Nerves/stage fright etc - I need some wisdom

Liebe zeit

Silver Member
The short answer to my question is probably - get better at the drums and do more gigs. But that's something I'm doing anyway.

The problem is this . . .

I'm a 'mature' drummer with about 2 years playing under my belt. One of the bands I'm in is a two-piece and we are getting quite a lot of gigs. I've done about 10 gigs in all. The thing I'd really like to fix is that I feel quite nervous before and for the first few tunes. I'd really like to be enjoying them more. It's not like I sound bad (here's last night's second tune) but it takes me quite a while to shake the nerves and get near to feeling how I do when I practice and not be at 70% of my capabilities when I play live.

The trouble is I'm getting negative thoughts locked in my head. Last night the trigger for them was the two guys I know are drummers in the front of the audience. I felt really under scrutiny and really became self-conscious. Then I flubbed a couple of things in the third track and had the negativity running round my head for another two tunes. Was having a blast by the last track tho.

Thing is, no-one can really see what's going on in my head. People say I look cool as **** when I'm playing and the pub crowd liked us so much we were asked back again and the headline band asked us to support them on new year's eve. So, it's kinda like it's not a totally crippling problem. I'd just like to enjoy the first half of the set and be able to play to a greater amount of my potential.

So, do you guys have any wisdom that can help crack this little problem?

Anthony Amodeo

stage fright is an extension of a lack of confidence ......and most of the time is the fear of being judged

nothing more than a distraction created in your head

have faith in yourself and truly trust your abilities have to not care how others perceive you and own the moment you perform in

I've seen and heard you play

you have no reason to have stage fright

now go kick some ass

Bad Tempered Clavier

Silver Member
The short answer to my question is probably [. . .] do more gigs [. . .] I've done about 10 gigs in all
Got it in one. By the time you've done gig no. 100 you won't think twice about it. It helps if you largely ignore the audience. By that I don't mean have no regard for them at all - but as a drummer one is rarely called upon to work the crowd so just concentrate on driving the groove. I rarely pay attention to anyone other than the bass player during gigs: if the band is cooking from the inside-out so to speak then the crowd will pick up on your energy. Never think that it's your job to entertain people: it's your job to rock the shit out of them drums and that's what people happen to find entertaining.

Good luck and HAVE FUN.

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I know it's probably a bit like telling a depressed person to "just be happy" or a paraplegic to just get up and walk, but you can train your mind to ignore bad thoughts, replace them with nicer ones. And lower your standards just a little so that it's okay to make a mistake and carry on with it. Maybe you could observe other players and when you notice them screw up, get a perspective of how it is from the other side (hopefully it makes you realize no-one cares that much).

I think everyone gets nervous (unless they don't care) no matter how many times they get up to speak or play or perform.

I have a bit of an anxiety problem, I haven't played many gigs so far but once the music starts, I just allow myself to get into it. I don't dwell on mistakes. Touch wood that never changes.

I read a book recently that has some useful ideas, it's called the Happiness Trap.


I know performing is to please the crowd and make them happy and that can get nerve racking. I've been performing in front of people since I was 6 (now 17) and I've played my share of shows, one even in front of 5000 people. I'm the leader in my band with the most experience. And most people never believe me when I say this but.. IT'S ABOUT YOU!!! Why do you play drums? The answer is hopefully for you, because it's your passion your escape from life and many more emotional connections to a drum set to be filled in with your own thoughts. You play cause you enjoy it, if you enjoy what you do then things will come easier, focus on you. Not saying to dwell on every mistake but just remember you do this because it's your passion. Mistakes happen its why every drummer has back up sticks, cymbals, etc.. Bottom line you do this for you and anyone who does it for chicks or fame (not saying famous drummers are like that but some are out there like that) or whatever else, shouldn't be a musician of any type. Just go out there and do what you love, the nerves will subside and you'll be smiling and happy, the way a drummer should be.


