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. Even if you think you’ll never perform, I think you might find the following tips to be helpful…

Be prepared

Learn the music as well as you can before performing.

If possible memorize it.

Talk it through. This helps you by adding context. Say things like,

  • “The third quarter is the same as the first.”
  • “I need to watch the tuning of A1 after playing D3”
  • “I tend to start fast and then slow down on the easy parts.”

Be able to play it with a metronome. This is a good test of how well you know the song. It’s more challenging to play with the metronome.

Metronome – 70 bpm


What tempo will you perform the song at? If you have a goal, like 80 bpm, then practice the song at a faster tempo (like 90 bpm). Then when you return to the slower tempo it will be easier.

Practice audiation: hear the tune in your head and visualizing yourself playing it.


Do incrementally more challenging and uncomfortable performances.

Record one little part, then listen back. Get that one little part to sound good. Record bigger and bigger sections until you can play the whole thing. 🎙️

Then make a video. 🎥

Then play for one trusted friend. 😍

Then someone else. 🤓

Play for a group of other students at roughly the same level. The nerves will be tempered because you’re all in the same boat.

Play background music at a house party. There’s less pressure if you’re not the object of focused attention. At the same time, you’re becoming comfortable with playing for others.

Eventually you can play some low-pressure gigs: farmer’s markets, birthday parties, rest homes, etc. I’ve enjoyed all of these!

Keep doing these practices and eventually you’ll be playing in front of others more naturally.

Learn to perform in the same way that you learn a tune: small steps.

Practice Relaxation

Hold the instrument without playing. Simply pay attention to your breath and relax the body.

Do this every time you play, throughout a session. Let it become a natural part of your process.

Warm up with a single note using a drone track or metronome. Try it right now with D0 or A3:


Enjoy the sound. Then play the scale for the song. Add simple variations: RhythmsTexture and Volume.

Fear is the mindkiller

You’ll probably be more nervous leading up to the performance than when you actually do it.

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 still get nervous before doing Karaoke or when doing any solo performance. In those cases I use all the strategies mentioned above.

What works for you?

These are just some suggestions. If you’ve found a useful way to overcome stage fright, let us know in a comment below. We learn better together!

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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