Handle Performance Anxiety Like a Boss!

December 06, 2016 Brett Yang

Hey fellow musicians!

Here are some quick thoughts about performance anxiety while I sit in a café drinking my coffee to keep myself awake for the next practice session...

Performance anxiety is not just a pandemic amongst musicians – it pertains to anyone who stands in front of a crowd while presenting their craft, whether it be public speaking, performing or acting. 

Most of us focus so much on battling this uncomfortable feeling that we forget why we are performing in the first place. We hear ‘performance anxiety’ and shy away from it. We try to find remedies to suppress this uncomfortable feeling in hopes that we can perform better. While this does make logical sense, I’d like to suggest a different approach to dealing with performance anxiety. 

Don't fight it, use it to your advantage. 

We associate performance anxiety with this uncomfortable feeling because of many external factors, such as everyone talking about how ‘horrible’ or ‘scary’ it feels.

Feeling uncomfortable isn’t always a negative thing. Remember the last time that you and your crush made eye contact, and you felt an inner tension. Is it possible that the uncomfortable sensation was a result of not dread, but a flush of excitement?  

Yes, there is a difference between feeling scared, overwhelmed, infatuated, loved – but I think we allow too much of one feeling (being uncomfortable, in this case) to take all the credit. Why? Because it’s easier, and it requires less rational thinking about why you feel that way!

So, I challenge you guys to reframe this idea of ‘performance anxiety’ and think of it as ‘excitement’.

Here are a few things I think about for handling performance anxiety:

  1. BREATHE, JUST BREATHE! This fixes 80% of the problem. It took me years to realise that I cut my breath short on stage. Meanwhile, I was trying to blame my performance anxiety on other things. Breathing itself takes practice, so don’t expect it to magically cure you in one go.
  2. I tell myself that this anxiety is fair game because everyone feels it, and part of becoming a better performer is learning to wield this anxiety and to understand that I am strong and brave enough to overcome it.
  3. This anxious feeling is actually growth. It’s ‘scary’ because it challenges me to become a better musician. But I should be brave and carry this feeling, because this feeling will make me achieve successes I would have never imagined.
  4. It’s exciting and I’m awesome because who else would have the balls to step on stage and perform?
  5. I practiced to the best of my abilities so I will be okay. (That’s if you actually practiced.)
  6. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll still be alive after!
  7. JUST DO IT!

So my friends, use your excitement and learn to dance with fear.
(Brett, you wise man.)

Happy Performing.



  • Jennifer

    Feb 07, 2018

    I call it excitement too. Its the ability to calm down and focus that tends to get us wonky. I am reading many books on this subject and found practicing in very small chunks three times each piece in my practice session helping. I also perform in my head. They say that if you imagine a wonderful performance that you will produce one. When you are doing this though there are distractions. So now I practice focusing while I have a video playing a different piece. It’s a challenge to focus while you hear another person perform but when you step up to play, it makes a big difference. You stop worrying and try to see and hear yourself perform.

  • James McFadden

    Sep 20, 2017

    Also, don’t drink coffee before you go on stage! Try to abstain for several hours before show time.

  • Mario JAtiva

    Aug 31, 2017

    I have also found visualization to be quite helpful. Have your students close their eyes and see them having the performance of their life.

  • Christel

    Jul 13, 2017

    Thank you for these amazing articles! They’re incredibly helpful and motivating and I’m so glad that I found them. My first violin teacher made me develop some really bad playing habits, never gave any feedback on my playing and said absolutely nothing about how to practice, (which in the end made me take a pause from playing) so to me, these articles are priceless. Now, I’m going to audition for a youth symphony orchestra in about two and a half months and it’s my first audition so I’m kinda scared, but these tips make me feel a bit less nervous. So, thank you!

  • Chen Tian

    Mar 04, 2017

    Hi Brett!
    I can’t believe such a coincidence i have after waking up today! I am going to have a performance tonight, and you just send me a blog about ‘performance anxiety’. I think that breathing and calming down works. :)
    Thank you so much for sending it at the right timing! (Which includes sending about ‘learning a concerto a week before performance’. ?)
    I enjoyed your instagram live some months ago, which is really fun and humourous, which maked up my day!
    Hugs from a fan in Singapore ??

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