exacerbate feelings of anxiety. This is something that I used to overlook because for some time when I was still a student I used to, shall we say, burn the candle at both ends, which resulted in me feeling drained and worried that I wouldn’t have the energy to give a good performance. What I failed to realize was that a good night’s sleep is far better for topping up energy levels than artificial stimulants.
I’m older and wiser now, so I always make sure I get a good night’s sleep before a gig, and I steer well clear of the energy drinks. In fact, I take this a step further and avoid sugary snacks as well. These offer the promise of an energy boost but in my experience, this is short-lived and can also give me the jitters if I’ve popped a few too many smarties.
Deep breathing and meditation
Another technique that works well for me is concentrating on slowing down my breathing if I start to feel nervous. This is a good way to relax and has a calming effect on the body, making me ready to deliver a top-notch performance. While I’m doing this, I also find it helps to visualize the performance I am about to give. A bit like an athlete visualizing scoring the touchdown or winning the race, picturing myself in my mind’s eye giving a solid, confident performance in front of an appreciative audience really boosts my confidence and allows me to relax.
Motivation and Inspiration
A lot of guitarists find it difficult to motivate themselves to practice from time to time. Whether it’s because they are in a rut and are playing the same old things over and over again, or whether they have hit a wall that they just can’t get pass with technique, we’ve all face it at one time.
I find that the best way to motivate myself to practice is to listen to the songs that I love to play, then I can’t help but pick up my guitar and strum along. Once I’ve got the ball rolling in that way, I find it much easier to practice my scales, or whatever was causing me to lose my enthusiasm.
Incorporating scales practice into my warmup also helps a lot. Viewing scales as a means to an end and keeping my eyes on the end goal helps me to grit my teeth and knuckle down to business. Scales are very important because they are the building blocks that allow us to write our own songs, improvise and they also improve the accuracy and confidence of our playing. Always remember why you are practicing. Partly for fun (I hope), but also to improve your playing and make sure that the next time you are performing, your audience will go wild.
Tell me what works for you!
These are some of the things that help me in my performance and practice. I hope they help some of you guys out. And I hope they help Amanda to overcome her performance anxiety and help her to remain motivated when she’s struggling to put in the hours of practice that are needed to succeed.
What works for you? Leave a comment below and let me know what techniques you have used to overcome anxiety when on stage, and how you keep motivated to practice when there’s something else you’d rather be doing. Let’s have a conversation about this and help each other out. Just type a few lines in the box below, now!