How do you cope with pre-gig nerves?

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DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
I played a few acoustic numbers with a friend at an open-mic night on New Year's day, the first time I've done anything in well over a year. I didn't get as bad with pre-gig nerves as I have in the past but I was still physically ill on the day which affected my playing and I made several mistakes.
The few times I've played in recent years have been solo efforts and I've been a wreck beforehand, major stomach trouble and panicking.

How do you deal with pre-gig nerves? I'd love to get past it and have the confidence to play live more.
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  • pintspillerpintspiller Frets: 302
    I haven't played in public a lot, but found that nerves weren't as bad prior to gigs where the previous gig was recent. I generally liked to have last-minute toilet stops that were always unnecessary.

    I found when I obtained Dutch Courage, that gigs played with more than two pints were always shite. 
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
    A drink can certainly help relax me but I can't play for shit in public if I've had a few.
    Toilet breaks seem to be my problem too, my stomach turns to mush on the day and let's just say it makes things complicated. If it's not coming out one end it's coming out the other.
    It's a horrible feeling and it puts me off wanting to play again. Is there anything I can take before playing? I've tried Rescue Remedy but that doesn't work.

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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 3422
    Ginger.

    Try it. It might just work.
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
    Ginger gives me indigestion. Damn!
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 3422
    DiscoStu said:
    Ginger gives me indigestion. Damn!
    In any form?
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
    Can't do ginger beer, can't do ginger snaps. Ginger and cinammon give me pains.
    Saying that I put a little bit of ginger puree in my carrot soup but can't imagine eating it straight out of the tube!

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  • Col_DeckerCol_Decker Frets: 2051
    edited January 5
    2 pints works for me but mostly I'd say keep playing out and you'll get used to it.

    Also don't worry about mistakes, everyone makes them. It's how you cover them that's important. Either A) play the mistake again on purpose to make everyone think you meant it, or B ) just carry on regardless. But never acknowledged them mid song with a nod to bandmate, because if you do everyone will know you messed up.

    Ed Conway & The Unlawful Men - Folk just got sexsaay: The FaceBook and The SoundCloud

     'Rope Or A Ladder' and 'Don't Sing Love Songs' albums available now - see FaceBook page for details

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  • PlectrumPlectrum Frets: 172
    To be honest it's not something that I've really suffered with. Perhaps that's to do with knowing how great it feels when you're up there playing and looking forwards to that feeling?
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  • ewalewal Frets: 378
    Controlled breathing works for a lot of people who suffer from performance anxiety. Beta blockers work too, but I wouldn't imagine you feel the situation merits medication.
    The Scrambler-EE Walk soundcloud experience
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
    I used to be fine when I was in a metal band back in the day, we'd be making an awesome racket and I bloody loved it.
    These days everyone round here plays acoustic and usually solo so when I take part in things that's what I'm doing too. There's very few bands here and nowhere to play so acoustic sets are the norm.
    Being so 'naked' on stage puts the fear in me but I was definitely better this time round as I was playing with a friend of mine, me on guitar and she was doing the main vocals with me pitching in with backing. There's something to be said for safety in numbers and I think you're right that playing regularly would help, it's just that opportunities to do so are thin on the ground.
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  • DeijavooDeijavoo Frets: 2976
    Play as many gigs as you can.  I got nervous a bit when was maybe 15 - 18 but playing tons of gigs made me feel just as easy playing at home in my kegs as I do in front of any number of people. 


    Granted, I've never played to more than 600ish so when Eavis comes knocking begging me to play legato exercises, in my underpants on an office chair as the headline act I may tell a different story.
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
    Are any of you talking from experience of playing solo, or just in bands? I was fine when I was in a band.
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  • DeijavooDeijavoo Frets: 2976
    To be fair I'm only talking band and duet mate.
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  • uncledickuncledick Frets: 80
    Plectrum said:
    To be honest it's not something that I've really suffered with. Perhaps that's to do with knowing how great it feels when you're up there playing and looking forwards to that feeling?
    Same here.  We don't gig very often so the adrenaline rush when we finally walk on stage is great.  Really helps that everyone in the band is of similar ability and has similar expectations.
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
    edited January 5
    We did 3 songs. I fluffed a couple of guitar bits but got totally lost with my vocal part, I missed an early chorus and got my harmonies wrong later on. We had it totally down the day before whilst practicing in the house but on the night my nerves got the better of me.


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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 8636
    DiscoStu said:
    We did 3 songs. I fluffed a couple of guitar bits but got totally lost with my vocal part, I missed an early chorus and got my harmonies wrong later on. We had it totally down the day before whilst practicing in the house but on the night my nerves got the better of me.


