How To Overcome Stage Fright?

A FiddleHed named Sue wrote me asking about how to overcome stage fright. Like anything else, this is something you can practice. And even if you think you’ll never, ever perform, I think you might find the following tips to be helpful…

Be prepared

  • Learn the music as well as you can before performing.
  • Practice audiation, hearing it in your head and visualizing yourself playing the tune.
  • Warm up before you perform. Either at home, or somewhere at the venue where you’ll be playing.
    • Play some simple things so that you feel like a fiddler.
    • Practice relevant scales and technique exercises.
    • Go over the tune or piece you will be performing.


  • Simply pay attention to your breath.
  • Allow it to be calm.
  • Stretch your body. This will help to relax your mind.
  • Do this every time you play so that it becomes a natural part of your process.

Incremental approach

  • Start by playing in front of a trusted friend.
  • Then play for someone else.
  • If that goes ok, then try to play for a few people you know; your family or a few friends.
  • It’s just like learning a tune. Take on small challenges to gain small wins. Keep doing this and eventually you’ll be playing in front of others more naturally.

Fear is the mindkiller

  • Remember that most people in the audience won’t notice your mistakes.
    • FiddleHed Joanne says, “The first time I played onstage with others really made me improve quickly. When I made mistakes I realized that 99% of the crowd didn’t notice. So I just kept going. It’s lovely just to make people happy and want to dance which was only ever my aim really.”
  • You will always be your worst critic.

Casual attitude

  • When practicing or performing, work towards a casual attitude.
  • Think, “No big deal. I’m just playing the fiddle and having a little fun.”
  • Then there’s the standard advice: imagine everyone in the audience is naked. This may be an unsavory vision! But it might help you to approach things more lightly.
I don’t feel much stage fright when I perform with Diego’s Umbrella…but I’ve probably played almost 1000 shows with them. But it’s a trusted crew, and I’m not the center of attention. I do still get nervous before doing Karaoke and certain public speaking and social situations.
FiddleHed Donna wrote me to say that she gave a (big) little recital…Thank you for all the WONDERFUL suggestions and insight, so helpful. My first and only “public” recital so far has been for my four year old granddaughter. She told her mom and dad “Grandma plays the violin good!” So easy to please a 4-yr old 😁
Most people want you to succeed. Have you ever seen someone onstage struggle? I tend to want them to succeed, and I think most people are the same. Remember that people watching may want to be doing what you’re doing, but their own fear has held them back…

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12 responses to “How To Overcome Stage Fright?

  1. I was terrified to even let my fiddle teacher hear me play. It was a real problem. What did I do to conquer this fear?
    – I joined a jam class that is a “safe space” for new musicians to sound bad, but hopefully improve. Look up the Wernick Method. It is in many states across the US
    – I developed the “hey I’m new but listen to this cool song” attitude. It puts the focus on the music and not on you.I might butcher it, but I’m excited to learn and that is very appealing to most people. They tend not to judge you.
    – In my experience, many people will appreciate your efforts and focus on that rather than the quality…and most times, I hear lots of stories of how people have always wanted to play and instrument but never did. You may inspire other musicians!!!! Go for it!

  2. I, too, am trying to learn how to jam with other players. I’m fine when I play alone, but when other players are right there, my fingers get all tangled up! It doesn’t help that they’re all professionals. Well, I guess it’s just a matter of time and LOTS of practice. I’m gonna just keep trying because that’s all I can do – I’m too far into it to give up now! Happy Holidays to all!

  3. Good timing. My local teacher wants me to do Christmas carols with his other students at a nursing home in December. I said, sure. For a few weeks all of the songs have sounded fine. Tonight everything sounded awful! Every mistake you can think of. All I could think of was, what if I sound this awful in a few weeks? With all those more advanced students who are just kids. It only made things worse. Finally, we moved on to other things. I am blaming after work stress and traffic tension. But calm and home now, I think the audience will give some perspective– aging is hard. Maybe some will not have good memories, and will appreciate a few familiar tunes. Breathing now. thanks for the tips

    1. I am a beginner fiddler. I just performed for a coworker and made some mistakes. She still appreciated my performance.

      I perform Irish dances. I make my errors and keep smiling.

      I find that I have to go through with these performances and get through this period of making some errors. It just seems the process I have to go through.

      Congratulations on getting asked to perform.

  4. Yup,
    Those all seem like great ideas!
    Last night, however, I took part in a monthly jam here in Virginia. Normally, I play back-up chords to as many songs as I can. But last night I just jumped in and played “Whiskey Before Breakfast;” very poorly, even though I could normally play much better. But, the point here is that everyone really wanted me to succeed. A mandolin player and a guitarist urged me on and I did calm down. Jason, you are right; I don’t know if all jam groups are so friendly, but this one was. Anyways, I felt great afterwards.
    Owen O