Tag Archives: performing

Pre-performance nerves

Today I fly back to the UK for a visit. Air travel can be pretty stressful. At least I can take comfort in the fact that even if I get a nasty case of travel sickness, the jitters, or whatever, the personnel and passengers will probably never see me ever again.

Shows are stressful!

More stressful is the time just prior to going on stage, when you’ve practiced your set and it all comes down to whether you excel or embarrassingly fail. And those in the audience – your fans and potential fans – will definitely remember it. The impressions you make on stage can be lasting impressions. Before shows I get nervous and seek reassurance from those around me, rehearsing tricky little bits with my fingers, tuning and retuning my guitar. Should I try to curb my stress?

Should you relax?

Many people engage in funny rituals before a performance to try to relax. From people who have to drink a certain drink or listen to a particular musical piece, to those who want to chitchat about anything other than their show. I don’t have any of these superstitions, but should I find a quiet corner in which to calm myself?

No, get fired up!

The opposite option is to get excited and act like a boxer about to get into the ring by shaking your arms, jumping up and down, and beating your chest. Recent research suggests getting pumped up in this way actually boosts performance more than a relaxing massage or soak in a bath. So before a show it might be a good idea to get your heart bumped and your brain in gear to attack, go out there and give it all you’ve got. (If you make a mistake at least you were energized and able to keep going.)

As far as plane journeys go, I don’t recommend stoking up your air rage. However, I might try tactically psyching myself up before the parts of the journey that make me most apprehensive.

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Should old people leave the rock scene?

There is a global problem with young people being unemployed. In comparison baby boomers have done very well. Should older people step aside and leave the young people to set the trends? Some apply this to old rockers like the Rolling Stones saying that they’re taking the limelight and denying many young musicians a chance to showcase their creativity – see this recent op ed by social commentator Will Self. I disagree with his argument for three reasons:

1. The music industry does not have a finite carrying capacity – there is plenty of scope to impassion everyone to get into music and for the industry to grow. The arts are rarely limited by top-down authorities.

2. If anything the older you get the more skilled a musician and songwriter you become. We can learn from and admire old masters, and this can inspire younger people to strive harder.

3. The only musicians who are worth their salt can play well live. To hang up your performing shoes, “retire”, and simply sell records is a cop out. Real musicians play their songs live to an audience, and don’t rely on computers and touch ups after recording to make themselves sound good.

You might have your own reasons for not liking bands the Rolling Stones, but don’t let the length of their careers be one of them.

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