    Over-rehearsing is a mistake - I don't have a band any more, but I do dep gigs for one of my old bands. I generally just have a couple of rehearsals with them beforehand (to refresh my memory, as well as learn any new ones or changes to the way they play old ones live - they're an originals band, so not everything is recorded). Then I have a run-through of the set before I leave for the gig, and that's it.

    In terms of mental preparation, I usually just put it out of my mind - the end-game of crippling nerves is "I don't want to play the gig"...the fact is that I'm going to play the gig regardless, so I just consider it a fait accomplit and resolve to deal with any fuckups as they happen.

    It certainly helps to have a plan for what you're going to do if anything goes wrong; try to imagine where you're going to have problems (eg a solo that's on the edge of your ability, or bits where you're having trouble getting the vocals and guitar to line up etc), and have an alternate way to deal with it. That goes quite some way towards killing nerves.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • rossyamaharossyamaha Frets: 1186
    I find a fag and a sit down wee always help. 

    Disclaimer! All views/ comments by me are my opinion and not that of Yamaha Music.

    Just so you know.

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  • vizviz Frets: 3719
    DiscoStu said:
    We did 3 songs. I fluffed a couple of guitar bits but got totally lost with my vocal part, I missed an early chorus and got my harmonies wrong later on. We had it totally down the day before whilst practicing in the house but on the night my nerves got the better of me.


    Doesn't matter, you still created and exhibited art. 
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  • skaguitarskaguitar Frets: 171
    Immodium is great for your mushy stomach and if you deal with that it's one less thing to worry about... how do you feel once you start playing...do the nerves go away..?.. if they do just try to remember that that is what happens when you're getting ready to go on...
    there's a good quote from Beethoven or someone like that ...

    “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”

    “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”

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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 13015
    Levelling up with your playing is what fixes this.
    If what you are playing is right at the limit of your ability then the stress of gigging will mean you make simple mistakes because you are worried.
    If you are playing songs that are only at 10-50% of your ability then you will have a much easier time.

    Also gig so often that it is just another day gigging, rather than 'a big event' that must be feared.

    What’s the point of going out? We’re just gonna wind up back here anyway.
    Trading Feedback
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
    edited January 5
    You know what? I hadn't thought of Imodium! That may at least help with one of the effects nerves has on me. 
    @digitalscream we didn't over rehearse by any means, my friend asked me a couple of weeks ago if I'd learn a couple of songs for a party we were going to, so I said yes and learned them:
    Time After Time (Iron & Wine), Make It Holy (The Staves), and Barton Hollow (The Civil Wars).
    We only ran through them a couple of times before the gig itself and it all felt in place but as soon as I'm up there I get panicky and forget bits.
    It happens each time, and the next time (when there is one) I think about the last time and that doesn't help and I'm in a loop of fear!

    I should probably play more at home and have my own set of songs rather than learn stuff at short notice like I tend to do.
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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 8636
    In that case, it does sound like you might've had the opposite problem. As Jaden once said to me, "Amateurs practice until they've got it right, professionals practice until they can't get it wrong". For the record, I'm definitely not in the "pro" camp, and I know that no show will be totally error-free ;)

    There's a really fine line between being under-rehearsed and over-rehearsed, but for my part I tend to get over the "Shitshitshit I'm going to screw it up" by having an alternate plan; for every solo/chorus/verse I have a backup plan to use when I'm not having a good night. That goes a long way towards alleviating the nerves, because I always know that if it starts to go wrong then I've got something easier to play.

    Admittedly, there's a lot more work in it, but there's nothing better for keeping the show going than familiarity with the material.

    With that said...it does sound a bit like you've rarely had a good show, which won't be helping you. The solution? Gig more, with stuff that you know inside-out and can't possibly go wrong with.

    And, of course, relax. It's not the end of the world if it goes wrong. Seriously, watch this from about 2:20 onwards...



    Even the guys who've been touring solidly for years get it wrong sometimes.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • bluechargeboybluechargeboy Frets: 822
    edited January 5
    Gig is next week? No point getting nervous until the day before.
    Gig is tomorrow? No point getting nervous until the day itself.
    Gig is tonight? No point getting nervous until the hour before.
    Gig is in an hour? No point getting nervous until the minute before.

    You would be surprised but this self-deception can work! Oh and regarding that last minute, just imagine you are wearing a cape. Seriously.


    EDIT: Great vid @digitalscream!! I like how he seems unfazed and gets the audience in on the act, still entertaining even as the song goes to shit.


