Tom Hess – Overcoming Stage Fright to Play Like a Pro

posted by Chris Valentine

Most performers have experienced some form of stage fright, and the anxiety that comes with thinking ahead to the moment you have to step on the stage can be debilitating. Professional guitar player and teacher Tom Hess suggests that one way to help calm this fear is to practice your guitar playing in a way that imitates your stage performance as closely as possible.  Not only do you get the jitters out of your system, but the more technical aspects of your performance become second nature, allowing you to express yourself more naturally in the moment for a better performance overall.  Here are some other ways that you can overcome stage fright to deliver the best guitar performance of your life!


What is the worst that could happen?

Many performers can find themselves paralyzed by the mere thought of performing in front of a crowd because they cannot stop themselves from imagining all sorts of terrible possibilities.  Typically, when our mind goes to that dark place, we have a “pull-back” reaction – we stop ourselves from exploring the worst situation we can imagine because, well, it is the worst situation we can imagine!  But if you allow yourself to really explore your worst fears, and more importantly, what would happen if those fears were to come true, you may realize that the worst case scenario isn’t really all that bad.  If you have technical issues, your audience will surely forgive you and they can be quickly resolved.  If you miss a chord, your audience may not even notice!  Have you written off an entire performance by a great entertainer because of a few sour notes?  Neither will your fans!

They aren’t waiting for you to mess up!

There is a tendency to get caught up in our own heads at the best of times – the natural insecurities or worries that we all have can convince us at times that all eyes are on us, studying and judging us, waiting for us to mess up so they can point and laugh.  This just isn’t the case!  True, when you are performing, you are a prominent focus of attention and in that sense, all eyes really are on you.  But why is your audience there in the first place?  Unless you are performing in a contest, they are not there to judge you – they are there because they love good music!  Focus on giving them what they came for, and remember that you are on that stage because you are doing what you love.  Have fun and put your heart into it and let your audience share your passion!

Develop a calming routine

Many performers have routines that they incorporate into their pre-performance preparation that help to get them focused and calm.  This may involve something as simple as having a light meal and getting a good night’s sleep on the day before the performance, or it might be something more particular, like deep breathing exercises back stage.  Find what works for you!

So, the next time you start to feel anxious about an upcoming performance, give these techniques a try so that you can focus on what really matters – giving the audience a great show and having a blast at the same time!

You may also like