Silver Member
When Carole King first performed live (singer/songwriter) she was offered this bit of advice:
Just play the songs, the songs are strong enough to carry everything. Don't worry about
yourself, just play the songs....or something like that.


Platinum Member
I see what you mean, there is no hiding in a 2-piece. By the way you guys sound pretty good, a 2piece is challenging to fill the space (like what to do when he solos?).
No bassist because you're tired of their stodgy nitpicking ways? Or leave him locked in the trunk? (thats my bassist joke for today)
Anyway, most of what you speak of is 'fear' ....of being judged, esp. with your drummers audience there. If you go to the gig knowing you're practiced and prepared that's half the battle. Build your confidence that you are 'ready'. You're thinking too much. Most patrons are not paying all that attention to the band, let alone the small mistakes, or a missed fill. They simply are not, esp. when the bar is more crowded.


Senior Member
Just remember that no-one plays as well live as they do when they are alone practicing. As you get more confidence, you will come to play more like you do in a rehearsal, and attempt fills/grooves that you wouldn't normally play live out of fear of stuffing them up. I'd say almost no-one has the same amount of creativeness while playing live and i guess it is all just a stem off from your problem. All I'm saying is that you shouldn't expect to play as well as you do in practice, even when you do become confident.

Congratulations on your gigging success though, sounds quite impressive and exciting!


Silver Member
I think it could be something as simple as breathing. If you start the set way over-amped, there's a good chance that some of that is happening because of erratic breathing, or not breathing through the nose. After a song or two, your breathing becomes more normal because it has to.
But, if you can control it so that you're not going on stage holding a big breath, or with a heart that's going 3000bpm, you'll start the show in better shape.


Senior Administrator
some good advice so far. i've done well over 1000 gigs so stage fright is a long distant memory. one thing i do remember that worked well for me - no jokes - try to take a dump before going on stage. its a quiet relaxed moment where you can get your head and body in order.
have only one drink for dutch courage but no more and don't take any stimulants like redbull or cofee as this will may raise anxiety. also try some visualisation techniques - try recall some great drum performances you've seen on videos or live.


Senior Member
Skipper I've watched the Vid and you're fine.

The more you Zen in on the music being played, the quicker you get into that place. When you start to think about 'chips and beans' or whatever you had for your tea then you are out of that place. So pre stage you need to be thinking about playing the first song, enjoying listening to the guitar and playing along. The more gigs you do the closer to getting on stage you will have to set your mind until a point where you can just walk on sit down and drop straight into the zone.

And that my friend is why it is so good being a musician. As I said your fine, just enjoying it and set your mind to enjoy it. Nothing else matters.


Junior Member
Not sure if this will help but, im only 13 and started to play a few shows with my school band. I am always nervous before hand. I like to put myself in the audience's perspective. If I was to see a member of the band make a mistake I usually don't take much notice of it and appreciate the fact that they are up there giving it their best shot.


Platinum Member
You have to accept that mistakes will happen and learn how to live with them, I've seen amazing players turn mistakes around and actually take the music in a new direction as a result of it, being honest with yourself and owning up to your mistakes relieves much of the pressure. Accepting that mistakes are a part of life and that no matter how much I try to avoid them, they WILL happen at some point really helped me getting over stage fright.


Junior Member
I know this is an old post... but one thought that works for me is... to realize that my main job is to make all the other players sound good. If you work this way, the other guys in the group will love and respect you and it will take your focus off of yourself and allow you to relax. Works for me. btw, it took me 100s of gigs to get to this point. Wish someone had told me this philosophy sooner.... i read it somewhere.


"Uncle Larry"
Find a way to shut off your mind.

Don't think, feel.

Again, don't think, feel.

Repeat, don't think, feel.

Develop that skill. The song is the only thing running through your mind.

That's why they put blinders on horses, so they don't know the dangers around. Don't make me put blinders on you lol.

