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How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

As a musician, I know how vital it is to perform at your highest level when it matters most: at a concert, exam, competition, or orchestra auditions.

Each musician feels performance anxiety more or less intensely, depending on one’s experience or age. Maybe you’ve read or heard that strong emotions will decrease the more concerts you perform and so you must play as much as possible on stage before an audience. The truth is that things are not exactly this way. Even if you get used to playing on stage, every time is different, and the same holds true for the emotions you feel.

Sometimes, they’re extremely intense and other times less so, depending on the context and the importance of that moment for you. I know musicians, and you may too, who have twenty-plus years of playing before an audience, who are used to being on stage, but who still have performance anxiety.


  • Accept your own emotions. Get used to taking them as they are, without trying to amplify, run away from, or annihilate them

Having emotions before playing on stage can be a positive thing because it proves you’re invested in what’s about to happen. All you need to do is use what you feel to your advantage. When your adrenaline is high, you can use that to play with enthusiasm and offer a brilliant performance. Iinstead of complaining about how high your emotions run, you could remember that they are the basis for your excellent performance. Without our emotions, we cannot convey our feelings and sentiments through our music, and we would be unable to create the invisible and magical link with our audience.

  • Use what you feel to your advantage, so that, through your music, you successfully send the intended message to the audience

When we are confronted with emotions or performance anxiety, we see this as a weakness. We assume that those who have remarkable results are not in the same situation as us. This is not necessarily true. Anxiety has been studied extensively in an attempt to understand the difference between successful and less successful athletes. Sports psychologists came to the following conclusion after these studies:

The performers with very good results feel anxiety to the same degree as those with worse results. The only difference is that elite athletes manage to control their anxiety in the most important moments and trust their abilities more.

Anxiety alone does not affect performance. Moreover, the emotions you feel can give you the energy, motivation, and inspiration you need to achieve an excellent performance when it matters most. Just like athletes, musicians can use what they feel to their advantage.

  • Trust yourself and your technical and mental preparation

Without technical preparation, we cannot reach the results we desire. Nothing can replace practice hours. Practice is essential for anyone who wants to become an expert in any field. Being very well prepared technically represents an advantage, but still there is more than this. You need self-confidence when you are playing on stage and to remember your strengths.

Write down 5 to 10 accomplishments you have had throughout the years. These should include both small and big accomplishments. Allow yourself to enjoy them, even for a few moments.


  • Pay attention to your thoughts

Thoughts hold a central role in our lives, but often, we don’t pay enough attention to them, even though what we think and what we say to ourselves influences our entire state of being, our behavior, and ultimately, the results we obtain throughout our lives. Negative thoughts appear and disappear quickly, almost without your awareness. They whisper that you are not going to give your best performance, that you won’t be able to control your emotions and will make mistakes, that the audience will be disappointed. These thoughts seem logical and convincing at the time, but they should not be allowed to become certainties in your mind. Moreover, after the experience, you must ask yourself whether your thoughts were correct and objective. You will see that this is rarely so.

Do not let automatic negative thoughts control your state of being, self-confidence, and the results of your performance. Every time these thoughts appear, replace them with affirmative or positive ones.

Here are some examples: I have confidence in my preparation and in my qualities as a musician. I’ll play at my best. The audience inspires me and gives me positive energy. I’ll try to create a pleasant atmosphere.

Write down some positive and affirmative thoughts that you can use before your performance:


  • Practice relaxation techniques to control the physical symptoms caused by your emotions and to offer your best onstage performance

Breathing exercises, visualization, meditation, are very good relaxation techniques. These methods will help you better control physical symptoms like: shaking, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle tension, headaches, fast heartbeat. Try the following breathing exercise before stepping on stage:

Cover your left nostril with your index finger and breathe in for six seconds.

Hold the air for two seconds.

Cover the right nostril with your index finger and breathe out through the left nostril for six seconds. Repeat the exercise three or four times.

These are my suggestions on: How to Overcome Performance Anxiety. For any questions regarding your performance, please contact me at: and I'll answer you in the shortest time possible.

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