Calming Your Nerves Before the First Gig

By Mike Ludwig

Feeling nervous before a gig is completely natural and something even the most experienced musicians deal with on a regular basis. All little stage fright is not a big deal, but it can keep you and your band from putting on your best performance, especially at the first gig. Here are some tips on dealing with the jitters before the first show.

Think clearly

Psychologists tell us that nervousness is caused by feelings of vulnerability. Bright stage lights, a loud audience and the pressure to be cool and collected before and during a gig can certainly make us feel vulnerable. Simply explaining to yourself that your nervousness is a completely natural psychological reaction to your situation can be comforting.

Use your nerves to your advantage

After you’ve accepted that fact that performing makes you nervous, try harnessing the positive side effects of anxiety. Nervousness comes with excitement, heightened senses and a rush of adrenaline – all of which can help you put on a great show. Be aware, however, that the excitement that accompanies nervousness can cause some musicians to speed up their playing. This might work in your favor if you’re playing metal or punk music, but if you’re playing blues, indy rock, jazz or anything requiring more than loud, grinding riffs, then remember to take a deep breath and keep time with your mates.

Practice and then practice some more

Practice breeds confidence, and a confident act has nothing to worry about. Members of a well-rehearsed band can still feel nervous, but they know their anxiety is a result of their nerves and not any real concern for the band’s ability to perform. If band members have practiced enough to instantly click together and follow each other’s leads, runs and flares, then each individual member can concentrate on their own performance – both musically and visually. Confident body language and musical precision lets an audience know you came prepared to entertain them. Create energy on stage and engage the audience. They will feed off your confidence and cohesion, and you will feed off of their approval.

The booze question

Many musicians drink to loosen up before a show, and venues will often offer musicians some complimentary shots and pints. A few drinks can definitely help reduce nervousness, increase confidence and encourage you and your mates to try some wild stage moves. If you and your mates drink during band practice, then drinking during or before a gig won’t be a big deal. If you don’t normally drink during practice, then be cautious when drinking at a gig. Alcohol can throw off your band’s cohesion and cause musicians to make stupid mistakes. Know your limit, practice with alcohol if you plan to be a drinking band, and talk to your band mates about drinking mindfully.

Alright, now take a deep breath, grab your instrument, get out there and own the stage. Confidence, attitude and talent make for a great show and a great band. If you’ve got that down, then you’ve got nothing to be nervous about.

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