Just go on feel. Thoughts are toxic to you at this stage, they are hamstringing you.



Platinum Member
To be nervous means you care about your performance.
Relax. You're Normal, heed the advice above.

To this day, before he goes on stage, Ringo would rather be somewhere else than on stage, but then he walks on and everything is fine.

Anyone who says they never get stage fright every once and awhile is full of crap!


"Uncle Larry"
I don't get stage fright. In fact I feel the most comfortable on stage, completely at home. I can't wait to get up there. I did 2 fairly big shows last week. Nothing to it. It's what I do. I am honored to be there, nothing scary about it. It's more out, here we come. We had to play one song with a really slow tempo, in a huge theater, in front of TV cameras, radio people, other musicians, and the audience. (it was a competition) What a feeling when the theater is totally quiet and I'm clicking the sticks at about 40 beats per minute to a 12/8 song to start the band in. All eyes are on me, I'm the only one making noise in a 1200 seat theater. My version of nirvana.

Liebe zeit

Silver Member
Thanks for the posts, guys.

I thought I'd compile the advice so far, and add my thoughts here and there.

have faith in yourself and truly trust your abilities
It helps if you largely ignore the audience
train your mind to ignore bad thoughts, replace them with nicer ones
Just go out there and do what you love, the nerves will subside
You're thinking too much.
I think this one hits the nail on the head, and sums up most of the previous ones. The past two gigs, I noticed I started to 'feel' and stop thinking when I got distracted from my initial tension. The one before last I got distracted by football scores on the TV screen. Last time I lost a stick and was looking around for it while playing. I know it's not exactly feeling the music but the distraction worked to take me away from thinking negative thoughts and left me grooving without my brain consciously engaged.

take a dump before going on stage
LOL. Won't work for me, bro. I either need one or I don't.

The more you Zen in on the music being played, the quicker you get into that place.
You have to accept that mistakes will happen and learn how to live with them
I've no problem with mistakes. It's the tension and negative self-regarding focus that's getting me.

make all the other players sound good.
Don't think, feel.
To be nervous means you care about your performance.
Relax. You're Normal
Anyway, to sum up, what I need to do is stop thinking the negative stuff and feel the music. I'm pretty good at the latter when I get going - we're a jam band basically so it's unscripted stuff and you just have to feel your way along.

I read elsewhere on the net that stage fright is an illogical reaction to fear. The fear is that of being judged, but the fight/flight or more specifically the freeze reaction is suited to a physically dangerous situation, which is completely inappropriate to the playing live scenario.

I've noticed I'm loads better when I get grooving for a fair stretch before doing any fills and things, so I'm gonna aim to groove and groove before I start getting around the kit. Am also gonna spend a bit of time early on with me eyes closed too, or looking at the ceiling Larry-style.

So, I think my key actions will be:

* Groove first, get fancy later
* Close eyes, look away, get into my groove

Next gig on Saturday!


Platinum Member
I find my nerves calmed if I imagine the very worst thing that could happen once we start playing...then REALLY exagerate it.

I can then see the absurdity of it and that realization releases most of the tension.

I also try to stay focused on a warmup routine which not only preps me but calms me.

Being VERY preped really make things less anxious for me as well.

I also avoid caffine.

Its helpful to have an employment history that includes life/death situations. Really puts things into perspective.

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
In my mind 10 gigs isn't all that much experience, so I think you'll find a way yourself over time.

I can only share my basic philosophy.

1) I'm not at a gig to perform, rather I'm there to create something together with the audience.

2) I'm just expressing myself, so I don't judge myself by parameters that I wouldn't use in other ways of communication. Natural differences from gig to gig is part of the charm.

3) I don't linger at things that didn't go perfect. It was exactly what it was and should be at that point in time, now it's in the past and I choose to focus on the good things. I'll make notes, but that's for general stuff when I practice at home, I don't bring that on stage with me. Then's the time to give all you got whatever that might or might not be.