    My band: Hedge Gods
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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
    That Nuno vid is brilliant. The drummer keeps it going and they totally get away with it! 

    That's my problem though, if I screw up there's usually nobody else to cover me so I then worry about screwing up...
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  • The solution? Gig more, with stuff that you know inside-out and can't possibly go wrong with.
    .
    This......

    If you were ok in a band it must be (the entirely understandable) pressure of carrying the gig yourself.

    Didn't you mention an open mic spot? I'd do it regularly and crucially, with a couple of songs you know well. That'll increase your confidence and give you experience of dealing with the inevitable mistakes.

    The ideal scenario - and my favourite gigs - are when I get really in the moment, almost forget about playing and just let it happen.

    Failing that I'd get some diazepam. Bosh. Problem solved.  
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  • GrunfeldGrunfeld Frets: 1738
    edited January 5
    Gig nerves usually come down to a couple of things:
    1)  Performance inadequacy
    2)  Performance anxiety
    You can have one, or the other, or both.  The solutions for each are different.
    If the basic problem is that you can’t play the stuff adequately and you’re worried that that you’re going to stuff up then the solution is practice.  At least this one both feels and is totally under your control.  

    Performance anxiety is different.  It’s not confined to musicians.  You can have it in the exam room, or public speaking, on the golf course, in the second violins, or down the Dog & Duck.  Performance anxiety is a problem of thinking.  Even a proportion of insomniacs can't sleep because they essentially have performance anxiety for sleep.
    It’s seldom a specific fear, it’s more a generalised feeling of dread, and nervousness, with the entire committee in your head going off and paralysing your focus and enjoyment and ability to get on with the task. 
    The solution is to overcome that habitual thinking and, (I would say this wouldn’t I), hypnotherapy works and CBT works.  And hypnosis combined with CBT works a treat and that’s what I tend to use with clients unless I’ve got a really good hypnotic subject in which case I’ll do it all with hypnosis. 

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  • DiscoStuDiscoStu Frets: 2133
    edited January 5
    Well put @Grunfeld, I would say it's definitely performance anxiety with me. I lack self confidence anyway so gigs like these are a challenge as I don't want to make a fool of myself or let other people down.
    The crowd loved us and we had several people tell us we should do more together. Even got offered a gig! But for some fucked up reason I don't think their compliments are justified.
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  • If you screw up then just simply do Nuno's solo from "Play with Me" and the audience will soon forget the screw-up. :D

    Seriously though, you have to cultivate a stage persona that doesn't care about cock-ups, and just does a self-deprecating smile or says "oops", laughs and carries on. You have to fake it until it becomes real.

    Nuno does not get away with it because of the drummer, but because he shows grace and calm under pressure, even if inside he is going "shit shit shit".

    At open mic nights especially, everyone is rooting for you because they have all been there! They are a great way to gain this confidence and stage-craft because you will get clapped just for showing up. There are plenty of people who wish they could do what you have done.
    My band: Hedge Gods
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  • CabicularCabicular Frets: 1635
    I've played well over 1000 gigs, every time I get stressed on the way to the venue and very stressed before I go on.
    Routine is your friend . I don't really relax until I've turned my guitar up and did a @whacka whacka@ noise.
    Then I know the equipment works and I'll be fine. It also helps to have a bit of a persona to hide behind. You don't have to strut about like a dick (but there is nothing wrong with that.. it works for loads of people) It can be just a bigger version of your own personality.
    Regardless, you have to commit to it 100%. People will believe it if you believe it... if you wobble they will notice.
    Also worth remembering, the audience are nervous too. They want to relax and know they are in good hands so if you act like you know what you are doing and engage with them, then it will all generally be fine.
    I don't think you'll ever really get rid of the nerves, in fact I'll probably chuck it if I ever do. If I ever get so complacent that I amn't nervous then I'm probably too jaded for it.
    Routine routine routine
    I have a thing where I always start with the same song (when I played the Chilli's Tribute it was By the Way, in the Current Band it is "shook you all night long" Helps the whole band settle down quickly and then any variations in the set are after that.
     
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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 8636

    Nuno does not get away with it because of the drummer, but because he shows grace and calm under pressure, even if inside he is going "shit shit shit".
    He also gets away with because the crowd are on his side. That's an important thing to remember: the crowd, regardless of how you feel, are generally completely on your side. They want you to do your job (ie entertain them), sure, but they're also their to help you do your job.

    Admittedly, 99% of the guitarists in the crowd will be standing there watching for every mistake and telling their mates how they could do it better, but guitarists are assholes. We all know this.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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